2.4.1. Rapporteurs are facing the pressure by Armenia and PACE’s Secretariat

Apart from the OSCE Minsk Group framework, Armenia constantly opposes the transfer of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem to the international platform. On the basis of flimsy excuses and pretexts that this would hinder the Karabakh negotiations process, they were attempting to cover up their occupying policy and to prevent the conduct of any discussions at the PACE on the occupied Sarsang water reservoir and the adoption of a resolution to this end.

Armenia rejected cooperation with Robert Walter, the rapporteur of the report, titled “Escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan”; and Milica Markovic, the rapporteur of the report, titled “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water”.

Moreover, both Armenia and various Europe-based pro-Armenian forces were resorting to provocations to prevent preparations for the reports.

Thus, a similar provocation was committed by the PACE Secretariat headed by Sawicki. So, the title of the report was deliberately distorted in the report published on the website of PACE on 6 March 2015 with regard to the fact-finding visit of Robert Walter to Azerbaijan. To be on the safe side, I consider it necessary to submit the full text of the report:

“The PACE rapporteur is going to pay a fact-finding visit to Azerbaijan: The rapporteur of the Committee on Political Affairs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Robert Walter (United Kingdom, EC), is going to pay a fact-finding visit to Azerbaijan on 12-13 March 2015 in the context of a report to be prepared with regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Mr. Walter will hold meetings with refugees and IDPs, as well as the civil society representatives engaged in this issue, including international community.”

Though, a title of any report is always published in full and correctly in the news reports of PACE, “it was forgotten” this time. Moreover, it is a strange coincidence that the title “On the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict…” preferred by the PACE Secretary General, was again mentioned twice.

We should remind that namely the title “On the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict” was repeatedly and overwhelmingly rejected after discussions with Secretary General Wojciech Sawicki in presence, and the title “The escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” was supported. This title was endorsed at a plenary session of the Assembly and an attempt by Armenians to change the title at the Committee on Political Affairs was rejected by vast majority.

We should underline that as the editor-in-chief of the news section of PACE’s official website, the Secretary General has exclusive powers on defining how the public should be presented information on PACE. However, what is an unacceptable is that abusing his powers, the Secretary General – in his capacity as a “neutral” person, expressed his personal political view, and came against official and decisive decisions approved after lengthy discussions at the Bureau, Assembly and at the Committee.

Though Sawicki claimed that he was not the author of the note, it is an open secret at PACE that the Secretary General scrutinizes and endorses all information for the website. No doubt that as the head of the administration, the final responsibility on this issue fell on the Secretary General.

For several times, rapporteur Robert Walter requested the Armenian government for permission to pay a fact-finding visit to the regions under occupation to assess the situation on the scene. However, Armenia did not provide conditions for Robert Walter to visit the region under occupation and rejected collaboration with him. At the same time, we should underline that in his capacity as the rapporteur, Robert Walter twice paid a fact-finding visit to Azerbaijan, held high-level meetings, visited front line districts and got familiar with the situation in the front line regions.

In September 2015, Robert Walter informed the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy that despite his persistent appeals, the Armenian government did not allow him to pay a fact-finding trip to the occupied territories as part of his mandate and actually rejected to collaborate with him.

At the same time, he announced that he would present a report at the October session of PACE despite the developments around the issue. Finally, Robert Walter’s report on “Escalation of the violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” was included in the agenda of the 4 November meeting of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy.

We should underline that various attempts were made to also influence Ms. Milica Markovic, rapporteur of the report on “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water”. One of these attempts occurred at the Secretariat of Committee on Social Affairs. In the letter sent to Markovic, the Secretariat of the Committee stressed that “the Azerbaijani authorities were mainly responsible for the water issue”.

The letter questioned: “Does this government use own people as a tool to put pressure on a neighboring country?”

Obviously, the secretariat is trying to direct the rapporteur by asking such a question and pointed to the relevance of the report’s anti-Azerbaijani nature. To recap, Aiste Ramanauskaite of the Secretariat says that she has drawn up a draft report and needs to refer it up to “her hierarchy for a reaction before sending it to Markovic”.

From the context of the letter, it certainly becomes clear that not impartiality but the position of the Secretariat should be reflected in the report. These all revealed the systematic anti-Azerbaijani nature of the campaign at PACE. And from this point of view, it was beyond any doubts that the draft report drawn up by the Secretariat was of anti-Azerbaijani nature.

We should note that after the issue of the Sarsang water reservoir under occupation was put on the PACE agenda, the American co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, James Warlick, posted a photo of the Sarsang water reservoir in his social network account with the following post: “This is #Sarsang reservoir. It would be a positive step if the sides could jointly manage water resources.”

The message of the post by the American co-chair was quite clear. Instead of urging the aggressor to release the occupied territories unconditionally and in accordance with international legal norms, he urged the invader and the victim of the aggression – Azerbaijan – to jointly use the Sarsang water reservoir.

The message of the U.S. co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group about the joint use of the Sarsang water reservoir was not accidental. I believe that War lick’s thoughts serve specific purposes and aimed at purposefully influencing the investigation of the rapporteur on the Sarsang water reservoir. As a diplomat, James Warlick knows quite well that in accordance with the imperative principles of the international laws, the occupation of one state’s territory by another state is illegal and any activity of the invader in the occupied territory is illegal. It means the U.S. co-chair knows well that any activity by Armenia and the separatist regime established by it in the territory of Azerbaijan under occupation was illegitimate.

Following the post of U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group James Warlick, “Artur Aghabekyan, the so-called deputy prime minister of the unrecognized separatist regime, called ‘the republic of Nagorno-Karabakh/ established by the occupying state of Armenia on Azerbaijani lands, said in August 2013: “The water resources of the Sarsang water reservoir are more than our needs. Both the Armenian and the Azerbaijani sides would benefit if the water canals built during Soviet Union were used properly.”

We should note that Artur Aghabekyan was a former deputy defense minister of Armenia and he moved from Yerevan to Xankandi a year ago. Apparently, “the high-ranking official” ofthe separatist regime, created by the aggressor country of Armenia, did not utter a word on the liberation of the occupied lands. On the contrary, he tried to legitimize their occupying policies and prevent any discussions at PACE on the Sarsang water reservoir. I wonder whether it is coincidence or originated from a single source that proposals of the U.S. co-chair and the “official” of the separatist regime overlapped?

I believe that such a coincidence cannot be accidental, and the point here was to kill two birds with one stone, that is, to achieve dual goals – first, to defend Armenia, claiming that Azerbaijan is not interested in cooperation; second, get protected from international sanctions. Undoubtedly, both Mr. Warlick and other patrons of Armenia know well that Azerbaijan will never cooperate with the occupying country, as well as with the separatist regime, established by it, as long as its territories remain under occupation.

In the case under consideration, the enemy and centers supporting it will have chances to claim that Armenia is ready for constructive cooperation to end the occupation. Thus, they will try to demonstrate to the international community that Armenia is ready for cooperation, Armenians are peace-lovers, but Azerbaijan does not cooperate and does not want the restoration of peace and tranquility in the region.

So, the proposal of U.S co-chair James Warlick, and Artur Aghabekyan, “official” of the separatist regime, on the one hand, was designed at undermining Azerbaijan’s international image, to form an opinion internationally that Azerbaijan is a non-constructive state. On the other hand, it was designed to send a message to international organizations that aggressive Armenia enjoys immunity, and the application of sanctions against it would be ill-considered. So, such a proposal could not be considered accidental and was directed against Azerbaijan.

The PACE Secretariat asked Armenia to create conditions for rapporteur Ms. Milica Markovic to pay a fact-finding visit to the occupied territories, where the Sarsang water reservoir is located, to assess the situation on the spot. But the Armenian government rejected to create conditions for the rapporteur to visit the Sarsang water reservoir. Armenia’s response to the PACE Secretariat was frivolous and ridiculous.

Thus, aggressor Armenia claimed that this issue had nothing to do with it and hypocritically advised it to address the self-proclaimed “Nagorno-Karabakh republic” unrecognized by any state and international organizations. With this provocative response, on the one hand, Armenia’s ridiculous and burning desire was to stimulate the PACE rapporteur to cooperation with the self-styled “Nagorno-Karabakh republic”, on the other hand, to announce to the whole world its crazy fancies about the alleged recognition of the “NKR” by PACE and cooperation with it, which did not come true.

By taking this step, Armenia has actually refused to cooperate  with the PACE rapporteur and failed to fulfill its international obligations. Despite Armenia’s destructive position, Milica Markovic twice paid fact-finding visits to Azerbaijan. In order to assess the situation objectively, these missions were realized in winter (14-19 December 2014) and in summer (24-28 August 2015).

During the fact-finding missions, the rapporteur was accompanied by technical expert Dr. Lydia Vamvakeridou-Lyroudia and secretary of the Committee on Social Affairs Aiste Ramanauskaite. During the visits, they held meetings with Azerbaijani officials, travelled to frontier regions and chatted to locals who sustained damages due to the occupation of the Sarsang water reservoir, found out the real situation on the scene and drew up a report and handed it over to the Committee on Social Affairs. The discussion of this report was included in the agenda of the meeting of the Committee on Social Affairs held on 23 November 2015.