Turan news agency
30 Aug 05

Baku, 30 August: There are a number of serious shortcomings in
Azerbaijan in the sphere of freedom of assembly and expression. These
freedoms are the fundamental human rights which should be observed
in democratic countries, Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry
Davis has said in an interview with the Baku-based Council of Europe
information office.

There are also other fields that have to be improved, the
secretary-general said. He said it was important to hold "a
constructive dialogue" between the authorities and the opposition. Both
sides have to show political will in order to normalize relations
and improve the political atmosphere in the country, he said.

After the previous election [presidential election in October 2003],
which was accompanied with flaws, there is no alternative to a free
and fair election in Azerbaijan. To this end, the Council of Europe
has drawn up an action plan in order to make sure that the [6 November
parliamentary] election is held in the right way. It consists of three
sections: revision of the Electoral Code and improvement of election
management; increasing of voters' awareness with the aim of boosting
public involvement in the election process; promoting of Council of
Europe values through NGOs and the media.

Asked what the Council of Europe would do if the election
was falsified once again, Davis said much would depend on the
conclusion of PACE [Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe]
observers. "Therefore, I do not want to make decisions in advance,"
he said.

Asked to comment on the situation around the Armenian-Azerbaijani
conflict as a former PACE reporter on Nagornyy Karabakh, Davis said
he regretted frequent truce violations and losses sustained by both
sides. In Davis' opinion, the Prague process, which started a year ago,
has made settlement prospects much stronger.