By Karine Kalantarian
The Armenian government has refused to grant entry visas to eight Turkish nationals who planned to monitor Armenia’s parliamentary elections under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, it emerged on Monday.
They planned to arrive in Yerevan to join a 330-strong observer mission which is due to be deployed by the OSCE’s Warsaw-based vote-monitoring arm, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said the Turks have been barred from monitoring Saturday’s elections because of Ankara’s continuing refusal to unconditionally establish diplomatic relations with Yerevan and lift Turkey’s long-running economic blockade of Armenia.
“Considering the fact that Turkey is refusing to normalize relations and to open the border with Armenia, we believe that it would not be expedient for Turkish representatives to monitor our elections,” the ministry spokesman, Vladimir Karapetian, told RFE/RL.
The ODIHR director, Christian Strohal, was quick to criticize the move, saying that it runs counter to Armenia’s commitments to the OSCE, which Yerevan formally invited to observe the elections earlier this year. “An invitation to observe elections is an invitation to all OSCE participating States, and is issued in order to ensure equal treatment and strengthen the diversity of observation,” he said in a statement. “Preventing some observers from participating contradicts the principles of transparency and objectivity which are an indispensable aspect of democratic elections.”
Strohal also complained that the Armenian government has provided no official explanation for the “unexpected” snub. Turkish representatives have monitored Armenian elections in the past.
The findings of the ODIHR-led mission will be critical for the international legitimacy of the Armenian elections. The mission will be bolstered by a team of about 65 members of the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly. Observers will also be sent by the Council of Europe and the European Parliament.