EU Lauds Armenian Amnesty


The European Union praised on Friday a general amnesty declared by the Armenian authorities, saying that the resulting release of all opposition members arrested in 2008 will not only ease political tensions but also boost Armenia's ties with the EU.

"As far as we understand, this will allow Armenia to turn the page of the March 2008 events, together with a new impetus given to the investigation of those events," Raul de Luzenberger, head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, told RFE/RL's Armenian service in an interview.

"We believe that this is a very positive political development, which meets one of the demands of the European Union that was formulated immediately after the March 2008 events and has been reiterated for a number of times since then," he said.

"By fully meeting one of the long-standing open issues between the European Union and Armenia, this amnesty has actually made a very important step forward in our relations," added Luzenberger.

The diplomat also commended the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) for its "very peaceful and well-organized" political activities. "This is also very important for the country's political life," he said.

The amnesty approved by the Armenian parliament on Thursday was the latest in a series of government measures that addressed the HAK's main demands addressed to President Serzh Sarkisian. Those also included the lifting of a ban on opposition rallies in Yerevan's Liberty Square and a renewed official inquiry into the March 2008 unrest in Yerevan.

In a statement last week, the EU described the government concessions as "positive political developments." The bloc also reiterated its calls for the release of all Armenian oppositionists remaining in jail.

Luzenberger noted the fact that the government overtures to the HAK are paving the way for a dialogue between the two rival sides. "We simply hope that this dialogue will take place and that democracy in Armenia has made a full step forward," he said.