A senior European Union diplomat on Monday expressed concern about the latest ceasefire violations in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone which have raised more questions about the success of the long-running Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Peter Semneby, the EU’s special representative to the South Caucasus, also spoke of an “indirect” link between the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations.
Semneby described the weekend clash that left four Armenian and one Azerbaijani soldier dead as “a deplorable event that should not have taken place.” “It is not really acceptable that evens like this take place,” he said. “And in addition, we had an unnecessary tragic loss of human lives as well.”
“This incident demonstrates that there is a tense situation along the line of contact that can easily get out of hand and that it’s necessary to take whatever measures are available in order to lower tension and to build confidence. This is ultimately necessary also in order to come to a negotiated solution on the issue,” added the diplomat.
Semneby was careful not blame either conflicting party for the deadly fighting which the Armenian side says was provoked by an Azerbaijani attack on Karabakh Armenian army positions in the disputed region’s northern Martakert district. Citing the EU’s lack of a “first-hand information source” on the ground, he likewise declined to comment on Armenian claims that the attack had been pre-planned by Baku and exposed its reluctance to seek a peaceful settlement.
“I don’t want to speculate about the reasons behind this incident,” he said. “We don’t know anything about it.”
Semneby further made the point that further progress in the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations would help to create “the right kind of atmosphere” which he said is necessary for kick-starting and completing the Turkish-Armenian normalization process.
“There is no link between the Karabakh issue and the Turkish-Armenian normalization,” the envoy said. “Each process should be considered on its own merits. But one can not close one’s eyes to the fact that each of these processes has an impact on the general atmosphere and thereby an indirect impact on the other issue.”
The EU has strongly supported the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement that resulted in the signing last October of two protocols envisaging the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations and the opening of their border. Like the United States, the bloc has repeatedly called for their implementation “without preconditions” and “within a reasonable timeframe,” a stance praised and cited by Armenia.
Turkey has made clear, however, that its parliament will not ratify the protocols until a Karabakh settlement acceptable to Azerbaijan.
According to Semneby, the EU is “mildly encouraged” by the fact that despite freezing the normalization process, Ankara and Yerevan have not formally rescinded the deal. “That gives us reason to hope that it can be reinvigorated again with a bit of political will and courage on both sides,” he said.
Semneby, who met President Serzh Sarkisian at the weekend, refused to be drawn on the likely abolition of his position proposed by the bloc's top foreign policy official, Catherine Ashton. “I don’t want to comment on ongoing discussions about what the future European diplomatic representation will look like,” he said.
Some analysts say Ashton’s plan to abolish the posts of special EU representatives to Moldova and South Caucasus as part of a reform of the EU diplomatic corps would drastically downgrade EU presence in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. All three nations are included in the Eastern Partnership program, which offers them prospect of a deeper integration into the EU conditional on political and economic reforms.