AS (2016) CR 03
2016 ORDINARY SESSION
Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 10.00 a.m.
Escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan
Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water
The following texts were submitted for inclusion in the official report by members who were present in the Chamber but were prevented by lack of time from delivering them.
Mr DE BRUYN (Belgium) – I wish to express my opposition to the draft resolutions we are debating. Both documents aspire to represent the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s views on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a difficult and very delicate subject of international concern. To do so, they first needed to take into account the position of the internationally-agreed body on this specific issue: the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Minsk Group.
To my regret, both resolutions go against the international approach on this delicate issue and may put the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in an awkward position by asking for unilateral, short-sighted measures and this in contrast to the consensus of the international community on finding a balanced solution for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
I agree with those colleagues who pointed out that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe can promote dialogue and rapprochement among conflicting parties and contribute to advancing the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. But the documents in front of us fall short of being fair, balanced and constructive and of representing all views and critical nuances.
These resolutions would possibly send a wrong signal to the region, emboldening those who initiated these resolutions in the first place. By accepting this selective approach, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe would jeopardize the decades-long international effort to bring about peace and stability to the South Caucasus. I therefore call upon you all to reject both resolutions.
Mr FARMANYAN (Armenia) – We are facing a challenge to the integrity of our institution. Let me specify: in both of the drafts under consideration there is a violation of Rule 1.3.3 of the Code of Conduct that directly obliges the rapporteurs to “carry out all necessary fact-finding visits”.
Both Mr Walter and Mrs Marković have received numerous invitations and assurances from the authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia on their willingness to receive respective fact-finding missions in the region, despite our strong objections regarding the titles and the contents of the reports. Mr Walter received four letters of invitation to visit during 2015, which he neglected. More curiously, on 16 November last year, the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe forwarded a request to the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities to organise Ms Marković’s visit to Sarsang reservoir. Later the same day, Ms Marković surprisingly included her draft report in the agenda of the Committee. Although on November 18 Nagorno-Karabakh responded with an open invitation to visit the area, Ms Marković refused it. This was not even the first invitation extended to her. Curious, is it not?
It would be appropriate to recall that in January 2013, this Assembly rejected the resolution entitled “The follow-up to the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan” based on Mr Walter’s assertion that the Rapporteur, Mr. Strässer, had, and I quote, “passed judgment on the conclusions of his report before ever attempting to go to Azerbaijan”. By the way, Mr Strässer did not visit Azerbaijan not because he didn’t want to, but simply because he was denied an entry visa to that country thrice. Contrary to this statement, Mr Walter did not exercise the same approach while drafting his own report. Is this not a clear manifestation of double standards?
Moreover, one should ask what was the urgency of presenting the reports to the respective committees months ahead of the official deadlines, when the visits did not take place? Ms Marković had eight more months till the official deadline and Mr. Walter, or rather his successor-to-be, could have had 10. Why were they in a rush? The Assembly had surely not tasked them. You be the judge. Dear colleagues, for these very reasons, I call upon you to vote “No” on these resolutions.
Mr GYÖNGYÖSI (Hungary) – I wish to express my gratitude to the rapporteurs for compiling an excellent report on a complex matter, a conflict which has been ongoing since the break-up of the USSR. A quarter of a century has passed since the military occupation of Karabakh by the Armenian army. The scale of human suffering and the disastrous consequences of Armenian aggression are well known, undisputable and well documented: approximately 30 000 victims, 100 000 injured and 1 million IDPs are a direct consequence of occupation.
Regardless of efforts undertaken by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Minsk Group to resolve the conflict based on so-called “Madrid principles” and despite various resolutions adopted by a number of international organizations, the conflict froze and Azerbaijan was left alone to deal with a humanitarian crisis of exceptional scale, with dire implications for international peace and security.
I am personally appalled by the opinion frequently expressed here that the Council of Europe should not engage itself in this matter as it is solely in the competence of the Minsk Group. I think if there is a legitimate objective for this Organisation, it is to raise its voice in every instance when there is bloodshed, human suffering, and mass scale violations of human rights and international law – all of which are present in this conflict. I am equally appalled by the fact that Armenia totally disregards the recommendations and resolutions adopted by international organisations that it also happens to be a member of.
May I remind you of some resolutions that have already been adopted on this matter? In 1993, the United Nations Security Council adopted four resolutions, No. 822, 853, 874 and 884, all of which condemned the Armenian aggression, called for the peaceful settlement of the conflict, the withdrawal of the Armenian army from occupied Azerbaijani territory, and the settlement of the status of Karabakh with respect for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in its resolutions 1416 and 1614, went as far as to call the atrocities against the Azerbaijani people genocide. In 1996, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and later in 2010, both NATO and the European Parliament adopted resolutions with similar conclusions and recommendations to the above mentioned.
In conclusion, we should think about the effective implementation of resolutions and recommendations adopted here – even through sanctions, if necessary -, otherwise we risk the credibility of our much valued institution.
Ms KAVVADIA (Greece) – It is with great concern that one observes the escalation of the conflict on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as daily skirmishes risk escalating into an armed conflict of full intensity. This conclusion is enhanced by the fact that there are now occasional exchanges of fire with the use of heavy weapons and artillery. Therefore it is necessary to intensify our efforts to find a solution to the problem with the active involvement of all stakeholders. Avoiding yet another war, this time in the South Caucasus, should be the immediate priority for the Council of Europe. We must, in any case, emphasize the need to resolve all bilateral disputes exclusively by peaceful and diplomatic means, something which requires a cautious, balanced and, above all, unbiased approach from both sides.
Unfortunately, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the present report does not meet these criteria of neutrality and impartiality. The basic methodological tool of the Assembly, in order to resolve longstanding and difficult disputes such as this, is to examine all aspects impartially. It is necessary, as intermediaries in this effort, to involve equally both parties concerned if we hope to achieve the optimum effect. This is the only constructive approach and the only way we can be useful to the cause of peace. The Council of Europe is not an international court, but a political forum, whose mission it is to create a suitable climate for rapprochement and the peaceful settlement of disputes.
In a mediation process that presents such complexity and difficulty, it is necessary to have a sense of confidence and of sincere involvement from all sides, so that the whole project has a hope of success. Therefore it is necessary to hear all views, to illuminate all aspects of the problem, as well as all the possibilities to solve it. Even in cases of weakness or lack of co-operation, it is necessary to clarify why this is happening and to restore the necessary channels of communication between the parties themselves, and certainly between the two parties and the mediator. It is therefore essential that the rapporteurs are fully aware of the views of both sides, and that they also have the experience of an on-site survey of the whole field, to be able to formulate an informed opinion.
In any case, we must remember that the framework for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has already been set by the international community, represented in this matter by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. As far as the Council of Europe is concerned, it would not be politically and diplomatically correct to substitute the process of the Minsk Group. We can and must contribute to the faster and more intensive progress of the Group’s work on a purely supportive basis. To achieve this, however, it is important not to give the impression that the Council of Europe is taking sides or favors one of the parties involved in the conflict.
Ms NAGHDALYAN (Armenia) – The resolutions under our consideration today endanger the security and fragile stability of the Southern Caucasus. Regrettably, the resolutions express the position of only one side of the conflict and blatantly contradict the language of the internationally mandated mediators of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-Chairs, thus undermining their peace efforts.
On January 22, the Minsk Group Co-chairs expressed exactly this position in their statement reminding “the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and other regional and international organizations, that the Minsk Group remains the only accepted format for negotiations” and “urged that steps not be taken which could undermine the Minsk Group’s mandate from the OSCE or complicate ongoing negotiations”.
The draft resolution by Mr Walter doubts the efficiency of the Minsk Group Co-chairs, contradicts them, tries to guide them. It introduces new - biased and dangerous - concepts and wording on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement. The draft resolution repeats verbatim the official position of Azerbaijan. It is indicative that the rapporteur failed to meet the co-chairs and refused to visit Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. This resolution opposes the official position of the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the European Union and the whole international community, which has always been supportive of the mediators’ efforts. We see no possibility of amending Mr Walter’s draft resolution, as it would require a complete rewriting of the text.
Most of these arguments are also valid for Ms Marković’s resolution. She did not bother to visit the site of Sarsang reservoir in Nagorno-Karabakh, the very subject of her report, despite the invitations from Nagorno-Karabakh to do so. She did not travel to Armenia either, despite my invitations, while managing to visit Azerbaijan twice during the preparation of her report. I would like to attract your attention to the fact that on numerous occasions, Nagorno-Karabakh stated its willingness to share the waters of Sarsang Reservoir with Azerbaijan, but the latter refused this offer, along with many other proposals on confidence building measures.
Considering all of the above, and the fact that yesterday, as well as this morning in the Social Committee, Ms Marković repeatedly refused proposals by a number of delegates to amend the text of the draft, we urge you to vote against both resolutions.
Mr ZOURABIAN (Armenia) – Before voting on the proposed drafts, it is important to realise how serious the consequences of disrupting the negotiations process could be. Do we want another war in Europe, bringing a new wave of migrants to your cities?
We are dealing here with a precarious situation in a region where the interests of the European Union, the United States, Russia, Turkey and Iran intertwine or clash. The resumption of hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will inflict irreparable loss on the parties to the conflict, engage all the regional powers and provoke dangerous confrontation between NATO and Russia. In a situation like this, we do not want a negotiation process mediated by the United States, France and Russia to be harmed. It is one of the rare remaining issues where Russia and the West are working collaboratively together to find a solution to one of the most complicated conflicts in the world. Three days ago, they issued a joint statement warning the Assembly against decisions that could disrupt the ongoing negotiations.
The proposals of the Minsk Group's co-chairs are based on a delicate balance of interconnected concessions from the parties to the conflict. Any alternative proposal, especially when it seeks to pre-determine the very result of the ongoing negotiations and offers unilateral concessions in favour of one party to the conflict, gives that party an incentive to withdraw from seriously discussing the co-chairs' existing plan. It also serves as a pretext for more confrontational behaviour, if not a casus belli for resuming hostile activities.
Both resolutions use language which runs counter to the basic United Nations Security Council and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) documents. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 822 clearly identifies the "local Armenian forces" as the "occupying force" of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Resolution 884 "calls upon the Government of Armenia to use its influence to achieve compliance by the Armenians of the Nagorno-Karabakh with the United Nations Security Council resolutions." The 1994 Budapest OSCE Summit recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as party to the conflict. Both drafts are disrespectful to these basic United Nations and OSCE decisions.
I ask you to respect the efforts of the Minsk Group's Co-Chairs and to vote against the drafts, which apparently are not conducive to the peaceful settlement of the conflict nor to reconciliation between Armenians and Azeris.
Mr DZHEMILIEV (Ukraine) – I would like to express my thanks to Mr Robert Walter and Ms Marković for their rather detailed and objective reports on the situation that has emerged in Nagorno-Karabakh and on the frontier territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Of course, the settlement and peaceful resolution of this conflict is only possible on the basis of respect and observance of the principles of international law by both sides, which first of all entails ensuring the territorial integrity and established borders of sovereign States and respecting the legitimate rights of all people, regardless of their nationality and faith, as is stipulated in the Helsinki Final Act and subsequent United Nations resolutions.
Mr Walter’s report and the draft resolution provide clear references as to who is the occupier of the territory of another sovereign State, a situation which has resulted in the loss of many thousands of human lives over the past 25 years and over a million people becoming refugees.
Paragraph 17 of the draft resolution on Nagorno-Karabakh contains a justified condemnation addressed to the leadership of Armenia, which, by its actions, hinders the collection of information on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and in so doing, impedes the peaceful settlement of the issue. It is quite clear that the stance taken by Armenia can be explained by its objective to preserve the occupation of a part of Azerbaijan’s territory – and this quite obviously would lead to new outbreaks of violence and losses of human life.
It is equally regrettable that Armenia not only continues to keep occupied territories in contravention to international law but also, in search of allies, supports those countries that perpetrate aggression against other countries and occupy parts of their territories. It is an open secret that Armenia, even though it maintains rather friendly relations with Ukraine, supported the Russian aggression against Ukraine and Russia’s occupation of the Crimean peninsula at the United Nations General Assembly on 27 March 2014, counting on Russia’s continued support of its occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh.
I believe that, instead of circulating a very well written letter by a 14-year-old child, urging not to vote for the resolution on Nagorno-Karabakh, among members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Armenian delegation could have taken a more constructive position.
Ms FATALIYEVA (Azerbaijan) – First, let me express my deepest respect for the rapporteurs, for their perseverance and courage! The two reports had to overcome very hard and complicated obstacles before being presented to the assembly. We witnessed very controversial discussions in committees and in political groups, but the reality is that the report is based on the principles of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe with the cooperation of the Azerbaijani side and the desperate unwillingness of the Armenian side to co-operate.
Mr Walter’s report reflects the real facts: international law recognises the fact that 20% of Azerbaijani lands are occupied by Armenian military forces, which is reflected in four United Nations Security Council resolutions and two resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Ms Marković’s report reflects the ecological disaster caused in the occupied territories. Such an occupation has not only ecological, but also humanitarian and cultural consequences. Azerbaijan has always been open to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Even here in this assembly we clearly demonstrated that through our participation in all negotiations. Conversely, the Armenian side has always tried to avoid any kind of participation in the negotiation processes, notably by boycotting the work of the sub-committee on Nagorno-Karabakh, and by preventing the rapporteurs from carrying out the fact-finding visits.
Why do we need these reports to be adopted? We live in a world where the number of conflicts is growing day by day. The existing conflicts are escalating. The Armenian-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has resulted in Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding territories being under occupation for more than 20 years. It is often called a frozen conflict, but innocent people are still being killed and the rights of 1 million refugees and IDPs are still being violated.
The Azerbaijani delegation calls upon you to support the reports, as we strongly believe that these two reports will draw more attention to the occupation of Azerbaijani lands; they will contribute to the work of the OSCE Minsk Group, which remains the main organisation dealing with the occupation; and above all, they will promote peace and stability in our region and in the entire world.
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – I think the consideration of these documents in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will help to find a common denominator, as well as to eliminate any inadequate attitudes to this problem.
The occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the other territories of Azerbaijan should not be accepted as the problem of only two countries: Armenia and Azerbaijan. This causes a serious threat to regional cooperation and to the establishment of peace and security in the entire region. Today, the reality is that more than 25 years ago, Armenia occupied 20% of Azerbaijani lands. As a result of this occupation, which has lasted more than 25 years, we have 1 million refugees and IDPs. Azerbaijanis have been forced out of Armenia, where they and their ancestors had lived for many centuries, and have been forced to leave Azerbaijani lands–Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other territories of Azerbaijan.
There are four Resolutions (822, 853, 874 and 884) of the United Nations Security Council on the unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Up to now, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has adopted a number of documents with regards to this problem, but unfortunately this problem remains unresolved due to Armenia’s destructive manipulation of the peace process.
In general, Armenia’s attitude to peace talks and to initiatives to settle the problem is unclear and incomprehensible. The official Yerevan implements the policy of invading by all means initiatives and efforts. This is simply due to the fact that Armenia has no intentions of finding a solution to the problem, but is instead trying to keep the problem frozen.
The settlement of the issue of the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other territories is of no less importance than the settlement of any other occupation. The people of Azerbaijan expect the same attention to the settlement of this problem as it is attached to that of other problems. In any case we, the citizens of a member State of the European family, do have a right to such expectations, as a country that has made, and is still making, substantial contributions in the domains of strengthening peace and international security, energy security and dialogue between religions and cultures.