Peter van Dalen: “I believe that the EU really has a role to play in the resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict”
Interview by Lilit Gasparyan
Peter van Dalen – Dutch Member of the European Parliament, co-founder of the EP-Artsakh Friendship Group
Mr. van Dalen how do you assess the EU’s posture concerning the Lachin Corridor blockade which causes a real humanitarian crisis?
As far as I have seen there have been some statements of concern by EU political leaders. The EU has recently showed increased involvement in the situation, with Council President Michel inviting the leaders of both countries to trilateral meetings in Brussels, and the agreement on the EU civilian mission that was brokered at the European Political Community Summit in October. I would like to see the EU continuing this strong commitment, as it is clear that Russia is at the moment either not willing or not able to provide stability. That is why I, together with fellow MEPs, have written an urgent letter to both the Council President and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, calling on them to use their powers and capabilities to stop the Azerbaijani policy of aggression and intimidation towards Armenians. One way to do this is to reinforce the EU mission to the region, in terms of size and duration.
During this year, the EP adopted several resolutions and strongly condemned Azerbaijan’s continued policy of erasing and denying the Armenian cultural heritage in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, in violation of international law and the decision of the ICJ. Why are these resolutions important, and at the same time, why don’t they have visible influence on Azerbaijan? Is it due to European soft politics towards Azerbaijan or lack of punishment of Azerbaijan by the international community?
It is clear that the EU has conflicting interests here. The European Parliament has been very outspoken about the aggression of Azerbaijan. However, the European Commission has been working with Baku on a deal for increased gas flows between Azerbaijan and the EU. In the end, a lot of foreign policy happens behind closed doors. I am sure that diplomats will convey the EU’s grave discontent with the situation, but they will do so knowing there is also a gas deal on the table. That undermines the message. I for one am totally against this gas deal. We are just changing one undesirable dependency for another one. Especially when you have to conclude that even if Azerbaijan were to ramp up its gas exports to the EU, it would still be able to provide for only a very minor part of the EU’s demand. This is not proportionate if the price we pay is getting in bed with the regime of Aliyev, leaving our criticism on Azerbaijan’s policies towards Armenia toothless. The Parliament is working on yet another report on EU-Azerbaijan relations. I have submitted proposals that heavily criticize this gas deal. Hopefully the report in the end will be very clear on this point. I am not under the illusion that this report in itself is going to change much in Baku. However, we need to keep up the pressure, together with other international partners. If we don’t, we will be sure nothing will ever change.
For many experts, Azerbaijan is intentionally creating a humanitarian crisis. As a co-founder of the friendship group with Artsakh, how do you see the resolution of this multilayer conflict? How could the EU really ensure the protection of the rights and security of the people in Nagorno-Karabakh?
Like I said, I believe that the EU really has a role to play in the resolution of this conflict. It is clear that Russia is not providing peace and stability, given the many violations of the ceasefire agreement that it has allowed. It would be good if the EU would lead the talks between both countries to sort this all out. In all this, upholding the integrity and the rights of the Armenian population in Nagorno Karabakh must be the red line.
The EU mediated planned December 7 meeting between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan did not take place because of Aliyev's refusal. Does lack of dialogue create danger for other means to be employed in this conflict?
It is very unfortunate that this meeting did not take place. Of course, dialogue is to be preferred above all other solutions, provided that both parties are on an equal footing. We have seen the horrors of a physical war in Ukraine for almost a year now. Let us hope and work through dialogue to prevent the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan to deteriorate like that, again.