By Ruzanna Stepanian and Emil Danielyan
A national security adviser to President Robert Kocharian linked on Monday a Council of Europe report accusing Armenia of illegally annexing Nagorno-Karabakh with Britain’s policy in the region which he denounced as oil-driven and pro-Azerbaijani.
Garnik Isagulian claimed that the report’s findings, rejected by official Yerevan, were greatly influenced by the British nationality of Terry Davis, its author and the new secretary general of the Council of Europe.
“British Petroleum’s influence on British foreign policy is very obvious,” Isagulian told reporters, referring to BP’s pivotal role in the multibillion-dollar Azerbaijani oil projects. “They are solely concerned with controlling oil reserves. This is what English policy is all about. Only Baku’s oil matters to the British.”
The document in question was meant to serve as the basis for a resolution on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to be adopted by the organization’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE). The 45-nation assembly chose Davis as its chief Karabakh rapporteur long before he was elected to head the Strasbourg-based human rights organization last June.
“Considerable parts of the territory of Azerbaijan are still occupied by forces from Armenia, and separatist forces are still in control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region,” reads the draft resolution submitted by Davis to a key PACE committee earlier this month. It effectively accuses Armenia of illegal occupation of Azerbaijani territory as well as ethnic cleansing.
“The Assembly reaffirms that 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, and not in the wake of an armed conflict leading to ethnic expulsion and the de facto annexation of such territory to another state,” says the draft resolution. “The Assembly reiterates 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.”
The proposed wording is largely in tune with Azerbaijan’s long-standing allegations about Armenian “military aggression.” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev repeated in a speech at UN General Assembly in New York late last week. Aliev charged that the Armenians are intent on “consolidating the results of the aggression.”
The Davis report was rejected as “unacceptable” by Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian last week. The Armenian members of the PACE also criticized it. One of them, deputy parliament speaker, Tigran Torosian, plays down the document’s significance saying that it will have no legal force because the PACE has appointed a new Karabakh rapporteur, David Atkinson.
Atkinson is expected to present his version of a Karabakh resolution at the PACE session in January. Isagulian contradicted Torosian when he claimed that it is unlikely to differ markedly from Davis’s draft. “We need a rapporteur who would represent a state with a neutral position on the issue,” he said.
The presidential aide went on to predict that the Council of Europe can have little impact on the Karabakh peace process because it is spearheaded by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. “Azerbaijan has realized very well that the Karabakh problem has been solved within the Minsk Group framework,” he said, apparently alluding to its peace proposals reportedly upholding the disputed region’s independence from Baku.
Davis, on the other hand, indicated his support for the restoration of Azerbaijan’s control over Karabakh by advising the Armenians to look into “positive experiences of autonomous regions as a source of inspiration.”
The report drafted by the Council of Europe chief also suggests that the conflicting parties turn to the Hague-based International Court of Justice if the long-running peace talks sponsored by the Minsk Group remain lead nowhere. It says the court could rule on “whether the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan … has lawfully been violated by Armenia in order to protect a right to secession by the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.”