BRUSSELS (RFE/RL) — The final declaration of the Eastern Partnership summit, which is due to be held in Brussels next week, has again reached a deadlock because of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. While the rest of the document is fully agreed, official Yerevan and Baku have yet to come to terms on the conflict-related wording, RFE/RL correspondent Rikard Jozwiak reports from Brussels.
On Wednesday, the ambassadors of all 28 European Union member states agreed on a declaration apart from one paragraph, which has to do with regional conflicts. The ambassadors left this paragraph open as Armenia and Azerbaijan want to include language on Nagorno-Karabakh that is obviously very conflicting. The declaration is basically now ready, but Armenia and Azerbaijan are still fighting over wording on Nagorno-Karabakh.
According to RFE/RL’s correspondent, officials in Brussels are now quite worried. Differences over Karabakh-related wording nearly derailed the adoption of a similar declaration at the Eastern Partnership summit two years ago. After failing to achieve a desired wording, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev refused to attend the summit, and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov for hours would not sign the declaration and even left the session hall, leaving EU leaders in uncertainty.
“The reason why the EU is very afraid now is that in 2015 at the Riga summit there were fights about this throughout the whole summit. Aliyev even threatened not to sign the declaration and it was delayed by lots of time. So this is something that can lead to a drama on the actual day. It might happen again that [Armenian President Serzh] Sarkisian and Aliyev will refuse to sign this document because of Nagorno-Karabakh wording or non-wording,” RFE/RL’s correspondent reports from Brussels.
European diplomats talking to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity said that this time in order to avoid a similar scenario Brussels has decided not to separate the existing conflicts by name and limit itself to a general wording. The preliminary version of the Declaration that has become available to RFE/RL, in particular, without addressing one issue or another, calls for “renewed efforts to promote the peaceful settlement of conflicts in the region on the basis of the principles and norms of international law.”
“The resolution of conflicts, building trust and good neighborly relations are essential to economic and social development and cooperation,” the document reads, in particular. It is not clear what specific wording Azerbaijan and Armenia oppose or what they are seeking to add.
Responding to RFE/RL’s inquiry, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tigran Balayan said that “negotiations on this issue are still ongoing, so I cannot give details.”
Two years ago, after the summit in Riga, the Armenian foreign minister did give some details to RFE/RL. In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL Armenian Service Director Harry Tamrazian Edward Nalbandian, in particular, insisted that Baku opposed the European Union’s referring in the joint declaration to the statements of the leaders of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries — Russia, the United States and France — that the conflict should be resolved on the basis of non-use of force, territorial integrity and the right to self-determination.