2.4.4. The final stage of the struggle for the approval of the reports

In the meantime, as of December 2015, the Armenian government mobilized all efforts to prevent the endorsement of both reports. Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan sent a letter to European People’s Party (EPP) President Joseph Daul on 15 December 2015, in which, he said: “I would like to draw your attention to two documents, titled “The escalation of the violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” and “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water” on the agenda of PACE’s winter session from 25 to 29 January 2016.

Serzh Sargsyan claimed that the titles of the draft resolutions foretold the “biased and dangerous nature of them”, noting cunningly that they had been passed by the committees on political and social affairs, contradicting PACE’s rules of procedures, as well as the Code of Conduct of PACE rapporteurs. He also claimed that the fact-finding mission was not sent to Armenia and/or to Nagorno-Karabakh.

In his letter, he said that “the draft resolutions added a new language to the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh peace process”, claiming “it contradicts the terminology used by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs (Russia, France and the U.S.), the only agreed negotiations format”. In the end, Sargsyan asked EPP President Joseph Daul “to inform PACE members from the EPP of the incalculable harmful nature of the abovementioned draft resolutions” and urge them “to vote down the documents at the 26 January 2016 session of the Assembly”.

In view of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan’s request, a day before the voting, he openly urged all EPP members to vote against the draft resolutions: “… nowadays there are too many conflicts worldwide. For the solution of those conflicts, let us not interfere with the missions of special international groups, one of them being the OSCE Minsk Group.”

We should also note that in letters to the heads of the national delegations and PACE President Anne Brasseur, the head of French delegation in PACE, Rene Rouquet, said that “I had read Robert Walter’s report on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with deep regret”. Rene Rouquet added that he was surprised that “the report was completely out of touch with the historical aspect of the problem”.

He made assumptions concerning the history of the region as an amateur and claimed “it is not an ordinary conflict; it is a part of a big history, and for this reason, without an explanation, one should not speak about Azerbaijan’s “occupied territories” as if it began early in 1990s. He also drew attention to another report against Armenia on the agenda, stressing that the approval of these reports would cast doubt on the integrity of PACE as a reliable institution.

Moreover, the Armenian leadership contacted presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers of PACE member states and demanded that the national delegations of PACE member states to vote against the draft resolutions.

-In January 2016, the Armenian Foreign Ministry seconded its diplomats to PACE member states with special instructions to persuade those countries to force their PACE delegates to vote against the draft resolutions.

-Official representatives of the Armenian Churches demanded that delegates of those countries reject the draft resolutions.

-NGOs functioning in Armenia and in the self-styled “NKR”, as well as the president of the Bratislava-based Forum of the Armenian Associations in Europe inundated PACE members with letters, “advising” them against supporting the draft resolutions.

-Establishing intensive relations with prominent public, political and cultural figures of PACE member states, the Armenian government sought their influence on PACE members to vote down the draft resolutions.

– Armenian MPs Levon Zurabyan and Armen Rustamyan sent letters to the members of PACE’s ALDE and Socialists groups respectively, urging them to vote down the draft resolutions at the 26 January session of the Assembly.

As a result of the efforts of the Armenian state, ahead of the PACE session, foreign ministers and other senior officials of the PACE member states instructed members of their relevant national delegations to vote against the draft reports.

Ahead of the session and on the days when the session was underway in Strasbourg, the Armenian parliamentary speaker, officials held secret meetings with the heads of the delegations with Armenian NGOs in intensive brainwashing process, exerting pressure on parliamentarians to vote down the draft reports.

When the session was underway, numerous Armenian diplomats used to walk around the Parliamentary Assembly building to keep PACE members under control.

We should note that ahead of the voting neither members of the Armenian delegation, nor pro-Armenian parliamentarians tabled proposals to Robert Walter’s report, titled “Escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan”.

The only overriding reason why no amendments were tabled to Walter’s draft report at all was to achieve its rejection and complete withdrawal from the agenda for once and forever. Nevertheless, though both Armenia and anti-Azerbaijani forces were trying to prevent the passage of both draft reports, the key target was to block Robert Walter’s report on “Escalation ofviolence in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan”.

Finally, during the 26 January 2016 PACE plenary session, the draft report by Robert Walter on “Escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” was voted down with difference of four votes, that is, 66 to 70 with 45 abstentions.

By reaching this decision, the Assembly displayed disrespect for the Committee on Political Affairs and its previous decisions on the problem. Moreover, PACE openly showed disrespect not only for its own decisions, but also for decisions and resolutions of other international institutions, such as UN Security Council, and UN General Assembly, the European Parliament, the OSCE PA on the occupation of Azerbaijani territories.

On the same day, at PACE’s 26 January 2016 plenary session, the draft report on “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water” by MP Milica Markovic from Bosnia and Herzegovina, was adopted with 98 to 71 votes and 40 abstentions. Though Armenian delegation and pro-Armenian MPs tabled 21 amendments to Markovic’s draft report, it was approved with only a few amendments.

Mobilizing all its efforts, Armenia was also trying to block this report and hoped that PACE members would also vote down Markovic’s draft report as they did with the one by Robert Walter. However, on that day, after a short period, PACE passed Resolution 2085 (2016) on the basis of the draft report by Markovic “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water”. The report envisaged very significant provisions, which, inter alia, stated:

-Armenia has occupied and retained Nagorno-Karabakh and other territories of Azerbaijan under occupation;

-demanded the immediate withdrawal of Armenia’s armed forces from the occupied areas;

-stressed that the lack of repairs and maintenance at the Sarsang water reservoir for over 20 years in the occupied Azerbaijani territories by Armenia may lead to a catastrophe with a considerable amount of human losses and possible fresh humanitarian crises;

-condemned the use of water as a weapon by the aggressor state, the creation of “deliberate artificial environmental crises” and considered as “environmental terror”;

-demanded that the Armenian government to stop using the water resources as a political leverage or pressure tool in favor of one of the conflicting sides.

Thus, by adopting Resolution 2085 (2016), PACE clearly declared the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and other neighboring territories of Azerbaijan, namely by the Armenian state. At the same time, PACE held Armenia responsible unambiguously for a possible humanitarian and environmental disaster at the Sarsang water reservoir.

Furthermore, it should be noted that Resolution 2085 (2016) “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water” is the first official document adopted by the international organization on Azerbaijan’s Sarsang water reservoir under occupation. As a whole, this document once again proves the essence of Armenians occupying policy, informs international community of the situation unfolding in the region as a result of the Armenian occupation, consolidates Azerbaijan’s position in the negotiations and enhances opportunities for increasing political pressure on Armenia by international community.