Hovanessian Discusses Recent SI Conference

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Following the complete failure of democracy under the former authorities–and after a period of fear–censorship and intolerance–democracy has become a reality in Armenia today–Presidential Advisor and Armenian Revolutionary Federation Executive Council of Armenia member Vahan Hovanessian reported to Socialist International’s Committee for Central and Eastern Europe–which held meeting in Bucharest Friday and Saturday.

Hovanessian placed special emphasis on the importance of holding free and fair parliamentary elections in Armenia. "Our party will take an active part in the elections to introduce socialist ideas into the parliament," he said.

Hovanessian stressed that Armenia’s main problem was the poor socio-economic condition of the population.

He attributed the collapse of the Soviet Union–as well as the continued blockade of Armenia by Azerbaijan and Turkey as reasons for the current domestic woes plaguing Armenia.

He reported that around 350,000 refugees from Azerbaijan and Karabakh were also in a desperate situation. Nevertheless–he said–"we are moving on to our main goals."

Hovanessian stressed that the latest proposals by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group were accepted by Armenia because–he believes–the Karabakh conflict must be settled by exclusively peaceful means.

However–he said–"Azerbaijan’s destructive position doesn’t allow us to follow a course of conflict resolution."

Hovanessian emphasized the importance of steps by the international community and Azerbaijan to end the deadlock. He expressed regret over Azerbaijan’s unwillingness to accept the idea that the only way to settle the conflict is through direct negotiations between Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh. He expressed satisfaction that certain Azeri political forces had also called for such dialogue.

Expressing hope for the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen’s ability to overcome the current obstacles–Hovanessian stressed that the final resolution must include the following three points: *Nagorno Karabakh right to self-defense and self-determination; *Common borders between the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Armenia; and *Mechanisms ensuring the irreversibility of the final resolution.

Hovanessian said that Nagorno Karabakh has proven that it was an independent state.

"For the last 10 years.–the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s population hasn’t lived under Azerbaijan’s government nor has it been subordinate to it. The new generation of Karabakh residents do not accept nor understand what it means to be subordinate to Azerbaijan."

Hovanessian added that his party had applied to the Socialist International for its assistance in reforming and instilling social and democratic values in Armenia and admitting Armenia to European structures with full member status.

"The Armenian people have chosen this course and are following it–but we are unable to do it by ourselves. I urge you to help us in the matter of strengthening the people’s belief so that Armenia does not veer from the course it has chosen," Hovanessian said.

The ARF was represented at the SI Bucharest summit by Hovanessian and ARF Bureau member Mario Nalbandian.

Chairing the meeting was Chairman of the left-wing Democratic Party of Italy–Minister of Foreign Trade of Italy Pierro Fasinson–and the former foreign minister of Hungary–Laslo Kovac.

The discussions focused on such issues as the Kosovo conflict–the Russian crisis and the ongoing global economic crisis.

During the meeting–the ARF delegation was successful in including a report on the situation in the Caucasus on the agenda. The report was presented Mario Nalbandian.

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