By Karine Kalantarian
The Council of Europe resolution on Yerevan’s compliance with its membership commitments would have been more positive if the Armenian lawmakers in Strasbourg had received sufficient support from Armenian diplomatic missions abroad, their leader claimed Monday.
Tigran Torosian, the deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament, also rejected Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian’s calls for the expulsion of two opposition members of his delegation who challenged President Robert Kocharian’s legitimacy at last week’s session of the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE).
“I think that the delegation worked in full and achieved what is possible to do in this situation,” Torosian told a news conference. “If there was more support for the delegation, I am convinced that we would have achieved more. I mean in particular wordings relating to Karabakh.”
Torosian was speaking about a clause in the initial version of the PACE resolution that referred to “the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan,” effectively recognizing Baku’s sovereignty over the Armenian-controlled region. Members of the 45-nation assembly voted narrowly to remove the word “other” at the last minute, after the Armenian objections were backed by several Italian parliamentarians. However, the controversial language remained in a similar PACE document on Azerbaijan.
“Unfortunately, there were embassies that had informed us beforehand that particular lawmakers are ready to support our position and a large part of those assurances proved wrong,” Torosian said, singling out the Armenian missions in Russia, Ukraine and Germany. He argued that lawmakers from these countries were less sympathetic to the Armenian stance on Karabakh and other issues than PACE members from France, Britain and Italy.
The vice-speaker, who is also a leading member of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party, sounded dissatisfied with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, saying that he will raise the issue with the latter.
Oskanian has already prompted controversy by blasting two Armenian opposition deputies for urging the PACE to call for a referendum of confidence in Kocharian whose hotly disputed reelection last year was marred by reports of vote rigging. The motion put by Shavarsh Kocharian of the Artarutyun bloc and National Unity Party leader Artashes Geghamian was narrowly rejected by PACE members attending last Tuesday’s debate on Armenia.
Nonetheless, the PACE expressed “profound disappointment at the conduct of the [Armenian] elections…which gave rise to serious irregularities and massive fraud.” Its resolution also deplored a broader lack of political reform in Armenia, while praising the authorities in Yerevan for making “considerable efforts” to honor their Council of Europe obligations.
In a televised interview last week, Oskanian said the leadership of the Kocharian-controlled National Assembly should consider dropping the two oppositionists from the eight-member Armenian parliamentary delegation in Strasbourg because they expose their country’s “dirty linen” to the Europeans.
The parliament leaders brushed aside the suggestion, however. “I am against changing the composition of the delegation,” parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian told reporters. “We must respect our political opponents. Representatives of both the government and the opposition must be represented at the Council of Europe.”
“Such a proposal must not be made to the leadership of the National Assembly because there are rules both in the National Assembly and in Strasbourg for the formation of delegations and we have no right to violate them,” said Torosian.