By Hrach Melkumian and Harry Tamrazian in Yerevan
Speaking to reporters on Friday in Yerevan, the head of the Armenian parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe, Hovhanes Hovhanessian, said that the Azerbaijani delegation was trying to pass a resolution during last week's session of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) about territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the alleged "disastrous ecological situation in the occupied Azerbaijani territories and Nagorno-Karabakh." Hovhanessian dismissed allegations by some opposition newspapers that the Armenian parliamentarians have no strategy to counter the Azeri parliamentarians' anti-Armenian initiatives. Another member of the Armenian delegation said that Azerbaijani delegation was also trying to circulate a document, which claimed that Armenians have continually committed genocide against Azerbaijanis beginning in 1812.
Another document presented to the Council of Europe by the Azerbaijani parliamentarians claims that Armenians are trying to destroy the Azerbaijani cultural heritage in the occupied territories. Hovhanessian, who is also head of the Armenian parliamentary commission on foreign relations, said all attempts by the Azeri delegation to have their anti-Armenian proposals adopted as official documents by the PACE have failed. Hovhanessian told journalists that his delegation does not want to follow the scenario that their Azerbaijani colleagues are trying to dictate. Hovhanessian said that his team is working in accordance with the rules of the Council of Europe.
The prediction that Armenia and Azerbaijan would stage a propaganda war seemed to be true. According to Hovhanessian, Azerbaijan is much stronger than Armenia because currently it has six diplomats permanently stationed in Strasbourg and very strong backing from Turkey. However, Hovhanessian said that Armenian delegation's activity in the PACE was effective and that Armenia scored successes. As an example, he cited the fact that the Council of Europe accepted Armenia's initiative to hold the October session of the CE cultural committee in Yerevan.
During the PACE session last week, the Armenian delegation refused to sign the declaration banning capital punishment. The official explanation of the Armenian delegation was that only the speaker of the Parliament has the authority to sign the declaration. But sources close to the Parliament told RFE/RL that the main reason for Armenia's refusal was the October 27 parliament shootings trial. Armenia also refused to accept the proposal of the political committee of the Council of Europe to allow monitoring of Nagorno-Karabakh and to make it possible for the Council of Europe to play a role in resolving the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Today the Council of Europe's ministerial committee monitoring group, which visited Armenia to evaluate the reform of the country's laws and its fulfillment of conditions for member countries, met with Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. The Council of Europe's monitoring group will visit also Azerbaijan and Georgia.