By Emil Danielyan
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian admitted on Thursday that Western criticism of the Armenian presidential election will complicate his government’s efforts to forge closer ties with Europe. But he insisted that Yerevan can address European concerns about a lack of progress in Armenia’s democratization.
“We are really faced with serious problems there,” Oskanian said, speaking about Armenia’s relations with the Council of Europe and other European structures. “But we believe that we can overcome them. “We remain faithful to our commitments and, by drawing lessons from all of this, we have to correct all those mistakes that happened during the elections.”
The two-round presidential polls were judged as deeply flawed and undemocratic by a team of observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe. In a separate statement issued after the March 5 run-off vote, the council’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) said the Armenian authorities failed to heed its calls for minimizing serious vote irregularities reported during the February first round.
“The full extent of responsibility for, and the impact of, the irregularities are yet to be determined, but it is already clear that they cannot remain without consequences,” PACE President Peter Schieder warned.
The Armenian election has been included on the agenda of the upcoming spring session of the pan-European assembly in Strasbourg. The head of a PACE delegation that monitored both rounds of voting, Lord Russell-Johnston, will submit its findings to parliamentarians from the 43 member states. It is expected that his report will be followed by a debate. But it is not clear yet whether the body will adopt any resolutions on the issue.
The PACE already threatened last year to suspend Armenia’s hard-won membership in the assembly over its failure to abolish the death penalty completely and unconditionally.
Oskanian, however, downplayed the significance of the international election criticism which the Armenian opposition portrays as an endorsement of its allegations that President Robert Kocharian’s reelection was fraudulent.