By Tsovinar Nazarian
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will not impose sanctions on Armenia despite the threats made by one of its key committees, a spokesman for the ruling Republican Party (HHK) predicted on Monday.
The PACE’s Monitoring Committee said after a meeting in Paris last week that the Armenian government has failed to comply with two PACE resolutions demanding the release of dozens of opposition members arrested after the February 19 presidential election. It said the Strasbourg-based assembly should therefore suspend the voting rights of its Armenian members at its next session due in late January.
The Yerevan government hopes to avert the embarrassing sanctions during upcoming negotiations with the Monitoring Committee’s two Armenia rapporteurs, John Prescott and Georges Colombier. The latter are due to visit Yerevan ahead of the next PACE session scheduled for late January.
Eduard Sharmazanov, a parliament deputy and the HHK’s chief spokesman, was confident that the authorities will manage to convince Prescott and Colombier to change their recommendations to the PACE. “The authorities will once again present all the steps taken by them in compliance with the [PACE] resolutions 1609 and 1620,” he said.
Sharmazanov also argued that the PACE has rarely sanctioned member states during its more than 50-year existence. “There have been only three such cases in the past and if we compare those situations with Armenia, I think the prospects for Armenia losing its voting right become very dim,” he told a news conference.
Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian spoke last week of unspecified “developments in January that will allow for a revision of that proposal” made by the Monitoring Committee. He might have hinted at a possible general amnesty for the jailed oppositionists, an option advocated by Council of Europe officials.
Sharmazanov said, however, that he does not expected the 70 or so oppositionists remaining in jail to be pardoned by President Serzh Sarkisian en masse.