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EU’s Initiatives Promoting Democracy in EaP Countries Important Amid Increased Russian Pressure, the US Says

The United States expresses its strong support for EU efforts to foster closer cooperation and partnership with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, Marie Harf, spokesperson for the United States Department of State said in a press statement on Saturday, May 23, on the conclusion of the European Union's Eastern Partnership summit in Riga, Latvia. 

“We are committed to supporting further initiatives that promote democracy and good governance, strengthen energy security, fight corruption, and support economic and social development in Eastern Partnership countries. This is especially important at a time of increased Russian pressure and disinformation throughout the region,” the statement said. 

Note, as Reuters news agency reported on May 21, Armenia and Belarus had initially refused to sign up to the concluding statement of the Riga summit that called Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula illegal. The EU diplomats, according to the diplomatic sources of the agency, said a compromise text would be put to them, which would note the EU's condemnation of the Crimean situation but also refer to partner governments' positions in a U.N. vote in March 2014 in which Armenia and Belarus took Moscow's line.

In his speech in Riga Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan confirmed that he was displeased with the wording of the statement: “It has been for a long time that worrying developments in a Partner country, Ukraine, caused a serious crisis. Comprehensive settlement of the state of affairs in Ukraine is of primary significance both for the future of the country and relaxation of the current international tension.

“I hope that the farsighted attitude correctly appraising the situation will win over here as well; solutions will be found to respect mutual concerns, and the only stable avenue will be paved for mutual understanding; and, throughout every stage of these processes joint endeavors leading to comprehensive settlement will prevail over dissemination of one-sided fault-finding public statements, a temptation that leads nowhere. 

“Unfortunately, I detect such signals also in the EPP declaration of today, on the several paragraphs of which we have not been able to reach consensus. In my view, the basic reason of that was that the EPP partners have not been fully engaged in the drafting exercise,” Sargsyan had said.