Gayane Novikova

On January 25, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted Resolution No.1416 (2005), based on the report by the special rapporteur on Nagorno Karabakh David Atkinson. It is possible to speak and write about this in any genre – from a pamphlet like “The European déjà vu” to the tragedy “Karabakh, мy pain,” but it is also possible to take it soberly and to try to find the way out of quite a complicated situation.

Following Confucius, “don’t blame the dark, just light the candle,” I would start from the point that there should not be a thesis of the failure of the Armenian diplomacy in the Council of Europe, because only the person who can propose a constructive solution, has the right to criticize.

It is obvious that Azerbaijan could not ignore quite favorable atmosphere in Europe, defined by such factors as the Caspian oil, the wish to keep away of unconventional threats, coming from the Middle East…In the context of the above-mentioned strategic objectives, the quiet and prosperity of the Old Europe may be guaranteed by establishment of stability in the periphery, including the area of the South Caucasus; and the European structures are trying to achieve that stability. At the same time, practically all structures concerned stress the fact that the status quo in the region, which was reached after the signing of the cease-fire agreement in May 1994, is not a bad solution at all. Three international organizations – NATO, European Union and OSCE as active players in the zone of the South Caucasus, have found their niches and develop their relations with each of the states of the region, stimulating integration processes there. NATO and the European Union have stated it many times that they do not intend to get involved into the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, as long as they are satisfied with the activity of the OSCE Minsk Group.

It has been spoken and written a lot why Azerbaijan is not satisfied with the Minsk Group. But I would like to point out that the intention of that country is – to revise, if possible, the format of negotiations, or at least to involve new actors – it seems, has been understood only by one European structure, the Council of Europe. It can be explained by the fact that the powerful integration processes in Europe make this organization less functional, and for survival it needs a new niche.

The time factor is becoming critical for Azerbaijan – as soon as the oil pipeline is put in action, most probably in summer – autumn of 2005, Azerbaijan will be firmly tied up by international obligations, ruling out any possibility of forcible solution of the problem. However, today Azerbaijan is unable to solve the Karabakh problem by means of arms.

At present, as far as I can see, the Azerbaijani diplomats are pre-occupied with:

-speeding up the processes and shattering the frames and competence of the OSCE Minsk Group;

-engagement into the peace process of such additional structures where decisions are adopted by majority of votes without any special examination of the core of the problem, in particular, the PACE or the UN General Assembly;

-accumulation of political and juridical documents, one way or another condemning the Armenian position.

Such tactics brings its fruits.

However, Azerbaijan is applying to the European community, using as arguments not only the issue of “occupied territories” and the oppressed rights of its citizens. In the well-known formula of “stick and carrot,” the role of “carrot” is attached to oil; meanwhile “stick” permanently used by Azerbaijani diplomats behind the scenes, is the threat of rapid Islamization of Azerbaijan. They put the question before the European structures, which are delaying Turkey’s membership in the European Union: either Azerbaijan is engaged into the European family, which has to take the responsibility of solving all the problems of that country, or it “goes to the East.” In this case, Europe will face serious economic and political difficulties.

From the European point of view, it is possible to keep Azerbaijan in two cases. First, it is necessary to promote – in moral and material way – another “flower” or “colored” revolution in the South Caucasus and bring the leaders with controlled political behavior to power. Probability of this scenario is poor, as far as the political situation in Azerbaijan and in Armenia, while motivations are different, does not promise any success. Second, it is necessary to solve the problem of Nagorno Karabakh within the “international law” and “principle of inviolability of borders.” However, it is just the collision of the principle of territorial integrity and the right of the nation to self-determination more than 10 years ago had led to bloody wars, ethnic cleansing, multiple violations of human rights in the Balkans, which was followed by creation of five independent states on the territory of former Yugoslavia and conservation, but not resolution, of the Kosovo problem.

At the same time, the point of view of the most European parliamentarians was voiced in the David Atkinson’s interview to BBC (January 27): “All the countries – members of the Council of Europe respect the principle of territorial integrity. We recognize the present borders of the states – members of the Council of Europe, with the exception of the cases, when the parties, as a result of any disputes, come to agreement on the change of existing borders, as it was, for example, in Czechoslovakia… And if the Karabakh people preserve the current independence, de facto independence from Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan agrees with it, then we would also recognize it. But apparently the Azerbaijani authorities will never agree with Karabakh’s demands for independence. The same is in the case of other international organizations, e.g. UN. That is why the highest expression of the “right of nations to self-determination,” which is, certainly, independence, cannot be applied in the case of Karabakh.”

As a matter of fact, the Nagorno Karabakh Republic’s strive to achieve application of the whole spectrum of the internationally recognized right to self-determination to itself is conditioned by Azerbaijan’s recognition of that right for the Nagorno Karabakh people. By the way, in 1992, during his visit to Nagorno Karabakh, David Atkinson, then member of the House of Commons of Great Britain and Chairman of the Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries, commenting the pictures of the war that he saw just with his eyes, said that he would try to help Nagorno Karabakh to become independent.

At the same time, it is remarkable that some European Parliamentarians, in particular, representing Catalonia, express their opinion the adoption of the European Constitution is not reasonable, because one of its principles on inviolability of borders violates the right of nations to self-determination. So it is not so simple in Europe as well.

Nevertheless, Resolution No.1416 (2005) is passed. The PACE scenario may lead to destabilization of the very European periphery, because:

-no-one can rule out escalation of the situation in the conflict zone, where more than ten years the cease-fire agreement is intact (which was noted in Atkinson’s report and in the statements of some European parliamentarians). The most militant part of the Azerbaijani political establishment and society may take it as “victory” and a signal to more intensive actions;

-solution of the problems of refugees and displaced persons, both Armenian and Azerbaijani, will be delayed for indefinite time;

-Azerbaijan will finally turn into an authoritarian state, where any action of the opposition will be broken by Aliyev’s image of the “winner and liberator.”

Against that background, the only positive thing seems to be consolidation of the Armenian authorities and opposition on the “Karabakh wave”.

David Atkinson, on January 25, when he started the discussion of the Resolution, singled out three scenarios of the situation in the conflict zone: “There is the military solution, which Azerbaijan will be capable of mounting as the proceeds of its oil are channelled into forces of overwhelming superiority. Were it to be so tempted, it would of course cease to be a member state of the Council of Europe. There is the status quo, with Karabakh independent and unrecognised, holding Armenia to the ransom of protection and that part of Europe back from real peace, stability and prosperity. And there is the peaceful solution that I am proposing today: the introduction of a parliamentary dimension to the Minsk process.”

What can be done with all this?

It is possible, but there is no need to hope that today Azerbaijan will not start the war, meanwhile tomorrow it will not be allowed to do so.

However, it is necessary to note that as a result of the military actions of late 1991 – early 1992, Azerbaijan still occupies two Armenian regions, which, being enclaves within the territories of Azerbaijani SSR, had been under the administrative control of the Armenian SSR.

Keeping status quo is not a solution either, but a serious “pro” argument for Nagorno Karabakh in this case is the democratization process, now going on in that state entity, including in the human rights field, and the rates of its economic growth.

There is also another “pro” in that PACE Resolution – stimulation of the Minsk Group’s work with engagement of the Nagorno Karabakh representatives in the peace process “without preconditions.” In addition, it is worth paying attention to one fragment of Mr. Atkinson’s speech, when discussion of the draft resolution started. He spoke about the new generation of refugees, who have nothing to lose “like in Palestine.” It means that just before the eyes of the authorities some segments of the Azerbaijani society are criminalized and Islamized, and Nagorno Karabakh will be given just to their disposal in case of its handover under Azerbaijan’s jurisdiction. This factor is also can be used as an argument.

And finally, one may wonder, in the end, what kind of a top problem the Azerbaijani leadership must solve in the visible future? The problem of keeping the power in the hands of the Aliyev clan. And here Atkinson’s report is just on time.

However, all active players in the peace process should not forget that the PACE resolution is just an opinion of the European parliamentarians.

January 30, 2005