Surely by now you’ve read about the two anti-Armenian PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) reports/resolutions, one of which passed and the other did not.
The one that failed was authored by one Robert Walker, a British member of parliament who married a Turkish woman and recently received Turkish citizenship. Together they have done work for the Azeris, yet he was commissioned to prepare a report titled “Escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan.” Imagine! There couldn’t be any bias in this man’s thinking, could there? But let’s not waste any more time on this poor excuse for a human being, or his report, since it got nowhere.
The resolution that passed, “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water,” was prepared by rapporteur Milica Marković (Bosnia and Herzegovina). It is “based” on a report prepared by Dr. Lydia S. Vamvakeridou-Lyroudia, a Greek engineer who is currently a research fellow at the University of Exeter (England).
How an otherwise seemingly qualified technical expert could put her name to the report I read is beyond me. It comes to conclusions based on extrapolations from 1993 data provided by the government of Azerbaijan. The data is about the Sarsang dam on the Terter River. The report subtly implies the integrity of the dam is questionable, that the Gharapagh authorities intentionally released water to exacerbate flooding in parts of Azerbaijan, and that the same authorities are withholding water when it is needed by farmers in Azerbaijan.
Water is no small concern worldwide, with corporate water-grabs and climate change making access to clean water ever more difficult. There are many international agreements and laws to address water issues. And perhaps the most colorful description of water issues comes from California, where it is said, “Whiskey’s fer drinkin’ and water’s fer fightin.’”
Given this background, you’d think that Marković and Lyroudia would have spared no effort to implement their charge and do a thorough and fair analysis. Two visits were made to Azerbaijan, but none to Gharapagh. The result is garbage. To give you a taste of the report, perhaps the most outlandish and laughable, yet potentially very damaging, part of it appears in the proposed draft resolution’s language (subsequently adopted): “In view of this urgent humanitarian problem, the Assembly requests:… the immediate withdrawal of Armenian armed forces… thus allowing … access by independent engineers and hydrologists… global management of the Sarsang water resources… (and) international supervision.”
Really? The only way to achieve those goals is through “withdrawal of Armenian forces?” And what makes these two women competent to render such a verdict when they are charged with examining water, not war, issues? If Azerbaijan would ever negotiate sincerely and not exclude Sdepanagerd, solutions to humanitarian issues could be found. Yet this report and resolution do nothing except use that humanitarian cover to do Azerbaijan’s dirty work. I hope we can uncover whether they were unwitting dupes, or cunning agents of Azerbaijan’s propaganda barrage.
How did this happen?
In 2014 the PACE committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development appointed Marković. She in turn authorized Lyroudia and the technical report. From what I have been able to gather, while informal discussions may have occurred earlier, the first formal request to visit the relevant area (i.e. the dam) made to the Armenian side is dated June 30, 2015. This was delivered to Yerevan’s authorities, not Sdepanagerd’s. An August 3 response letter said Armenia was willing to help but also noted the importance of working with the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities. On November 16, a formal request for a Marković visit to the dam was made to the NKR authorities, asking for a reply by November 20. On November 18, the visit was greenlighted, at Marković’s convenience. But then, things got inexplicable. On November 19, the very next day, Marković requested that the report be circulated, meaning she was done with it. This culminated in its passage a few days ago.
So, what went wrong? I suspect a combination of a few factors. It could be that since the Turkish-pesa’s (groom) outlandish resolution was voted down, some members of PACE may have felt a need to show a “balanced” approach and vote for the other anti-Armenian (i.e. pro-Azeri) resolution. Concern generated by the humanitarian aspect of water needs may have weighed heavily in some parliamentarians’ judgment. These two aspects are relatively difficult to address.
A third factor is something that was and is much more under our control is what Armenians could and did do or not do. The sense I have gotten is that the Republic of Armenia’s delegation did not take this matter seriously enough soon enough to be able to properly manage what was, at least superficially, a reasonable matter for PACE to look in to, even if initiated by Azerbaijan for propaganda purposes. Quickly inviting Marković and Lyroudia to inspect the dam and get a dose of truth would have gone a long way towards producing a much more realistic and balanced report. Instead, Azerbaijan can now point to this resolution and say “Armenians are denying a basic human need to our poor villagers.”
The lobbying about this matter by our compatriots in Europe (including the petition that no doubt many readers signed) could play a secondary role in keeping the process on the right track. The official Armenian delegation must unavoidably play the leading role since they are in official positions. It is not like having a pro-Azerbaijan resolution appear on the agenda of Arizona’s, Hawaii’s, or Tennessee’s legislatures where our only recourse is activating the grassroots through the ANCA’s efforts. Armenians are in position to act from the within PACE.
Remember to urge all Armenian government, especially diplomatic, officials to be alert and very energetic in their responses to future such backdoor Azeri efforts.