Opposition Reforms and Karabagh All in A Day’s Address to PACE

STRASBOURG (RFE/RL)–In his speech to the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) on Wednesday–President Robert Kocharian said that the Strasbourg-based body should not have had to discuss the political confrontation in Armenia last April–and defended his administration’s response to the opposition calls for resignation.

"I regret that some of our deputies drew the PACE into that discussion," he said. "I am convinced that the Council of Europe is not the best place to settle scores between the government and the opposition. All of that must be done in our own parliament."

Kocharian described the Armenian opposition’s push for power as an awkward attempt to replicate neighboring Georgia’s November "Rose Revolution" that was welcomed in the West. "The Armenian opposition failed to take into account the fact that Armenia’s economy–unlike Georgia’s–is developing dynamically; its government is quite efficient and its democratic achievemen’s are propped up by institutional structures–including police–which are able to maintain public order," he said.

In its April 28 resolution on Armenia–PACE said that the Kocharian government’s reaction to the opposition protests was "contrary to the letter and the spirit" of its values–and threatened to impose sanctions unless reforms were undertaken by the September PACE session.

The Armenian leader–making his second appearance at the Council of Europe since Armenia joined it in January 2001 emphasized the opposition’s rejection of calls for political dialogue by the parties of the governing coalition. "Those proposals remain in force–but they must be discussed in parliament–not in the street," he said.

The Armenian authorities’ compliance with the resolution was discussed earlier this week by the PACE’s Monitoring Committee. Its rapporteur on Armenia Jerzy Jaskiernia–is due to submit a final report on that in time for the assembly’s next session in September. The committee has also been monitoring the fulfillment of Armenia’s broader membership commitmen’s to the Council of Europe.

"Armenia has already fulfilled the vast majority of obligations assumed in connection with its accession to the Council of Europe," Kocharian declared–adding that the remaining ones will be honored "by the end of this year." Armenia is going through "an active process of the formation of civil society," he said.

The 20-minute speech was followed by a question-and-answer session. The two PACE parliamentarians representing the Armenian opposition boycotted the speech and were not on hand to pose questions. Azeri and Turkish lawmakers–however–grilled the president.

Asked by one of the Azeri parliamentarian whether he had any role in the war over Mountainous Karabagh–Kocharian replied–"Yes–I took part in the war. My children were hiding in a basement for three years and had no childhood. I am proud of my participation in the war."

Kocharian told another Azeri that his country would have regained most of its territories around Karabagh had it accepted two international peace plans put forward in 1998 and 2001–and stressed that Karabagh has never been apart of an independent Azerbaijan state and should remain outside of Baku’s control.

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