By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia downplayed on Wednesday the significance of a controversial resolution by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) that criticizes continuing Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories around Nagorno-Karabakh.
The resolution adopted despite Armenian objections on Tuesday says that “the occupation of foreign territory by a member state constitutes a grave violation of that state's obligations as a member of the Council of Europe.” It also notes that the Karabakh war, victorious for the Armenian side, led to the creation of “mono-ethnic areas which resemble the terrible concept of ethnic cleansing.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian criticized the document as “flawed,” saying that it “address consequences of the conflict without looking into its root causes.” “Nonetheless, the resolution is not legally binding. It is only advisory and declarative,” he said in a statement.
Gasparian emphasized that the Karabakh peace process is spearheaded by the OSCE’s Minsk Group and the Council of Europe. “We believe that the positive and negative sides of the resolution will not have much of an impact on negotiations,” he said.
The statement was echoed by leaders of Armenia’s ruling coalition. “Of course the document can not satisfy us … But it also can not have an impact on possible solutions to the Karabakh conflict,” said Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), the biggest coalition force.
“This resolution can have no legal consequences, but it will definitely have a political impact,” said Mher Shahgeldian of the Orinats Yerkir Party, one of the HHK’s two junior partners.
Levon Mkrtchian, a top representative of the third coalition party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), also warned of pitfalls lying ahead. “I don’t think that the document will have a direct influence on the Minsk Group process,” he said. “But it could complicate the situation in a different way. It could create an illusion among Azerbaijan’s leaders that they can toughen their position and exert pressure on Armenia with such methods.”
But while Mkrtchian complained that the PACE resolution is “biased,” Sahakian said it contains pro-Armenian provisions as well. The Republican leader pointed to the assembly’s calls for Azerbaijan to start direct contacts with representatives of the Karabakh Armenians, something which Baku refuses to do.
Shahgeldian, for his part, stressed a passage in the resolution that says “independence and secession of a regional territory from a state may only be achieved through a lawful and peaceful process based on democratic support by the inhabitants of such territory.” He said that the Strasbourg-based assembly thereby recognized the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination.
Opposition leaders were far more skeptical on the issue, however. “International organizations seem to be creating legal grounds and political prerequisites for a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict not favorable for the Armenian side,” claimed Albert Bazeyan of the Artarutyun (Justice) alliance.
Meanwhile, the PACE resolution was welcomed by Azerbaijan. "The activation of PACE brings us closer to the resolution of the conflict," an Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman said, according to AFP. "Azerbaijan has always considered the actions of Armenia to be a typical example of ethnic cleansing ... Although the resolution does not reflect this in a categorical way, it is still positive."