The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) on Tuesday voted down a draft resolution demanding the unconditional restoration of Azerbaijan’s “full sovereignty” over Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian-controlled districts surrounding it.
Still, the Strasbourg-based assembly went on to adopt another controversial text that deplores “the occupation by Armenia of Nagorno-Karabakh and other adjacent areas of Azerbaijan.”
The two resolutions were approved by the PACE’s standing committees on political and social affairs in November. They were welcomed by Azerbaijan but strongly condemned by Armenia and Karabakh’s Armenian-backed leadership.
The pro-Azerbaijani documents also prompted serious concern from the U.S., Russian and French mediators trying to broker a comprise solution to the Karabakh conflict. In a statement released late last week, the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group again warned the PACE against “undermining” their peace efforts.
Following a heated debate in Strasbourg, the PACE narrowly rejected the more important of the proposed resolutions that was drafted by Robert Walter, a recently retired British lawmaker known for his strong support for the Azerbaijani government.
Walter’s text called for a peaceful settlement that would start with “the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces and other irregular armed forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” and “the establishment of full sovereignty of Azerbaijan in these territories.” It said that the OSCE Minsk Group should “consider reviewing its approach to the resolution of the conflict” accordingly.
The three mediating powers have been seeking a very different Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord. Their Basic Principles of a Karabakh settlement envisage an internationally recognized referendum in which Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population would apparently be able to reaffirm the territory’s de facto secession from Azerbaijan.
The other resolution, approved by the PACE over strong Armenian objections, accuses Armenia of “deliberately depriving” Azerbaijani farmers of water flowing from the Sarsang reservoir in northern Karabakh. It says that this “environmental aggression” necessitates “the immediate withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the region concerned.”
Several Armenian and other members of the PACE tried unsuccessfully to have the assembly remove or change these wordings.
Milica Markovic, the Bosnian author of the resolution, did not visit Armenia, Sarsang or other parts of Karabakh before drafting it. “Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to undertake a visit to Armenia, owing to the lack of cooperation of the Armenian delegation,” she said during the debate.
In a statement issued later on Tuesday, the Armenian delegation at the PACE praised the Council of Europe body for blocking Walter’s resolution but criticized it for approving the other “one-sided” document. Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian likewise charged that Markovic’s resolution “pours water on the mill of Azerbaijani propaganda aimed at undermining the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.”
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, for its part, welcomed the passage of Markovic’s resolution, saying that it could help to “eliminate the consequences of Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan.” According to Azerbaijani news agencies, the ministry spokesman, Hikmet Hajiyev, also said Baku “regrets” the PACE’s failure to approve Walter’s resolution.