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By Ruzanna Khachatrian
A senior lawmaker said Friday that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has received a positive interim report from its special committee monitoring Armenia’s compliance with its membership commitments.

Armen Rustamian, who heads the Armenian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said the PACE’s two Armenia rapporteurs told the committee that the country’s leadership is “really determined” to honor the obligations and has already taken “serious steps” in that direction. “Those steps give them reason to believe that the promises given to them during their last visit to Yerevan will be fulfilled in full,” he told a news conference.

The two PACE officials, Jerzy Jaskiernia of Poland and Rene Andre of France, paid the visit last month, meeting with President Robert Kocharian as well as leaders of his main loyal parties and the opposition. They both spoke out against sanctioning Yerevan over the serious vote irregularities reported in this year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

Their final report is due in January. But their preliminary findings were discussed in Paris on Wednesday. Rustamian was present at the meeting.

The rapporteurs’ meeting with opposition leader Stepan Demirchian was tense as the latter accused them of placing formal abolition of the death penalty in Armenia above the country’s democratization. Demirchian is now very skeptical about the Council of Europe’s ability to get the authorities to improve their electoral practices.

The PACE threatened last June not to recognize the credentials of Rustamian and three other new Armenian members of the 45-nation assembly at its autumn session which begins on September 25. Rustamian admitted that even Jaskiernia’s and Andre’s upbeat statements can not rule out the possibility of sanctions.

“Procedures in Strasbourg are such that you can not prevent a debate on them because even ten deputies representing five different countries can include any issue on the agenda,” he explained.

The PACE will also take note of a more critical report unveiled this week by a similar monitoring group set up by the Council of Europe’s main decision-making body, the Committee of Ministers. The group led by Italian diplomat Pietro Ercole Ago concluded that democratization in Armenia and Azerbaijan “has been halted for almost 18 months.” It also noted that the Armenian elections “have given rise to a harsh rejection of the authorities in power.”

The Ago report was released just before the ratification by the Armenian parliament of the sixth protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights which unconditionally bans capital punishment in peacetime. Armenian leaders hope that the belated move will stave off punitive action.

(Photolur photo)
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