A senior Armenian lawmaker strongly condemned the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) on Tuesday for resuscitating an ad hoc “subcommittee” on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict over vehement Armenian objections.
Davit Harutiunian, who heads the Armenian parliamentary delegation at the PACE, accused the Strasbourg-based assembly and its Turkish president, Mevlut Cavusoglu, of anti-Armenian bias. “The assembly has disgraced itself with such an overtly biased approach,” he said.
The subcommittee had first been set up following a PACE resolution on the conflict adopted in 2005. Its activities were effectively frozen in the following years.
Cavusoglu has sought to revive the panel supported by Azerbaijan since taking over as PACE president in January 2010. He has argued that its existence is envisaged by the 2005 resolution and dismissed Armenian fears that he will use it to push a pro-Azerbaijani solution to the Karabakh dispute.
The PACE’s decision-making Bureau approved Cavusoglu’s initiative on Friday. The Bureau also elected a Spanish parliamentarian, Jordi Xucla i Costa, as subcommittee chairman.
Harutiunian stood by the official Armenian line that the Karabakh conflict mediation is the exclusive prerogative of the OSCE Minsk Group and that any attempts to interfere in this negotiating format are counterproductive. He said the PACE is unfit to deal with thorny issues like Karabakh’s status, security guarantees and return of occupied territories.
“As for humanitarian issues, they are also part of the negotiating package,” he told a news conference. “Setting those issues aside and discussing them separately won’t help the package itself.”
The lawmaker, who also heads the Armenian parliament committee on legal affairs, claimed that the subcommittee will only serve as a new setting for bitter recriminations between the conflicting parties. “Instead of thinking about how to put our relations on a more civilized plane and looking for ways of civilized debate … we are creating a new platform for trading accusations,” he said.
It is expected that the Armenian and Azerbaijani delegations in Strasbourg will each be represented in the revived subcommittee by two members. Costa has yet to comment on its work schedule.
Naira Zohrabian, another Armenian member of the PACE, claimed on Tuesday that Cavusoglu’s main expectation from the panel is to draft an “anti-Armenian” resolution on the Karabakh conflict. Zohrabian earlier called for an Armenian boycott of its activities.
Harutiunian did not rule out such possibility. “We will talk about what we are going to do when the right moment comes,” he said. “But one thing is clear. We are definitely not going to participate in anything that could jeopardize the negotiating process. That we have serious concerns to that effect is also clear.”
Meanwhile, Armenia’s leading opposition groups, who are also against the subcommittee’s revival, blamed the Armenian authorities for the development. They said Harutiunian and pro-government members of his delegation have spent most of their time in Strasbourg justifying government crackdowns on the Armenian opposition and trying to avert PACE sanctions against Yerevan.
“Prevention of sanctions against the authorities has been deemed far more important than creating a more favorable atmosphere for the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. So the result should have been this,” Stepan Safarian of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Arman Grigorian, the representative of the opposition Armenian National Congress in Strasbourg, agreed. “If the Armenian delegation had not been forced to deal with defense of the authorities' undemocratic domestic policies … it would have been better placed to fight against the creation of such a commission,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.