By Armen Zakarian
Armenia should not count on Russia’s support in its efforts to amend a draft Council of Europe resolution that implicitly accuses it of committing ethnic cleansing during the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, a senior official in Yerevan said on Thursday.
Deputy parliament speaker Tigran Torosian, who heads the Armenian delegation at the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), also indicated that the Armenians will stand a better chance of gaining Russian backing if they publicly voice their disaffection with Moscow.
“Russia has good relations with Armenia. But we must not forget that relations with Azerbaijan are no less important for Russia,” Torosian told RFE/RL. “At the Parliamentary Assembly … Russia does not have, so to speak, pro-Armenian positions, and this is understandable. We should not protest or feel offended.
“Russia has its own interests that are more important than, say, our interests.”
Torosian added that Turkey is far more supportive of Azerbaijan than Russia is of its main regional ally. “Unfortunately, Armenia does not have such a friendly country,” he said.
Russian parliamentarians in Strasbourg, for example, failed to show any support for their Armenian colleagues’ unsuccessful efforts last year to remove a clause in a PACE resolution that referred to Nagorno-Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan. A Russian representative was also conspicuously absent from a recent meeting in Paris of the PACE’s Political Committee that discussed a controversial resolution on the Karabakh conflict.
Armenian lawmakers, by contrast, always vote against PACE documents critical of the Russian government.
According to Torosian, Azerbaijani criticism of Russian policy on Karabakh is sometimes more effective than unwavering Armenian support for Moscow. “Perhaps it would be good if in our political stage too serious questions about Russia were raised on issues where we have serious expectations from Russia,” he said.
The Karabakh resolution to be debated by the PACE on January 25 decries “the creation of mono-ethnic areas which resemble the terrible concept of ethnic cleansing.” “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,” the document says in a clear reference to the Armenian military gains.
The resolution drafted by British MP David Atkinson also advises the Karabakh Armenians to draw inspiration from “positive experiences of autonomous regions” in Europe.
Atkinson has resisted Armenian pressure to drop these provisions. He only agreed last fall to add a paragraph urging Azerbaijan to begin direct talks with Karabakh representatives.
The Armenian authorities, and Torosian in particular, have faced strong opposition criticism for their failure to have the “anti-Armenian” document amended before the upcoming vote in Strasbourg. But Torosian downplayed its significance, saying that it “will not create serious problems for Armenia.”