TEAS welcomes new EU initiative on Nagorno-Karabakh – but urges greater diplomatic involvement

Press Release: On 6 November, The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) welcomed the EU’s decision to launch the second phase of its civil society programme for Nagorno-Karabakh (NK).

Roman Huna, Head, TEAS Belgium, explained that TEAS appreciated the increased EU focus on the South Caucasus region, but said the launch should not detract from the need for EU policy-makers to become more active in international efforts to resolve the conflict. He added that the recent awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU was a reminder of what Europe could achieve with the right focus.

Mr Huna said that the civil society programme could play a useful part in efforts to achieve peaceful conflict resolution. He particularly welcomed its emphasis on the need to provide a voice for marginalised people, such as the 875,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in Azerbaijan who want to return to their homes in NK and the adjacent seven occupied Azerbaijani territories.

However, he said that the partnership programme represented just one of the steps that the EU could take to become more actively engaged in diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. Mr Huna acknowledged that the programme is a very useful tool. However, it is no substitute for action by the EU itself to promote a peaceful settlement, based on the international rule of law and four outstanding UN Security Council resolutions, which acknowledge that NK is a part of Azerbaijan, even though it is currently occupied by Armenian armed forces.

Mr Huna said: “This is a good initiative, but we also think it is essential that the EU takes a clear position in support of the immediate withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from NK and the seven adjacent territories and the safe return home of the 875,000 IDPs and refugees. Only then can we build a sustainable peace in Europe’s eastern backyard.”

TEAS made the comments following the EU launch of the second phase of its civil society programme, entitled European Partnership for the Peaceful Settlement of the Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh (EPNK).

The EPNK is a consortium of five NGOs: International Alert, Conciliation Resources, Crisis Management Initiative, the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation and the London Information Network on Conflicts and State Building. It aims to support peaceful settlement by facilitating dialogue between civil society, media and policy-makers. It also supports wider participation in the peace process of conflict-affected people, including women, youth, IDPs and refugees.