By Armen Zakarian
An opposition lawmaker representing Armenia in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) claimed on Tuesday that its position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is becoming more acceptable to the Armenian side.
Shavarsh Kocharian said a new PACE report on the conflict is a “step forward” from a resolution adopted by the Strasbourg-based assembly over Armenian objections one year ago.
The resolution criticized continuing Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories around Karabakh, saying “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 noted that the Karabakh war led to the creation of “mono-ethnic areas which resemble the terrible concept of ethnic cleansing.”
Official Yerevan rejected the document as “flawed” and emphasized the fact that it is not legally binding. Kocharian and other members of the Armenian delegation at the PACE also voiced strong objections.
The resolution led to the setting up of an hoc PACE group tasked with monitoring and reporting on progress in international efforts to resolve the Karabakh dispute. The British head of the group, Lord Russell Johnston, submitted a first annual report to the PACE’s Political Committee which discussed it at a meeting in Paris on Monday. The meeting was also attended by U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group on Karabakh.
According to Kocharian, Russell Johnston’s report, not made public yet, is “closer to reality” than the PACE resolution. “This is the result of heated discussions that took place in Paris,” he told RFE/RL. “The co-chairs of the Minsk Group presented their position and the so-called Prague process.”
The lawmaker criticized one of the report’s provisions that suggests giving Karabakh the status of an autonomous region within Azerbaijan. “Of course, this provision is not desirable, but I don’t find it dangerous because it speaks of autonomies as well as other models [for determining Karabakh’s future],” he said.
While criticizing the Armenian side, the PACE resolution made it clear that Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan can be recognized by the international community if it is achieved “through a lawful and peaceful process based on democratic support by [Karabakh’s] inhabitants.” Nonetheless, the British author of the resolution, David Atkinson, clearly contradicted it when he said in a BBC interview in January 2005 that “the principle of peoples’ right to self-determination can not be applied to Karabakh.”
Armenian government officials have downplayed Council of Europe statements on Karabakh all along, arguing that the peace process continues to be exclusively run by the Minsk Group.
(Photolur photo: Lord Russell Johnston.)