President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan addressed the participants of “Pan-European Conference on the European Standards of Rule of Law and the Scope of Discretion of Powers in the Member-States of the Council of Europe” held in Yerevan last Wednesday, describing Armenia’s ‘honour’ at holding the presidency for the Council of Europe. From the outset of Armenia’s Council presidency, expectations were high–as the nation sets the priorities for its term, the world speculates about the escalating conflict in the region…
Presidet Sargsyan spoke of Armenia’s role, saying:
“It is a great honor and responsibility for our country and authorities to assume presidency of the Council of Europe. We will strive to fill these six months with the initiatives which will give a new impetus to the further development and strengthening of the European system of values, infallible adherence to the principle of rule of law.”
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian spoke at the plenary session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in the end of June, in order to enumerate the priorities of Armenia’s chairmanship, and the steps being taken by the nation to realise these goals:
“The Armenian chairmanship will be committed to fighting against racism and xenophobia in Europe, promoting European values through intercultural dialogue, strengthening the European standards of human rights and rule of law, as well as promoting democratic societies and strengthening the role of the Council of Europe in European architecture,” Nalbandian explained.
Armenia’s priorities for its presidency have been defined in response to the challenges that the Council of Europe member states are facing in relation to the protection of human rights, further strengthening of democracy and respect for the rule of law. During its chairmanship Armenia will aim to contribute to strengthening capacities in addressing these challenge, with specific focus on issues which are the most pertinent and require immediate action.
To this end, a conference hosted by the Council of Europe will be held in Yerevan to combat racism and xenophobia in October of 2013.
Meanwhile, concerns over Armenia’s relations with Azerbaijan and the dispute Nagorno-Karabakh region are escalating, after a series of event in recent weeks have heightened tensions between the two nations.
The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan were due to meet last month in accordance with an agreement reached with international mediators, however, the meeting did not take place, though no official reason for the cancellation was given. The Minsk Group, headed by France, Russia and the United States, and aimed at mediating a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno Karabakh spoke about the cancellation in a joint statement issued, saying:
“We strongly believe that further delay in reaching a balanced agreement on the framework for a comprehensive peace is unacceptable.”
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has said that his country will continue to increase its military strength until the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia is resolved. Analysts have attempted to douse fears over Azerbaijan‘s increased militarisation, saying that the nation had no appetite for war, though Azerbaijan, where President Ilham Aliyev faces re-election in October, has boosted arms spending and threatened to take back the disputed territory of Nagorno- Karabakh by force from neighboring Armenia. Meanwhile, Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan said last year that Azerbaijan was accumulating a “horrendous quantity” of arms and was threatening Armenia with a new war.
Read also: Standing Still in Armenia, by Thomas de Waal