EU differentiates between Georgia's territorial integrity and that of Azerbaijan

Armen Hareyan's picture

EU Foreign Ministers' Council today released its conclusions on South Caucasus. It made a clear distinction between the territorial sovereignty and integrity of Georgia and that of Azerbaijan, unofficially recognizing that Nagorno Karabakh and the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan are two different things.

The wording of the Council's "Conclusions" is very revealing. The phrase territorial integrity appears only twice in the 1,800-word-document.

In the 18th paragraph of the "Conclusions" when discussing the peaceful settlement of the conflicts in the region it states: "The EU reiterates its firm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia." Note the phrase "sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia." Nowhere in the document does the EU use the same wording about Azerbaijan.

The second time the document mentions the phrase territorial integrity is in the 22nd paragraph. There it discusses the need to have a stronger presence in the region, saying it will enhance its relations in the breakaway regions to "benefit people living in these regions."

The EU also wants to have a greater visibility in the breakaway regions to "promote trade relations, facilitate travel and start transformative and approximation work in line with its nonrecognition and engagement policy, in full respect of the principle of territorial integrity."

Once again in paragraph 18 the EU "reiterates its firm support" for Georgia's territorial integrity while in the 22nd paragraph in discussing Azerbaijan it does use the same words. In fact in that paragraph neither Azerbaijan, nor Nagorno Karabakh are mentioned.

Interestingly in paragraph 23 "EU reiterates its commitment to help improve the situation of Internally Displaced
Persons in Georgia," yet nothing is said about the IDPs in Azerbaijan and Armenia. Both countries have had refugees as a result of the war, which Azerbaijan started as a response to Nagorno Karabakh's exercise of its right to self-determination. Armenia's position is that all IDPs can return "voluntarily" after the settlement of the conflict.

These may be some of the new ideas that the head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan, Roland Kobia said the EU will bring to the conflicting parties in his interview to News.Az on February 08, 2012.

Thus, just speculating on the EU's "Conclusions" the following may be concluded in regard to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh.

The EU wants to see a quicker resolution to the conflict. It supports the work of the Minsk Group, but wants to be engaged in the region and, despite Azerbaijan's opposition, have relations established with the breakaway regions to improve the lives of the people who live there.

It wants to facilitate travel, trade, approximation and trasformative work without formal recognition of the breakaway regions and remaining faithful to its policy of the principle of territorial integrity. Particularly in regard to Nagorno Karabakh, the EU "underlines the need for unconditional access for representatives of the EU to Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions." In the past the government of Azerbaijan had put any foreign official or a citizen on its "black list" who visited Nagorno-Karabakh without its permission. The EU invites post conflict scenarios for Nagorno-Karabakh as a basis for future EU engagement.

Is it fair to conclude that EU recognizes the Nagorno Karabakh in some way? If yes, hopefully these new ideas will help the conflicting parties to look at the situation more realistically, achieve peace keep the younger generations of both nations from inheriting this conflict.

Segment from the EU Foreign Ministers' Council's Conclusions on peaceful settlement of conflicts in the region
Brussels, 27 February 2012

17. The EU emphasises the importance of finding peaceful settlements to the conflicts in the region and calls for strong commitment by all concerned parties in this regard. The EU believes that the strengthened relations between the EU and the three countries in the South Caucasus have opened new avenues and opportunities for the EU to support conflict settlement efforts in the region. The EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia will continue to play a significant role in this regard.

18. The EU reiterates its firm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders and reiterates its concern about the continuing Russian military and security-related presence and infrastructure reinforcements in the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The EU calls on Russia to fulfill its obligations under the ceasefire agreement of 12 August 2008 and the Implementing Measures of 8 September 2008, including by providing access to EUMM to the breakaway regions.

19. The EU calls on the participants of the Geneva International Discussion to the conflict to continue to work together towards sustainable security arrangements. In this regard, a clear non-use of force commitment by Russia would be necessary.

20. The EU confirms its commitment to remain engaged and involved in the stabilization and conflict resolution efforts in Georgia, including by continuing its engagement as co-chair in the Geneva Discussions, the efforts of the EUSR for South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia and the continued presence of the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM).

21. The EU welcomes the steps undertaken by Georgia in implementing its strategy on engagement with the breakaway regions and encourages Georgia to pursue a more effective engagement policy and to take a pragmatic, positive and constructive approach to encourage trade, travel and investment across the Administrative Boundary Line.

22. The EU also underlines that it will enhance its engagement with the two breakaway regions, including to the benefit of the people living in these regions. This includes achieving greater EU visibility in the regions and active work to promote economic and trade relations, facilitate travel and start transformative and approximation work in line with its nonrecognition and engagement policy, in full respect of theprinciple of territorial integrity.

23. The EU reiterates its commitment to help improve the situation of Internally Displaced Persons in Georgia and refugees from the conflicts and their unconditional right to safe and dignified return, while underlining also the need to enhance efforts to provide livelihood options and to provide conditions allowing those Internally Displaced Persons who choose to stay in Tbilisi administered territory to integrate fully into society.

24. The EU expresses its concern at the slow progress in the negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In this regard, the EU continues to supports the OSCE Minsk Group and acknowledges in this context the efforts of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitryi Medvedev to achieve progress in trilateral talks. The EU reiterates its support for the Madrid principles and calls on Armenia and Azerbaijan to step up their efforts to reach agreement on those principles as a basis for peace. The EU recalls the joint statement of the presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries at the G8 Summit in Deauville on 26 May 2011 and the commitments made by the Presidents of both countries in the framework of the Minsk Group, most recently in Sochi, and calls for their full implementation. In this regard, the EU expresses concern on increased tension along the Line of Contact and underlines the importance of urgent steps to implement the ceasefire and to adopt appropriate confidence building measures.

25. The EU stands ready to provide enhanced support for confidence building measures, in support of and in full complementarity with the Minsk Group, with a view to facilitating further steps towards the implementation of peace. In this regard, the EU underlines the need for unconditional access for representatives of the EU to Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions. The Council invites the High Representative and the Commission to develop, in close consultation with the OSCE, post conflict scenarios for Nagorno-Karabakh as a basis for future EU engagement."

Reference to the full statement: European Union External Action

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