Karabakh Foreign Minister Naira Melkumian
By Harry Tamrazian and Hrach Melkumian
Today the Council of Europe urged Nagorno-Karabakh authorities to refrain from holding "one-sided local self-government elections in the province." In a statement issued for the press today in Strasbourg, the Chairman of the CE Ministerial Committee, Liechtenstein Foreign Minister Ernst Walch, Parliamentary Assembly President Lord Russe-Johnston and Secretary General Walter Schwimmer cast doubt on legitimacy of planned local elections in Nagorno-Karabakh. "These so-called 'elections' cannot be legitimate", said the statement.
Nagorno-Karabakh will hold local elections on September 5. The Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission of Nagorno-Karabakh told RFE/RL last week, that more than 370 registered candidates will run for office to head 223 communities in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Official campaign has started last Friday.
The leaders of the pan-European organization explained their call to cancel the planned local elections by the fact that following 1991-1994 Armenian-Azerbaijani armed conflict "a substantial part of the region's population was forced to flee their homes and are still living as displaced persons in those countries or as refugees abroad."
Stressing that Council of Europe is fully supporting Armenian-Azerbaijani peace negotiations, the leaders of the Council of Europe says that it is not in the interest of Nagorno-Karabakh to be seen as undermining efforts to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the conflict by peaceful political means. Armenia and Azerbaijan accepted these commitments upon their accession to the Council of Europe on 25 January 2001.
Responding to the Council of Europe's call to cancel planned local elections Nagorno Karabakh Foreign Minister Naira Melkumian said that Karabakh authorities have a commitment to form the governments on all levels through elections, adding that she does not think any election could undermine a peaceful settlement of the conflict. "It is a part of our policy to build a civil society in Nagorno-Karabkh," Melkumian said, adding that Karabakh authorities will go ahead with September elections.