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Armenian Protests Continue Amid Arrests And Resignations


Student at Feb. 22 opposition protest (Photolur) Authorities in Armenia have detained several key opposition activists as demonstrations in Yerevan against a contested presidential election continued into their fifth consecutive day on February 24.


Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports that a total of nine high-ranking officials with the country's Foreign Ministry have announced their resignations in protest of what they called the government's fraudulent conduct in the February 19 presidential elections.


Official results from the poll gave 52.9 percent of the vote to Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian. But the main opposition challenger, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian -- who won 21.43 percent in the official tally -- has demanded a rerun, alleging that dozens of his activists were beaten and that ballot stuffing, multiple voting and voter intimidation were widespread.


Election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have described the presidential vote as "mostly" in line with international standards.


Police on February 23 detained key Ter-Petrosian allies, including deputy prosecutor-general Gagik Jangiryan -- who had resigned in protest a day earlier. On February 24, police detained Aram Karapetian, leader of the opposition party New Times, and politician Sambat Ayvazian, who is a former tax chief. Armenian officials said the men were detained on suspicion of possessing illegal weapons.


The arrests came after outgoing Armenian President Robert Kocharian accused his country's political opposition of trying to seize power.


In a statement on February 23, Kocharian pledged that the government's actions will be "decisive and firm to maintain stability and the constitutional order of the country."


In protest of the government's conduct in the poll and afterward, a total of nine foreign ministry officials stepped down over the weekend.


Deputy Foreign Minister Armen Bayburtian announced his resignation on February 23, as did Ruben Shugarian and Levon Khachatrian, who were the ambassadors to Italy and Kazakhstan respectively. Razmik Khumarian, an Armenian diplomat in Ukraine, also resigned.


On February 24, five more diplomats, including Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Karapetian, told RFE/RL's Armenian Service that they had also resigned.


(RFE/RL's Armenian Service contributed to this report)

South Caucasus

REGIONAL APPROACH, INDIVIDUAL ATTENTION: International actors often take a regional approach when dealing with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. But the three states get plenty of individual attention as well.

European Union

-- has assigned Special Envoy for South Caucasus Peter Semneby to serve as a liaison between the EU and the region. Semneby describes his role as assisting Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia "on their way to moving closer to the EU and its core values."

-- in launching the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in 1999, a joint declaration on relations between the EU and the Caucasus countries was adopted.

-- has included Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia in its European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) on an individual basis.

-- the European Commission has a joint Delegation to Georgia and Armenia.

-- the European Commission is currently working on concluding consultations with each of the three states on individual "action plans" intended to foster closer relations with the EU.

Council of Europe

-- in 2006 launched its "Stability Pact for the South Caucasus" initiative.

NATO

-- has assigned a lone special representative, Ambassador Robert Simmons, to represent the alliance in its dealings with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.

-- The NATO Parliamentary Assembly recently suggested that, "given the very different relationships that NATO has with each country and the varying level of involvement, it might be sensible to expand his office to include separate representatives for each country."

-- Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia have each agreed to Individual Partnership Action Plans with NATO.

-- Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia are all signatories to NATO's Partnership for Peace, a program designed to facilitate cooperation on security issues following the fall of the Soviet Union.

OSCE

-- under NATO's Science for Peace and Security program, NATO and the OSCE together conduct the South Caucasus River Monitoring project. The effort aims to help Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia develop their infrastructure and trans-boundary water quality.

Eurasia Foundation

-- in 1998 launched its South Caucasus Cooperation Program, an initiative to promote cross-border partnerships among Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.

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