The U.S. ambassador to Yerevan said recent political changes in Armenia will help bring new trade and investment to the South Caucasus country.
“I am confident that this new chapter in Armenian history is going to spark a lot of interest from U.S. businesspeople,” Richard Mills said, speaking on July 4 at an event in the Armenian capital marking U.S. Independence Day.
The comments come two months after peaceful protests led by lawmaker and activist Nikol Pashinian led to the resignation of longtime ruler Serzh Sarkisian in early May.
Pashinian, who vowed to crack down on widespread corruption in the country, was voted in by parliament as prime minister on May 8.
Mills said new investment could come both from members of the Armenian diaspora and from others looking to trade with Armenia.
“I heard from the diaspora Americans and also from American businesspeople of all backgrounds that they were very interested in Armenia if the new government follows through on its commitments to make this a more equitable society, [provide] a more level playing field for all businesses, and if they can root out some of the problems of corruption,” he said.
“I think American businesses are interested in some of the key sectors that the [Armenian] government is also focused on — IT, agriculture, tourism and energy, in particular,” he added.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said he has not rule out that assistance to Armenia can be resumed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Armenia received $177 million under a program for the rehabilitation of its rural irrigation networks a decade ago.
However, further aid was frozen after a disputed 2008 presidential election that was followed by a government crackdown on the Armenian opposition.
Sarkisian’s administration unsuccessfully lobbied to restore Yerevan’s eligibility for the aid program in subsequent years. U.S. officials said, however, that Yerevan was not doing enough to combat widespread corruption, among other issues.
Mills told RFE/RL that he did not have any “new news” on the program.
But he added: “Again, the way the Millennium Challenge Corporation works is that Armenia will have to meet some criteria, hit some standards in the areas of fighting corruption, political liberty, media freedom.
“So, we will be working with the government to encourage them, to support them in making some changes that will help Armenia meet those criteria so that next year, when the Millennium Challenge Corporation is deciding on compacts, Armenia can be considered.
“[Reform] is really what Armenia needs and what I heard the Armenian people were demanding on the streets two months ago,” the ambassador said.