Discussion on developments in Azerbaijani-Armenian relations reveals biased attitude in the European Parliament (OPINION)
by Roza Bayramli
On June 13, 2023, a discussion on “Relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and the Lachin corridor” was held in the European Parliament, during which some Members of Parliament expressed unsubstantiated and biased opinions on a number of issues during the debates.
For instance, the French Member of the European Parliament Francois Xavier Bellamy sharply condemned peaceful protest action of Azerbaijani ecologists and young volunteers at the Lachin-Khankandi corridor, portraying it as a “blockade” that led to a “humanitarian crisis” on the part of the Azerbaijani territory that is temporarily under the control of the Russian peacekeeping contingent. Bellamy expressed his indignation at the fact that “state terrorism” on the part of Azerbaijan did not lead to any sanctions on the part of the European Council - even though the International Court of Justice did, in fact, condemn the purported “blockade” - and argued that the Commission did not properly respond to this “very serious violation of fundamental rights” of Armenians in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. In the same vein, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell criticized Azerbaijan’s decision to establish a border checkpoint at the beginning of the Lachin-Khankandi road, stating that it “completely contradicts efforts to build confidence between the parties”. At the same time, Borrell stressed that the “Lachin corridor” is outside the geographical area of responsibility of the EU monitoring mission.
Regarding the inaction decried by the Members of the European Parliament, Borrell mentioned that a highly important meeting between the President of France, the Chancellor of Germany, the President of the European Council and the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan took place in Moldova recently, and that another meeting with the President of EU Charles Michel is planned to be held in Brussels in July. Borrell stressed that the parties expressed their readiness to continue negotiations in an effort to put out yet smoldering ashes of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.
Reflecting upon the five-sided meeting held in Moldova, Borrell expressed hope that Baku would respond to this message proactively, and pay more attention to the rights and security of the Armenian population of the Karabakh region, and that the statement of recognition of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan expressed by the Prime Minister of Armenia would push the negotiation process in a positive direction.
Moreover, Borrell underscored that the EU mission is but a part of the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and cannot carry out the process singlehandedly. He was highly appreciative of the Russian peacekeeping forces in the Karabakh region, which, he claims, are an important factor in the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.
In his speech, Borrell furthermore emphasized the dire socio-economic situation in the region, and did not neglect to touch upon EU's efforts to implement humanitarian initiatives in assistance to the Armenian population in the Karabakh region, lamenting that there is still much to be done in this area. “The EU is interested in the establishment of peace in the South Caucasus, and for this purpose it implements initiatives of a humanitarian nature, as well as contributes directly to the negotiations aimed at peace. We are also involved in finding missing persons during the conflict and keeping the conflicting parties away from new clashes,” claimed the head of EU diplomacy. It is worth noting that EU has already allocated €27 million to the for humanitarian action towards conflict-affected Armenian population.
Regarding the Armenian population of the Karabakh region, Baku has repeatedly made clear its opposition to a third-party intervention in the process of reintegration of this populace, now recognized as citizens of Azerbaijan. President of the Azerbaijan Republic Ilham Aliyev has more than once stated that the international treaties signed by Azerbaijan and the Constitution of Azerbaijan act as guarantors of the rights and freedoms, as well as the security of all residents of Karabakh. The Azerbaijani side appealed on these premises to the Armenian residents of Karabakh at least twice. Although such a meeting took place once with the participation of Russian peacekeepers, Baku’s later call for a meeting without intermediaries unfortunately went unanswered and the Armenians of Karabakh have not yet acquiesced to make direct contact.
That said, Borrell’s criticism of the establishment of an Azerbaijani checkpoint at the beginning of the Lachin-Khankandi road – internationally recognized territory of the Azerbaijan Republic - is unjustified. It contrasts starkly with the blind eye turned by EU towards Yerevan’s hostile rhetoric and expresses the lack of respect for the sovereignty of Azerbaijan.
Roza Bayramli, Advisor at the Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center), exclusively for News.Az.