Simonian met with Kimmo Kiljunen and Boriana Aberg, co-rapporteurs of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), at the start of their fact-finding visit to Armenia. They are tasked with monitoring Armenia’s compliance with its membership commitments to the Strasbourg-based organization.
The PACE did not specify the purpose of the visit in a statement issued earlier this week. It said only that Kiljunen and Aberg will meet with senior officials in Yerevan and visit three Armenian towns close to the Azerbaijani border.
The press service of the Armenian parliament said the PACE representatives arrived in Armenia to “familiarize themselves with the situation created as a result of the illegal blockade” of Karabakh’s land link with Armenia.
“We highly appreciate the work and involvement of the Assembly and you as co-rapporteurs,” it quoted Simonian as telling them.
Simonian praised the co-rapporteurs for urging an immediate end to the blockade just days after Azerbaijani government-backed protesters halted traffic through the corridor on December 12. He also noted with satisfaction that a PACE committee will release on soon a report on “humanitarian consequences” of the blockade.
Simonian’s Russian counterpart, Vyacheslav Volodin attacked the PACE and the European Parliament on Monday, saying that these and other Western bodies can only fan tensions in the South Caucasus.
“And those who make statements in the direction of European institutions may simply lose the country,” Volodin, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said in what appeared to be a stern warning to Yerevan.
The European Parliament urged Azerbaijan to “immediately reopen” the Lachin corridor in a January 19 resolution hailed by Armenian officials. The resolution also condemned the “inaction” of Russian peacekeeping forces in Karabakh and called for their “replacement with OSCE international peacekeepers.”
The European Union also irked Moscow last month when it agreed to deploy more than 100 monitors on Armenia’s volatile border with Azerbaijan. The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the EU of seeking to “push back Russia's mediation efforts at any cost.”