By Hrach Melkumian
The president of ECAC Alfredo Roma
The President of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC), Mr. Alfredo Roma visited Armenia on Wednesday as part of a regional tour during which he also visited Azerbaijan in an attempt to resolve a bilateral dispute on membership between the two conflicting states. The ECAC is an inter-governmental organization that helps coordinate civil aviation issues among its 38 member states.
In a press conference held in Yerevan Mr. Roma discussed his talks with both Armenian and Azerbaijani officials aimed at resolving a dispute that has barred Azerbaijan to become a member of ECAC. Armenia, which became a member in 1996 is blocking Azerbaijan’s application for membership; apparently as retaliation for a similar stance by Baku and Ankara vis-à-vis Armenia’s membership in the European Council of Transport Ministers.
Armenian officials maintain that an agreement was reached a few months ago to lift the mutual boycotts, but the opposing side has not fulfilled its commitment. Mr. Roma, speaking on the subject said, “ In principle the authorities of both countries are prepared to [lift] the vetoes”.
Another subject of discussion during Mr. Roma’s visits was the re-opening of Nagorno Karabakh’s air space to civilian air traffic. Since 1994 civilian air traffic over the Armenian held enclave has been stopped, because of possible danger to flying aircraft. Not only fixed-wing aircraft from Armenia do not fly to the area, but also international transit over-flights have been completely suspended.
Mr. Roma did not disclose the exact position of the two sides on the issue. However it was announced that all these outstanding problems will be discussed in the ECAC’s Paris office in October. Mr. Roma said that representatives from Azerbaijan, Armenia and also Nagorno Karabakh have been invited to take part in the Paris discussions. Observors believe that Armenia will probably demand safety guarantees from Azerbaijan for civilian flights to Nagorno Karabakh as part of any possible compromise.