YEREVAN (Armenpress)-The Armenian Foreign Ministry Wednesday responded to US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mathew Bryza’s recent about face condemnation of a government declared state of emergency following March 1 unrest in Yerevan.
Bryza on Monday described as "harsh and brutal" the government’s response to the March 1 opposition protests in Yerevan and criticized the ongoing mass arrests of supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian.
"We’re astonished that even after his visit to Yerevan, after meeting with and hearing from various official and unofficial sources [late last week,] US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Bryza could make such arbitrary statemen’s," Tigran Balayan, a spokesman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry, said in a statement. "Assigning such one-sided blame is unfounded and not helpful."
"The number of wounded law enforcement officers (108)–43 of them wounded by firearms and hand-grenades–clearly demonstrates that rioters were in possession of firearms and explosives," the statement said. "This coincides with the operative information of law enforcement agencies which had informed the public about all this, days before the events of March 1. In that case, labeling the reaction of the government as ‘a crackdown on opposition protests,’ or qualifying it as ‘harsh and brutal’ is incorrect. This was not at all an attack by policemen on civilians," he said.
According to Balayan, last weekends violence is of great concern to government, which believes it is responsible for the maintenance of public order and safety.
He said the government initially exercised restraint, but the protests turned into a clash between officers and demonstrators, just as law enforcement bodies had earlier cautioned.
"Armenia’s challenge, now, 10 days after that disastrous day, is to fully explore and understand what happened and find ways to move forward together," Balayan said. "The international community’s focus should be to encourage all involved to take responsibility for the damage to the fabric of our society and to look for inclusive ways to move forward."
"Ill-informed statemen’s can and do contribute to an escalation of political tension," he said.