By Ruzanna KhachatrianA top representative of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) arrived in Stepanakert late Monday at the start of a fact-finding mission to the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Terry Davis, a British lawmaker acting as the PACE’s chief Karabakh rapporteur, was due to meet with the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic which increasingly finds itself on the radar screens of leading pan-European organizations.
Davis traveled to Karabakh by car from Armenia, defying Azerbaijani objections to the itinerary of his first-ever visit to the disputed region. Officials in Baku have said that this would amount to a recognition of Karabakh’s de facto independence and demanded that the PACE official enter it from Azerbaijani-controlled areas.
But speaking to RFE/RL in Strasbourg last month, Davis argued that by crossing the heavily mined Armenian-Azerbaijani line of contact he would put at risk the lives of PACE officials accompanying him. He also said that the week-long trip to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Karabakh will be important for his upcoming report on the issue to be submitted to the PACE.
The PACE rapporteur is scheduled to return to Yerevan on Tuesday for talks with senior Armenian government officials and parliamentarians, including those representing the opposition. Opposition lawmakers, who have been boycotting parliament sessions since February 2, announced on Monday that they will talk to him only in a separate meeting in order to avoid contact with the leadership of the Armenian parliament majority loyal to President Robert Kocharian. They said they would compromise themselves by sitting alongside the majority leaders who blocked the opposition demands for a referendum of confidence in Kocharian.