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EP: GAHRTON PRESENTS BIASED REPORT ON EU SOUTH CAUCASUS POLICIY

EUROPEAN ARMENIAN FEDERATION

for Justice and Democracy

Avenue de la Renaissance 10

B – 1000 BRUXELLES

Tel./Fax : +32 (0) 2 732 70 27

E-mail : contact@eafjd.org

Web : http://www.eafjd.org

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

January 23rd, 2004

Contact: Talline Tachdjian

Tel.: +32 (0)2 732 70 27

EP: GAHRTON PRESENTS BIASED REPORT ON EU SOUTH CAUCASUS POLICIY

— Proposed Draft Does Not Question the Independance of Nagorno-Karabakh

— Fails to Address Blockade and Genocide Issues; Ignores Plight of Armenian Refugees

— Over 100 Amendments Introduced to Restore Report’s Impartiality

Brussels, Belgium – On January 27th, the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) will examine and vote on a proposed report detailing the “EU Policy towards the South Caucasus” presented by the Swedish MEP, Per Gahrton (Greens). More than 100 amendments have been proposed by the members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, including those Mr. Gahrton himself, seeking in an effort to define a balanced policy toward the region.

The report reviews the situation in the South Caucasus and makes recommendations to the European Council. In its draft form, the 2004 report asks for the inclusion of the South Caucasus countries in the Commission’s “Wider Europe – New Neighbourhood” initiative. It also calls for the establishment of a Stability Pact, similar to the one that exists for the Balkans.

Regarding energy, Mr. Gahrton recognizes that Europe cannot demand “the decommissioning of the Medzamor nuclear power plant” without providing mechanisms that allow Armenia “to acquire alternative energy resources”. However, in an unexpected move, the report lends its support to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline project without mentioning the environmental problems and serious threats to human rights and minority rights that could result from its establishment.

“We are surprised that a representative of the Green party is supportive of a largely disputed energy project without thoroughly examining the serious environmental or ethical issues surrounding the issue. As it stands, the BTC serves the interests of the U.S. more than those of the EU or the peoples of the Caucasus,” commented Laurent Leylekian, Executive Director of the European Armenian Federation. “We recommend a concerted effort to bring about a fair redistribution of the region’s energy resources that would ease tensions and offer a sustainable solution to the Medzamor issue. That would be in the interest of the South Caucasus as well as the EU. Clearly, several parliamentarians share these concerns, as indicated by the proposed amendments to the report,” he added.

Regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the draft report claims to advance “concrete solutions that respect the principle of territorial integrity [.] as well as the right of autonomy for minorities.” To that end, it recommends the return of “Azeri IDPs [internally displaced persons] to the occupied territories as a first step towards a final settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.” Mr. Gahrton later proposed an amendment advocating the formulation of a “political and financial” plan aimed at the “withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from five occupied regions of Azerbaijan (Fizuli, Djabrail, Zangilan, Gubadly and Agdam)” and the creation of “conditions necessary for the return of Azeri IDPs to their homeland.”

“When we hear references to ‘homelands,’ we recall the Armenian homelands which stretched from the Euphrates to the Caspian. If the European Union wants to approach the Nagorno-karabakh status from that angle, it should also call for the restoration of Armenian populations to Nakhitchevan and Eastern Turkey and debate global statutes regarding these areas,” said Leylekian.

“It should be noted that Mr. Gahrton does not question the independence of Karabakh per se, but raises the issue of refugees in the bordering areas. By focusing solely on Azeri refugees, the report demonstrates a blatant and counterproductive bias. In fact, there are refugees in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. One does not resolve conflict by advancing simplistic, one-sided solutions. The only possible consequence of such a position is to undermine the renewal of Armenian-Azeri dialogue and obstruct the prudent efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group,” continued Leylekian.

“Moreover, Mr. Gahrton performs a narrow reading of International Law, mistaking peoples’ right to self-determination with minority autonomy rights. Our concerns regarding this interpretation have resonated with many deputies from all political parties and from all nationalities, many of whom have proposed amendments aiming to re-establish the impartiality of the report by making reference to the status of all refugees in the region,” specified Leylekian.

The draft report makes no mention of the ongoing Azeri and Turkish blockades of Armenia. However, several proposed amendments condemn the blockade both for obstructing European aid to the Caucasus and for aggravating the energy shortage in Armenia. In particular, one amendment introduced by Mr. Gahrton cites “the gradual reopening of the border with Armenia” as a precondition for Turkey’s candidacy to the EU.

The draft report is equally silent on the Armenian Genocide; however, three amendments were proposed citing Turkey’s recognition of the Genocide as a pre-condition to its participation in an eventual regional Stability Pact. An amendment introduced by Mr. Oostlander, author of the EP’s report on Turkey, urges Ankara “to normalise its relations with Armenia.”

Finally, an amendment from Mr. Gahrton “express[es] concern about the human rights situation and media freedom in Azerbaijan.”

“The rapporteur apparently had difficulty reconciling the concept of professional integrity with pressures exerted by the Turkish-Azeri lobby. With the help of parliamentarians who have proposed amendments, we hope the overall balance of the report will be reestablished,” commented Leylekian

After its adoption by the Committee of Foreign Affairs, the report will be submitted to the plenary session of the European Parliament in the coming weeks.

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