“For us, the European Council (the EU’s top decision-making body) is not the format where issues of the resolution of the Karabakh conflict should be discussed because it is the OSCE Minsk Group which has an international mandate to do that and which we believe must be the main format,” said Artak Beglarian, the Karabakh state minister. “There is also the trilateral format of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan which has demonstrated its effectiveness in practice.”
“I don’t think that the European Council has the potential and interests to play a very serious role in a final and comprehensive settlement of the conflict,” Beglarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
The EU should focus on other issues such as protection of the Karabakh Armenians’ “humanitarian rights” and preservation of their cultural legacy, he said.
The head of the European Council, Charles Michel, has hosted three trilateral meetings with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the last five months.
After the most recent meeting held on May 22, Michel said that Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev agreed to “advance discussions” on a comprehensive peace treaty between their countries. He said he told them that it is “necessary that the rights and security of the ethnic Armenian population in Karabakh be addressed.”
Karabakh’s leadership denounced the latter remark, saying that the top EU official undermined the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination by portraying them as an ethnic minority not eligible for independent statehood.
Beglarian likewise suggested that Michel signaled support for Azerbaijani control over the disputed territory.
The previous Armenian-Azerbaijani summit held in Brussels on April 6 also raised concerns in Stepanakert. Pashinian said on April 13 that the international community is pressing Armenia to “lower the bar” on Karabakh’s status and recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. He signaled Yerevan’s intention to make such concessions, prompting strong criticism from Karabakh leaders.
Russia has criticized the EU’s mediation efforts, saying that they are part of the West’s attempts to hijack Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks and use the Karabakh conflict in its standoff with Moscow over Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, accused the EU last week of trying to “wedge” into the implementation of Armenian-Azerbaijani agreements brokered by Moscow. “We hope that Brussels will help implement them, and not try to play geopolitical games,” she said.
Russia has co-headed the Minsk Group together with the United States and France for nearly three decades. Russian officials say Washington and Paris stopped cooperating with Moscow in that format after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.