Armenia Refuses Visas to Turkish OSCE Election Monitors

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Armenian government refused to grant entry visas to eight Turkish nationals who planned to monitor Armenia’s parliamentary elections under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, it emerged on Monday. They planned to arrive in Yerevan to join a 330-strong observer mission which is due to be deployed by the OSCEs Warsaw-based vote-monitoring arm, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said the Turks have been barred from monitoring Saturdays elections because of Ankaras continuing refusal to unconditionally establish diplomatic relations with Yerevan and lift Turkeys long-running economic blockade of Armenia. Considering the fact that Turkey is refusing to normalize relations and to open the border with Armenia, we believe that it would not be expedient for Turkish representatives to monitor our elections, the ministry spokesman, Vladimir Karapetian, told RFE/RL. The ODIHR director, Christian Strohal, was quick to criticize the move, saying that it runs counter to Armenia’s commitmen’s to the OSCE, which Yerevan formally invited to observe the elections earlier this year. An invitation to observe elections is an invitation to all OSCE participating States, and is issued in order to ensure equal treatment and strengthen the diversity of observation, he said in a statement. Preventing some observers from participating contradicts the principles of transparency and objectivity which are an indispensable aspect of democratic elections. Strohal also complained that the Armenian government has provided no official explanation for the unexpected snub. Turkish representatives have monitored Armenian elections in the past. The mission will be bolstered by a team of about 65 members of the OSCEs Parliamentary Assembly. Headed by Swedish Parliamentarian, Tone Tingsgaard, a Vice President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and an experienced election observer, the 65 parliamentarians come from many of the 56 OSCE member States, including Italy, Portugal, Spain, Russia, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, France, and Austria. They will be part of a larger group of international election observers from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has a long experience in election monitoring. Since 1993, more than 2,000 members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly have participated as election observers in over 75 elections over the entire OSCE region. A formal statement from the international election observers will be issued on Sunday, 13 May, the day after the election.

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