Thursday, 6 March 2008

Canada urges Armenia to lift state of emergency and respect "fundamental freedoms" of protesters

OTTAWA (AFP) — Canada's foreign affairs minister on Wednesday urged Armenia to lift a state of emergency declared on the weekend, and respect "fundamental freedoms" of protestors.

Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier said in a statement: "It is the democratic right of people everywhere to gather and express their views so long as this is done in a peaceful manner."

"We urge the government of Armenia to respect these fundamental freedoms by lifting the state of emergency as soon as possible," he said.

As well, Bernier added: "Canada urges Armenians of all political affiliations to seek solutions to their current differences within the framework of their democratic institutions."

Armenia's President Robert Kocharian declared the 20-day state of emergency in Yerevan on Saturday after eight people died in street battles between riot police and opposition supporters protesting the result of a presidential election.

The opposition claims the election was rigged to ensure victory for Serzh Sarkisian, Kocharian's hand-picked successor.

A mediator from the Western-led Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said Tuesday that talks to resolve the crisis would be impossible until the end of emergency rule, which bans protests and censors the media.

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