YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–"Our country is committed to democracy which provides the people with complete freedom of speech–press–religion and political activity," president Robert Kocharian said–while meeting Wednesday with a delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe made up of members of the committee for political issues Demetrio Volcic and committee’s representative on human rights Dumeni Kolumberg. The delegation visited Armenia as part of the process of Armenia’s membership to the Council of Europe.
Volcic said that the goal of their visit was to assess the human rights situation in Armenia–the course of development of democratic processes in the country and approaches to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Kocharian said that while solving problems pertaining to reforms in state structures and the judicial sector–the most important realization was to separate the branches of power and create a balanced relationship between them.
He added that a new judicial system–independent of the executive branch had been formed. The system of state administration was being decentralized–while local government bodies were acquiring broader authority–noted the President
Commenting on the Karabakh conflict resolution–Kocharian stressed that the resolution of the conflict was a significant component for the establishment of stability and peace in the region.
He emphasized the importance of creating an atmosphere of trust among the conflicting sides and holding direct talks–adding that conflict resolution should be based on the equality of the sides–exclusion of an enclave status for Karabakh and international security guarantees for the security of the people of Karabakh. population.
Similar issues were discussed by PACE representatives and Armenia’s foreign minister Vartan Oskanian during meetings later that day.
Oskanian outlined the criteria determining Armenia’s national interests–which included security–economic development as well as national values–which he said were common to all mankind.
In the context of the Karabakh conflict resolution–Oskanian paid special attention to the attitudes of international organizations–in particular–the Council of Europe.
He stated that Armenia relied on institutions that were willing to support the latest proposal for peace in the Karabakh conflict.
Oskanian stressed the importance of an impartial approach–on the part of international organizations–toward all countries of the region.
Oskanian expressed regret over the biased approach official Ankara had demonstrated toward Armenian-Turkish relations.
The meeting also addressed development of democratic processes in Armenia and the upcoming parliamentary elections.
At a press briefing Wednesday–Armenian presidential spokesperson Vahe Gabrielian said that Armenia was likely to become a member of the Council of Europe in the near future.
He ascribed the delay in Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s admission to this European structure to the unsettled Karabakh conflict.
Commenting on a recent Human Rights Watch report–in which the organization recommended that the Council of Europe postpone Armenia’s membership–the spokesman’stated that the references to human rights violations made in the report were obviously based on exaggerated figures–and in some cases on inaccurate sources.
The facts cited in the report were far from being true–explained Gabrielian–adding that the figures cited in the report regarding deaths in the army were blown out of proportion. Acknowledging problems in the army–Gabrielian stressed that investigations were being conducted into specific cases and criminal proceedings had already been instituted against any offender.
The statement of the American organization–according to the spokesman–was an exaggerated opinion of the OSCE observer mission which monitored last year’s presidential elections in Armenia.
Gabrielian said the authorities were trying to get in touch with Human Rights Watch to correct existing inaccuracies. Simultaneously–the spokesman voiced the willingness by Armenian authorities to work to overcome all shortcomings.
Gabrielian also reiterated that Armenia’s cooperation with Russian or any other country was not aimed against a third country. He was commenting on Azeri President Haydar Aliyev’s recent statement that in the realm of Armenian-Russian military cooperation–Azerbaijan should revise its approaches to national security and deploy NATO military bases on its territory.
Gabrielian pointed out that the re-armament of the Russian military bases in Armenia was stipulated by an agreement and never exceeded the quota established for Armenia by the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. While speaking at the UN–the Armenian president explained that Azerbaijan exceeded the national quotas in three types of weapons–Gabrielian said.
Stressing that on a global scale–any imbalance of power in the region was undesirable–and commenting on the statement on deploying a NATO military base in Azerbaijan–Gabrielian said–"We do not consider NATO to be Armenia’s opponent; Armenia is included in the NATO Partnership for Peace program".