Monday, 3 March 2008

EU diplomacy not working so far, OSCE will issue "far more critical" interim report over Armenian elections

Heikki Talvitie, a special envoy for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), flew into Yerevan on Sunday night and met Kocharyan and Sarksyan for talks that resumed on Monday.

[...] Neither side has shown any willingness to back down, with opposition leader and former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan pledging to continue protests and Sarksyan promising to punish trouble makers.

"Organisers of disturbances will answer before the law, history and generations," Sarksyan said in a statement after meeting Talvitie.

[...] But a Western diplomat said another OSCE report on the election this week would be far more critical.

"Since the election there has been a lot more information coming out of stuffing ballot boxes and bribery," he said.

*source - Reuters


Bruce Tasker said...

Nice to see the international community is starting to respond responsibly to the situation, which is indeed critical for the future of Armenia.

Unzipped - I hope you will be able to publish the report when it comes available, and distribute it widely, considering that Armenian local media is completely controlled by the authorities, who modify all reports and statements to suit only their own corrupt and dictatorial purposes.

artmika said...

I wish international community was responsible from the beginning, especially OSCE observers...

I will certainly publish it as soon as the report is available.

artmika said...

More updates from Reuters:

No sign of negotiations in Armenia standoff: OSCE

By James Kilner

YEREVAN (Reuters) - Armenia's main opposition group and the government are unlikely to start negotiations soon to end a standoff which triggered rioting that killed eight people, a European envoy said on Monday after he met both parties.

Soldiers patrolled Yerevan's streets after President Robert Kocharyan imposed emergency laws on Saturday following clashes between police and protesters -- the worst civil violence in Armenia since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The protesters accuse Kocharyan's ally and Prime Minister Serzh Sarksyan of rigging a presidential election last month. Opposition leader and former President Levon Ter-Petrosyan blamed police brutality for the violence.

"In all likeliness this kind of dialogue between Ter-Petrosyan and the government at the moment is not possible," Heikki Talvitie, a special envoy for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), told reporters after being asked if the two sides would start negotiations.

"But let's not exclude it from the future," he added.

Armenia is a country of around 3.2 million people on the edge of the Caucasus -- an oil transit route to Europe from the Caspian Sea where the United States and Russia have been vying for influence.

Talvitie flew into Yerevan on Sunday night and met Kocharyan and Sarksyan for talks that resumed on Monday before meeting the opposition groups.

Neither side has shown much willingness to back down and analysts and diplomats said Armenia was heading for a period of uncertainty.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said Washington was sending Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Bryza to help "facilitate discussions" between the government and opposition. But he stressed Bryza would not carry out "formal mediation".

"This is a situation where we need to see both the parties work with one another, engage in dialogue, not violence," the spokesman said.


Ter-Petrosyan has told his supporters not to rally during the 20-day emergency laws which ban meetings but he has also said he is prepared to continue the protests afterwards.

"He's very determined, very charismatic," a Western diplomat said. "He'll find it difficult to step back from this now."

Kocharyan and Sarksyan have presided over a period of economic growth, but detractors accuse their government of corruption and nepotism.

Ter-Petrosyan was Armenia's first president after it broke away from the Soviet Union, and although street demonstrations forced him to resign in 1998 he is still loved by many who want an alternative to the current government.

Witnesses saw police fire tracer rounds above the heads of protesters and lob tear gas into the crowd on Saturday. Protesters armed with metal bars and petrol bombs torched cars and looted shops.

The emergency laws ban public meetings and restrict media reporting. Armoured personnel carriers were still guarding the main square on Monday, but traffic has returned to the streets and shops were open.

"It was very bad on Saturday," Sahak, a 25-year-old unemployed man, said as he watched workers hammer together a broken metal shelf in a looted supermarket.

"But we now really hope that is all over."

Sarksyan officially won 53 percent of the vote and Ter-Petrosyan won 21.5 percent, in an election the OSCE described as flawed but sufficient for Armenia to fulfil its international obligations. Diplomats expect a harsher follow-up report from the OSCE this week.

(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze and Hasmik Mkrtchyan; editing by Andrew Roche)