CoE Calls For Talks Between Azerbaijan, NK Leadership

RFE/RL Analysis: Council Of Europe Calls For Talks Between Azerbaijan,
Karabakh Leadership
Wednesday, 26 January 2005

By Liz Fuller

In the late summer of 2004, British parliamentarian David Atkinson, who
succeeded Terry Davis as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of
Europe’s (PACE) rapporteur for Nagorno-Karabakh, was tasked with
completing a report begun by Davis for the assembly on the situation in
the disputed region.

Even though such reports, when adopted, are only recommendations, ever
since that draft was unveiled two months ago, legislators and political
commentators in both Armenia and Azerbaijan have evaluated, and lobbied
to amend, criticisms they consider unwarranted and terminology they
consider inappropriate or misleading.

Specifically, the Armenian side objected from the outset to the
assertion that “considerable parts of the territory of Azerbaijan are
still occupied by Armenian forces, and separatist forces are still in
control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.” The Armenian PACE delegation
sought to substitute “supporters of democracy” for the term “separatist
forces,” presumably in order to underscore that the elections that have
taken place in the disputed republic were free and democratic, in
contrast to those in Azerbaijan that the OSCE has consistently
criticized as not meeting international standards for free and fair
elections. The Armenian side also considered inappropriate the use of
the term “ethnic cleansing” in connection with the exodus from the
region of its minority Azerbaijani population.

The Davis/Atkinson report was the subject of a three-hour debate on 25
January during the PACE winter session. The Armenian delegation’s
efforts to tone down wording that it considered unfair proved largely
unsuccessful, partly, delegation head Tigran Torosian told RFE/RL’s
Armenian Service on 20 January, due to lack of Russian support.
According to on 26 January, most speakers expressed support
for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and for the withdrawal of
Armenian forces from areas bordering on Karabakh. The report was finally
approved by a vote of 123 in favor and seven against. Moreover, the
final version of the report terms the occupation of the territory of one
Council of Europe member state by another “a grave violation” and
stresses that the independence and secession of a territory may be
achieved only through a lawful and peaceful process and not in the wake
of an armed conflict leading to the expulsion of part of the region’s
population. It calls for compliance with four UN Security Council
resolutions adopted in 1993 calling for the withdrawal of unnamed
occupying forces from districts of Azerbaijan bordering on
Nagorno-Karabakh. And it calls on the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group
to expedite a formal agreement on cessation of the conflict that would
“eliminate the major consequences of the conflict for all parties” and
pave the way for the so-called Minsk Conference that would address the
region’s future status vis-a-vis Azerbaijan.

That approach is tantamount to endorsement of the so-called “phased”
approach to resolving the conflict, and it would apparently require the
withdrawal of Karabakh Armenian forces from the seven districts of
Azerbaijan bordering on Nagorno-Karabakh that they currently control,
and the return to their abandoned homes of the region’s Azerbaijani
minority, prior to the beginning of any formal discussion of the
region’s political status and of the measure of self-rule to which it
would be entitled as part of Azerbaijan. The Armenian government
considers this approach anathema, insofar as it would deprive the
Armenian side of its sole bargaining chip (the occupied territories)
before talks on Karabakh’s status got under way.

Azerbaijani commentators on 26 January termed the final wording of the
report a major defeat for Armenia. But the report also contained at
least one recommendation that is not acceptable to Azerbaijan: the
Armenian delegation succeeded in having it amended to include a call on
the Azerbaijani leadership to embark immediately and unconditionally on
talks with the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
on the region’s future status. Moreover, addressing the Assembly on 25
January, Atkinson argued that Azerbaijan should be expelled from the
Council of Europe if it attempts to restore its hegemony over
Nagorno-Karabakh by military means, Turan reported. Atkinson reminded
PACE that he visited Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s, and added that
he “will never forget” the Azerbaijani bombing of Stepanakert.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress