May 28, 2010 | Press Releases

European Parliament Urges EU Engagement in Karabakh

Today, the European Parliament renewed its commitment to greater engagement by the European Union in the South Caucasus as it adopted a new resolution on EU policy in the region [1]. This is the first resolution dedicated to the South Caucasus countries since the launch, in 2009, of the EU’s landmark Eastern Partnership policy [2].

AGBU Europe welcomes this resolution and the Parliament’s interest in the region. As most observers consider that renewed war over the small territory of Nagorno Karabakh is becoming increasingly likely, the resolution’s recommendations on the subject are likely to be widely discussed.

AGBU Europe welcomes MEPs’ support for the OSCE’s Minsk Group mediating between the parties and their call for greater direct EU engagement in the peace process. The Parliament calls for dialogue between the parties and for the implementation of confidence-building measures with EU support. Crucially, in that regard, the EP also invites “all parties to fully engage in the multilateral cooperation of the Eastern Partnership without linking it to the final solution of the conflicts“, a reference to Azerbaijan’s systematic boycott of Armenia and Karabakh, which it seeks to impose even within EU-sponsored multilateral fora.

The Parliament also supports direct EU engagement with Karabakh, including “aid and information dissemination” to the population. The EU has so far avoided engaging with Karabakh society, due to Azerbaijan’s opposition and has no contact with the territory (see background bellow).

According to the Parliament, the EU should furthermore help develop “the necessary security guarantees in a period of transition” for the success of peace negotiations over Karabakh. The Parliament also calls for both sides to create conditions favourable to the return of refugees and IDPs and to recognise their rights, including their property rights [3].

AGBU Europe particularly welcomes Parliament’s call for greater EU involvement in promoting regional cooperation and conflict resolution in the region. Following the vote, Nicolas Tavitian said, ”the Parliament supports policies to reduce tensions and contribute to security on all sides in the South Caucasus. This is very important for Karabakh and it is the only road to peace. We hope the EU’s executive branches, the Commission and Council, will follow that call and take action.”

It is curious however that Parliament should have asked that “the position according to which Nagorno-Karabakh includes all occupied Azerbaijani lands surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh should rapidly be abandoned“. AGBU underlines that the government of Karabakh holds no such position, nor does Armenia. These territories came under the control of Karabakh troops following the war and are among the key elements under negotiation within the Minsk Group.

European Parliament resolutions are non-binding recommendations. The EU’s Council of Ministers and Commission ultimately determine and execute foreign policy. Nevertheless, as the only democratic forum to debate EU policy, Parliament debates are important and influential in EU policy formulation.

1. Link to resolution here.

2. The Parliament is strongly supportive of the opportunities which the Eastern Partnership offers to deepen the relationship between the EU and the three South Caucasus countries, notably through Association Agreements to be negotiated in the near future. The Parliament also urges on the EU in its efforts to contribute to the rule of law, effective democratisation, good governance and conflict resolution in the region.

3. A great many Armenians had to leave Azerbaijan following pogroms and violence from 1988 onwards, and Azeris left territories surrounding Karabakh after the retreat of the Azerbaijani army in 1993 and early 1994.

AGBU Europe coordinates and develops the Pan-European activities of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) including the promotion of important initiatives in areas as diverse as academic research, conservation and promotion of heritage, culture, education and Armenian language teaching and European policies, training of association leaders and children and youth activities. Established in 1906, AGBU ( www.agbu.org) is the world’s largest non-profit Armenian organization and is headquartered in New York City.

Background

AGBU Europe’s is campaigning to press the European Union to provide humanitarian and development assistance to Nagorno Karabakh, and to establish confidence building measures between Karabakh and Azerbaijan. AGBU Europe also calls for the EU to allow its officials to travel to Karabakh.

Nagorno Karabagh has been effectively independent since it won the war against Azerbaijan in 1994 but there is a real risk that the war will resume. Isolated from the world by geography and politics, the small Republic can count on no one’s help except Armenia’s.

Karabakh is reserved special treatment by the international community. There are other non-recognized states in the region: Transdniestria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia. These all benefit from some form of international peacekeeping; they are involved in some form of internationally funded projects, particularly confidence-building projects to help reduce tensions; and their residents enjoy contacts with other countries. Not so Karabakh.

The European Union is not involved in policing the cease-fire, they fund no development or humanitarian project there, and have not sponsored contacts between the inhabitants of Karabakh and of Azerbaijan. Far from condemning Azerbaijan’s policy of boycott of Armenia and Karabakh, the European Union has largely followed Baku’s wishes. In fact, Karabakh is the only part of the region, which the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, has not visited. The EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus, P. Semneby, has called the territory a “White Spot” on the map of Europe.

AGBU Europe’s position is available here.

The Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) is the world’s largest non-profit organization devoted to upholding the Armenian heritage through educational, cultural and humanitarian programs. Each year, AGBU is committed to making a difference in the lives of 500,000 people across Armenia, Artsakh and the Armenian diaspora. Since 1906, AGBU has remained true to one overarching goal: to create a foundation for the prosperity of all Armenians.

To learn more visit www.agbu.org.

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