Armenia remains strongly opposed to renewed discussions on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) that are championed by its current, Turkish president, a senior Armenian lawmaker said on Thursday.
Ever since being elected as president of the Strasbourg-based assembly in January 2010, Mevlut Cavusoglu has sought to revive and lead a moribund PACE “subcommittee” tasked with facilitating the conflict’s peaceful resolution. He has argued that the existence of such a body is envisaged by a 2005 PACE resolution.
Armenia’s leading pro-government and opposition forces are worried that the subcommittee will not be impartial in its work because of the PACE chief’s nationality. They argue that Turkey continues to lend full and unconditional support to Azerbaijan and cite pro-Azerbaijani statements made by Cavusoglu in the past.
They also say that the OSCE’s Minsk Group co-chaired by the United States, Russia and France should remain the only international body directly involved in the Karabakh negotiating process. Yerevan has similarly opposed Azerbaijani attempts to engage the United Nations and other international structures in that process.
Cavusoglu dismissed these concerns during a two-day visit to Yerevan last May. Azerbaijan’s leadership has praised his Karabakh-related efforts.
Naira Zohrabian, a member of the Armenian parliamentary delegation at the PACE, said Cavusoglu and other PACE officials have failed to address Armenian concerns about the initiative. She said the assembly’s agenda-setting Bureau will discuss the matter and may well relaunch the controversial panel at a meeting scheduled for January 24.
In Zohrabian’s words, the Prosperous Armenia Party, a junior partner in the country’s governing coalition with which she is affiliated, believes that Yerevan must refuse to cooperate with the panel if Cavusoglu succeeds in resuming its work. “In that case, let Cavusoglu meet with the Azerbaijani delegation and discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” she told reporters.
Armenian and Azerbaijani parliamentarians as well as PACE officials reportedly held talks later in 2010 in a bid to work out a mutually acceptable formula for the panel’s activities. Zohrabian’s comments suggests that they failed to reach any agreements.
The lawmaker also expressed concern at the fact that Turkey took over the rotating presidency at the Council of Europe’s most important decision-making body, the Committee of Ministers, in November. She claimed that Turkish government officials and Cavusoglu will exploit that role to push a pro-Azerbaijani solution to the Karabakh dispute.