BAKU (RFE/RL)–In a surprise visit to Azerbaijan, two senior members of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation are attending an international conference that began its work in Baku on Monday.
The Socialist International (SI), a worldwide alliance of left-wing parties, organized a two-day meeting of its Committee for the former Soviet Union and the Black Sea region in the Azerbaijani capital to underline its commitment to promote peace and stability in the South Caucasus.
The committee meeting was attended by representatives from Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Greece, Sweden, Kazakhstan and Hungary.
The SI secretary general, Luis Ayala, stressed the importance of resolving the conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh and elsewhere in the volatile region as he opened the forum. He said the SI can contribute to regional peace by facilitating dialogue between the conflicting parties.
Representing Armenia were Mario Nalbandian, a member of the ARF’s governing Bureau, and Giro Manoyan, its chief foreign policy spokesman. They are the first members of one of the oldest Armenian parties to set foot in Baku in nearly a century. According to News.am, Nalbandian served as the meeting’s co-chair.
The Azerbaijani authorities’ decision to allow them into the country came as a surprise given their long-running policy of opposing Armenian participation in international events held in Baku.
Manoyan reportedly spoke about the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict at the meeting, reaffirming his party’s strong opposition to any settlement that would place Karabakh back under Azerbaijani control. “The resolution of the problem can not be [achieved] by forcing Karabakh back into Azerbaijan,” he told Azerbaijani journalists in separate remarks.
Manoyan also said that democratization of the political systems of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia would facilitate the resolution of this and other regional conflicts. “Democracy in each country will help resolve the conflicts,” he said.