YEREVAN (Armenpress/RFE/RL)–The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) late Wednesday called on the Armenian government and the opposition to resolve their bitter dispute through negotiation–and offered to mediate such a dialogue.
The resolution–drafted by a committee monitoring the 45 member states’ compliance with their commitmen’s–calls for the scrapping of "unjustified restrictions" on peaceful demonstrations. It states: "The opposition should enjoy full freedom to conduct their political activities–which include the right to peaceful demonstrations. The authorities should immediately abstain from any interference and administrative and judicial harassment in this regard. The fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly must be respected and any restrictions must be in line with the European Convention on Human Rights."
It calls on the opposition to share in the responsibility of ensuring that protests are not marred by violence–and advises the opposition to settle its gripes legally. "The parliament should be the main forum for political argumen’s. They should not try to circumvent the political institutions in the country with a hope to reverse the results of last year’s elections which were–in spite of criticism–validated both at the domestic level and by the international community."
It also advises against "accepting artificial analogies between the situations in Georgia and in Armenia."
The resolution asks that Armenia’s government submit–by June–a written report to PACE detailing the steps it has taken in response to the recommendations. "Their implementation will be assessed by the monitoring committee’s two Armenia rapporteurs–Rene Andre of France and Jerzy Jaskiernia of Poland."
The resolution warns that if no progress is reported–PACE will "reconsider the credentials of the Armenian delegation" at its autumn session next September.
Presenting the document to the Strasbourg lawmakers–Jaskiernia made it clear that while he strongly disapproves of the crackdown–he believes that the Council of Europe should not question the legitimacy of last year’s Armenian presidential and parliamentary elections because the fraud surrounding the elections was "not so extensive that we could disqualify the result."The election naturally delivered results–and now many people are satisfied–so our approach to Armenia’should be objective and balanced," he said.
The assembly also rejected a proposal to endorse the idea of the national vote of confidence in Kocharian–as demanded by the opposition.
"The Assembly calls upon the authorities and the opposition to refrain from any action which may lead to further violence and to engage in a dialogue without preconditions."