Toivo Klaar, the European Union’s special representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia (file photo)

EU Not Vying With Russia Over Karabakh, Says Envoy

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By Karlen Aslanian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — The European Union is not competing with Russia in its efforts to facilitate a “comprehensive settlement” of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the European Union’s special representative to the South Caucasus, Toivo Klaar, insisted over the weekend.

Klaar’s comments contrasted with what another EU official late last week. The official, who asked not to be identified, said that the EU has replaced Russia as the lead player in international efforts to broker peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. He claimed that both Yerevan and Baku are now “very scared of Moscow” because of the war in Ukraine.

“The European Union is not engaged in any kind of competition,” Klaar told RFE / RL’s Armenian Service. “We are solely interested in trying to help the process along.”

“If there are other actors, who are able to help things along, then we are very happy,” he said. “We know that the Russian Federation has invested quite a bit in different [Armenian-Azerbaijani] meetings and most recently in the deputy prime ministers’ meeting.

“So from our perspective there is most definitely no competition, there is no interest in any competition. We are simply interested in a peaceful and prosperous South Caucasus.”

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The president of the EU’s decision-making European Council, Charles Michel, has hosted three trilateral meetings with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in the last five months.

Russia has denounced the EU’s mediation efforts, saying that they are part of the West’s attempts to hijack Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks and use the Karabakh conflict in its standoff with Moscow over Ukraine. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman warned Brussels last week against playing “geopolitical games” in the conflict zone.

The EU’s peace efforts also prompted criticism from Karabakh’s leaders. They were angered by Michel’s comments made after the latest Armenian-Azerbaijani summit held on May 22. They claimed that he signaled support for Azerbaijani control over the disputed territory.

A spokesman for Michel insisted afterwards that the EU’s top official did not advocate any “predetermined outcome of discussions” on Karabakh’s future.

Klaar, who met with Pashinyan in Yerevan on Friday, June 3, stressed in this regard that Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population should be a party to an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace deal.

“It is clear that there are many people living in Karabakh who have a fundamental interest in how … a comprehensive settlement is shaped,” said the diplomat. “I personally cannot see how we can arrive at such a settlement without a process in which these people’s opinions and views are taken into account.”

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