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In a surprise visit to Azerbaijan, two senior members of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) are attending an international conference that began its work in Baku on Monday.


The Socialist International (SI), a worldwide alliance of left-wing parties, organized a two-day meeting of its Committee for the former Soviet Union and the Black Sea region in the Azerbaijani capital to underline its commitment to promote peace and stability in the South Caucasus.

The SI secretary general, Luis Ayala, stressed the importance of resolving the conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh and elsewhere in the volatile region as he opened the forum. He said the SI can contribute to regional peace by facilitating dialogue between the conflicting parties.

Among the participants are Mario Nalbandian, a member of Dashnaktsutyun’s governing Bureau, and Giro Manoyan, its chief foreign policy spokesman. They are the first members of one of the oldest Armenian parties to set foot in Baku in nearly a century.

The Azerbaijani authorities’ decision to allow them into the country came as a surprise given their long-running policy of opposing Armenian participation in international events held in Baku.

Azerbaijan -- conference of the Socialist International in the CIS, the Caucasus and the Caspian Basin, Baku, 11Oct2010
Manoyan reportedly spoke about the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute at the meeting, reaffirming his party’s strong opposition to any settlement that would place Karabakh back under Azerbaijani control. “The resolution of the problem can not be [achieved] by forcing Karabakh back into Azerbaijan,” he told Azerbaijani journalists in separate remarks.

Manoyan also said that democratization of the political systems of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia would facilitate the resolution of this and other regional conflicts. “Democracy in each country will help resolve the conflicts,” he said.

The importance of democratization for regional peace was also stressed in a landmark joint declaration issued by three Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian center-right opposition parties in Potsdam, Germany last week. The Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), the Musavat Party of Azerbaijan and Georgia’s Republican Party pledged to work together in promoting democracy and fighting against human rights abuses in their countries.

The HHSh chairman, Aram Manukian, described the document as “unprecedented,” saying that its signatories are thus offering a “viable alternative” to their respective governments. “In general, when conflicting countries or countries situated in the same region have no mutual contact, they have no prospects,” Manukian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “We stand for addressing our problems through joint contacts and discussions.”

The HHSh, which governed Armenia from 1990-1998, is a key member of the country’s largest opposition force led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.

The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) criticized the joint statement on Monday. Its deputy chairman, Razmik Zohrabian, claimed that Musavat has long been involved in “anti-Armenian propaganda.”

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