Reform process in South Caucasus needed to be boosted – PACE

Itar-Tass, Russia
Aug 26 2005

Reform process in South Caucasus needed to be boosted – PACE

PARIS, August 25 (Itar-Tass) – The constitutional reform in Armenia,
the forthcoming elections in Azerbaijan and reforms in Georgia were
the main issues discussed during high-level meetings held by the
President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
(PACE), René van der Linden, during his visit to the South Caucasus
on August 18-23.

Van der Linden said the development of democracy in Azerbaijan and
Armenia would help create a favourable atmosphere for the settlement
of the Karabakh conflict.

Van der Linden, who returned from his trip to the North Caucasus on
Tuesday, stated his intention to enhance the possibility for
parliamentary diplomacy available to the countries’ PACE delegations
as a complement to the primary means of bilateral diplomacy and the
Minsk Group process. He added that democratic development in the two
countries would create a better climate for finding a solution.

Summing up the results of his trips to Georgia, Armenia and
Azerbaijan, the PACE president said it is necessary to step up
democratic reforms in the region.

In Armenia, the President urged dialogue between the government,
opposition and civil society. The constitutional reform was a test
case for further democratic development in Armenia and of its
willingness to fulfil its obligations and commitments to the Council
of Europe, he said. The success of the referendum would depend in
particular on the revision of voters’ lists, media independence and
the organisation of an effective public awareness raising campaign.
The President appealed to government and opposition parties to use
the coming days to reach an agreement on joint amendments, so as to
attract the broadest support for reform. He said that failure of the
reform process would have negative consequences for the country as a
whole. He also urged all political actors to enhance their efforts to
ensure good relations with Armenia’s neighbours.

Van der Linden welcomed the progress made since the Rose Revolution
in Georgia, while recognising that state and society can not be
transformed overnight. He urged the authorities to maintain the
momentum of reform so as to ensure that all obligations and
commitments were met within the previously extended deadlines. He
stressed that an effective system of checks and balances, including a
strong opposition, independent judiciary, active civil society and
free media were necessary to the process of democratic reform; they
should not be considered only as part of its eventual result.

The reform of local self government was a particularly important
aspect of Georgia’s democratisation process and the president
encouraged the authorities to persevere in the ambitious and
far-reaching legislative agenda on this issue. On foreign policy, the
President encouraged the authorities to pursue all avenues for the
peaceful resolution of conflicts, not only those in South Ossetia and
Abkhazia, but also that concerning Nagorno-Karabakh.

In Azerbaijan, the president stressed that the November elections
would be a test case for the country and an important opportunity for
the international community to see that the government was doing its
utmost to ensure free and fair elections. With regard to the
electoral fraud committed during the 2003, René van der Linden was
reassured by President Aliyev’s promise that a full investigation
would be completed by November.

He noted the importance of election monitoring and reminded the
authorities that in January 2006 PACE would consider the report of
its own 40-strong election observation mission. The authorities
should reinforce and guarantee media independence and pluralism,
including by bringing the capital’s Public TV station into operation.
He urged all political parties to approach the elections in a
positive and constructive spirit of democracy.

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