PACE Hearings to Take Place Even Without Azerbaijan

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Hearings scheduled to address the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict–initiated by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to be held in Paris on December 16 will take place regardless the Azeri delegation’s decision to attend–National Assembly speaker’s advisor on foreign relations Anahit Mirzoyan told a news conference Wednesday.

She reminded that Azerbaijan had once nixed the hearings which were initially scheduled for November.

Mirzoyan said that the main objective for the Armenian delegation at the hearings was the proper representation of the Armenian people’s concerns.

The delegation will go to Paris and ensure that Armenia’s "welcome any proposal on peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict."

Mirzoyan also discussed the composition of the delegation–stating that Hovanes Igitian–who previously led the delegation could not attend the PACE conference "since he does not represent the majority in the parliament and the members of the delegation do not find it possible to cooperate with Igitian."

Igitian–the chairman of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs–got a vote of support from former National Assembly speaker Babken Ararktsian who said that replacing Igitian was in violation of the National Assembly regulations.

In discussing Armenia’s membership in the coveted Council of Europe–Mirzoyan said that "at present Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s membership in the Council of Europe is being considered."

She said that the Council of Europe was aware that "the Karabakh question is a concern for both Armenia and Azerbaijan," however–in the matters of adhering to democratic norms–judicial reforms–preserving individual freedoms "Armenia has made significant progress in comparison to Azerbaijan. This alone–instills hope that approaches to Armenia’s membership in the Council of Europe would be viewed differently."

Earlier this week while meeting with representatives of the broadcast media–President Robert Kocharian said that the final decision on Armenia’s membership in the Council of Europe would be made soon–adding that Armenia could have been admitted to this organization along with Georgia had it taken a more active interest in European policy.

Kocharian stated that the problem with Armenia’s membership in the Council of Europe was not only the Karabakh conflict–as Georgia also had an unresolved conflict in Abkhazia.

He pointed that Georgia demonstrated a more active role in European-related matters–while Armenia–during the past two to three years "acquired a negative image in connection with the development of domestic democratic processes. Economic reforms also advanced at a slow pace."

Kocharian also said that Armenia and Azerbaijan would become members of the Council of Europe simultaneously–despite the fact that the latest presidential election in Azerbaijan "made European countries think twice [about Azerbaijan]."

In related news–US State Department spokesperson James Rubin discussed the recently convened conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe’s member-state foreign ministers–at which time he praised Armenia for its "constructive approach" in ensuring a smooth transition to the upcoming OSCE Summit–scheduled to take place in Istanbul next year.

"We look forward to using this development as the beginning of a process to strengthen cooperation among the countries in the Caucasus region. The United States is strongly committed to this process," said Rubin.

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