Council of Europe Admits Armenia and Azerbaijan

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–After a two-day meeting in Strasbourg–the Council of Europe on 8 November took the final step of admitting Armenia and Azerbaijan into its ran’s.

The decision was made by the representatives of member state foreign ministers–after long debates reportedly involving Western dissatisfaction with the way Azerbaijan had handled its parliamentary elections on 5 November.

Earlier in the day–the Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian had said that Council of Europe member governmen’s are still reluctant to admit Armenia into the influential organization ahead of Azerbaijan.

Oskanian told the Armenian parliament that European governmen’s still want either to accept Armenia and Azerbaijan simultaneously or keep both states out for the time being. He said international criticism of the Azerbaijani elections "calls into question" Yerevan’s chances of joining the unofficial club of European democracies before the end of this year.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted last June to recommend the organization’s committee of ministers to admit the two states–which are still attempting to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

However–according to our correspondent–the committee in making the decision to admit the two countries has also decided upon certain steps to ensure that Azerbaijan will uphold democratic standards. Some of these steps involve close monitoring of democratic progress in that country. Armenia also has been asked to seek European advice on updating some of its laws.

Armenia had repeatedly said that while it supported the idea of a simultaneous accession with its arch-foe–its own membership should not be further delayed because of the lack of democratization in Azerbaijan.

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