Council of Europe Head Offers to Mediate Armenia Standoff

Urges opposition to return to parliament from the streets

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The secretary general of the Council of Europe Walter Schwimmer–on Wednesday called on the Armenian government and the opposition to resolve their bitter dispute through negotiation and offered to mediate in such a dialogue–and urged the opposition to "return to parliament from the streets."

"The Council of Europe supports the dialogue between the authorities and the opposition–and has a successful experience of sponsoring it in various countries," Schwimmer told a news conference in Strasbourg. He said his permanent representative Yerevan Natalia Voutova–is ready to assist in arranging direct contact between the two sides.

The offer came just hours before the organization’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) was due to discuss the tense situation in Armenia. The issue was included on the agenda of the PACE’s spring session at the last minute despite objections voiced by Armenian lawmakers.

A draft PACE resolution drawn up by a committee monitoring Armenia’s compliance with its membership commitmen’s notes that the authorities have ignored Council of Europe deman’s to stop using the country’s controversial Code of Administrative Offenses for imprisoning participants of opposition rallies.

It does–however–say that the Armenian opposition "should refrain from attempts to use street demonstrations to reverse the results of last year’s elections–which have been–in spite of the irregularities–validated by relevant national and international bodies."

Opposition representatives and leaders of the three parties represented in Armenia’s coalition government met this week to try to ease the tensions. The talks broke down on Tuesday–with the opposition accusing the government coalition of showing no signs of accepting any of its ultimatums–including one calling for a referendum of confidence in Kocharian.

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