YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The United States welcomes democratic change in Armenia and will continue to help its government combat corruption and strengthen the rule of law, Lynne Tracy, the recently appointed U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, said on Monday.
Tracy also defended Washington’s “very good track record” in Armenia, responding to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s recent criticism of what he called a lack of U.S. support for his government.
“I think the key point is that we want to … make sure that we’re supporting Armenia’s democracy agenda,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service in an interview.
“A few words come to my mind immediately,” Tracy said when asked about her impressions of her first contacts with Armenian government officials. “One is opportunity, another is positive energy, enthusiasm. I think that fits very well with the agenda that we have together: one of promoting democracy, which in many ways is so important to strengthening the sovereignty of the country.”
She said the U.S. is also trying to assist the government in strengthening “institutions responsible for law-enforcement and the judiciary” and at the same time ensuring that “they are seen as accountable to people, transparent in their activities.” “We are encouraged,” she said, while cautioning that “there is still work ahead.”
Tracy was careful not to comment on corruption and other charges brought against a number of former senior Armenian officials, notably former President Robert Kocharian. “I don’t want to speculate on ongoing court cases,” she said. “What I do see is that this government has indicated a desire to strengthen institutions that are so critical to the rule of law. That’s the courts, the police, the Ministry of Justice, and other bodies that are responsible for oversight of tackling corruption.”
“In that respect, we are going to continue to encourage the government to pursue those sorts of reforms, and I think then you’ll see the spaces for fair trials, for the confidence of the people in the judicial system,” added the U.S. diplomat.
Speaking in the Armenian parliament late last month, Pashinyan complained about Washington’s “zero reaction” to democratic change in his country. He seemed unhappy with the fact that there has been no significant increase in U.S. economic assistance to Yerevan since last year’s “velvet revolution” which brought him to power.
Commenting on the criticism, Tracy said: “I’m very proud of the fact that since 1992 the United States has provided over $2 billion in assistance to Armenia in developing the partnership that we have today. That is so wide-ranging.”
“In 2018, we provided $26.7 million in assistance but that really doesn’t tell the whole story,” she went on. “USAID, in multi-year programs that are active, is providing $66 million worth of assistance. I’m also very proud of the fact that the United States was the first country to provide elections assistance after the events of last year. We were the only country to provide assistance in municipal elections.”
“So I think we have a very good track record,” stressed the envoy. “We have talked to the government about where we can continue to work and I only see a good partnership there.”