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Armenian Government, Opposition Praise Clinton Letter

Ruling Republican Party spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov

Ruling Republican Party spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov

YEREVAN -- Government and opposition parties in Armenia have responded positively to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's pledge to promote democracy and human rights in the country, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

In a letter to about a dozen Armenian civic organizations made public on August 26, Clinton said respect for democratic values is "critical to Armenia's future."

"We stand by these values and will continue to voice our support for them in Armenia and around the world," she wrote.

"The U.S. secretary of state once again made clear that the United States is committed to defending and spreading democratic values in Armenia and working with various sections of the society and the government in that endeavor," Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for President Serzh Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia, said today.

"I think there is nothing wrong with this and I find this statement by Mrs. Clinton very normal and constructive," Sharmazanov told RFE/RL.

A senior representative of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), Vladimir Karapetian, also welcomed Clinton's letter to the civic groups which had addressed a joint appeal to her last month. They urged Washington to pressure the Armenian authorities to immediately free all "political prisoners," end police torture and attacks on journalists, and properly investigate the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan.

"It is important that the United States is not deviating from its path and is continuing to insist that the highly contentious issues of human rights and freedom of speech in Armenia will be at the center of U.S. government attention," Karapetian told RFE/RL.

HAK leader and former President Levon Ter-Petrosian has repeatedly accused the West of turning a blind eye to government "repression" in Armenia because of Sarkisian's Western-backed foreign policy.

Sharmazanov said the Sarkisian administration is committed to democratizing Armenia's political system and tackling human rights abuses.

"Of course, we know that there are numerous instances of human rights violations in Armenia," he said. "But the Armenian authorities acknowledge those problems and are working openly and publicly to boost human rights protection in Armenia and turn it into an established democracy."

He went on to criticize the local rights groups for appealing to Clinton and "exposing Armenia's internal problems abroad" in the first place. "I'm not a big fan of such behavior," he said.