Council of Europe (CE) Rapporteur to the Mountainous Karabagh conflict Terry Davis–in the following interview–speaks about his visit to the region–progress in settling the conflict–the role of the Minsk Group tasked with finding a resolution–as well as international interest in the conflict. The interview appeared on the Council of Europe website.
Question: Mr. Davis–your second visit to Armenia and Azerbaijan has just been completed. You had visited both countries in April last year. Why was it necessary to visit the region again?
Terry Davis: In April 2003–I had visited Baku and a camp for displaced persons in the south of Azerbaijan–as well as Yerevan and refugee accommodations around the city. During this visit–the late President Heydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan and President Robert Kocharian of Armenia had asked me to visit Mountainous Karabagh and the surrounding territories because they felt this was necessary for writing a report on this issue. I had planned to visit Mountainous Karabagh region much earlier–but the elections in both countries–as well as the extremely difficult organizational arrangemen’s for arriving there have caused this delay. The only possible way to reach Mountainous Karabagh on February 23 was finally to go by special cars from Yerevan–which meant a five-hour ride each way. Nevertheless–I felt that this visit was essential to get a better view of the situation there and the conflict in general. I saw the cities of Lachin–Shusha/Shushi and Stepanakert/Hankendi–largely destroyed–depopulated–and impoverished areas. Unfortunately–I was not able to visit Aghdam–formerly a city of roughly 170,000 inhabitants which is now in ruins–according to some reports.
Question: Have you recognized any progress concerning the settlement of the conflict since your last visit?
Terry Davis: With regard to the negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan–which is a process assisted by the OSCE Minsk Group–I could not see any progress. However–I was told that both sides are aware of the urgency of the matter and are willing to work towards a settlement of the conflict. Hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced and live in miserable circumstances–and soldiers and civilians are dying every month along the ceasefire line. An elderly farmer was shot on his field by a sniper during my visit. Many other people are killed or disabled by landmines. Large sums of money go into the military–and this money is urgently needed for the economic and social development of both countries.
Question: The separatist forces in Mountainous Karabagh are not recognized by the Council of Europe. Similar "governmen’s" have been established in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia and in Transnistria in Moldova. Do you think European states have neglected these situations for too long?
Terry Davis: The Assembly has raised these issues in various reports over the last years–one of which dealt with the application of the European Convention on Human Rights in those areas–an aspect I feel very strongly about. As for the conflict being dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Group–I think that the international community has begun to take a greater interest in the subject of my report during the last year. I hope that this greater attention will ensure that the human’suffering occurring there every day will not continue to be overlooked by the rest of Europe.
Question: What do you think can be the Council of Europe’s contribution to the settlement of this conflict?
Terry Davis: The OSCE received the mandate to hold a conference in Minsk on the settlement of this conflict more than a decade ago–and I wish to pay tribute to the efforts undertaken by the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group in order to assist both states in their negotiations for a settlement. When Armenia and Azerbaijan simultaneously acceded to the Council of Europe in 2001–both states committed themselves vis–vis the Council of Europe and its other member states to using only peaceful means for the settlement of the conflict. I stressed this during my meetings with the Presidents and senior government members of both countries. In addition–both states have committed themselves to respecting the European Convention on Human Rights. This does not replace the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council on this conflict–or the OSCE Minsk Conference–but it provides for important parameters and thus may facilitate the negotiations. I hope my report will not only recall these commitmen’s–but bring greater attention to the human–political–and legal dimensions of the conflict and raise awareness of it in all European capitals.