The recurrent sitting of the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has kicked off in Yerevan.

Participating in the sitting are Hovik Abrahamyan, Speaker of the
Armenian National Assembly, Edward Nalbandian, Minister of Foreign
Affairs, PACE President Jean-Claude Mignon and members of the Armenian
delegation to the PACE.

Armenia's European orientation and the process of European integration
are the result of a conscious choice based on our common values as
well as rich cultural and Christian legacy," Hovik Abrahamyan said
in his opening remarks.

He stressed that Armenia comprises a part of the European civilization
with its past and present.

"With this in mind, Armenia joined the Council of Europe in 2001,"
he said.

earlier this month, at the 123rd session of the Council of Europe's
Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg, France, Armenia assumed its
first-ever six-month chairmanship of the organization.

In his speech, PACE President Jean-Claude Mignon said in recent years
the organization has adopted a number of important resolutions and
this is another excellent opportunity to discuss various ideas.

In reply to the PACE official, the Armenian Foreign Minister said
in the coming six months Armenia will be involved in the process of
European integration.

"This is a serious challenge, and Armenia assumes presidency of the
Council of Europe, paying special attention to the issues that are
more important and significant. Armenia vows to pursue the struggle
against racism, protection of human rights, strengthening of democratic
society and boosting the role of the Council of Europe. We will work
to strengthen regional cooperation in the areas of human rights and
fundamental freedoms," he said.

PACE member Andreas Gross asked Minister Nalbandian why Armenia's
military partner Russia has increased the prices for natural gas
it gives to Armenia and whether Armenia is going to apply economic
sanctions. "The gas price is regulated by an agreement signed between
the two countries, and I think we shall reach an agreement because
we are strategic partners."Another PACE delegate asked the Armenian
official about the Karabakh peace deal wondering what compromises
Armenia can suggest in the talks.

"Out stance on the issue coincides with that of the OSCE Minsk
group mediators. We welcome the possible solution based on the
opinion of the international peace brokers. What expectations can
the international community have from Armenia? It again depends on
the steps of the co-chairing countries. Armenia has maintained the
truce since its establishment in 1994, which is not the case with
Azerbaijan. In particular, they refuse to remove snipers from the
Line of Contact. Azerbaijan is against the peaceful settlement of
the conflict," said the Armenian FM.

From: A. Papazian