Mediators representing the United States, Russia and France on Thursday warned the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) against “disrupting” the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process in their joint response to a pro-Azerbaijani draft resolution approved by a key PACE committee.
The resolution demands Armenian withdrawal from Karabakh and the territory’s return to Azerbaijani rule and says that the three mediating powers should “consider reviewing” their peace efforts accordingly. It also calls on the Council of Europe’s secretary-general, Thorbjorn Jagland, to come up an “action plan” on a Karabakh settlement reflecting its conclusions.
James Warlick, the U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, criticized the document immediately after it was approved by the PACE’s Political Affairs Committee last week. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov echoed the criticism when he visited Yerevan on Monday.
Warlick and his fellow Minsk Group co-chairs from Russia and France -- Igor Popov and Pierre Andrieu – commented on the PACE move in a special joint statement issued in Vienna. “We share concerns, expressed in the resolution, regarding an increase of tensions along the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan and along the Line of Contact … We agree that the conflict has lasted too long,” they said.
The mediators emphasized, however, that they are “neither judges nor advocates for particular positions.” “There are proposals to create new negotiating formats and working groups on the settlement of the conflict,” they said. “We believe that in the framework of the Minsk Group there is unique mediation experience. The Minsk Group format is accepted by the parties and has the full confidence of all OSCE participating States.”
“Considering the sensitivity of the negotiations, attempts to change the format or create parallel mechanisms can disrupt the negotiation process and impede progress towards a settlement,” warned Warlick, Popov and Andrieu.
Peace proposals made by the three mediating powers over the past decade markedly differ from the Karabakh settlement advocated by the proposed PACE resolution. Their Basic Principles call, among other things, for an internationally recognized referendum in Karabakh in which the disputed territory’s predominantly Armenian population would apparently be able to reaffirm its de facto secession from Azerbaijan.
The PACE is expected to debate the controversial resolution at its next plenary session in Strasbourg in January. The three-page text has been drafted by Robert Walter, a pro-Azerbaijani former British parliamentarian.
Armenia has rejected Walter’s report submitted to PACE members, accusing him of working for the Azerbaijani government. The Armenian authorities refused to cooperate with Walter even before he drew up the text.
By contrast, Azerbaijan has welcomed the draft resolution. The Foreign Ministry in Baku lambasted the U.S., Russian and French mediators last week, saying that their long-running peace efforts have produced “zero results.”