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January 30, 2004 

War of Words in Strasburg: Armenian delegation split over "other"

In plenary sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) January 27, a resolution phrase that troubled Armenian representatives was changed in hope of avoiding misunderstanding.

As reported in ArmeniaNow January 16, the Armenian delegation to PACE had concerns about a sub-paragraph in the 28-paragraph report that said: "There was no progress in negotiations on the settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and other conquered territories."

"We must do everything possible so that this resolution won't be put to vote in that form," stated the National Assembly's Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Armen Rustamyan.

At the Armenians' suggestion, the word "other" has been stricken from the report.

But even though the delegation won't return to Armenia until tomorrow (January 31), there is already heated debate in political circles here on whether the wording suits Armenia's position.

Is it a victory or did Armenia lose a war of words in Strasburg? Oppositional members of the delegation regard keeping the expression "conquered territories" in the resolution as a defeat.

"Unfortunately, our country's foreign policy suffered terrible defeat. Only 40 people participated at the voting of the word 'other'. In fact, a question of great importance for our country was resolved by votes of only 17 of 313 delegates from 45 countries," said oppositional National Unity party leader Artashes Geghamyan.

Secretary of the Justice bloc, Victor Dallakyan says the approved wording represents the weakness of Armenia's PACE delegation.

"'Nagorno-Karabakh and other conquered territories' formulation was kept in a resolution concerning Azerbaijan. In fact, nothing has changed," said Dallakyan.

President of the National Democratic Union Vazgen Manukyan regards the change concerning the word as normal and results of sessions as unsuccessful.

"Since the very beginning that word was included into resolution to be taken out of it later. If they kept that word in the resolution then it would turn out that negotiations on Karabakh conflict are over and Nagorno Karabakh is regarded as conquered territory, which must be returned to Azerbaijan."

Using the word "shame" Artashes Geghamyan defined another formulation of the resolution.

"Parliamentary Assembly of CE expresses regret that there was no progress in finding peaceful solution to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan concerning Nagorno Karabakh."

Dashnak Bureau chairman Armen Rustamyan spoke against the original paragraph. According to him, it presented the Karabakh conflict as conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. By presenting Armenia as a conflict party the Karabakh conflict is pushed aside.

"There were no observer groups in Karabakh. Those groups must either seriously deal with that or leave it for some other structure, who is well experienced in that, for instance OSCE. The OSCE realizes that it is dangerous to take abrupt steps."

However, as Rustamyan's offer hadn't been discussed beforehand, the commission adopted the document.

Offers made by oppositional representative Shavarsh Kocharyan also became a subject of stormy discussions. In particular, concerning a confidence referendum, which was rejected.

"In February 2003, following admonitions of observer mission of CE, opposition, both National Unity and Peoples' Party of Armenia, chose the constitutional way. As a result, the well-known resolution of Constitutional Court was born, according to which it was offered to conduct referendum on confidence. It means that we followed all guarantees made by the CE, however, by its voting the CE hasn't followed its decisions," Geghamyan charged.

In an interview given by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Vardan Oskanian by Public TV he stated that the national delegation doesn't act in unison.

"Our opposition talks about its problems moving the question of change of power to Strasburg. In fact, our dirty laundry was taken to Strasburg and they conduct work towards including the question concerning change of power into the report," said Oskanian.

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In Honor

Wednesday was Army Day, marking the 12th anniversary of Republic of Armenia's forces. President Robert Kocharyan and government dignitaries visited a Yerevan military cemetary to pay respects.



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