MEPs urge EU action on Karabakh

Members of the European Parliament from across Europe and across the political spectrum have called for EU action to challenge the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh by demanding Armenian withdrawal from the occupied Azerbaijani territories, the European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) said.

Speaking last week during a meeting of the European Parliament`s Security and Defence Subcommittee, a group of MEPs commented that, without action, the stability of the entire South Caucasus could be threatened. They also called on the EU to express its clear support for withdrawal of Armenia`s armed forces to help achieve a peaceful settlement.

Their calls were welcomed by TEAS. Roman Huna, Head, TEAS Belgium, said: ``We hope that the EU will heed these calls and take prompt action. It is unacceptable that this conflict on Europe`s borders remains unresolved, due to Armenian disregard for international standards and the rule of law. We believe that the EU and the international community should be very clear in stressing the necessity for Armenian withdrawal from Azerbaijani territory.``

MEPs backing action included Milan Cabrnoch of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group representing the Czech Republic, who suggested that return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh should be the first step.

Ivo Vajgl of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe said the EU should make it clear to Armenia that it does not accept the status quo, nor legitimise the occupation. It should emphasise that Azerbaijani territories remain occupied and that international conventions are being flouted.

Vytautas Landsbergis of Lithuania`s European People`s Party said, ``We need to clean our vocabulary. These are not disputed, but occupied territories``. The MP supported the European Parliament`s April 2012 resolution demanding ``withdrawal from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.`` He noted that Armenia was effectively a Russian protectorate, and that the Azerbaijani military budget was dwarfed by Russia.

His party colleague, Anna Ibrisagic of Sweden, said: ``There is an occupation of Azerbaijan`s territories and we need courage to tell the other side: `This is wrong.``` She said it was necessary to end the occupation, let the internally displaced persons (IDPs) return to their homes and then work on a settlement. She also urged the EU to react to the military parade that took place in Nagorno-Karabakh in May in front of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.

Maria Elena Koppi of the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats said it was important to acknowledge that Armenia had no intention of returning the occupied territories.

The parliamentary committee heard from a number of experts. Philippe Lefort, EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and crisis in Georgia, stressed that it is important to ``respect the principles of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act``, and that the ``status quo is unacceptable for the EU.`` He underlined the importance of the recent EP resolution dated April 18, which is now a cornerstone of EU policy regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Lefort also commented on the Madrid Principles, drafted by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, which provide a foundation for peaceful resolution. He explained that these do not mention the right of self-determination or necessity for a referendum in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Important elements were emphasised during the presentations by various experts. Tracey German, Senior Lecturer at the Defence Studies Department in King`s College London, explained that the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is not frozen and fundamental issues remain unresolved (i.e. the occupation of territories). She informed attendees that the Armenian parliament has recently voted to increase the military budget by 6 per cent, directly contradicting the economic situation in Armenia (the Gallup poll of 2010 shows that 40 per cent of the Armenian population would like to leave the country, due to harsh living conditions). Armenia benefits from Russia`s political and military support, particularly the 102nd Russian military base located in Gyumri, Armenia.

In his presentation, Adam Eberhardt, Deputy Director of the Centre for Eastern Studies in Poland, explained that Nagorno-Karabakh is an historical part of Azerbaijan with great cultural significance. He said that Armenia has no intention to seek compromise with Azerbaijan to achieve conflict resolution, and stated that the Armenian diaspora in the US has pushed the US Congress to impose sanctions on arms sales to Azerbaijan. Armenia is supporting the regime in Nagorno-Karabakh politically, economically and militarily, whilst the ruling elite of Armenia comes from Nagorno-Karabakh. Eberhardt also mentioned the provocative military parade held in Nagorno-Karabakh.