YEREVAN (Tert.am)—In an interview with Tert.am, Armen Rustamyan, head of the parliamentary faction of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutyun (ARF-D) and member of the Armenian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has said that Armenia must spare no effort to prevent the legal enforcement of a PACE report which both Armenia and Artsakh consider to be anti-Armenian.
The report, entitled, “Escalation of Violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and Other Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” by Robert Walter (United Kingdom, EC), a rapporteur of the PACE Political Affairs Committee, was accepted by the PACE Committee on Political Affairs earlier this month.
In July, Asbarez reported that Walter had received Turkish citizenship. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu personally handed Walter his new Turkish ID card at the Turkish Embassy in London. Walter, who is married to a Turkish woman, reportedly expressed delight over his new dual citizenship, and is now accused of having business interests in Azerbaijan.
Mr. Rustamyan, the news media continues to discuss Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Armenia. What do you think was the purpose of his visit?
Mr. Lavrov’s visit should be considered natural. Our bilateral relations are at such a high level that such visits could be daily ones. So there is nothing extraordinary about the visit. There is an implication and rapidly changing situation. We know Russia is playing a major role in the Middle East developments, while Armenia is a country attaching high importance to the security of Armenian communities in different states. A number of issues related to Nagorno-Karabakh are on the agenda, which, I think, were discussed as well.
As a member of the Armenian delegation to PACE, what is your opinion of Sergey Lavrov’s critical assessment of the anti-Armenian report?
First of all, I should say that the report presented by the British rapporteur is a disgraceful document. There is no such precedent in PACE’s history—a biased document submitted to discussion of a plenary session, with accusations against one side and praises for the other. It is common knowledge that the principle of parity is normally applied to conflicts, but it should not be accompanied with praises of one of the conflicting parties and discredit of the other. In this respect, the statement by Azerbaijan’s Milli Majlis (National Assembly) was an overt interference in the OSCE Minsk Group’s activities. Claims are made that the OSCE Minsk Group should revise its approaches to the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, doing so in Azerbaijan’s favor. How can it be? It creates a dangerous situation because Azerbaijan will try to use the document to interfere in the Minsk Group’s activities. In this context, Sergey Lavrov’s statement that they will not accept that external document is of high importance because he is not only the Russian foreign minister, but also a representative of an OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing country. Moreover, the document contains an accusation against Russia—it says that Russia must not sell arms to the conflicting parties. The [document] said that arms should never be sold to the conflicting parties, while Turkey is selling arms to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is purchasing arms from different states, and it is unfair to draw attention to Russia alone.
If PACE approves the report as a resolution, what consequences could it have? Could Azerbaijan make any use of this resolution if it does not have any legal force?
Yes, it does not have any legal force because PACE is not internationally mandated to deal with the problem. Moreover, PACE has no structures or institutional mechanisms to implement approved reports or resolutions. The only means is Azerbaijan using the report for propaganda, which could have unfavorable consequences. If PACE approves the report, it will stop performing its function of arbiter, damage its reputation by siding with one of the conflicting parties, sponsoring its interests. We must do our utmost to prevent any legal enforcement of the document in terms of forcing Armenia into taking on commitments, and we are not going to take on more commitments beside those we have taken since we joined PACE. We took on certain commitments, including ones on Nagorno-Karabakh, before joining the PACE. If we had been told that we would join PACE only to cede Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan, we would not have joined PACE. But now they are saying to us, “You joined PACE, so you must cede Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan.”
Following Sergey Lavrov’s visit, Russian media did not rule out that the Russian Foreign Minister visited Armenia to persuade the Armenian side into returning Nagorno-Karabakh regions to Azerbaijan. Do you think such a scenario could be put into practice?
No. The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs made five made major statements at this stage, which includes certain elements of the peace process. I do not think the developments will go beyond the platform in question. The ARF-D has certain reservations because we believe the status must be a top priority. The PACE resolution actually ruled out a possibility of settling the issue in the context of the five statements. It prioritizes territorial integrity, which is unacceptable to us. That is why we refused to vote on the document. The concept, “territories for status,” is distorted. It actually implies “status first,” “territories later.” But they changed the places, saying “territories first, and then we will discuss the status.” But it is an unfair solution, with violations of the international principle of conflict settlement.