YEREVAN (Yerkir)–On the invitation of the Bureau of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF)–Secretary General of the Socialist International (SI) Luis Ayala–arrived in Yerevan Tuesday to mark the first time that a high-ranking official of the international organization has visited Armenia. He was greeted by ARF Bureau members Vahan Hovhannisian and Mario Nalbandian as well as ARF Bureau Political and Hai Tahd Office Director Giro Manoyan.
While in Armenia–Ayala met with President Robert Kocharian–Minister of Foreign Affairs Vartan Oskanian National Assembly Speaker Armen Khachatrian–members of the ARF Bureau and ARF Armenia Supreme Body–as well as parliamentary factions.
ARF Bureau representative Hrant Margarian–Bureau members Vahan Hovhannisian–Albert Ajemian–and Mario Nalbandian met with Ayala on Monday to discuss the ARF’s role in cooperation between the socialist and social democratic parties of Armenia and CIS countries.
Issues relating to the political situation in Armenia as well as collaboration in the upcoming parliamentary elections were also discussed–as well as the Iraq standoff.
National Assembly (NA) Speaker Armen Khachatrian met with Ayala on Tuesday together with the ARF Bureau’s Hovhannisian and Nalbandian–and Political and Hai Tahd Office Director Manoyan.
Khachatrian emphasized the importance of Ayala’s visit and spoke of the developing democracy in Armenia.The Speaker stressed the crucial role of the ARF in Armenia’s political life and the National Assembly.
Thanking the Speaker–the General Secretary presented a brief history of the SI–and mentioned that 15 parties would be joining the SI at its congress to be held later in the year; another 60 have expressed their wish to join–increasing membership to 200 parties from 150 countries.
Ayala said he is pleased that the ARF is a SI member–because the SI is interested in developing democracy in Armenia–and is planning to carry out various activities in the country.
Ayala also revealed that though the SI gives little attention to the South Caucasus–the organization has decided to expand its presence in this region
He noted that the upcoming May 25 parliamentary elections in Armenia are a great opportunity for the country to progress on its road toward democratization.
He stressed that the conditions to establish European standards and for economic development exist in Armenia–and that with its interest in Armenia’s progress–Europe views Armenia as an inseparable part of itself.
A Chilean national–Ayala is the first non-European elected to the secretary general position. Elected in 1989 at the XVIII Congress of the International held in Stockholm–he was re-elected in 1992 and 1996. Born in Santiago–he studied law at the University of Chile–and later political Science at Stockholm University in Sweden.
He began his international activities with his elections as President of the worldwide organization of socialist democratic youth–IUSY–in April 1973–a position he held until 1976. Ayala has participated regularly in various international initiatives relating to the defense of human rights and the promotion of democracy. He speaks Spanish–English–French and Swedish.