Thirty deputies of the European Parliament expect clear actions from Brussels. They have sent requests to High Representative Josep Borrell about the Europe’s actions to bring the Armenian POWs back home.
The first to address the EU leadership was Cypriot MEP Lucas Fourlas. He demanded a response from the European Commission with a written request, emphasizing that the Azerbaijani armed forces, violating the international war laws, on October 8, 2020, targeted the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral of the Holy Savior in Shushi. The MEP asked the European Commission whether it planned to take steps to “protect the civilian population and religious heritage of Artsakh”. In his response on behalf of the European Commission, the High Representative condemned the bombing of the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral by the Azerbaijani armed forces. Borrell also referred to the UN Security Council resolution of 23-47 adopted in 2017, which defines the targeting of religious, educational and cultural centers as a war crime.
Lucas Fourlas (Member of European Parliament, Chairman of the EU-Armenia Parliamentary Friendship Group) - “We are pleased with Mr. Borrell's written response. He has described the attack as a violation of international law of war. We now expect the EU to punish this violation. MEPs will put pressure, demand action, not just express concerns. I am still waiting for Mr. Borrell to give us a substantive answer about the Armenian captives in Azerbaijan. It is unacceptable that so far Azerbaijan and Turkey have not been held accountable. I want to assure the Armenian people that they have friends in the European Parliament. We are here to fight for justice. We will demand answers”.
The European Commission also welcomed the UNESCO-initiated mission to the regions of Artsakh currently under Azerbaijani control. This mission’s aim is at the preliminary documentary assessment of the Armenian cultural heritage. It will also support the preservation and restoration of Armenian cultural sites.
The MEPs also expected urgent steps from the European Commission for the primary humanitarian issue for Armenia at the moment - the return of POWs. Costas Mavrides, MEP, along with 30 MEPs from all major factions, initiated an urgent request to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. MEPs asked the High Commissioner what exactly the EU had done to ensure the return of Armenian POWs and other detainees, including civilians and women captured by Azerbaijan.
Costas Mavrides (Member of European Parliament, Cyprus) – “Azerbaijan is committing an obvious war crime by not returning the POWs. We cannot remain silent in the face of crimes against humanity. That’s why we call on the EU from different factions, together with my colleagues from EU member states, to take concrete steps to achieve the implementation of Article 8 of the reached agreement, which Armenia has already fully implemented. Azerbaijan is openly violating international law, and we must raise this purely humanitarian issue. The EU prefers to remain silent in the event of a conflict of economic interests, but this is a humanitarian issue; we must not only raise our voices, express our concerns, move forward, but also act. We will not remain silent until steps are taken”.
The MEPs also asked the EU High Commissioner what exact steps the EU had taken to prevent the Armenian POWs from abuse and their exploitation for political purposes, and to ensure visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross to the POWs. In conclusion, the MEPs inquired whether the EU had asked Azerbaijan to provide the exact number of Armenian POWs, and if so, what information had been provided. The deputies are convinced that no healthy and constructive negotiation in post-war relations can be formed until this important humanitarian issue is resolved.
Petras Auštrevičius (Member of the EP, Lithuania) - “Even after the war, the situation in the region remains tense. We have not seen real de-escalation yet, there are no healthy dialogues. Instead, there are still hundreds of POWs who are still being held. This is the first important humanitarian issue that needs to be solved; release the POWs, because the war has stopped. For me, the real discharge can start with that step. The EU has not acted and is not acting within its capabilities. With such requests, we try to keep the issue on the agenda and to put pressure on the executive power”.
Lithuanian MP Auštrevičius, a neutral member of the European Parliament, did not hesitate to point out the real desires of Turkey's involvement in the issue of the Artsakh war. He reminded that the hope of stability in the region should not be connected only with Turkey and Russia. The EU can play a role, Auštrevičius said. The active and backward work of the Armenian institutions and organizations in Europe continues to play significant role in this issue.