Armenia was making all efforts to prevent the preparations for the reports and bring them up for discussions at the committees. For this purpose, Armenian officials at the level of the president and foreign minister called presidents and prime ministers of PACE member states.
Diplomats of the Armenian embassies to European countries met with parliamentarians of PACE member states to convince and bribe them against backing the reports. Under the pretext that the rapporteurs had not paid fact-finding trips to the Nagorno-Karabakh and the Sarsang water reservoir, they were demanding the removal of the reports from the agenda.
The report on “Escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan”, prepared by rapporteur Robert Walter, was discussed at the meeting of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy on 4 November 2015 in Paris. The report reflected the occupation by Armenia of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh and other territories and retaining of these territories under occupation for over 25 years.
This document also made reference to UN Security Council Resolutions, demanding the liberation of Azerbaijani territories from occupation. At the same time, the document noted that the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights on “Chiragov and others v. Armenia” dated from 16 June 2015 proved that Armenia, in fact, controls Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions. The document also noted that Dilqam Asgarov and Sahbaz Quliyev, who were taken hostage by Armenia, had been illegally convicted by a “court” of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh region.
We should note that the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights with regard to the case of “Chiragov and others v.Armenia” from 16 June 2015 underlines that the Armenian government actually controls Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions. The international-legal responsibility of Armenia for human rights violations in Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions was reflected in the decision.
The court stated that “Armenia, through its military presence and the provision of pieces of military hardware, equipment and expertize, has been closely involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict from the outset. Armenia’s military support has been decisive for control over the territories in question”.
At the same time, three amendments were tabled to Robert Walter’s report on “Escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan”.
One of the amendments envisaged replacement of the item four in the report, reading “… the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has not been solved yet” by “… the occupied territories of Azerbaijan has not been released from occupation yet”.
The second amendment with regard to the unconditional release of Dilqam Asgarov and Sahbaz Quliyev contained the wording “… calls the occupying country Armenia to immediately secure their release”.
Finally, the third amendment suggested replacing the expression of “to be sorry” by “resolutely condemns” the refusal of the Armenian government to cooperate with the rapporteur.
It was clear from the outset that the Armenian delegation and pro-Armenian forces would resort to various provocative ways and methods to prevent the adoption of the abovementioned report at the Committee meetings. The refusal of Armenia to cooperate with the rapporteur proved it.
Moreover, ahead of the 4 November meeting of the Committee in Paris, the Armenian media carried reports, alleging that the report contained numerous anti-Armenian provisions and it was completely pro-Azerbaijan. On the other hand, the head of the Armenian delegation, Naghdalyan, and members of the delegation Rustamyan and Karapetyan were participating in the discussions. They were trying to prevent the adoption of the report by insistently displaying hypocrisy.
Denying the reality completely, they impudently and aggressively proposed that the draft resolution be canceled and be never brought to the agenda. This ridiculous proposal of Armenia was put to vote and rejected with 14 to 24 votes.
Thus, the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy made a decision to accept the report despite all hypocrisy and provocation of the members of the Armenian delegation. It should be noted that the three amendments tabled by us were accepted. Other three amendments, contradicting Azerbaijan’s interests, were not adopted. The Assembly’s plenary session was the last phase for the final adoption of the report and we were pretty aware that we would be facing a bitter struggle.
We should underline that Armenia started to feel seriously anxious after the adoption of the report on “Escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” by British MP Robert Walter at the 4 November meeting of the PACE Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy. This was panic rather than concern.
Things came to such a pitch that the Armenian parliament held discussions on this matter and demanded that the delegation of Armenia to explain the reason for the failure to prevent the adoption of the reports. What is intriguing is that at the end of the discussions, Parliamentary Speaker Galust Sahakyan came against looking for a culprit for this setback and urged for mobilization of all efforts to prevent the draft resolution at PACE’s January session in 2016.
I should note that the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs issued a press release on 22 January 2016 in Vienna:
“The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs – Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, James Warlick of the United States of America, and Pierre Andrieu of France – welcome efforts to find a negotiated settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and are prepared to work cooperatively with those committed to a peaceful settlement. We understand that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) may consider resolutions on the conflict in the near future and remind PACE, and other regional and international organizations, that the OSCE Minsk Group remains the only accepted format for the negotiations. We appreciate the interest paid by PACE members, but urge that steps not be taken which could undermine the Minsk Group’s mandate from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe or complicate the ongoing negotiations.”
So, it was obvious that Armenia would use all available means in order to prevent the adoption of the report on “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water” at the meeting of the Committee on Social Affairs.
We were well aware of a provocative proposal made at the meeting of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, calling for the permanent removal of the report on the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and other territories of Azerbaijan from the agenda, as well as the rejection of this proposal as a result of voting. It was expected that the identical suggestion would be put forward at the meeting of the Committee on Social Affairs.
Besides, it seemed real that the Secretariat run by Secretary General Wojciech Sawicki with proved anti-Azerbaijani position would make provocative “surprises”. It was also not ruled out that other anti-Azerbaijan forces sharing positions of the Armenian delegation would act in concert to exert pressure on MP Milica Markovic from Bosnia and Herzegovina to withdraw her report.
I should note that the pressure brought to bear on rapporteur Robert Walter by pro-Armenian circles for the report on Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan did not bring to fruition. In our opinion, what played a crucial role to this end was the fact that Robert Walter is a well-known European politician with vast experience, representing the United Kingdom – one of the leading world powers. However, we were aware of the fact that Markovic is a native of newly-independent Bosnia and Herzegovina, a small state which gained its independence at the end of the 20th century. Despite the concerns, we hoped for Markovic to demonstrate unbiased and principled position in the discussions.
At the same time, we should underline that Armenians in panic of a defeat after the adoption of the resolution on the occupation of our territories at the PACE Committee on the Political Affairs were in deep trouble now over the possibility of the passage of the draft resolution on the Sarsang water reservoir at the Committee on Social Affairs on 23 November 2015. Through lies, slander and mudslinging, they began to realize their hypocrisies. In addition to all these, they were exerting pressure on the rapporteur as well as on the state she represents by all possible means.
On 20 November 2015, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan in an extensive interview said that the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs were against shifting the Nagorno-Karabakh problem from this framework to another international platform, claiming that the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs believed that the resolution and attempts to change the format of the talks could disrupt the negotiations process.
However, U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group James Warlick in an interview with a local news agency said that they hailed this resolution of PACE and were ready for consultations with the PACE rapporteurs over the settlement of this problem. However, in their 12 November 2015 opinion on PACE’s draft resolutions, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs said: “The Minsk Group format is accepted by the parties and has the full confidence of all OSCE participating states. Considering the sensitivity of the negotiations, attempts to change the format or create parallel mechanisms can disrupt the negotiation process and impede progress towards a settlement.”
The co-chairs also underlined that they are prepared to cooperate with all international organizations, which demonstrate an interest in finding a just and sustainable settlement to the conflict. Nevertheless, neither Armenia, nor the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs would like to acknowledge that the consideration of this issue at PACE was not aimed at changing the existing format.
According to the claim of Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan, rapporteur Robert Walter allegedly addressed in writing to the leadership of the so-called “NKR” on 22 September for paying a visit to Nagorno-Karabakh, and allegedly the self-styled “NKR” intended to cooperate on the issue of the Sarsang water reservoir and that they are ready to receive the PACE rapporteur.
As is clear, with reference to the separatist regime, the occupying country wanted to gain political dividend and to legitimize the occupation. Of course, it would be totally absurd for the rapporteur to send a letter to a body unrecognized by PACE or to cooperate with this self-styled entity. The final resolution passed by PACE unequivocally called Armenia as an aggressor state and condemned it for the lack of cooperation.
These facts once again prove that Nalbandyan did not even hesitate to avoid lying and openly deceiving the international community for the sake of overcoming the defeat they had found themselves in. Unable to reconcile with their defeat, Armenians were also looking for a scapegoat.
However, despite attempts and hypocrisy of Armenia, the 23 November Paris meeting of the Committee on Social Affairs put forward for discussions the report on “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water” by Milica Markovic. The discussions were tense. During the discussions, a member of the Armenian delegation proposed to postpone the report until PACE’s June session. This proposal was put to vote and rejected by 16 to 9 votes.
Moreover, none of the amendments to the draft resolution of the report tabled by anti-Azerbaijani forces were approved. One of the noteworthy points is that in one of the amendments it was suggested to merge this report with the report on the “Escalation of tension in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” prepared by Robert Walter and approved by the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy on 4 November.
It was obvious that those who tabled this amendment hereby intended to exclude from the agenda not only the report on the Sarsang reservoir, but also the report on the occupied territories. However, this malicious intention was not realized and this nonsensical amendment was not approved. In the end, the report “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water” by MP Milica Markovic from Bosnia and Herzegovina was put to vote and adopted with 98 to 71 votes and 40 abstentions.
According to PACE’s Rules of Procedure, the resolutions adopted in the Committees shall be discussed and approved by plenary sessions of the Assembly by voting. Therefore, in accordance with PACE’s Rules of Procedure, PACE meetings had to approve the resolutions “Escalation of tension in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” and “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water”, respectively adopted in the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy and the Committee on the Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. As expected, at the meeting of the PACE Bureau on 26 November 2015 in Sofia, a decision was taken to open up discussions of the abovementioned reports at PACE’s 2016 January session for approval. Thus, the final and the most important stage of the struggle around the reports on the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Robert Walter and the Sarsang reservoir by Milica Markovic respectively was becoming real at the Assembly meeting, slated for 26 January 2016.