ARF Reps. Meet With Congressman Pallone

YEREVAN (Yergir)–Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) met yesterday with ARF Bureau Member Vahan Hovhannisian and ARF representative in parliament Armen Roustoumian at the ARF Simon Vratsian headquarters in Yerevan. As an official observer–Pallone has been in the region participating in the August 11 presidential elections in Nagorno Karabakh.

Also present during the meeting were Sharistan Ardhaldjian –chair of ANC-Eastern US–Giro Manoyan–head of ARF Bureau’s office of Hai Tahd and political affairs–and Arpi Vartanian from the Armenian Assembly.

Pallone discussed the presidential election process in Karabakh–Armenian-American relations–and undertakings of the Congressional Armenian Caucus.

In reviewing present Armenian-Turkish relations–the ARF representatives noted that relations can not progress by way of artificial undertakings; Ankara’s hostile treatment of Armenia remains the consistent obstacle.

Participants praised the election process in Nagorno Karabakh as significant proof of strengthening democracy and governance.

In separate meetings–US Congressmen Pallone and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) met with Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Margarian–Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and Armenian Defense Minister–Secretary of National Security Council Serge Sarkissian and discussed issues concerning the Karabakh conflict settlement–Armenia’s relationship with its neighbors and military cooperation between the two countries.

REACTIONS TO KARABAKH ELECTIONS

STEPANAKERT (Armnpress)–President of the Nagorno Karabakh Arkady Goukassian–who was re-elected on Sunday–August 11–vowed on Tuesday to continue the course of economic reforms proven successful in the recent two years. "In the last two years our economy has reported a significant increase and there are clear prospects for its further development," Goukassian told reporters immediately after the Central Electoral Commission in Stepanakert announced the preliminary results of the polls.

Goukassian said that there were all necessary conditions to develop the economy and added that there were proposals from foreign companies to invest in the Karabakh economy.

Goukassian also admitted that there will be some reshuffle in the government–promising to conduct a tougher policy towards senior government officials.

Speaking about official Baku’s condemnation of the polls–Goukassian warned that any attempt by Azerbaijan to bring Karabakh into submission would lead to war. The authorities in both Stepanakert and Armenia argue that only elected representatives of Karabakh can be eligible to continue peace talks with Azerbaijan.

The election was monitored by two US congressmen and a team of about a hundred international observers–who said the presidential elections largely met democratic standards.

Armenian TV–during its Aylur news bulletin program on the Karabakh presidential elections–interviewed US Congressmen Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

During the interview Congressman Pallone said–"I always compare the experience in the United States and am proud of the way democracy is practiced and functions in the US. And the elections I saw are quite like those in the US. There was more enthusiasm and people who turned out than what I saw in my home city of New Jersey. We went to several polling stations in Stepanakert and also to Nigi Camiyyat–which was the most interesting. We saw that rural polling place and–again–it was very impressive to see democracy at work even in a rural area.

"In the US we try to spread democracy and we feel that the US is a good example and we are trying to help other countries become democratic. I heard what the president of Nagorno Karabakh said that if Karabakh is to be recognized by other countries it is important that it be democratic and it is a fact that Azerbaijan has not shown as much tendency towards democracy. I think that the two will be compared–and the international community will say: ‘We have a state in Karabakh which is democratic. We have another one that is often critical of Karabakh and it is not democratic.’ This will create sympathy for Nagorno Karabakh–as they are doing the right thing. They are implementing democracy."

Congressman Lloyd Doggett added–"We saw the challenges Karabakh faces. Its government could have taken a different course. What impressed me is how open that process was. International observers like us were welcome to go anywhere in the area we wished to go–talk to people–see the voting process. This openness will certainly add to the strengthening of democracy here.

"I think that each time when free people take part in elections democracy is strengthened not only in the area where they are held–in Karabakh–but around the world. But I think that to make this dream come true you have to build on this democracy. Every family must feel that its children are secure from attack from abroad and that they will be able to find economic security at home and jobs. I hope that the success of these elections will encourage Karabakh and Armenia to take all steps towards a permanent resolution even though they realize the great obstacles they are facing from the Azerbaijani government."

Members of a French delegation who also monitored the elections in Stepanakert on August 12–said there is no doubt that the presidential elections in Karabakh are legitimate.

They said that the very fact the Karabakh people had a democratically elected political leadership should help achieve a final result in the settlement of Karabakh conflict. They also noted that the elections had been conducted at an appropriate level and that no obvious violations had been registered either at any stage of the elections or while summing up the results.

Meanwhile–the organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) expressed its concern over presidential elections held in Nagorno Karabakh August 11–but called on Azerbaijan to continue making efforts to avoid military conflict with Armenia–International Islamic News Agency (IINA) reported. According to IINA–55 members of the Organization called on Armenia to "withdraw troops" from Nagorno Karabakh–to respect conventions of UN Security Council–OSCE and OIC. "Armenia must fulfill international decisions in order to establish peace and stability in the region," is said in the statement approved by OIC.

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