Unzipped - At last, we are hearing what we should have heard much, much earlier! This is very different Bryza - compare with this one.
WASHINGTON (AP)- A senior U.S. official who recently returned from Armenia sharply condemned a government crackdown on protests following last month's presidential election.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza also raised concern about the recent arrests of government opponents close to former president Levon Ter-Petrosian.
The government declared a 20-day state of emergency on March 1 after clashes between protesters and police left eight people dead and dozens injured.
«The violence really was deplorable,» Bryza told The Associated Press Monday. «It seems clear that the reaction by the government was harsh and brutal.»
Following the Feb. 19 vote, election officials declared Prime Minister Serge Sarkisian the winner over Ter-Petrosian, who appealed, claiming fraud, and organized protests. On Saturday, the Constitutional Court rejected the appeal. Ter-Petrosian has vowed further protest after the state of emergency is lifted.
On Friday Bryza met with Sarkisian and Ter-Petrosian, as well as current President Robert Kocharian. He said he urged the government leaders to lift the state of emergency and take steps to speed democratic reforms. He said he also urged both sides to open a discussion of how to end the crisis.
The United States is frustrated by the arrests of opponents since his meetings in Armenia, Bryza said.
«It is not only frustrating that the government has imposed restrictions on independent media and left in place a state of emergency, but also that it has stepped up arrests of opposition leaders,» he said. «It is crucial that the arrest of opposition figures stops.»
He added that he sees some efforts by the government to diffuse the situation, pointing to Sarkisian meeting recently with some of the protesters, who were hospitalized following the violence.
On Monday, Kocharian issued an order allowing political parties to resume some activities, though a ban on mass gatherings and harsh controls on the media remained in place.