Regional News Digest September 24th – September 30th 2005

The Grosso d’Oro Veneziano award was bestowed on Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian by the Masi Foundation of Italy’s Veneto Region, on September 24th. The prize is a special award on an international level for individuals who have contributed to the cause of peace and brotherhood among nations. It was conferred on Minister Oskanian for his contribution to Armenia’s integration into European structures, to the deepening of Armenia-Italy ties, and for his active involvement in peace talks. The Masi Foundation was created and is run by the descendants of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri.The only other recipient of the Grosso d’Oro Veneziano has been Slovenia’s former President, Milan Kucan.

On September 27th President Robert Kocharyan met with Finnish leader Tarja Halonen. The parties discussed matters of Armenian-Finnish bilateral relations, EU-Armenia cooperation, and regional issues. “Armenia shows a very serious approach to European integration,”the Finnish President said.

Chairman of an Azerbaijani parliament committee on agricultural issues accused the country’s opposition of striking a secret deal with Armenia. Eldar Ibrahimov, the committee head was quoted by Trend news agency as saying that in return for Armenia's support to win the upcoming parliamentary elections the opposition has pledged to give away Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenians. Ibrahimov claimed he received this “information” from senior representatives of international organizations, stationed in Baku. Ibrahimov also accused the opposition of being “fed by foreign governments.”

The recurrent court sitting on the case of Azeri officer Ramil Safarov accused of the murder of Armenian officer Gurgen Margarian was held in Budapest on September 27th. According to Azeri lawyer Adil Ismaylov, the court decreed to postpone the sitting till December 15th. The postponement was caused by the disagreement of the experts on Ramil Safarov's psychological state. The opinion of three Hungarian experts, who were carrying out the examination, differed and the court set another examination. (See The Margaryan Trial.)

With a vote of 90 and without votes of 'no' and abstentions the Armenian parliament has passed on September 28th in the third and final reading a package of constitutional amendments that will be put on a national referendum on November 26th. Opposition lawmakers from Ardarutyun (Justice) bloc and the National Unity boycotted the voting.

The outgoing ambassador of India to Armenia, Deepak Vohra, told Armenpress that Ms. Rina Pandei was picked to replace him. He said Rina Pandei, who served as India's consul general in Istanbul, Turkey, will arrive in Armenia on October 15th. Vohra's diplomatic tenure in Armenia expired in August, but in connection with India's vice-president Bharion Singh Shehavat's visit to Armenia in the first days of October he was instructed to stay here.,,,