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 Edward Nalbandian said the demand contradicts international mediators’ existing plan to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh 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 Karabakh or the disputed region as well. It only rejects the notion that “Nagorno-Karabakh includes all occupied Azerbaijani lands surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh.”
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 so-called Madrid Principles of settling conflict that have been proposed the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group.
Nalbandian said that the resolution demand is at odds with both those principles and a joint statement on Karabakh 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 Karabakh 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.
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 Karabakh 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 Serzh Sarkisian.
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 highly negative reaction to the resolution from Yerevan. While agreeing that its Karabakh-related wording is “confusing,” the EuFoA insisted that the European Parliament endorsed all of 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 Karabakh, a corridor to Armenia, an agreement to the final status of Karabakh 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 Karabakh, ending the de-facto blockade for EU officials to travel to Karabakh. This would have a very positive effect of stabilization and progress for Karabakh 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 Karabakh settlement.