YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Armenia expressed disagreement with an announcement issued by the Council of Europe–which claimed that upcoming local elections in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic could hinder the fragile peace process–announced Armenia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Dzyunik Aghajanyan.
The foreign ministry spokesperson said that Armenia does not agree that it is imperative for Karabakh to halt the scheduled Sept. 5 elections.
"We do not agree with the Council of Europe–since we believe that by holding local elections–the people of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will realize its legal rights–as outlined by international norms," explained Aghajanyan.
"We also do not agree with the portion of the announcement–which suggests that local elections may hinder the peace negotiations. On the contrary–election in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic ensure stability. We maintain that only a popularly elected government can be involved in negotiations," added Aghajanyan.
The spokeswoman’said that the Council of Europe announcement is being taken out of context–nevertheless–the reaction outlined by the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic foreign ministry is regarded as complete and concise.
The Nagorno Karabakh Foreign Ministry has rejected a recent appeal by the Council of Europe not to hold local elections scheduled for the beginning of September. Saying that only authorities elected by the people can hold negotiations on Karabakh’s future–the foreign ministry asked why the Council of Europe had described the polls as illegitimate. The statement said that the Karabakh authorities were ready to continue cooperation with the OSCE Minsk Group mediators. The following is the press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Karabakh Republic on August 25:
"The leadership of the Council of Europe appealed to the Karabakh authorities on August 24 to refrain from holding government elections–scheduled for September 5.
Karabakh’s Foreign Ministry considers it necessary to state that the creation of a democratic government through free and fair elections is one of the important principles of the Karabakh leadership on the path to establish democracy and to build a civil society. We certainly cannot refrain from implementing such fundamental principles.
In this regard–the August 24 statement by the leadership of the Council of Europe calling on us to abstain from the elections gives rise to several reasonable questions:
First–in what way can the holding of regular elections in the Karabakh–especially at the local level–hinder the political resolution of the conflict?
It is a known fact that authorities formed through free and fair elections are authorized by the people to conduct political negotiations and bare responsibility before the world community for political and legal obligations they have undertaken.
Second–why are regular local elections described as illegitimate?
Unfortunately–the double standards of the organization that stands up for the sovereignty of people in newly independent states is now apparent. If the leaders of the Council of Europe are proceeding from the premise that the absence of an Azerbaijani minority will make the elections–as they put it–"one-sided" then there should have been a similar assessment of the elections to the local bodies of authority in Azerbaijan–since the Armenian community of more than 500,000–was driven out as a result of the conflict–constituted a majority in some regions and made up more than one-third of the population of the capital Baku.
Karabakh’s Foreign Ministry has to draw attention to certain inaccuracies in the statement. For example–the Karabakh conflict is not a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan–but is a result of the aggressive anti-Armenian policies of the Azerbaijani leadership which caused the first ethnic cleansing in 1988-90 and then the war in 1991-94 in the post-Soviet area.
As for mentioned political obligations undertaken by Armenia and Azerbaijan when they were admitted to the Council of Europe–we would like to stress that the role of Karabakh is to render practical assistance to the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group. In this regard–we can only mention a few obvious facts:
1. The latest written proposals put forward by the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group in 1998 were taken as a basis for the talks by Karabakh but rejected by Azerbaijan.
2. The anti-Armenian propaganda of the Azerbaijani authorities has turned into open calls to resolve the Nagorno Karabakh problem not by peaceful political means but by military means–which runs counter to all universally accepted principles for resolving conflicts.
Because of this–the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen had to issue a special communiqu in July 2001–calling on both parties–particularly the Azerbaijani authorities–to give up their aggressive rhetoric.
Finally–as to the offer of the Council of Europe’s leadership to assist the Karabakh settlement process through the Venice Commission for Democracy through Law–the Karabakh leadership welcomes this initiative because it supports a legal–nonviolent solution to the conflict.
The Karabakh Foreign Ministry declares its readiness–together with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen–to examine the opportunities and the ways to implement this initiative."