YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov added his voice on Monday to U.S. criticism of Council Europe lawmakers who approved last week a draft resolution that essentially endorses Azerbaijan’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Visiting Yerevan, Lavrov said that attempts by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) to intervene in the unresolved conflict with such documents only “harm” international peace efforts spearheaded by Russia, the United States and France.
“We — Russia, the United States and France — are firmly against attempts to take this subject to other international platforms that do not deal with the conflict’s settlement, instead of a consistent, businesslike and patient dialogue on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. At least, nobody has given them such a task on behalf of the international community,” he said after talks with his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian.
Lavrov emphasized that only Russia, the U.S. and France have an international mandate to mediate in the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chaired by them. “Any drastic, radical actions, whoever takes them, only harm this cause and the work of the co-chairs,” he told reporters.
The Russian minister was commenting on a controversial draft resolution that was approved by the PACE’s Political Affairs Committee last Wednesday. The resolution drawn up by Robert Walter, a pro-Azerbaijani former British parliamentarian, demands Armenian withdrawal from Karabakh and the territory’s return to Azerbaijani rule. It says that the three mediating powers should “consider reviewing” their peace efforts accordingly.
James Warlick, the Minsk Group’s U.S. co-chair, criticized the PACE panel on Friday, saying that the Strasbourg-based body should “consult” with the mediators before weighing in on the Karabakh conflict. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry angrily rejected the criticism.
Nalbandian reaffirmed Armenia’s strong condemnation of the proposed PACE document and accused Walter of working for Azerbaijan. “A person who was for many years a member of a pro-Azerbaijani group in the British parliament and who is financed, according to British press reports, from Baku, could not have had an impartial position,” he charged at a joint news conference with Lavrov.
The Karabakh issue was apparently high on the agenda of Lavrov’s latest visit to Armenia, which also involved talks with President Serzh Sarkisian. Sarkisian was quoted by his press office as praising Russia’s role in the Karabakh peace process.
A statement by the office gave no details of their discussion on the issue. It was not clear whether the two men reached any understandings on the mediators’ efforts to organize a meeting of Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev next month. The mediators hope that the summit will help to revive the stalled peace process and defuse increased tensions on Armenian-Azerbaijani frontlines.