YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Council of Europe’s main executive body on Thursday put the final seal on its decision the previous day to admit Armenia and Azerbaijan into the ran’s of the respected organization promoting human rights and democracy.
Meeting in Strasbourg–foreign ministers from the 41 member states formally confirmed the membership invitations issued by their representatives on Wednesday. The Committee of Ministers set additional conditions for Azerbaijan–demanding that Baku take action over the instances of fraud and irregularities reported during Sunday’s parliamentary elections. The conduct of the vote has been strongly criticized by Western-led monitoring missions.
The Azeri authorities will have to re-run voting in over a dozen constituencies. An ad hoc commission set up by the Committee of Ministers will monitor their compliance. Azeri Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev told RFE/RL in Strasbourg that his country will honor all its obligations.
Official Yerevan–meanwhile–voiced its deep satisfaction with the long-awaited decision of the European states. "This means that at least the minimum standards of democracy do exist in this country and that the Council of Europe recognizes this fact," President Robert Kocharian told reporters in the Armenian capital.
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian–who also attended the ministerial meeting–also sounded enthusiastic–saying that membership of the Council of Europe is "first step to join the great European family of nations." It will also speed up "democratic processes" in Armenia–he told RFE/RL.
The two neighboring countries–which despite being locked in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh have cooperated to secure the membership–will formally join the Council of Europe during the January session of the organization’s parliamentary assembly Armenia will have to sign up to the Council’s charter and the European Convention on Human Rights by that time. The PACE last June overwhelmingly endorsed the Armenian and Azeri membership bids.