U.S. Ambassador Mills Assesses U.S.-Armenia Relations

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YEREVAN (A.W.)— On Feb. 1, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills addressed the America Chamber of Commerce in Armenia, during which he assessed the efforts of the Embassy and discussed the further steps to advance the partnership between U.S. and Armenia.

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills

After welcoming all those in attendance, Mills recalled how his first speech was also at the American Chamber of Commerce in Nov. 2015. In his first address to the Chamber, he had stressed four main priorities that he had set for himself. On Feb. 1, he discussed the progress and the impact of those priorities.

Mills discussed the importance of a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh/NKR) conflict as a precursor to the rest of his remarks. “So as a preface to the rest of my remarks, let me underscore the continuing importance and priority the Embassy, the U.S. Government, and I personally will continue to give to achieving a peaceful settlement for Nagorno-Karabagh’s future,” Mills said.

Mills’ first priority was regarding the deepening of business and economic relations between Armenia and the U.S. He spoke about some of the activities being implemented in Armenia that included USAID’s contribution to agriculture, the establishment of Innovative Solutions and Technologies Center, the Fulbright-Hovnanian program, and the organization of commercial events to encourage U.S. companies to invest in Armenia.

“The U.S. government is committed to continuing to work with our partners in the Armenian government to expand trade opportunities between the U.S. and Armenia and we want the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) to be successful,” said Mills.

Mills’ second priority focused on the partnership to fight corruption. He commended Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan for his work to combat corruption and also Armenia’s commitment to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. He suggested that the government strengthen the role of the Ethics Commission on High Ranking Officials and that the government form a fully independent anti-corruption body. Mills also addressed the criticism of the anti-corruption action taken by the Embassy in 2015.

“In response, we have said repeatedly—including in my remarks in Nov. 2015 to all of you—that we are willing to work with any Armenian governmental institution that demonstrates a commitment to fighting corruption, but that at the same time, our continued support for the Council was contingent on the achievement of measureable results,” added Mills.

Mills’ third priority was in regards to strengthening of democratic institutions, human rights, and civil society in Armenia. He discussed the progress of the various organizations that have received grants to combat issues dealing with women’s rights and individuals with disabilities.

Mills also brought up the lack of trust in the electoral process and the need for a setting to be created in order to have free and fair elections.

The ambassador’s last point was the better explaining of U.S. Foreign Policy to Armenian audiences. “I identified this as a priority because many of the Armenians with whom I meet—even some people who have visited or lived in the United States in the past—have told us they do not understand U.S. policies,” explained Mills.

Mills added that Armenians have limited access to Western and U.S. media outlets and lack necessary English skills to take advantage of certain source. He said that the discussion to address this issue in currently in progress with many young Armenian university students.

Mills concluded his remarks by stating how proud the U.S. Embassy was to see the progress that has been made in the area of all these priorities.

Source: Armenian Weekly
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