By Hrach Melkumian
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will avoid any public debates on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict before national elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan this year, a senior PACE official said on Wednesday.
Terry Davis, a British parliamentarian and the PACE’s chief rapporteur on the issue, indicated that the pan-European assembly’s involvement in the stalled peace process could be exploited by rival political camps in the two conflicting states during the pre-election period.
“I will not be publishing my report until the end of this year,” Davis told reporters in Yerevan, referring to the document that will form the basis of the planned PACE debate on Karabakh.
“We have elections in both Armenia and Azerbaijan in the next few months,” he added. “And obviously I do not want to be involved or interfere in the domestic politics of Armenia or Azerbaijan. At this stage I am listening to everybody.”
Armenia will hold parliamentary elections next month, while Azerbaijan will elect a president in October. A presidential election has already taken place in Armenia earlier this year. The elections have effectively put on hold the slow and difficult search for a mutually acceptable peace solution to the Karabakh dispute. The leaders of the two countries fear that an unpopular compromise deal could be exploited by their political opponents at this point.
Davis spoke on his arrival in Armenia on his first fact-finding mission to the zone of conflict
which he began from Azerbaijan earlier this week. He made it clear that the Council of Europe is not seeking to replace the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as the main mediator of the Karabakh peace process.
“It is not my purpose to replace the OSCE,” Davis said. “But my report will include what the OSCE are doing.” He argued that the PACE is showing interest in the Karabakh conflict because “it affects relations between two of our member countries.”
The PACE official went straight into talks with leaders of the Armenian parliament, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. His meeting with President Robert Kocharian is scheduled for Friday. While in Yerevan, Davis will also meet with senior representatives of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
“I hope that I will be able to visit Karabakh before I finish my report, but not this time,” he said.
Davis arrived in Yerevan from Tbilisi on a plane that also carried Georgia’s Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and Azerbaijan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mamedkuliev. The two men will attend on Friday a session in Yerevan of senior officials from the countries making up the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) grouping.
Mamedkuliev, who is also the son-in-law of Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev, said he will not discuss Karabakh during what is an extremely rare trip to Armenia by a top Azerbaijani official. “I do not intend to discuss any bilateral issues,” he told RFE/RL. “I have arrived only to attend the session of the BSEC Council of Ministers.”