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PACE Official Backs Azeri Rule In Karabakh

By Emil Danielyan and Armen Zakarian in Strasbourg

A British lawmaker who was instrumental in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s criticism of Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories said Thursday that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh can not exercise their right to self-determination without Baku’s consent.

Risking to deepen Armenian discontent with his activities, David Atkinson claimed that the international community will never recognize Karabakh’s de facto secession from Azerbaijan.

“It is obvious that the Azerbaijani authorities will never accept Karabakh’s demands for independence,” Atkinson said in an interview posted on a Russian-language web site of BBC. “The Council of Europe and other international organizations can not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence. Therefore, the principle of peoples’ right to self-determination can not be applied to Karabakh.”

The remarks appeared to contradict a passage in the PACE’s resolution on Karabakh that says “independence and secession of a regional territory from a state may only be achieved through a lawful and peaceful process based on democratic support by the inhabitants of such territory.” Official Yerevan welcomed it, while criticizing as “flawed” the overall content of the non-binding document submitted to the 46-nation assembly by Atkinson.

Addressing the Armenian parliament last October, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said that the international community has come to terms with Azerbaijan’s loss of Karabakh and is ready to recognize the region’s independence. Oskanian apparently alluded to a 2001 peace plan which was nearly signed by the conflicting parties. The plan, put forward by French, Russian and U.S. mediators, reportedly called for Karabakh’s formal incorporation into Armenia in return for the latter guaranteeing a transport corridor between Azerbaijan and its Nakhichevan exclave

In a clear reference to Armenian-controlled Azerbaijani districts around Karabakh, the PACE resolution says that “the occupation of foreign territory by a member state constitutes a grave violation of that state’s obligations as a member of the Council of Europe.” It at the same time urges Azerbaijan to start direct contacts with the ethnic Armenian leadership of Karabakh, something which Baku refuses to do.

“In my opinion, negotiations have not yielded results because there have been no real contacts between the Azerbaijani authorities and representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Atkinson said. He said the PACE’s governing Bureau will likely appeal to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev soon to take steps in that direction.

Terry Davis, the secretary general of the Council of Europe, confirmed this at a news conference in Strasbourg on Thursday. Davis said Aliev should negotiate with the Karabakh Armenians “without any preconditions” because they too are “citizens of his country.” He argued that the long-running peace talks on Cyprus would have been impossible without the participation of the island’s Turkish minority.

Davis stressed at the same time that he will not advocate the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s involvement in the ongoing peace talks sponsored by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Atkinson, for his part, made it clear that the Council of Europe has no intention to replace the Minsk Group as the main body mediating a solution to the Karabakh dispute.

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