YEREVAN (Armenpress/RFE/RL)–A top representative of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) arrived in Stepanakert late Monday at the start of a fact-finding mission to the zone of the Mountainous Karabagh conflict.
Bitish lawmaker Terry Davis–PACE’s chief rapporteur to Karabagh–was due to meet with the leadership and president of Mountainous Karabagh Republic Arkady Ghukassian–as well as Armenian refugees who fled Azerbaijan. He is scheduled to visit Stepanakert–Aghdam and Shusi.
Davis traveled to Karabagh from Armenia by car–defying Azeri objections to the itinerary of his first-ever visit to the region. Officials in Baku have said that this would be tantamount to recognizing Karabagh’s independence–and demanded that the PACE official enter Karabagh from Azeri-controlled areas.
Davis argued last month that crossing the heavily mined Armenian-Azeri line of contact would endanger the lives of PACE officials accompanying him. He also said that the week-long trip to Armenia–Azerbaijan and Karabagh would be important for his upcoming report on the issue to be submitted to the PACE.
The PACE rapporteur is scheduled to return to Yerevan on Tuesday for talks with senior Armenian government officials and parliamentarians.
Following earlier visits to Yerevan and Baku in April 2003–Davis was asked by the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to tour the region. In January 2001–the two countries pledged to seek a peaceful settlement to the conflict when they joined the Council of Europe.