Armenia Raps EU Parliament Over Karabagh Resolution


YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia criticized the European Parliament on Friday for demanding the “withdrawal of Armenian forces from all occupied territories of Azerbaijan” in its latest resolution on the South Caucasus.

Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said the demand contradicts international mediators’ existing plan to resolve the Nagorno-Karabagh dispute, which has been endorsed by the European Union.

The non-binding resolution adopted by the EU legislature on Thursday does not specify whether the Armenian side should pull out of only Azerbaijani districts surrounding Karabagh or the disputed region as well. It only rejects the notion that “Nagorno-Karabagh includes all occupied Azerbaijani lands surrounding Nagorno-Karabagh.”

Nor does the resolution, drafted by Bulgarian Socialist lawmaker Evgeni Kirilov, explain whether the Armenian troop pullout should start immediately and unconditionally or after the signing of a comprehensive Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement. The latter condition is a key element of the Madrid Principles of settling conflict that have been proposed by the US, Russian and French mediators cochairing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group.

Nalbandian said that the resolution demand is at odds with both those principles and a joint statement on Karabagh that was made by the presidents of the three mediating powers in July. “There is an obvious confusion in the formulations, and I think one of the reasons for that is that the author of the resolution has never been in Karabagh and the [broader] region, and did not consult with  representatives of France, an EU member state and OSCE Minsk Group co-chair, when drawing up his report,” he told a news conference.

“That is the reason why some of the [resolution] provisions also contradict the EU’s position, which has been repeatedly articulated,” Nalbandian said.

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The European Parliament did make clear that it supports the Madrid document and the mediators’ efforts to have it accepted by the conflicting parties. The proposed framework accord calls for the liberation of virtually all Armenian-controlled territories around Karabagh in return for a future referendum on self-determination in the disputed territory itself.

In what appears to be a message primarily addressed to Azerbaijan, the resolution also says the EU legislature “condemns the idea of a military solution” to the dispute. It further stresses that “the Armenia-Turkey rapprochement and the OSCE Minsk Group negotiations are separate processes that should move forward along their own rationales.”

Nalbandian’s criticism was echoed by parliamentary representatives of the three political parties making up in Armenia’s coalition government.

“Drawing up incomplete and unprofessional reports on such crucial and sensitive issues is unacceptable,” said Eduard Sharmazanov of the Republican Party of Armenia led by President Serge Sargisian.

Opposition leaders also described the European Parliament resolution as pro-Azerbaijani, blaming the Sarkisian administration for it. Levon Zurabian, a leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), charged that the document’s passage was a “disgraceful defeat” for Armenian diplomacy.

Another opposition force, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), was more cautious in criticizing the document. One of its parliament deputies, Artsvik Minasian, called it “unbalanced” but said the initial version of the resolution was even less favorable for the Armenian side. He said it was amended under pressure from Armenian diplomats and Dashnaktsutyun’s lobbying structures in Europe.

Meanwhile, European Friends of Armenia (EuFoA), a Brussels-based non-governmental group, took issue with the negative reaction to the resolution from Yerevan. While agreeing that its Karabagh-related wording is “confusing,” the EuFoA insisted that the European Parliament endorsed all the Madrid principles.

“This means concretely that the withdrawal of troops can only take place, if there are sufficient security guarantees for the population of Karabagh, a corridor to Armenia, an agreement to the final status of Karabagh through a legally binding expression of will and the right of all internally displaced persons and refugees to return to their former homes,” EuFoA said in a statement. “No EU institution has ever demanded the withdrawal of troops without such a comprehensive solution — this EP resolution has not changed that.”

“The same report for the first time calls for extending EU programs to Karabagh, ending the de-facto blockade for EU officials to travel to Karabagh. This would have a very positive effect of stabilization and progress for Karabagh and would no longer submit such actions to a veto from Azerbaijan,” said the statement. It added that the European Parliament also endorsed Yerevan’s insistence on a normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations regardless of a Karabagh settlement.

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