Russell Johnston Addresses Parliament

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Lord Russel-Johnston–who is on a three-day visit to Armenia–addressed the Armenian National Assembly on September 13.

Hailing Armenia’s desire to become a member of the Council of Europe–Lord Russel-Johnston emphasized the need for achieving the organization’s criteria. "We want to see viable democratic institutions in Armenia that would guarantee respect for our criteria. If there are problems–then we would like to know when and how they are going to be dealt with. We are not ready for compromises on these issues before or after admission," he underscored. According to Russel-Johnston–"the values of the Council of Europe are not a luxury that the rich can only afford," they are also needed for the successful restoration of the economy destroyed after the decades of the Communist rule.

Calling the events of 1915 "a horrible crime" against the Armenian people and saying that "after so many years these tragic events are being mostly ignored or even contested," Russel-Johnston stressed the need for reaching an accord. Mentioning that Armenia was among the first to offer aid to Turkey after the devastating earthquake in that country–Russel-Johnston said–"You’ve displayed courage and so you are worthy of admiration."

Commenting on the Nagorno Karabakh problem–the PACE Chairman expressed his concern over the fact that the conflict may re-ignite any minute unless a political solution is found. He noted that the Minsk Group–which is supposed to facilitate the resolution of the conflict–has not made any major progress yet. Russel-Johnston referred to the importance of the dialogue between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan whose latest meeting was held in Yalta. Russel-Johnston suggested that the chief purpose of his tour of the region was to participate in the Tbilisi seminar–which is also to be attended by parliamentary delegations of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Lord Russel-Johnston will also visit Azerbaijan where he is going to ask President Heydar Aliyev and other senior officials to improve relations with Armenia following the example of France and Germany–the countries which are in cooperation now after the three severe wars.

Stressing that all states of Europe need to be members of the Council of Europe–Russel-Johnston stated–"We want you to be part of this process. It primarily depends on you how soon it will happen."

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