PACE Head in Armenia

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) president–Ren van der Linden–met with ambassadors of CE member countries and representatives of NGOs in Armenia on Wednesday as a part of a regional trip to Armenia–Azerbaijan–and Georgia.

His meetings will involve talks with President Robert Kocharian–parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian and leaders of the Armenian opposition. In an earlier interview–he told RFE/RL that he expects a "tough discussion" with opposition leaders.

Meanwhile–the country’s largest opposition group vowed on Thursday to campaign against the passage of proposed constitutional reforms at a national referendum due in November.

The move may put the opposition alliance at odds with the Council of Europe–which has long championed the reforms. The Venice Commission of the Strasbourg-based organization endorsed last month a revised package of constitutional amendmen’s put forward by Kocharian and the government coalition–saying their enactment would advance Armenia’s democratization and European integration. The European Union and the United States have taken a similar stance–and have urged the Armenian opposition to fall in line.

It is unclear whether van der Linden will promote the amendmen’s during his visit to Yerevan–which will also include talks with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian–the country’s Justice Minister and representatives of various political parties.

Van der Linden–who will be in Armenia for only two days–visited on Thursday the memorial to the victims of the Armenian genocide.

"Armenia’s suffered a great deal in 1915. It is a great pain. We must hope that history will not be repeated? I am sure that PACE will be useful for Armenia in its endeavor to live within a stabile and rich Europe," he wrote in the Genocide museum’s guest book.


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