Thursday, March 06, 2008

State department press briefing, March 5, 2008.

Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 5, 2008

Violation of Ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh / DAS Bryza`s Efforts
Need for Both Parties to Work Together with the Minsk Group
Deputy Assistant Secretary`s Travel to Armenia / Post Election Violence
Need for Government of Armenia to Lift State of Emergency, Media Restrictions
Political Situation in Armenia and Violence in Nagorno-Karabakh Difficult Issues

[..... other questions]

QUESTION: Do you have anything new on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, where is Bryza and are there reports back?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, we talked about this a little bit this morning. We regret that there was a violation of the ceasefire along the dividing line in Nagorno-Karabakh. We’ve expressed to both sides, both directly from Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Matt Bryza with folks in Baku as well as through a phone call he’s had with the Armenian Foreign Minister our concern about this. We think it’s important that there be no further violations and it just points out the need for the two parties to work together with the Minsk Group to be able to come up with a diplomatic resolution of the situation.

Matt, as I noted, is continuing on from Baku to Armenia. He will be having meetings there tomorrow. The primary focus of that and the intention of his visit there was first and foremost to see what he could do to help encourage and facilitate a dialogue between the government and the opposition there in light of some of the violence that we've seen in the post-electoral period.

One of his core messages will be to tell the Armenian Government that now that the situation has calmed down, it's very important to us to see the state of emergency lifted there. We also are concerned about the limitations and restrictions that have been placed on the media, including Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe there and we’d like to see those lifted. It's important for not only us but for -- more importantly the people of Armenia to be able, in this period, to have access to open information.

QUESTION: Have -- has either side -- Armenia or Azerbaijan -- given you any assurances about there won't be more violence or any assurance --

MR. CASEY: I'll let them speak for themselves. Again, we've made our views clear. There has not been a repeat of the incident and we hope that continues.

[..... other questions]

QUESTION: Yes. Tom, I wanted to take you back to Azerbaijan and Armenia for a little bit.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: Azerbaijani side blames Yerevan, saying that this is basically an attempt to divert public attention from the inner political crisis going on in the country. Do you see any link between these two events, the ceasefire -- intensive ceasefire violation with casualties and the public unrest in Armenia?

MR. CASEY: I certainly don’t have any reason to link the two, but they’re two problems that both require some work to resolve. The political situation internal to Armenia is one that has raised concerns, and again, that’s why Matt is going out there to try and assist in bringing the parties a little bit closer. I know the EU is sending a similar representative out there as well. But no, I wouldn't draw a linkage between the two of them. But certainly, it does raise concerns for us and is, again, a reminder that this conflict has been out there for many years, and until it’s resolved completely, there’s always the possibility for these kinds of incidents.

QUESTION: There’s an article in today’s Post written by Mr. Ter-Petrosyan, the main opposition candidate, saying that he is surprised and dismayed at the reaction from the West. Did actually any congratulatory message come out from the State Department to the President-elect Sarkisian? And is Mr. Bryza meeting with opposition side at Yerevan as well?

MR. CASEY: Yeah. We have – you can go back and look at our public comments on this. We certainly have not offered any particular messages of support for either party in this. We recognize that there is an ongoing dispute here and Matt is going out there specifically to try and see what he can do to encourage the parties to have discussions with one another. And that, of course, means he’ll be talking both with government officials as well as members of the opposition.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:58 p.m.)

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