U.S., Russia Reject PACE Report on Karabakh

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By Danielle Saroyan

Armenian Agenda Associate Editor

U.S. OSCE
Minsk Group Co-Chair Ambassador James Warlick and Russian Foreign Minister
Sergey Lavrov share criticism of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly
(PACE) for issuing a report that demands Armenian withdrawal from Nagorno
Karabakh and the territory’s return to Azerbaijan.

The
resolution on Nagorno Karabakh was drafted an Azerbaijan-affiliated former
British Parliamentarian Robert Walter and approved by the PACE’s Political
Affairs Committee on Wednesday, November 4th. The 3-page document
calls for a peaceful settlement starting 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 also
contains criticism of the OSCE Minsk Group, saying that the body co-headed by
the United States, Russia, and France should “consider reviewing its approach
to the resolution of the conflict.”

Peace
proposals made by the three mediating powers differ from the Karabakh
settlement advocated by Walter’s resolution. Instead, the OSCE Minsk Group
Basic Principles prefer an internationally recognized referendum in Karabakh in
which the disputed territory’s predominantly Armenian population would be able
to reaffirm its de facto secession from Azerbaijan.

“PACE and
other [international organizations,] should consult with OSCE Minsk Group
co-chairs before issuing reports or resolutions on Nagorno Karabakh,” Ambassador
Warlick tweeted
on Friday, November 6th.

Azerbaijan rejected
Warlick’s criticism and defended Walter’s resolution. “So far the work of the
OSCE Minsk Group has produced zero results,” Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry
spokesman Hikmet Hajiyev said, according to Haqqin.az. “Other international
structures trying to contribute to the conflict’s resolution do not need to
consult with the Minsk Group co-chairs engaged in meaningless activities.”

Similar to
Ambassador Warlick’s position, Lavrov said that attempts by PACE to intervene
in the unresolved conflict with such documents only “harm” international peace
efforts spearheaded by Russia, the United States, and France. Lavrov emphasized
that only these three nations have an international mandate to mediate in the
Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.

“Any
drastic, radical actions, whoever takes them, only harm this cause and the work
of the co-chairs,” Lavrov told reporters. “We – Russia, the United States and
France – are firmly against attempts to take this subject to other international
platforms that do not deal with the conflict’s settlement, instead of a
consistent, businesslike and patient dialogue on the Nagorno Karabakh
settlement. At least, nobody has given them such a task on behalf of the
international community,” Lavrov said.

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Armenian
Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandian reaffirmed Armenia’s strong
condemnation of the proposed PACE document and accused Walter of working for
Azerbaijan. “A person who was for many years a member of a pro-Azerbaijani
group in the British parliament and who is financed, according to British press
reports, from Baku, could not have had an impartial position,” Nalbanian said
at a joint news conference with Lavrov
.

Walter was
named by the PACE leadership in 2014 to launch a fact-finding mission to the
Karabakh conflict zone and draw up the resolution titled “Escalation of
violence in Nagorno Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan.” Armenian
members of the PACE and the Armenian Foreign Ministry argued that this title
predetermines Walter’s findings and runs counter to statements made by the
U.S., Russian, and French mediators. Walter has also been accused of having
close ties with Azerbaijan’s government, saying that he has repeatedly defended
Baku’s dismal human rights record frequently criticized by Western human rights
groups. Walter is married to a Turkish woman and became a Turkish citizen.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was reported to have personally
handed a Turkish ID card to the retired parliamentarian at the Turkish Embassy
in London.

“It has
turned from an organization protecting human rights into an organization
protecting special interests,” Armenia’s Chief of Staff Davit Harutiunian said
about the PACE
. “Unfortunately, recent years’ [PACE] votes on various issues
testify to the fact that special interests have started taking precedence,” he
added.

The
Strasbourg-based PACE will debate the proposed resolution on Nagorno Karabakh at
its next plenary session due in January 2016.

Photo
Caption 1: U.S. OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair Ambassador James Warlick during a
press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Armenia on October 26th.

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Caption 2 (L-R): Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets with Armenian
President Serzh Sargsyan in Armenia on November 9th.

About Armenian Assembly of America

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.
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