In 2010, Belarus had its membership in Euronest — the Parliamentary assembly for the Eastern Partnership initiative of the European Union — suspended because of what was very obviously a rigged election. (Belarus has no other kind.)
Armenia undertook a series of war crimes in prizing away Nagorno-Karabah through 1994, and to this day continues to illegally occupy that territory and other legally Azerbaijani provinces, keeping the two countries on the brink of war. Its last election saw opposition protesters brutalized, and credible allegations of vote-rigging made by the same people being brutalized. It elected to turn away from the European Union — the entire point of the Eastern Partnership project — and join Russia’s Customs Union instead. Its membership remains intact.
Adding insult to injury, Euronest elected to convene its fourth plenary Parliamentary Assembly in Yerevan this month. Azerbaijan boycotted for the fairly obvious reason that attending would give legitimacy to a state that is in violation of international law.
Yet there was an opportunity for a teaching moment here: The remainder of Euronest, especially those members who are also members of the European Parliament, could have taken the opportunity to stare down Armenia in its capital, to gently but firmly demand that it return to the community of nations and cease its ongoing war crimes; turn away from the embrace of Russia or at least begin to do so; and leave its illegal occupation of Azerbaijan’s territory.
Instead, they went ahead and heard an “urgency” motion by Armenia on the latter’s favorite public relations cudgel — the mass killing of Armenians in Turkey as World War I ground to its inevitable conclusion.
This is a favorite tactic of Armenia, for whom the events of World War I are not in living memory: When confronted with their modern brutality, they point to the dying Ottoman Empire’s acts and then unsubtly point to Azerbaijan, which shares linguistic and cultural ties to Turkey, as if to draw an equivalence. It is to the profound discredit of the assembly that it aided Armenia in this by endorsing Armenia’s motion — bypassing ordinary debate, ignoring the fact that half of the Eastern Partnership was not in attendance, ignoring that half the European MEPs present refused to vote on the matter, pretending there was some urgency about events a century old — and passing it.
Azerbaijan has called on Euronest to invalidate the resolution, given all of this. And that would be a good first start. But in addition to that, perhaps Euronest should consider some other topics for future resolutions.
In 1918, Armenian militias rode through Baku, taking advantage of the end of the First World War and the breakup of the Russian Empire to slaughter tens of thousands of Azerbaijanis. Those events are slightly closer in time to the present than the events in Turkey; if the latter deserves an urgency resolution, so too does the former.
In February of 1992, Armenian armed forces massacred a town full of unarmed civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh, a place called Khojaly, and then for good measure desecrated the bodies. Surely, those who care what Ottoman Turkey’s armed forces did to civilians a century ago would endorse an urgency motion condemning this.
Today, Russia is running a low-grade invasion and annexation of East Ukraine, even beyond what it has seized in Crimea. Tens of thousands are dead and many more displaced. This is a matter for urgent resolution. Surely, Armenia would agree with this if nothing else.
And yet, not. Armenia voted against a motion on that very issue, proving not only that it has no place in a modern and free Europe or its partnerships, but that its heart lies with Russia.
Armenia is sending a message, if only Europe would listen: Its interest in Europe is superficial. It would use ills of the past to cover the ills of today, using a blanket of victimhood of the century-old-dead to shield it from liability to its living victims. This month, Euronest endorsed this plan.
It is time to send a different message to Armenia: That the ills of today must be cured long before any talk of the past can be addressed.