By Armen Zakarian
A coalition of Armenian non-governmental organizations has criticized official Yerevan for joining Russia and seven other ex-Soviet states in accusing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe of unjustly interfering in their internal affairs.
In joint statements issued in Moscow and Vienna earlier this month the nine members of the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States that the OSCE spends too much time monitoring elections and human rights across the former Soviet Union. They also claimed that the 55-nation security organization is applying double standards to its member states.
The charges were rejected as “absolutely inappropriate” by the Yerevan Press Club and several other civic groups making up an umbrella structure called the Partnership for Open Society. “It is obvious to us that Armenia has no reason to deal with the OSCE in the spirit of the Moscow statement, and we believe that its signing does not correspond to the country’s interests and damages its international reputation,” the said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
“That organization simply has no mechanisms for meddling in member states’ internal affairs, but does have a legitimate right and even an obligation to be informed and to inform the entire community about how each country complies with the fundamental [OSCE] documents signed by itself,” the statement added.
“Does it stem from Armenia’s interests to issue statements against an organization that plays a pivotal role in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?” asked Vartan Poghosian of the Democracy organization aligned with the NGO coalition. “Does it stem from Armenia’s interests to issue statements against an organization that is trying to ensure respect of OSCE principles in the CIS countries, including Armenia?”
The principal cause of the Russian-led statement appears to be the OSCE’s strong criticism of elections held in virtually every CIS country since the Soviet collapse. OSCE observers, for example, reported numerous instances of serious fraud during last year’s Armenian presidential and parliamentary elections.
“Sadly, Armenia has found itself among those OSCE member states that still can not (or do not want) to work out mechanisms guaranteeing a free expression of citizens’ will during elections and to put in place a number of other democratic institutions,” the NGO statement said. It added that Armenia and other ex-Soviet states have themselves formally asked the OSCE structures to monitor their elections.
There has been no reaction to the ex-Soviet criticism so far from the OSCE office in Yerevan. Incidentally, it is headed by a Russian diplomat.