Authorities in Lyon will not stop cooperating with Yerevan, a twin city, because of an incident that took place at the Armenian capital’s City Council last month, according to the French city’s visiting mayor.
Georges Kepenekian, a French politician of Armenian descent who has served as Lyon’s mayor since July 2017, this week paid an official visit to Yerevan where he met with Mayor Taron Markarian as well as leaders of the republic, including President Serzh Sarkisian and Prime Minister Karen Karapetian.
During a press conference at the French Embassy on Wednesday Kepenekian also answered a question concerning the recent call from dozens of Armenian organizations and individuals to stop cooperation with “Yerevan’s dictatorial municipality.”
Letters with such a call were sent out to Yerevan’s international partners in the wake of an incident during which female members of the opposition Yerkir Tsirani party were attacked by majority representatives in the City Council in February in a brawl over the quality of sewage in one of the districts of the capital.
Kepenekian confirmed that the authorities of Lyon, a city that has a long record of cooperation with Yerevan, did receive a letter of complaint, but said: “There is a major principle in the policies of twin cities and that is not to meddle into the internal affairs of each other. As far as I know, a criminal case was opened in connection with that incident and investigation is underway.”
The French city’s mayor suggested that if something “really terrible and extraordinary” had taken place, the Yerevan mayor would have addressed that matter while meeting him.
On February 13, two members of the City Council representing the Yerkir Tsirani party were confronted by their pro-government colleagues when they tried to hand Markarian glass containers filled with sewage collected from a damaged sewer pipe in the city’s Nubarashen district.
Yerkir Tsirani’s Marina Khachatrian slapped a male councilor representing the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) after being jostled by him. The latter slapped Khachatrian while another HHK councilor pulled her hair in response. Khachatrian and two other Yerkir Tsirani members, including the party leader Zaruhi Postanjian, were then physically forced to leave the hall.
In a move that raised concerns among local media organizations, one week after the embarrassing brawl Mayor Markarian decided to ban reporters from attending the sessions of the City Council. The mayor’s spokesman said journalists will now be able to watch Council debates only through monitors to be placed in a separate press room.
Asked whether such a thing was possible in the assembly of Lyon, Kepenekian, the mayor of the third largest city in France, said: “The worst thing is turning it into a publicity stunt. I am saying this because being a friend means talking about problems face to face and not through putting some letters into circulation.”
While visiting Yerevan Kepenekian signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Armenian capital and received a Mayoral Gold Medal from his counterpart.