ANKARA, Turkey (RFE/RL)—A former British lawmaker who was tasked by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) last year with drafting a report on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has reportedly become a Turkish citizen.
According to the Istanbul-based daily Sabah, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu personally handed a Turkish ID card to the Conservative Member of Parliament, Robert Walter, at the Turkish Embassy in London last week. Walter, who is married to a Turkish woman, expressed delight at the award, reported the paper. It also posted a photograph of the ceremony on its website.
Walter was named by the PACE leadership to launch a fact-finding mission to the Karabakh conflict zone and prepare the report titled “Escalation of Violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and Other Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan.”
This wording prompted vehement protests from Armenian members of the Strasbourg-based assembly and the government in Yerevan. They said that it predetermines Walter’s findings and runs counter to statements made by U.S., Russian and French mediators trying to broker a Karabakh settlement.
The Armenian side has also accused Walter of having close ties with Azerbaijan’s government, saying that the British parliamentarian has repeatedly defended Baku’s dismal human rights record criticized by Western human rights groups.
Walter led a team of PACE members that observed Azerbaijan’s last presidential election held in 2013. Unlike other Western observers who reported widespread fraud, the PACE mission concluded that the vote met democratic standards.
Walter visited Baku in March and hoped to travel to Armenia and Karabakh later this year. However, the head of the Armenian delegation at the PACE, Hermine Naghdalian made clear in April that although officials in Yerevan may agree to receive the rapporteur they will not discuss the Karabakh dispute with him. Karabakh’s leadership went further, saying that the British lawmaker is not welcome in Stepanakert.
Walter, 67, did not run for reelection in Britain’s recent general elections and formally ended his parliamentary tenure on May 7. It is not clear when or whether the PACE leadership will appoint a new Karabakh rapporteur.