OSCE Chairman to Armenia Georgia and Azerbaijan

THE HAGUE/WARSAW (OSCE)–The Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)–Netherlands Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer–will travel through the South Caucasus October 21 to 23–initially stopping off in Armenia–then Georgia–and lastly Azerbaijan.

Scheffer will discuss various OSCE activities in the respective countries–concentrating on the upcoming December 1-2 Ministerial meeting in Maastricht–as well as the fight against terrorism and human trafficking–both great priorities of the Netherlands Chairmanship.

OSCE’s role in fostering democracy–good governance and the rule of law–including media reforms and the situation of minorities will be discussed with representatives in each country.

Recent elections in Azerbaijan and Armenia–and their possible affect on Karabagh negotiations will be taken up–as well as preparations for upcoming parliamentary elections in Georgia.

Minister de Hoop Scheffer will be meeting not only with high level authorities–but also with representatives of non-governmental organizations in each country.

OSCE DEPLORES SITUATION IN AZERBAIJAN

The Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Ambassador Christian Strohal–expressed deep concern over a wave of arrests of opposition party officials and supporters in the wake of last week’s flawed presidential election.

He particularly condemned the detention of many election officials who refused to certify the results in their polling stations or districts.

"It is absolutely unacceptable that election officials have been obliged to sign vote count protocols under duress–or under threats to their families or their jobs," Strohal said. "The security of all election officials who have conducted their duties honestly should be guaranteed–and any remaining in detention should be released immediately."

The detentions come in the wake of violence and disturbances in downtown Baku–following the October 15 presidential election–which OSCE observers judged to have fallen short of OSCE commitmen’s and international standards. The OSCE has deplored the post-election violence and has called on all parties to show restraint and a willingness for dialogue.

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