Council of Europe Reps. Begin Caucasus Visit

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly representatives began a visit to Baku–Yerevan and Nagorno-Karabakh on Sunday to observe the current situation and assess the willingness of all parties concerned to reach the political settlement of the conflict. The delegation includes Jacques Baumel–representative on Azerbaijan for the Political Affairs Committee; Georges Clerfayt–representative for the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights; Eisso Woltyer–representative on Armenia for the Political Affairs Committee.

The visit will be conducted as part of the procedure governing Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s accession to the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers stated that a significant rapprochement between the Caucasian countries and the Council of Europe would require not only the implementation of major democratic reforms but also a commitment of these countries to resolve their conflicts by peaceful means.

Armenia obtained special guest status in the Parliamentary Assembly in January 1996–followed by Azerbaijan in June 1996. The two countries applied for the membership of the Council of Europe in March 1996 and July 1996–respectively. Since then–several visits have been made to the area by parliamentarians from various Parliamentary Assembly Committees and by the representatives.

In Baku–from Sunday to Tuesday–the representatives will meet with–among others–Haydar Aliyev–President of the Republic of Azerbaijan; Safar Abiyev–Minister of Defense; Tofik Zulfugarov–Minister of Foreign Affairs; as well as Multuz Aleskerov–President of the National Assembly; members of the International Affairs Committee and members of the government and opposition. They will visit one of the regions of Azerbaijan where the refugee camps are located and will meet representatives of the UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In Stepanakert–on Wednesday and Thursday–the delegation will meet with senior officials from Nagorno-Karabakh–public representatives and refugees.

In Yerevan–on Friday they will hold talks with President Robert Kocharian; Vazgen Sargssian–Minister of Defense; Vartan Oskanian–Foreign Minister; as well as with Khosrov Haroutiunian–Speaker of the National Assembly; members of the Foreign Relations Committee and members of the government and opposition.

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