YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Three members of the Independent American Monitoring Delegation spoke on Capitol Hill September 19 on democracy building in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
Vladimir Matic, Paul Williams and Meghan Stewart, all affiliated with the Washington-based Public International Law and Policy Group, reiterated the main conclusion of their election monitoring report in which they assessed this summer’s vote as "free and fair".
Ambassador Vladimir Matic, a retired diplomat now teaching international relations at Clemson University, headed the group’s mission to NKR. He said that Karabakh’s conduct of the summer 2007 election is one of the "best examples" of democratic practices that they have ever observed having monitored elections in a dozen of other post-conflict areas. He also noted progress compared to past elections.
Paul Williams, a former State Department lawyer and currently a professor at the American University specializing in conflict resolution and post-conflict legal development, argued that "Karabakh has made much more progress in terms of its constitutional development" than Kosovo and urged the international community to take note of this progress.
Meghan Stewart discussed the details of their monitoring mission which included visiting nearly 50 polling sites in all of Karabakh’s electoral districts and meeting with presidential candidates and civil society representatives.
In his opening remarks, Vardan Barseghian, the Nagorno-Karabakh Representative to the United States, thanked congressional friends for their outstanding leadership on issues impacting the people of Artsakh.
Speaking about Nagorno-Karabakh’s democratic development, Barseghian said: "Just eighteen days after its referendum on independence in 1991, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic held its first democratic parliamentary elections. These elections marked the beginning of a difficult, complex but fruitful process of democratic state building amidst significant internal and external challenges."
"We were gratified to see Nagorno Karabagh’s success in building a strong and vibrant democratic society highlighted so effectively on Capitol Hill among Members of Congress, legislative staff, and the broader Washington, DC foreign policy community," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We look forward to building on this progress by educating our friends in both the legislative and the executive branches about the benefits of expanding U.S. ties with the Republic, beyond the traditional areas of humanitarian aid and conflict resolution, to include cooperation on a broad range of regional, economic, cultural, public health, security, and other issues."
The congressional briefing was spearheaded by the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), who wanted to provide an opportunity for Members of the U.S. Congress and their staff to hear about developmen’s in Nagorno-Karabakh.
"The United States Congress has championed economic aid to Nagorno-Karabakh to assist with post-conflict rehabilitation of the region,” said Rep. Joe Knollenberg. “We know that the U.S. assistance has helped alleviate the needs, but much more needs to be done,"
"Today, we were very pleased to hear from the American election observers that Nagorno-Karabakh has also steadily progressed in democratic development,” echoed Rep. Frank Pallone. “The United States should support Karabakh in this effort,"
Earlier this month, Representatives Knollenberg and Pallone sent a joint letter to Bako Sahakian, the winner of this summer’s vote, congratulating him on assuming the presidency of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Artsakh. In their letter, the two congressional leaders emphasized the importance of democratic elections and the ensuing democratic transfer of power in Artsakh.
"We have stood with the people of Artsakh along your heroic path to liberty and we continue standing with you in your noble efforts to strengthen your democracy, build a better life for your people and achieve formal, international recognition of Artsakh’s independence," the letter said in part.
Barseghian thanked the two Co-Chairs of the Armenian Caucus for their staunch support of Artsakh. He also thanked the Armenian National Committee of America, the US-Armenia Public Affairs Committee and the Armenian Assembly of America.
"We look forward to continue working with our American friends towards ensuring a more stable, secure and prosperous Caucasus, which also serves the U.S. strategic interests. An independent democratic, prosperous and formally recognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic must be part of that picture," stressed Barseghian.
The Office of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in the United States is based in Washington and works with the U.S. government, academia and the public representing the official policies and interests of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.