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Azerbaijan’s peace and tolerance showcased at the European Parliament

2014-02-14

Azerbaijan: The Land of Peace – a remarkable free exhibition of 100 photographs showcasing Azerbaijan’s traditions, life, culture and history – opened on 11 February at the European Parliament. The opening networking cocktail was organised by TEAS Belgium in collaboration with Niki Tzavela MEP (EFD, Greece). The selection of images provided an overview of everyday life in this western-facing, cosmopolitan, secular country, which is renowned for its religious tolerance.

Over 400 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), European Council members, diplomats, European Parliament researchers and journalists attended the opening. Fiorello Provera MEP (EFD, Italy) said: “I welcome all of you to this unique and beautiful exhibition. This will introduce many of you to Azerbaijan, a country that is becoming increasingly relevant to Europe. In December, the EU and Azerbaijan signed important agreements during the Co-operation Council covering political dialogue, energy, policy, trade, investment and cultural collaboration.

“Azerbaijan and the EU are coming closer, mostly on energy issues, and my country – Italy – has now become a very important partner to Azerbaijan. However, the country should not solely be regarded as a source of gas and oil. You will also see that it is a wonderful historical land with beautiful landscapes, mountains and cities. Mrs Tzavela organised this exhibition to showcase Azerbaijani peace and tolerance, and this is evident in many of the photos. You will also see that Azerbaijan is home to many races and religions, and is a bridge between East and West – in short, a land of peace.”

H.E. Fuad Isgandarov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Head of the Azerbaijani Mission to the EU, commented: “It is a great pleasure to introduce our country to MEPs and other friends. In December 2013, the final investment decision (FID) was signed between the Azerbaijani government and the BP-led Shah Deniz Consortium that will make construction of the Southern Gas Corridor a reality. During the next few years, Azerbaijani gas will be piped to Europe through some of the most expensive infrastructure in the world. Development of the Southern Corridor will help drive down gas prices for EU consumers.

“Azerbaijan and the EU countries share many common values, and it aims to integrate with the EU family of nations. It should be remembered that Azerbaijan has managed to retain its stability and to develop, despite the ongoing Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, the worst atrocity of which occurred on 26 February 1992, when the Khojaly Massacre claimed the lives of 613 men, women and children. Azerbaijan enjoys excellent relations with many countries, and seeks to bring about resolution to this conflict, based on goodwill.”

Dr Asim Mollazade, Azerbaijani MP and Chairman, Democratic Reforms Party, said: “It is most apt to be in the European Parliament, as Europe is an important destination for Azerbaijan. We share common values with the EU, including democracy, human rights and the rule of law. A huge proportion of Azerbaijani territory remains under Armenian occupation, and it should be remembered that February is a very hard month for the Azerbaijani people due to the remembrance of the Khojaly Tragedy. Azerbaijan is represented in Brussels as it respects justice and rule of law. All international documents support the Azerbaijani perspective on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and we expect the EU to pay attention and to seek justice.”

Ambassador Arif Mammadov, Head of EU Mission, Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) said: “When I was walking into this exhibition, I was struck by the colours. However, colours do not fill every aspect of our world – there is necessarily some black and white, and suffering is often portrayed in black and white. Those who suffer should be recognised, and the Khojaly Massacre should be remembered alongside other instances of ethnic cleansing.”

Dr Roman Huna, Head, TEAS Belgium, concluded: “These pictures exemplify the peace in the country, which is an inescapable element of the Azerbaijani mentality, traditions and values. In Brussels, Azerbaijan is being brought to the European stage. The Khojaly Tragedy on 26 February 1992 was extremely serious and this exhibition helps us recall the sacrifice of the victims.”

During the opening, vibrant music was performed by Azerbaijani violinist Dr Sabina Rakcheyeva, Cultural Advisor, TEAS, who was the first Azerbaijani graduate from the Juilliard School in New York. Playing alongside the London-based Deco Ensemble, she performed a range of works by the Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla, jazz-mugham pioneer Vagif Mustafazadeh and arrangements of Azerbaijani traditional pieces.

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Ambassador Siddiq: Nagorno-Karabakh resolution must respect territorial integrity and self-determination

2014-02-14

Speaking to journalists during a visit to Ganja, H.E. Irfan Siddiq, UK Ambassador to Azerbaijan, commented: “The UK believes the conflict should be resolved peacefully with respect for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and according to the general principle of self-determination.”

Ambassador Siddiq said: “This conflict hasn’t been resolved for a long time, the parties are suffering, and this issue should be solved soon. We support the meetings that have recently taken place between the Presidents and Foreign Ministers of the two countries. We are ready to provide any support, as a party interested in resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

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Upsurge in ‘contact line’ violence

2014-02-14

Armenian sniper fire killed Sabuhi Azizov, an Azerbaijani Lieutenant, on the ‘contact line’ near the village of Agdam, in the Tovuz region. His bravery was subsequently acknowledged by Zakir Hasanov, Azerbaijani Defence Minister, who awarded him with a Third Class Medal for Distinguished Military Service regarding personal courage in the battlefield.

In a separate incident, Eshgin Guliyev, an Azerbaijani soldier, was killed by sniper fire. He also received a Third Class Medal for Distinguished Military Service. Previously, the Armenian army shot Captain Elnur Jafarov, an Azerbaijani officer. A village resident was also wounded near the ‘contact line’, due to Armenian shelling of the Tovuz region.

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Foreign Ministers meet in Paris

2014-02-14

Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Minister of Foreign Affairs has discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Edward Nalbandian, his Armenian counterpart, in Paris. Both sides also met the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs – Igor Popov (Russian Federation), Jacques Fauré (France), and James Warlick (US). According to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, Mr Mammadyarov explained that if Armenian armed forces were swiftly removed from the Azerbaijani occupied territories, the sooner the conflict would be resolved, in accordance with international law. The sides also agreed to continue discussions with the OSCE Minsk Group.

Andrzej Kasprzyk, Personal Representative, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, briefed the Co-Chairs on recent developments on the border and the ‘contact line’. The Co-Chairs expressed their deep concern over continued violence in the region, stressing that recent incidents serve to undermine negotiations and diminish the prospects for peace. They called on both sides to fully and unconditionally respect the ceasefire terms.

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Head of EU Delegation stresses EU engagement

2014-02-14

Speaking at a press conference, Malena Mard, Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan, stated: “We are concerned over the recent tension on the ‘contact line’ between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops. The EU has always kept this issue at the focus of attention.” She said that Philippe Lefort, EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia, had recently visited Azerbaijan. Ms Mard continued: “In the first instance, the OSCE Minsk Group should assist with conflict resolution, and EU representatives have already organised meetings with the Co-Chairs. The EU is ready to hear the proposals of the parties and Co-Chairs.”

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US Secretary and OSCE representative remain optimistic

2014-02-14

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, John Kerry, US Secretary of State, commented on the work currently being undertaken to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. According to the US State Department, he said: “You're not hearing about it. We’re working on Nagorno-Karabakh – the Caucasus.”

During the same conference, Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, met Lamberto Zannier, OSCE Secretary-General, where he outlined the ongoing attempts to peacefully resolve the conflict. Mr Zannier expressed his concerns over the recent ceasefire violations. Mr Mammadyarov replied that, to achieve peaceful conflict settlement, Armenian armed forces must be withdrawn from the occupied territories.

More than 20 heads of state and government and over 60 foreign and defence ministers attended the conference. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General; Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council; Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary-General and Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, also participated at the forum.

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ICRC estimates that 3765 people remain ‘missing’

2014-02-14

The Baku office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has calculated that 3765 people were registered as ‘missing persons’ during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Deniz Duran, Head, ICRC Baku, explained: “The frontline communities are those living around 3km from the ‘contact line’. The ICRC has many opportunities to visit these people.” She noted that the establishment of the relevant state commissions by Azerbaijan and Armenia was indicative that both sides are interested in clarifying the fate of the ‘missing persons’. She explained: “Currently, the State Commissions from both sides are without direct contact. The ICRC, as a neutral party, mediates between them, and we hope that these Commissions will liaise directly in the future.”

She commented: “We are working to achieve data preservation. We hope that, in the future, the sides will conduct exhumations and families will be given information about their loved ones, based on this collected information.” Ms Duran explained that the ICRC implements programmes for civilians living in areas located close to the frontline, and persons whose relatives went missing in the conflict.

Ms Duran deplored the frequent ceasefire breaches on the contact line, saying: “We are in contact with representatives from the communities and government agencies. These territories will be visited once the situation becomes stable. For safety reasons, we do not currently have representatives in the areas where shootings have occurred.”

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Swiss OSCE Chair to focus on protracted conflicts

2014-02-14

Didier Burkhalter, Swiss Foreign Minister, and new OSCE Chair, has outlined the priorities for the Swiss Chairmanship of the OSCE. Speaking during his first Permanent Council in Vienna, he said: “Protracted conflicts in the South Caucasus, including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the consequences of the August 2008 conflict in Georgia, and the Transdniestrian settlement process are also high on the agenda. We are well aware that progress may not come overnight, and that no settlement will be feasible unless the parties are committed. However, we firmly believe that it is not an option to simply wait and see.”

Mr Burkhalter later received in Bern the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, during which he expressed his appreciation for their efforts to mediate a settlement. They subsequently met Yves Rossier, State Secretary of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

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Rathmer’s stark images of Khojaly IDPs displayed on UK railway billboards

2013-03-20

Philipp Rathmer, leading German photographer, is probably best-known for his fashion and celebrity photographs of such people as Luciano Pavarotti, Jay-Z and Sophia Loren. However, a different side to his work is currently on display on billboards at railway stations across England and Wales, in a TEAS initiative. These feature two IDPs from the town of Khojaly in Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh. On the night of 26 February 1992, Armenian forces, supported by the No. 366 Soviet Infantry Regiment, killed 613 civilians as they tried to escape the town.

During July 2012, Philipp spent one week photographing IDPs and refugees in camps in the Azerbaijani towns of Takhtakorpu and Gunzali, near the Armenian border, and Darnagul and Gizilgum, located north of Baku, for a TEAS initiative entitled Five Roads Back Home. Throughout, he represented the suffering of these people by focusing on their faces in extreme close-up, against a black background, lit in indirect sunlight, emphasising their private tragedies through their facial expressions. Altogether, 50 of these photographs were later displayed at Epicentro, Berlin in October, and were also published in a catalogue (see TEAS Magazine, November 2012, pp.6–7).

Nazrin Khanlarova, aged 10, and Mahira Ibrahimova, aged 48, were both photographed in the Gizilgum IDP camp. Philipp remembered: “Mahira looked very sad – she had lost many family members due to the war, including her father and only brother, who were taken as prisoners of war. Their health deteriorated, and they died soon afterwards. By comparison, Nazrin, the little girl, was quite open and strong. She has never been to Khojaly, but heard about it from her parents. I photographed 160 IDPs and refugees altogether, capturing the different age groups represented in the camps. All the IDPs told their own stories. There were many massacres during the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions, and each of them told me about their hometowns and their experiences as their land was occupied.”

The posters urged UK citizens and residents to sign a petition to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, asking him to publicly condemn the massacre and the ongoing occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions, which flout four UN Security Council resolutions. This may be signed at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/45878.

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A minute’s silence for Khojaly

2013-03-20

On 26 February at 17:00hrs, local time, Azerbaijan honoured the cherished memory of the Khojaly Massacre victims with a moment of silence. At this time, the movement of vehicles on the streets and subway trains was suspended. Commemorative events were held across the country, and thousands of people in Baku visited the memorial to the victims in Khatai District.

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Sheffield Azerbaijan Society holds Khojaly Commemoration

2013-03-20

The Sheffield Azerbaijan Society (SAS) organised a commemorative event regarding the Khojaly Massacre, supported by TEAS. Its objective was to raise awareness of this tragedy amongst Azerbaijani students. Altogether, over 500 students were informed about the massacre, some of whom participated in a video, where they indicated their support for the Justice for Khojaly campaign.

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Liberal MEP urges the EU to upscale peace efforts

2013-03-20

Whilst hosting an event to commemorate the Khojaly Massacre in the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels, Kristiina Ojuland (ALDE, Estonia) said: “The EU has a historic opportunity to become more involved in seeking peaceful resolution of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. For more than two decades, Azerbaijan has suffered from an illegal occupation of its territory by Armenia and has had to accommodate 875,000 IDPs and refugees. The massacre in Khojaly was a terrible milestone in the conflict, which showed the kinds of atrocities to which such conflicts can lead. The EU should demonstrate that it deserves its Nobel Peace Prize by acting immediately to seek a peaceful end to this conflict.”

The EP roundtable was organised by TEAS Belgium to mark the 21st anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre. H.E. Fuad Isgandarov, Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Belgium and the EU stated: “The events that occurred in 1992 remain an unrecognised atrocity, and those responsible have to be brought to justice. At the same time, after more then two decades, the EU has to fully recognise what took place.”

Bruno De Cordier, Professor of Ghent University, commented: “Khojaly is the Azerbaijani equivalent of Srebrenica. It continues to live in the memory of Azerbaijanis as no other issue does. This crime against humanity is currently the strongest civil issue, and has become an inescapable element of Azerbaijani life.” Since then, a whole generation of young people have grown up who have never seen their homeland, after their families were forced to flee Nagorno-Karabakh. Speaking at the Brussels roundtable, one of them, Ulfat Hajiev, told MEPs, academics and fellow Azerbaijanis: “The lives of 613 people should not be forgotten. I am from Nagorno-Karabakh and belong to a generation that has since grown up, but still faces the sadness of conflict. It is very important that we never forget what happened at Khojaly, and remember why it matters.”

Philippe Cuylaerts, Public Affairs Manager, TEAS Belgium, commented: “Today’s discussion reminds us of a terrible tragedy, but at the same time it can serve as a lesson. It should teach us that dreadful things can happen when conflicts remain unresolved, and should act as a catalyst for Europe to do more to seek a peaceful and sustainable settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, respecting the international legal framework.”

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A minute’s silence for Khojaly

2013-03-20

On 26 February at 17:00hrs, local time, Azerbaijan honoured the cherished memory of the Khojaly Massacre victims with a moment of silence. At this time, the movement of vehicles on the streets and subway trains was suspended. Commemorative events were held across the country, and thousands of people in Baku visited the memorial to the victims in Khatai District.

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Sheffield Azerbaijan Society holds Khojaly Commemoration

2013-03-20

The Sheffield Azerbaijan Society (SAS) organised a commemorative event regarding the Khojaly Massacre, supported by TEAS. Its objective was to raise awareness of this tragedy amongst Azerbaijani students. Altogether, over 500 students were informed about the massacre, some of whom participated in a video, where they indicated their support for the Justice for Khojaly campaign.

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TEAS-commissioned piece Khojaly 613 moves audiences in Paris and London

2013-03-20

An audience of more than 500 people, including Lords, MPs, diplomats and music-lovers, attended the Khojaly Commemoration Concert on 26 February at St. John’s, Smith Square, in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament. The concert was organised by TEAS in order to commemorate the 613 civilians killed 21 years to the day in the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly, Nagorno-Karabakh, when it was forcibly occupied by Armenian armed forces, supported by the No. 366 Soviet Infantry Regiment. The evening featured the London-based Orion Orchestra under the baton of the leading conductor and composer Laurent Petitgirard.

The centrepiece of the evening was the UK première of a moving new piece, Khojaly 613, composed by Pierre Thilloy, dedicated to the victims of the Khojaly tragedy. The work was written for violin, balaban, percussion and string orchestra. Featured was the evocative sound of the balaban, an Azerbaijani wind instrument, performed by the internationally-acclaimed virtuoso Shirzad Fataliyev. The violinist was Sabina Rakcheyeva, the first Azerbaijani graduate from the Juilliard School in New York and Cultural Advisor, TEAS.

This outstanding work ably captured the horror of the Khojaly Massacre, featuring Azerbaijani folk tunes, including Lachin and Sari Gelin, set against a rich orchestral backdrop of military march rhythms and the sounds of conflict. The violin and balaban – which has a plaintive quality, akin to the human voice – represented the soul of the Azerbaijani people that fateful night, with the violin solo section gradually reaching a furious tempo until coming to a sudden, unexpected halt.

Writing about the piece, the composer said: “The Khojaly Massacre ranks amongst one of the most vivid and nightmarish visions in the collective memory of the Azerbaijani people, stemming from the dark, insidious Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that continues to harm an entire people.

“There is a mechanism, commonly called ‘memory’, which, far from providing vulgar pathos, is a bulwark against oblivion, and operates as a timeless sentinel of dignity. ‘Memory’ has always been a creative banner for composers and artists, who, beyond any political or revolutionary context, are able to remind others of milestones, troubled moments, and dramas, which touch the very depths of their soul.”

H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK, said: “The tragedy happened exactly 21 years ago today. At that time, the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia was taking place, and we still remain at war, although a ceasefire was declared in 1994. The Khojaly Massacre was one of the blackest pages in the history of our nation. It is apt that this concert is taking place in a former church. Whether it is a church, mosque or temple, these are the houses of God. Human beings are the creatures of God, who gave us life, and only God has the right to take away life. Those people who took away the lives of these 613 people have never been brought to justice. International law forbids the killing of civilians, and this was a crime. Such terrible occurrences must never be repeated.”

Tale Heydarov, Chairman, TEAS commented: “The UK has been through two world wars, which were the biggest in the history of mankind, and Europe lost millions of people. Today, we see a stable Europe. Those wars have taught people a big lesson. Those people who committed crimes were brought to justice. This was not the case with the perpetrators of the Khojaly Massacre, which was a planned offensive against civilians.”

Christopher Pincher MP, Chair, Azerbaijan All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) continued: “All those who died were someone’s husband, wife, daughter, or son. The Nagorno-Karabakh war has a continuing impact. The great English philosopher Edmund Burke said that: ‘Those who do not know their history are destined to repeat it.’ We must never repeat the horrors of 26 February 1992. It is the responsibility of those who seek greater friendship with Azerbaijan to remember this, to play their part in remembering the victims and ensuring that it never happens again.”

The programme also included the Nizami Symphony by the Azerbaijani composer Fikret Amirov (1922–84), which was inspired by the work of the 12th century Azerbaijani poet Nizami Ganjavi. This piece demonstrated his synthesis of western classical techniques and glorious, passionate Azerbaijani mugham, known as ‘symphonic mugham’ It is generally acknowledged that mugham music originated in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which remains occupied by Armenia. This ongoing occupation has caused the camps housing 875,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees to be spread across Azerbaijan.

This emotional evening also included the angelic sound of the Schola Cantorum of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School Choir, performing two pieces dedicated to Christ’s suffering on the Cross – Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus. Also on the programme was Sir Edward Elgar’s elegiac Introduction and Allegro for Strings, a multilayered symphonic poem, featuring polyphonic interwoven themes and a fragment of a Welsh traditional song. As an encore, the string orchestra performed a piece of meditative music by Laurent Petitgirard, written for a section of the film Ecrire contre l'oubli (Lest We Forget).

Five days earlier, Khojaly 613 received its world premiere at the Baroque Église St-Roch in Paris, located in the first arrondissement. The programme was identical to the London concert, other than the choral works, which were not performed. Eliza Pieter, Head, TEAS France commented: “One has to forgive in order to be able to rebuild peace, but one should never forget. It is imperative to remember, without having the desire for revenge. This has been achieved by the people of France and Germany, in order to restore peace. Surely music is the best way of remembering the Khojaly victims?”

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Khojaly remembered in Germany

2013-03-20

On 25 February, a literary evening entitled Karabakh – Tales from the Lost Home, took place at the Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum, Berlin, held to commemorate the Khojaly Massacre. This was organised by the European Congress Azerbaijan, supported by the Diaspora Committee of Azerbaijan, and attended by around 150 people.

In her welcoming remarks, Samira Patzer-Ismailova, Chair, European Congress Azerbaijan, underlined the importance of developing a literary perspective on the events of 26 February 1992. She remarked that it was apt that the commemoration took place in the Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum, as that artist is still honoured in Germany, due to her courageous acts of pacifism during the interwar period. Mrs Patzer-Ismailova expressed her deep gratitude for having been invited to remember the massacre in these surroundings.

H.E. Parviz Shahbazov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Germany, went on to outline the importance of the Nagorno-Karabakh region as the hub of Azerbaijani culture, the ongoing intransigence of Armenia, and the importance of ensuring Azerbaijani territorial integrity as the ultimate goal of Azerbaijan‘s foreign policy.

Mrs Fritsch, wife of the director for the Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum, explained that Käthe Kollwitz was affected throughout her life by the knowledge that she sent her child into combat in World War I, from which he never returned. She had previously been under the delusion that fighting in the war would be heroic, and Mrs Fritsch displayed photographs of Kollwitz’s monument to mourning parents.

Professor Dr Fuhrmann criticised Armenia, saying that the murder of one child can never be justified, either by claims to the right for self-determination, nor any other reason. He explained that this represents a mockery of international law and every other human right. Professor Dr Furhrmann explained that the destruction of the city of Shusha was an act of unparalleled Armenian barbarism. He also condemned the planned reopening of Khojaly Airport.

Following this, Ronald Granz read two short stories entitled The Father and Shusha, both of which deal with childhood memories of Nagorno-Karabakh, written by Günel Anarkysy who based the stories on her own memories of visiting the region during holiday periods. She explained that she still regards Nagorno-Karabakh as paradise, and looks forward to the day when she can return. The final discussion was led by Dr Michael Butz.

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Khojaly Massacre art exhibition opens in Berlin

2013-03-20

An exhibition entitled Khojaly – For Peace, Against War has opened at the Berlin-Baku-Gallery in Berlin. The exhibition showcased artworks by young artists from the Azerbaijan Artists’ Union, Azerbaijan State Painting Academy and Azerbaijan State University of Culture and Art, who had submitted artworks for a competition commemorating the tragedy. H.E. Parviz Shahbazov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Germany, spoke on the impact of the Khojaly Massacre and Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Attendees also viewed a short film about the massacre.

Speakers included Art Temuchin Afandiyev, Principal, Azerbaijan State University of Culture and Salhab Mammadov, Pro-Rector, Azerbaijan State Painting Academy, who commented on the objectives of the competition. One of the artists, Ruhangiz Islamova, presented a carpet reflecting the tragedy to the Azerbaijani Embassy in Germany.

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Armenians assault Azerbaijanis in French Assembly

2013-03-20

On 26 February, during a conference organised by the French Bureau of the Armenian Cause at the National Assembly in Paris entitled 25 Years after the Sumgait Pogroms, the Present Situation and Future Perspectives for the People of Nagorno-Karabakh, two Azerbaijanis were horrifically beaten up.

Mirvari Fataliyeva, a French woman of Azerbaijani descent, and who is the President of the Maison de l’Azerbaïdjan in Paris, and Vusal Huseynov, a young Azerbaijani student, were assaulted when they tried to point out that 26 February is the 21st anniversary of the tragic events at Khojaly. None of the audience, including the MPs present, tried to help the two Azerbaijanis and prevent them from being attacked. TEAS strongly condemns all such acts of violence, and this particular incident was all the more shocking because it occurred within the precincts of the National Assembly. Both victims were hospitalised as a result of their injuries, where Huseynov was treated for a cracked rib. The incident was subsequently reported to the police.

Eliza Pieter, Head, TEAS France, said: “It is regrettable that the Armenians, who always claim they want peace, in reality, react with violence when their version of history is challenged. This incident also sadly shows that Armenians and Armenian supporters in France are not yet ready to openly discuss the massacres that happened in the past. The events at Sumgait were indeed tragic, with both ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis being killed. However, the incident was investigated, and the individuals who perpetrated the killings were convicted. Nobody has ever been brought to justice for the massacre at Khojaly.

“H.E. Elchin Amirbeyov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to France, and several French Senators have already condemned the violence and injuries inflicted on Mirvari and Vusal. TEAS hopes that the President of the French National Assembly will speak up and join in the condemnation. France is the Republic of liberty, equality and fraternity and such acts of violence should never have occurred.”

Nathalie Goulet, French MP, subsequently condemned the incident, commenting that it contravened moral and democratic principles. She said: “Such issues cannot be solved by rioters, especially when they represent the diaspora in an official place.” She explained that such occurrences create a bad image for the Armenian diaspora, and concluded: “I hope the people responsible will be severely punished.”

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MEPs express concern over proposed Khojaly Airport reopening

2013-03-20

Writing in New Europe magazine, several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have expressed their concern regarding the proposed reopening of Khojaly Airport. Inese Vaidere MEP (EPP, Latvia) said the move: “Would seriously harm the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Firstly, the Armenian initiative to open the Khojaly Airport can be seen as the claim of a change in the status of Nagorno-Karabakh that is in clear contravention of the Madrid Principles. Secondly, the opening of air traffic between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia could be seen as a violation of Azerbaijani airspace, and thus might cause a counter-reaction. Therefore, the opening of Khojaly Airport should be considered a provocation, and an obstacle to conflict resolution, endangering mutual confidence-building. Instead, both sides should continue to comply with current practice regarding flights over their territory.”

The MEP went on to note the symbolism associated with the Khojaly Massacre in 1992, commenting that this could potentially lead to further increased tensions across the region. He continued: “The plan for opening air traffic between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia has already caused a knock-on effect from the Azerbaijani side, which has announced its readiness to destroy aircraft deemed to enter their airspace. Any provocative action from either of the sides that has a potential to make the situation more precarious must be internationally condemned. Furthermore, the reopening of Khojaly Airport by the Armenian authorities could be perceived as disrespecting both the EU and the OSCE Minsk Group’s efforts in the whole peace process.

“The EU can certainly do more to help resolve conflicts in the region, in particular through Action Plans with each of the countries and also by means of the office of the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus. Yet another way for the EU to become more engaged in the conflict resolution would be to replace France in the OSCE Minsk Group. Not only would it counterbalance the key regional players – Russia and the USA – but would also improve the mediation approach. It is necessary to reach a breakthrough after 20 years of stalemate in the conflict resolution in order to establish a lasting peace so that thousands of IDPs are able to return to Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Boris Zala MEP (PES, Slovakia) revealed that there is a clear concern in Brussels that the airport reopening could reignite the conflict. He said: “I still hope it will not come to that. My instinct tells me that the situation will calm down following the Armenian presidential elections. The issue certainly impedes conflict resolution, and complicates the work of the OSCE Minsk Group and the EU. There is no other way for the airport to operate but in accordance with international and standard flight practices – in other words, only with the authorisation of the Azerbaijani authorities. Any other mode of operation would pose risks for the planes and their passengers – and violate international law.”

When quizzed about EP actions being undertaken to prevent the opening of Khojaly Airport, Zala said: “If the situation grows more serious, I expect the EP to adopt a resolution, mounting pressure on both sides to avert escalation of the conflict, and on the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Commission, and the Council of Europe to get more involved. And let‘s not forget that the EU is not without political and economic leverage over Armenia – after all, we are entering the final stages of negotiations on a new trade agreement. So, even if not directly involved in conflict mediation, the EU is not powerless. And, for that matter, neither is the European Parliament, which will need to give its consent to closer political and trade association with Armenia.”

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Armenian election disputed by opposition

2013-03-20

On 18 February, it was revealed by the Armenian Central Election Commission that Armenian President Sezh Sargsyan had been re-elected with 59 per cent of the vote, with the main opposition candidate, Raffi Hovannisian, coming second with almost 37 per cent. Third place was occupied by Hrant Bagratyan, another opposition candidate, who attracted just 2.2 per cent of the vote.

Sargsyan’s re-election was widely anticipated during the campaign period as the main political forces of Armenia – the opposition alliance Armenian National Congress, Prosperous Armenia, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation parties – decided not to participate in the election. They collectively stated that it would be impossible to hold a free and fair vote, and that changing the Armenian government through elections has effectively become impossible, due to vote-rigging by the authorities. In 2008, Sargsyan came to power, following deadly clashes in Yerevan between opposition supporters and the authorities, which claimed the lives of ten people on 1 March 2008. Sargsyan is also the president of the ruling Republican Party, which holds 70 seats in the 131-member National Assembly.

Hovannisian’s 37 per cent share was surprising, as the 53-year-old US-born lawyer served as the first Foreign Minister of independent Armenia and now leads the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, which has only four parliamentary seats. This is the first time he has participated in a presidential election, having been previously ineligible to run for president as he failed to meet the 10-year citizenship requirement for candidates.

Richard Giragosian, Director of the Yerevan-based Regional Studies Centre, said: “Hovannisian has emerged as the opposition leader in the Armenian post-election context. He is probably not the most natural opposition leader, but in many ways it is more of a reflection about anti-government discontent, unhappiness in general and the dissatisfaction with the political system, than it is about the direct support of Hovannisian personally. We saw a missed opportunity for a deeper strengthening of democracy and democratic credentials. However, in the broader context, both the May 2012 parliamentary elections and this presidential election were an improvement, when compared to previous elections. The scale and scope of the improvement in the conduct of the election, however, was insufficient and not enough to meet rising expectations.”

Hovannisian is now challenging the CEC figures with regard to alleged cases of election fraud, mostly comprising ballot stuffing, the misuse of administrative resources, and pressure on voters.

Giragosian continued: “I think the only significant part of the election is the beginning of a political transition where, in many ways, although re-elected to a second term, the president has no successor and is the last of a specific political elite; the last of an elite that came to power from Nagorno-Karabakh and acquired political power because of Nagorno-Karabakh as an unresolved conflict. We will see the transition post-Sargsyan in the next presidential contest for a leadership that is no longer from Nagorno-Karabakh and probably defined by a new generation of younger people who rose through the Armenian government, and not because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

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New film on Khojaly receives UK premiere

2013-03-20

The new feature film Xoca, directed by Vahid Mustafayev and produced by the ANS Group, has been premiered at the Princess Anne Theatre, BAFTA in Mayfair, London, in an event organised by the University College London (UCL) Azerbaijan Society and the Azerbaijani Embassy to the UK, attended by around 80 people.

Telling the story of a couple that are betrothed to be married on the day of the Khojaly Massacre on 26 February 1992, this was an extremely moving depiction of the events of that night. It clearly showed the confusion amongst the Azerbaijani troops, the way that the ferocity of the Armenian and Soviet forces was seriously underestimated, and the breakdown in communications that impacted adequate reporting of the massacre.

Fuad Mustafayev, UK Correspondent, ANS Group and son of Chingiz Mustafayev, a journalist who filmed the aftermath of the Khojaly Massacre and lost his own life in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, commented: “When I was only a few months old, my father, Chingiz left us with his life’s work, recording the brutality and violence of the war. His footage of the Khojaly Massacre provided the evidence of this crime to the international community. My uncle, Vahid, who directed the film, was aware of what was happening in the buildup to the Massacre. It is based on fact – on the memories of those who died in Khojaly and my Uncle’s memories. It was made because we cannot forget those who died in Khojaly.“

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Black January victims commemorated in London

2013-02-22

Commemorated on 20 January, Black January is the name given to one of the most important dates during the Azerbaijani struggle for independence from the Soviet Union. On 19–20 January 1990, Soviet troops fired upon an estimated one million civilians who were protesting in central Baku. Official figures estimate that over 130 civilians were killed, and more than 700 were injured.

This year, on 18 January, a solemn ceremony took place at the Azerbaijani Embassy in the UK. Following a one minute silence, Ambassador Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK, said: “The people made their sacrifice to achieve the independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The action of the Soviet army contravened the constitution of the Soviet Union and of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR). The Soviet military, which included many soldiers of Armenian ethnicity, were sent to Baku to shoot their own citizens, just prior to the Soviet collapse. Uprisings were simultaneously taking place in the Baltic republics, and it can be said that Azerbaijan played a key role in the breakup of the Soviet Union. The people who died sacrificed their lives for a better future, and we are thankful to all those who gave their lives on 20 January.

“Following the massacre, a State of Emergency was imposed in Azerbaijan, and this remained in force for a while. However, this did not cure Azerbaijan’s desire for independence. In order to reduce international condemnation, Azerbaijan’s main television station was put out of action by the Soviet forces. Information on the uprisings could only be spread by radio, relayed via foreign stations, and it took a long time for the international community to find out what had actually happened. The final Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, who signed the order to send the troops to Baku, later recognised that this decision was the worst that he ever made. In fact, the uprisings in Baku came in the wake of nationalist movements in Tbilisi and Minsk. Despite having introduced the concepts of perestroika and glasnost, Gorbachev regarded these movements as representing a threat to Moscow, and that it is the reason why such disproportionate force was used.

“The people who perpetrated these acts remain unpunished, and we need to bring the truth to the attention of the world. Following the suppression of the uprising, the Azerbaijanis living in Armenia were heavily persecuted.”

Following the screening of a moving documentary, the writer and poet David Parry commented: “One person who dies for freedom is a loss. I have been to Martyrs’ Alley in Baku, and saw recognisable faces on the gravestones of those who died during Black January. The pain of the Azerbaijani people is omnipresent. These people will never die in our hearts and minds, and all acts of giving are rewarded.”

Farida Panahova, Board Member, Azerbaijan House was in Baku at the time, and recalled: “This was a turning point in the story of Azerbaijani independence, and the country was transformed overnight. Due to the impact of Gorbachev’s policies, which were giving Soviet citizens a degree of freedom, the collapse of the Soviet Union was imminent. Since 1985, several uprisings had taken place in various Soviet Republics prior to those in Baku. In 1988, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh declared their independence, and the Kremlin supported this continuation of their policy of divide and rule.

“Prior to the entry of the Soviet troops into Baku, arms were removed from the police stations, and hospitals were emptied so they could receive the expected casualties. Basic human rights were suspended, and a State of Emergency was declared to assist with the restoration of law and order in the country. The Kremlin tried to keep the outside world ignorant of what happened, but reports in the Washington Times and by Human Rights Watch, amongst others, spoke of the disproportionate violence that had been used. In fact, this was a warning to nationalist movements, particularly following the humiliation of the Soviet forces in the Baltic Republics.

“We all remember those who gave their lives. On 20 January 1990, the fate of the Soviet Empire was sealed. This was also our first step on the path towards becoming a nation state, and helped create a sense of national identity. On Black January, members of many ethnic groups represented in Baku were killed. Azerbaijan finally achieved its independence in 1991, but a byproduct of its struggle – the ongoing occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions – continues to this day. We call for international pressure to be exerted on Armenia to bring an end to this situation.”

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Free tickets – Khojaly concerts in Paris and London

2013-02-22

As part of its annual commemorations of the Khojaly Massacre, which occurred during the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, TEAS is organising two concerts in Paris and London, respectively. The first of these, on 21 February, will be held at Eglise St Roch 296, rue Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris at 20.30hrs, and the second will be on 26 February at St. John’s, Smith Square, London, SW1P 3HA at 19.00hrs. Tickets for both concerts will be free, and RSVPs can be made at www.teas.eu/upcoming-events.

Both concerts will be given by The Orion Orchestra, conducted by Laurent Petitgirard, featuring Sabina Rakcheyeva (violin) and Cultural Advisor, TEAS; and Shirzad Fataliyev (balaban). The Schola Cantorum of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial Choir will also participate in the London concert. The concerts will both feature Fikret Amirov’s Nizami Symphony for strings, written in 1947, featuring the ‘symphonic mugham’ style that he developed, and Sir Edward Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for Strings.

However, the centerpiece of both concerts will be Khojaly 613, by the contemporary French composer Pierre Thilloy, who has visited Azerbaijan on numerous occasions. The world premiere of this chamber piece will take place in Paris, and the UK premiere will follow in London. This new piece includes an improvised section for the balaban, an Azerbaijani wind instrument, which will be performed by Shirzad Fataliyev, one of the leading virtuosi on the instrument.

When discussing his motivation for the piece, Pierre Thilloy said: “There is a mechanism, commonly called ‘memory’, which, far from providing vulgar pathos, is a bulwark against oblivion, and operates as a timeless sentinel of dignity. ‘Memory’ has always been a creative banner for composers and artists, who, beyond any political or revolutionary context, are able to remind others of milestones, troubled moments, and dramas, which touch the very depths of their soul.

“By writing Khojaly 613, I wanted to pay a unilateral tribute to the men and women whose flesh and spirit suffered during this terrible night, and to those who lost everything, even hope. By paying tribute, I wanted to share a little peace and serenity with them.

“This terrifying event touched me during my first trip to Azerbaijan in July 2001 through some sort of negative miracle by which you appropriate another person’s pain, as a vague and indefinable sense of tragedy that no words can explain. Since then, I have been constantly attempting to compose a work in tribute to the victims in order to be at peace.“

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Khojaly Airport impact assessed in House of Lords

2013-02-22

Lord Kilclooney has asked a question regarding the UK Government’s stance on the proposed reopening of Khojaly Airport and its possible ramifications for the achievement of a negotiated peace in the Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions.

Baroness Warsi, Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, replied: “The Government are in touch with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs on a regular basis about issues related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We welcomed the fact that, at their meeting in Paris on 28 January, the Co-Chairs had the opportunity to discuss the issue of flights from the airport in Nagorno-Karabakh with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“The Co-Chairs recalled their statement of 13 July 2012, which noted that they had received renewed assurances from the sides that they will reject any threat or use of force against civil aircraft; reaffirmed that the operation of the airport in Nagorno-Karabakh cannot be used to support any claim of a change in the status of Nagorno-Karabakh; and urged the sides to act in accordance with international law and consistent with current practice for flights over their territory. The Government supports the position of the Co-Chairs and continues to call on all sides to resolve this issue through diplomatic steps and to refrain from politicising it.”

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Politicians across Europe condemn airport reopening

2013-02-22

A threat by Armenia to reopen Khojaly Airport in Nagorno-Karabakh has unleashed a wave of protest from politicians across Europe and the political spectrum. French Senators, members of the German Bundestag, British Parliamentarians and members of the European Parliament have warned that the Armenian move is provocative, illegal, and threatens the already fragile peace process in the South Caucasus.

Their protests follow statements from the French, Russian and US Co-Chairs from the OSCE Minsk Group, tasked with achieving a negotiated peace. Espen Barth Eide, Norwegian Foreign Minister, who recently visited the region, said that: “Norway condemns carrying out flights from this airport. Armenia must not resort to provocative actions.”

The European politicians are united in their opposition to statements made in the run-up to this month’s Armenian Presidential election by President Serzh Sargsyan, suggesting that Armenia will reopen Khojaly Airport. The airport has remained closed since the Armenian occupation in 1992. Armenia’s plans have provoked swift and broad opposition from key politicians in France, Germany, the UK and the European Parliament.

Lionel Zetter, Director, TEAS, said that the wave of opposition to Armenia’s threat from across Western Europe should act as a wake-up call to governments that there is a real danger of a rapid escalation of tension in the area, caused by an unravelling of efforts by the international community to peacefully resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He added that the Armenian moves demonstrated particular insensitivity, coming just weeks before the 21st anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre, when 613 members of the local population were murdered by invading Armenian armed forces.

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Russian Defence Minister Shoygu visits Armenia

2013-02-22

Sergei Shoygu, the newly-appointed Russian Defence Minister, has concluded his first official visit to Armenia, according to the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The media did not report on whether Shoygu spoke about the possible opening of Khojaly Airport during his meetings with Armenian President Sargsyan and Seyran Ohanian, Armenian Defence Minister. However, Russian Ministry sources stated that Russian delegation members advised Armenians against undertaking such a move. Special attention was simultaneously paid to discussions on details regarding the draft agreement on Russo-Armenian military-technical co-operation. The heads of the two countries are expected to sign the agreement in the near future.

Russian Lieutenant-General Yuri Netkachev explained: ““ventually, Russia will set its face towards Armenia, which is its main and strategic ally in the South Caucasus. Strengthening Armenia’s military potential is a guarantee of stability in the region.”

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Azerbaijan and Armenia hold talks in Paris

2013-02-22

Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, met Edward Nalbandian, his Armenian counterpart, in Paris for talks on Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the OSCE Minsk Group, the one-day talks represented a new attempt to advance the peace process. In a statement, the Group’s Co-Chairs from France, Russia and the US said: “The Foreign Ministers reiterated their support for a peaceful settlement and their determination to continue negotiations ... (They) agreed to a further discussion of the peace process in the coming weeks.”

Speaking to Reuters, an Azerbaijani diplomatic source said he did not think talks were moving closer to a resolution, although his country remained committed to negotiations. He said: “We are trying to find a solution to this impasse, giving a high degree of autonomy for the Armenians, but Nagorno-Karabakh has to remain as Azerbaijan territory.”

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Soldier and Lieutenant killed by sniper fire

2013-02-22

In an Azerbaijani Defence Ministry statement on 5 February, it was revealed that Sanan Dovlat Alizadeh has been killed by Armenian sniper fire. The 19-year-old had been posted near the Kuropatkino village in the Khojavand region, having been drafted from the Jalilabad region. On the same day, a sniper also claimed the life of Lieutenant Tural Nadir Asgarov.

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Euronest Co-Chair requests bloodless resolution

2013-02-22

During a press conference, Jiri Mastalka MEP, Co-Chair, Committee for Energy Security, Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, spoke of the need to peacefully resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. After acknowledging the work of the OSCE Minsk Group, he said: “It is necessary to move forward and not to tolerate new bloodshed. We have obtained experience in this issue across Europe, and know how to settle the problem so that both countries are satisfied and the rights of both parties are secured. As politicians, we are obliged to search for peaceful methods of settling problems. New bloodshed cannot be tolerated, and everything can be settled peacefully.”

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Armenian election hopeful Hayrikyan shot

2013-02-22

Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, Director, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), has expressed concern over the shooting on 31 January of Paruyr Hayrikyan, a candidate in Armenia’s forthcoming presidential election. He said: “This attack is deeply distressing, in view of the electoral process already underway, and I urge all stakeholders to refrain from any actions that might further aggravate the situation. We also urge the relevant authorities to pursue a robust investigation of this crime and prosecution of the perpetrators.”

Lenarčič went on to call for calm in the lead up to the election. Hayrikyan was shot and wounded by unknown assailants, leaving him hospitalised. On 7 February, the candidate’s campaign headquarters co-ordinator explained that Hayrikyan’s health had deteriorated, and a petition was made to delay the election. However, his condition subsequently improved, and this request was cancelled.

Dennis Sammut, Director, LINKS, commented: “I agree that this was not simply an attempt against a person, but rather against a process. Russia wants to see Serzh Sargsyan re-elected as president. So much is clear to everybody. However, Hayrikyan does not provide a serious challenge to Sargsyan, so why would they want to kill him? I don’t think I should speculate further on this. I hope the investigation is comprehensive and transparent. The Armenian people deserve answers.”

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Fleeing Armenians from Syria encouraged to illegally resettle in Nagorno-Karabakh

2013-02-22

A report from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) has revealed that some Armenians fleeing the conflict in Syria are receiving incentives to resettle in Nagorno-Karabakh. Robert Matevosyan, Head of the Resettlement Department in Gubadly, located in the Lachin Corridor of the unrecognised republic, said that 25 families had been relocated since the civil war began in Syria. He said: “The first families to come to Kovsakan already have their own houses, an apartment block has been restored, and others have been given homes. Those who moved to Berdzor are currently living in a guesthouse without paying any rent.”

Elman Abdullayev, Spokesman, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, said: “We have informed the UN and OSCE about the situation. This isn’t the first time that Armenia has carried out illegal settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh. This is a provocation, and hinders the peace process.” Although Gudably (Armenian: Kashatagh) is the largest district in Nagorno-Karabakh, its population stood at just 8,500 in 2011, as all its Azerbaijani residents are now internally displaced persons (IDPs). The occupying forces welcome any new arrivals that can increase the population. Homes are constructed or restored for the incomers, and Matevosyan said jobs were being found for the Armenians from Syria, who were also receiving food supplies. He commented: “We are giving farming families large patches of land.”

Abdullayev said: “Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijani land. It is unacceptable to settle Armenians from Syria there without the permission of Azerbaijan. It violates international law, and also the rights of the Azerbaijanis who were forced to leave Nagorno-Karabakh. It is also disappointing that the international community is opting to remain silent about this.”

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PACE discussion in Strasbourg

2013-02-22

The HALO Trust, which focuses on the safe removal of the explosive remnants of war (ERWs), has issued a report on the ongoing threat to the public posed by mines, cluster munitions and other unexploded ordnances. The report states that Nagorno-Karabakh has one of the world’s highest per capita rates of accidents caused by such devices, with minefields covering more than 50km² of land. A particular feature was the extensive use of anti-tank mines, which were used on roads, tracks and on verges, causing many accidents and deaths during the past two decades. These were also used in the fertile valleys of Nagorno-Karabakh. In addition to the minefields, more than 180km² of land was contaminated with unexploded ordnances (UXO), principally cluster munitions.

Since 2000, HALO has been the sole organisation in Nagorno-Karabakh undertaking the clearance of mines and cluster munitions, together with the disposal of UXOs. Additionally, HALO has established a Mine Action Centre (MAC) to collate all information concerning mines, ERWs and safe routes, going on to disseminate this information. To date, HALO has cleared an area covering more than 270 km², during which over 67,000 landmines, cluster munitions and other ERWs were destroyed.

In 2012, $12.5m (£8m) was spent on clearing mines and UXOs in Azerbaijan, according to the Azerbaijani National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA), $10.4m (£6.6m) of which was allocated by the Azerbaijani government, with $300,000 (£191,253) being supplied from the UNDP and $784,733 (£500,274) coming from the NATO/Partnership for Peace (PfP) Trust Fund.

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PACE discussion in Strasbourg

2013-02-22

A trilateral meeting has taken place in Strasbourg between Jean-Claude Mignon, President, Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe (PACE); David Harutyunyan, Head, Armenian Delegation to PACE; and Samed Seyidov, his Azerbaijani counterpart. Harutyunyan declined to answer questions on the dialogue that had taken place, saying: “We do not release information about such meetings: as agreed, any information we release should be co-ordinated with the three sides.”

Mignon explained that such trilateral meetings regularly take place in Strasbourg or Paris, and that the previous meeting was held in Turin. He said that such meetings remain unofficial and are not public, commenting: “I do not want to restore the activities of the Subcommittee on Nagorno-Karabakh for the reason that the OSCE Minsk Group does a very important job in conflict settlement.” The ad hoc PACE Subcommittee had briefly resumed its operations under Mevlut Cavusoglu, former PACE President.

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ECO countries urged to exert greater pressure on Armenia

2013-02-22

Cemil Cicek, Speaker, Turkish Parliament, has urged member countries of the Economic Co-operation Organisation (ECO) to protest against the ongoing occupation of Azerbaijani territories. The comments were made in Islamabad at a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of ECO (AECO). The meeting was attended by speakers from the parliaments of Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan, together with MPs from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

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Proposed airport opening in Nagorno-Karabakh condemned

2013-01-21

Mubariz Gurbanli, Azerbaijani MP, has commented that the possible opening of the airport in Nagorno-Karabakh, located in Khojaly, is aimed at delaying peace talks and impacting the ongoing negotiations. He said: “These attempts are illegal, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has the same opinion. Baku has protested, citing the provisions and principles contained in international legal norms and conventions. In all cases, the law is on our side, and diplomatic efforts to stop these attempts are being continued.”

Following the occupation of Azerbaijani territory, Azerbaijan banned the use of airspace over Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, as it is impossible to guarantee a safe air corridor in the area. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the European Civil Aviation Conference (ICAC) continue to support the position of Azerbaijan on this issue.

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Mammadyarov remains cautiously optimistic

2013-01-21

Speaking to EU Reporter, Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, has stressed the importance of the EU–Azerbaijan Co-operation Council in achieving a breakthrough in the impasse between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He stated: “Europe is intensively assessing the state of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan regarding conflict settlement. Unfortunately, we have not achieved breakthrough so far. I use the phrase ‘so far’, as I believe that resolution is possible.”

He reflected that the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs – the US, France and Russia – tasked with achieving a negotiated peace, are three permanent members of the UN Security Council (SC), who supported the four UNSC resolutions passed against the Armenian occupation in 1993. The Foreign Minister explained that they should fully understand how the conflict should be settled. He continued: “We have been trying to explain to our Armenian neighbours that the status quo situation, which exists today, is unacceptable. This has been reiterated by the Presidents of the three OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries.”

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BBC reporter raises awareness of the human tragedy

2013-01-21

Damien McGuinness, Caucasus Correspondent, BBC News, has broadcast an outstanding report about Nagorno-Karabakh on the influential BBC World Service programme From Our Own Correspondent and subsequently written a report for the BBC website at http://bit.ly/karabakh. Focusing on the humanitarian tragedy, he spoke to Antiga Gahramanova, an 80-year-old woman from Nagorno-Karabakh, who has been an internally displaced person (IDP) for 20 years. Her daughter and son-in-law were tragically killed in the conflict, and one of her grandchildren was shot in the foot. He also concentrates on concerns that the conflict could reignite. Mr McGuinness also interviews Alexander Iskandaryan, the Armenian Political Analyst, who explains: “For my students, Azerbaijanis are like something from the moon. They know more about Britain than about Azerbaijan. And the same goes for young people in Azerbaijan.”

The correspondent continues by visiting the ‘contact line’, describing it as: “hundreds of kilometres of deep trenches zigzag along the front line in western Azerbaijan. It all looks like something out of World War I. At regular intervals there are raised parapets, protected by sandbags, with gaps to shoot through.” He concludes his report by interviewing Lawrence Sheets, South Caucasus Project Director, International Crisis Group, who outlines the escalating risk to international security: “There are now offensive missile systems capable of hitting Baku and Yerevan, the capitals of Azerbaijan and Armenia. This is a conflict which has the danger of pulling in major regional powers.”

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MEP stresses need for EU participation

2013-01-21

An article entitled A Historic Chance for the European Union (EU) by Kristiina Ojuland MEP has been published in the online and printed editions of the Brussels-based New Europe newspaper, which has a readership of over 30,000 and can be read at http://bit.ly/ojuland. In the article, she states: “We talk about our common foreign and security policy, but we are often too timid about using our influence in our neighbourhood, even when all 27 member states are in broad agreement…coming from Estonia, I know only too well how difficult it can be to make the transition from being part of an authoritarian country to being an independent state that looks to Europe. We were lucky to get practical help from outside, not only from our closest neighbours, who are Finland and the Scandinavian countries.

“Right now, this is the case in the South Caucasus, whose closest neighbours are Russia to the north and Iran to the south. This is a region that has strong historical links to Europe and is set to play a crucial role in our own economic future, as it exports increasing amounts of energy. Yet I feel that more could be done in order to solve the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is more than 20 years now since those countries fought a bloody war over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, halted by a fragile ceasefire that left the underlying issues unresolved. Today, Armenian troops occupy the area and surrounding regions, while 875,000 refugees and IDPs live in Azerbaijan. Continuing border skirmishes have led to deaths on both sides...that is why when we debated that case in the European Parliament in September, I suggested that the time had come to break with the past and to try a new approach.

““n theory, the responsibility for securing a peaceful settlement rests with the Minsk Group, an organisation established by the OSCE. The Group has three Co-Chairs – Russia, the US and France. It has met regularly for 20 years and got precisely nowhere.

“We need something dramatic to break the log jam – and my proposal is that the EU should now replace France as one of the three Co-Chairs in order to bring a new influence and dynamism to the process.”

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Nalbandian becomes enraged during EU Talks

2013-01-21

Eduard Nalbandian, Armenian Foreign Minister, has lashed out at Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh at a meeting with EU representatives in Brussels. He had said that citizens of the area would decide the final status in a referendum. The comments came after Elmar Mammadyarov, his Azerbaijani counterpart, told EU representatives that Armenian communities in Nagorno-Karabakh would become citizens of Azerbaijan.

Erato Kazakou-Marcoullis, Cypriot Foreign Minister, representing the EU, underlined that Brussels had no intention of joining the OSCE Minsk Group, but expressed disappointment that 20 years of mediation had failed to provide a lasting solution. He stated: “This conflict has no place in the region. It is unacceptable, and is against all our values. It seriously hampers integration, growth, and investment in large infrastructural projects.”

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New OSCE Chair Ukraine cites ‘protracted conflicts’ as key priority

2013-01-21

As his country becomes the incoming Chair of the OSCE, Leonid Kozhara, Ukrainian Foreign Minister and new OSCE Chairperson-in-Office has pledged to achieve progress on resolving protracted conflicts, strengthening conventional arms control, combating human trafficking, and reducing the environmental impact of energy-related activities, amongst other objectives. He said: “We must re-energise negotiations within the existing formats, and prevent any escalation in tension. The resolution of protracted conflicts must remain the highest priority for the OSCE and all participating States.” He also said that Ukraine would be working to achieve progress in arms control and confidence-building measures.

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Nagorno-Karabakh film screened in Moscow

2013-01-21

The new Azerbaijani feature film Dolu (The Hail) has been screened at the Ljudmila Rumina Centre in Moscow, during an event organised by the Azerbaijani Embassy in Russia. The film was directed by Elkhan Jafarov, and based on the novel by Aqil Abbas, Azerbaijani MP, who undertook his own adaptation for the screen. The film concerns the experiences of a group of soldiers fighting during the conflict. Polad Bülbüloglu, the composer, singer, Azerbaijani People’s Artist and Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia, composed the musical score.

During the introduction, Ambassador Bülbüloglu thanked the filmmakers for creating such a powerful evocation of life during the Armenian-Azerbaijani war over Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions. He explained: “As the film relates to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it is being screened in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg, for our Russia-based diaspora.” The trailer may be viewed at http://bit.ly/dolufilm.

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US called to intervene in peace process

2013-01-21

Speaking at an international conference organised by the Jamestown Foundation in Washington D.C., David Merkel, Senior Fellow, Johns Hopkins Centre for Transatlantic Relations, commented that progress towards peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can only be achieved if the West and the US, in particular, play a crucial role and intervene in the settlement process at the highest level. According to the Voice of America, David Merkel went on to say: “The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is one of the areas where the policy of ‘reset’ can be effectively used by the Obama administration.”

Matthew Bryza, former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, stressed his support for David Merkel’s call for intervention, and explained that either a Democratic or Republican administration could equally provide support for the Azerbaijani cause.

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Nagorno-Karabakh discussed at EU–Russia summit

2013-01-21

Herman Van Rompuy, President, European Union (EU), has revealed that the situation in the South Caucasus and resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were discussed at the EU–Russia Summit in Brussels. He explained: “It is particularly important to address protracted conflicts. I raised the importance of moving forward in the ‘5+2’ talks on the conflict in Transnistria, and expressed concerns regarding developments in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

The EU was also represented by Josè Manuel Barroso, President, European Commission, who met Russian President Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister. During his subsequent meeting in Brussels with H.E. Fuad Isgandarov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Belgium, and Head, Azerbaijani Representation to the EU, Mr Van Rompuy pointed out that the ongoing status quo is unacceptable.

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Kuwaiti support for Azerbaijani perspective

2013-01-21

Tural Rzayev, the Azerbaijani Ambassador to Kuwait, met Ali Al-Rashid, Chair, Kuwaiti Parliament. The Ambassador told the Kuwaiti representative about the ongoing socio-economic reforms, and scientific and technological capacity of his country, and outlined the impact of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Ali Al-Rashid, referring to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, stressed his country’s support for the position of Azerbaijan.

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Baltic Assembly backs Azerbaijan

2013-01-21

During a visit to Baku to attend a meeting of the GUAM Parliamentary Assembly, Raimonds Vejonis, Vice-President, Baltic Assembly, stated: “The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be solved within the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. We are supporting Azerbaijan’s fair position in settlement of the conflict. In the modern world, the forceful occupation of territories by other countries is unacceptable.”

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Polish Foreign Minister urges restraint

2013-01-21

Speaking in Yerevan, Radoslaw Sikorski, Foreign Minister, Poland has requested that Armenia and Azerbaijan should refrain from actions and statements that may lead to tension regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Reported in Armenia Today, the comments were made during a joint press conference, alongside Eduard Nalbandian, Nikolay Mladenov and Carl Bildt, his Armenian, Bulgarian and Swedish counterparts. The Polish Foreign Minister went on to reiterate that Poland supports peaceful resolution of the conflict.

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OSCE Chair calls for swift Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution

2012-12-19

During a meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Dublin, Eamon Gilmore, OSCE Chairperson, Irish Deputy Prime Minister, and Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, commented that the deterioration of the situation on the ‘contact line’ demonstrated the need for rapid resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is so harmful to the peoples of the South Caucasus. He said: “I want to express my gratitude to Andrzej Kasprzyk, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson, for his active work in the region. I urge all to participate in constructive co-operation and demonstrate the relevance of our organisation by 2015, in anticipation of the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Declaration.”

At the same meeting, Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister, Russian Federation; Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary-of-State; and Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister Delegate for European Affairs of France, said: “We, the Heads of Delegation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, call upon the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to demonstrate the political will needed to reach a peaceful settlement. As our Presidents stated at Los Cabos on 18 June, the parties should be guided by the Helsinki Principles, particularly those relating to the non-use of force or the threat of force, territorial integrity, equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and the elements outlined in our countries’ statements at L’Aquila in 2009 and Muskoka in 2010. Recalling the statement of our Presidents at Deauville in 2011, we again urge the parties to take decisive steps to reach a peaceful settlement.

“We regret that the expectations of more rapid progress in the peace process, which were raised by the Joint Statement of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan with the President of the Russian Federation at Sochi on 23 January, were not met. Instead, the parties have too often sought one-sided advantage in the negotiation process, rather than seeking to find agreement, based upon mutual understanding.

“We call upon the parties to demonstrate a greater sense of urgency in the peace process and to work with the Co-Chairs to give full and careful consideration to ideas presented by the Co-Chairs during their trip to the region in November. We welcome the readiness of the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia to meet jointly with the Co-Chairs early in 2013 to continue these discussions. Our countries continue to stand ready to do whatever we can to assist the parties, but the responsibility for putting an end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains with them.”

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Armenian Oscar entry enrages Azerbaijan

2012-12-19

The Armenian entry for the 2013 Best Foreign Film Oscar has created a storm of controversy. Directed by Natalia Belyauskene, and entitled If Only Everyone, the film concerns an Armenian man who helps a Russo–Armenian woman to visit the grave of her father, who was killed in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, commemorating his life by planting a tree. During the film, the protagonists cross the ‘contact line’ and befriend a local shepherd, an Azerbaijani, who asks them to plant a tree on his son’s grave when they return to the Armenian side.

The Azerbaijani author, Elchin Huseynbayli, insists that the idea for the film was stolen from his 2010 story called Dazzled by the Sun, but twisted to make the Azerbaijanis appear as the aggressors. The Azerbaijani story was published in the June 2010 edition of Friendship of Peoples. Speaking to the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, the co-writer of If Only Everyone, Mikhael Poghosyan, claimed that the film sought to encourage harmony and peace between different peoples.

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Nagorno-Karabakh debated in Germany

2012-12-19

A conference entitled Achieving Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh: The Role of Justice in Resolving the Conflict has taken place in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. This was supported by the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF), and jointly organised by Dr Azer Babayev and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The conference was attended by Rasim Musabayov, Azerbaijani MP; Farhad Mammadov, Director, Azerbaijani Centre for Strategic Studies; and Avaz Hasanov, Director, Azerbaijani Humanitarian Studies Society.

During the conference, German and Austrian experts delivered their reports on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Following this, the Azerbaijani delegation presented their perspective. The conference featured a discussion panel involving the Azerbaijani and German MPs; Christina Viehl, Chief, South Caucasus and Central Asia Department, German Foreign Ministry; Per Christopher Stanchina, Former German Ambassador to Azerbaijan, and Alexei Vlasov, Deputy Dean, History Faculty, Moscow State University, together with Dr Babayev.

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Landmines kill one soldier and maim two more

2012-12-19

Teymur Abdullayev, Deputy Spokesman, Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, has revealed that Pasha Nemat Mursalov, a 19-year-old Azerbaijani soldier, lost his life after being injured in a landmine explosion near the ‘contact line’ in the Khojavand region in November. Camil Mammadov and Chingizkhan Jarassov, two soldiers, also become landmine victims at the ‘contact line’ in the Goranboy region. Abdullayev stated that both lost limbs in the explosion.

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Landmine injures Azerbaijani Officer

2012-12-19

According to the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, a landmine explosion on the ‘contact line’ in the Agdam region has severely injured Captain Parviz Ismailov. The incident occurred as Andrzej Kasprzyk, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson, was scheduled to monitor the border, in order to familiarise himself with the situation. The western part of Agdam came under Armenian occupation in 1993, and has remained unoccupied ever since. It continues to be used as a buffer zone by Armenian forces.

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Azerbaijani cowherder returned from captivity

2012-12-19

On 30 November, the Armenian military returned a 41-year-old cowherder, Telman Aliyev, to Azerbaijan. Suffering with speech and hearing difficulties, Telman had followed his herd onto Armenian territory and was promptly captured. Azerbaijan subsequently asked the Red Cross for help. Following his return, Azerbaijan made an official complaint that Armenia had violated international standards for prisoner exchange by bringing an armed force to the handover site. The fate and the whereabouts of Aliyev’s herd remain unknown.

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Mammadyarov specifies Azerbaijani requirements for peace

2012-12-19

Philippe Lefort, European Union (EU) Special Representative for the South Caucasus, met Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, in Baku. During the meeting, they spoke of the energy projects of regional significance and the importance of Azerbaijan for the EU. Mammadyarov reiterated that Armenian acceptance of the proposals of the OSCE Minsk Group would include the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement. He also stated that the reopening of the airport in Nagorno-Karabakh, located in Khojaly, would have a detrimental impact on the peace process.

Lefort stressed the importance of continuing contact between the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities to ensure peace. During an address to the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy, he said “The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not a ‘frozen’ conflict – it is a conflict with a frozen solution, because it has a risk of escalation. The EU supports the efforts of OSCE towards settling the conflict. The status quo is unacceptable. It is important to achieve progress in this issue. Maintenance of stability and security in the South Caucasus and development of the region is very important for the security of the EU.”

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French TV airs Nagorno-Karabakh documentary

2012-12-19

The French TV channel France 24 has broadcast a documentary on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, entitled Nagorno-Karabakh – The Time Bomb on Europe’s Doorstep, introduced by Willy Bracciano, Armen Georgian and Markus Meyer. During the programme, Damien Helly, Fellow of the Paris-based EU Institute for Security Studies, initially explained the differences between the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and other regional issues.

Reports from both sides were included, and the programme noted that the self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh remains unrecognised by all countries and international organisations. It repeatedly compared the conflict to a powder keg, stressing that its ignition would endanger Nagorno-Karabakh and have far-reaching implications, potentially bringing Russia, Iran and Turkey into conflict. The ongoing skirmishes were also highlighted, and the question was posed as to whether the sides could ever live together after many years of tension. To view the programme, go to http://bit.ly/NKtimebomb.

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PACE Co-Rapporteurs to submit report

2012-12-19

Pedro Agramunt and Joseph Debono Grech, the Co-Rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee on Azerbaijan, Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe (PACE), are to submit a final report on their recent visits to Azerbaijan, together with a draft resolution. If these are adopted, the documents will be discussed at the PACE Winter Session, to be held in January 2013. During their visit, they met Azerbaijani President Aliyev; Ogtay Asadov, Speaker, Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament(; Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, leaders of political parties, and representatives of civil society, amongst others.

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Azerbaijan continues to seek justice for Khojaly

2012-12-19

During his speech at the General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties in Baku, Asim Mollazade MP explained “Azerbaijan does not call for revenge – it does not need revenge – it needs only justice for the Khojaly Massacre. The Azerbaijani city of Khojaly was completely destroyed, and many children, women and elderly people were cruelly killed and burned. If the military criminals, who committed these crimes, are not brought to trial in an international court, such events will be repeated. We need assistance from politicians around the world to stop such massacres, and must unite our efforts to create a system of justice in the world. We unite Europe and Asia, and must build peace, security and prosperity in our part of the world.” The Khojaly Massacre, perpetrated by Armenian forces, claimed 613 civilian victims during the night of 25–26 February 1992.

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Benelux Azerbaijanis’ Congress focuses on Nagorno-Karabakh

2012-12-19

The Amsterdam-based Benelux Azerbaijanis’ Congress (BAC) will collaborate with the Union of European Turkish Democrats, Turkey Research Centre, EcoEurAsia, and the Co-operation Centre of Azerbaijanis and other Turkic Speaking Peoples to host a conference entitled the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Problems in the South Caucasus.

The conference will outline the continuing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and will focus on the impact of the ongoing occupation of Azerbaijani territory, including the demolition and destruction of historical and cultural documents. Representatives from the Caucasus Research Centre, Ahi Evran University, will also be in attendance, together with numerous diplomats.

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London-based CIC publishes paper on Nagorno-Karabakh

2012-12-19

The Caspian Information Centre (CIC) has published its Occasional Paper No. 22: Nagorno-Karabakh: An Unresolved Conflict Whose War Games Threaten Western Energy Security. This raises concerns that the unstable situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions has the potential to seriously threaten western energy needs. As the title of this paper suggests, the stand-off between Azerbaijan and Armenia appears to be escalating, with the announcement by Armenian officials that they, if threatened, would launch strategic attacks on Azerbaijani energy facilities.

The paper explores the current situation, raises the very real prospect of possible war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and questions the lack of progress achieved by the OSCE Minsk Group. The paper is available for free download from http://bit.ly/cicnk.

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Experts from all perspectives to meet in London

2012-11-19

On 21 November, a debate entitled The Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Process – Is There a Way Out of the Impasse? will take place at the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, organised by SOAS and Conciliation Resources, which has been working to support conflict resolution since 2004. Two highly-respected analysts on the conflict will comment on this question in a public debate. Tatul Hakobyan, of the Yerevan-based think-tank Civilitas, and Tabib Huseynov, Caucasus Programme Manager at London-based Saferworld, have observed the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process over a long period, going on to write monographs on related topics.

Tatul is the author of Karabakh Diary: Green and Black, and most recently published Looking from Ararat: Armenians and Turks. Tabib has extensive experience knowledge of the region, developed during his time at the International Crisis Group from 2007–11. Both have also participated in dialogue on such questions as forced displacement and political status. Laurence Broers, Caucasus Projects Manager, Conciliation Resources, and Research Associate at the Centre for Contemporary Central Asia and the Caucasus, will chair the debate. For information on attending this free event, go to http://bit.ly/NKSOAS1.

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OSCE Co-Chairs present annual report

2012-11-19

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs – Robert Bradtke (US), Igor Popov (Russian Federation), and Jacques Fauré (France) – together with Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, presented their annual reports to the OSCE Permanent Council on 8 November.

The Co-Chairs outlined their activities over the last year, which included individual and joint meetings with the sides and trips to the region, together with engagement by each of the Co-Chair countries and a trilateral meeting of the Russian, Armenian, and Azerbaijani Presidents in Sochi during January. They discussed their role in managing moments of tension and avoiding escalation, when violence has occurred, in particular through the work of Ambassador Kasprzyk and his team in the region.

The Co-Chairs also convened a meeting of the OSCE Minsk Group and met with Ukrainian and Swiss delegations, as they will be future OSCE Chairs. The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs will visit the occupied regions later this month, in advance of the OSCE Ministerial meeting in Dublin during December.

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TEAS welcomes new EU initiative, yet urges greater diplomatic involvement

2012-11-19

On 6 November, The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) welcomed the EU’s decision to launch the second phase of its civil society programme entitled European Partnership for the Peaceful Settlement of the Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh (EPNK). 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 Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjacent seven 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 stated that the programme is no substitute for action by the EU itself to promote a peaceful settlement, based on the international rule of law and the four outstanding UN Security Council resolutions, which acknowledge that Nagorno-Karabakh is a part of Azerbaijan.

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 the occupied territories. Only then can we build a sustainable peace in Europe’s eastern backyard.”

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 supports wider participation in the peace process by conflict-affected people, particularly women, youths, IDPs and refugees.

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US recognises ongoing threat to the region

2012-11-19

Adam Sterling, US Assistant Ambassador to Azerbaijan, has acknowledged that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains the biggest threat to South Caucasus security. He made the statement at the International Conference on the Role of Azerbaijani–US Co-operation in Ensuring Peace and Security in the South Caucasus. He said “Resolution of this conflict cannot come from the side. As a Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, the US wants peaceful settlement of the conflict. Washington’s position is changeless – the US supports peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and we will continue efforts aiming towards the peaceful settlement of the problem.”

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Zannier comments on lack of progress

2012-11-19

Lamberto Zannier, Secretary–General, OSCE, has spoken of his concern about the lack of progress in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Speaking to Interfax, he commented “When it comes to Nagorno-Karabakh, everyone is concerned about the absence of progress, and the deterioration of the situation on the ground, with 28 people killed only this year. I personally share this concern – we continue to support the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group and its Co-Chairs – Russia, France and the US.”

He voiced the opinion that international efforts will continue to be ineffective if there is an absence of political will on both sides to negotiate a peaceful solution. He continued “This is what I stressed during my recent meetings with the respective Foreign Ministers in New York. Returning to the substance of the negotiations and looking ahead are the only ways to prevent escalation and bring long-awaited security to the region.”

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Italian Defence Minister requests conflict resolution during Yerevan visit

2012-11-19

During a press conference in Yerevan, Admiral Giampaolo di Paola, Italian Defence Minister, spoke on the overwhelming need for conflict resolution. He said “Resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has an equally strategic importance for regional and European security. As an OSCE Minsk Group member, Italy is trying to find a solution to the current issue. We are attaching great importance to Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement, as it is of strategic significance and is essential, both for regional and European security. We call on Azerbaijan and Armenia to create an atmosphere of trust, adhere to the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act, and build relationships of mutual confidence for the welfare and prosperity of all the peoples.”

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Ban Ki-Moon asks for further UN involvement in conflict resolution

2012-11-19

Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, met representatives of the Permanent Committee of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP). This was attended by Asaf Hajiyev, Azerbaijani MP, who posed a question about the potential risks arising from the stalemate in Nagorno-Karabakh. In his answer, Ban Ki-Moon acknowledged the role of the OSCE Minsk Group, and admitted that the UN should increase pressure towards resolving the issue. Josè De Venecia, Co-Chair, ICAPP, commented on the fair position of Azerbaijan regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. ICAPP comprises 330 political parties from Asia, and the Permanent Committee consists of representatives and two Co-Chairs from 18 political parties.

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German Junge Union adopts document on Nagorno-Karabakh

2012-11-19

A document on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been adopted during the annual Deutschlandtag Conference of the Junge Union youth organisation under the ruling coalition of the Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union in Germany. According to the document, Armenia is recognised as the aggressor, having occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjacent seven regions. In the document, the Junge Union organisation urges the German government to strengthen international efforts via the OSCE, EU and the UN to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The document states “The Armenian government must immediately put an end to the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and other Azerbaijani territories, as these are inseparable parts of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, inviolability of its borders and the security of those people living in the border region must be ensured without restrictions.”

Tale Heydarov, Founder and Chairman, TEAS, commented that one of TEAS’ main objectives is to provide information on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and to contribute to a just settlement of the conflict by peaceful means. The Junge Union youth organisation has 130,000 members and is the largest youth political organisation in Europe.

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OSCE Minsk Group meet Foreign Ministers in Paris

2012-11-19

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs met Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister and Edward Nalbandian, his Armenian counterpart, in Paris. Andrzej Kasprzyk, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, also attended the meeting. The Co-Chairs stressed the importance of reducing tensions between the parties and presented a working proposal. aimed at advancing the peace process. Both Foreign Ministers reiterated their determination to continue working with the Co-Chairs to reach a peaceful settlement and agreed to a further discussion during the Co-Chairs’ visit to the region in November.

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France reiterates support for Azerbaijan

2012-11-19

A statement from the French Foreign Ministry has stated that France seeks to continue its role in assisting with the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, thereby fulfilling its duties as part of the OSCE Minsk Group mediation. The Ministry believes that “Against the backdrop of increased tensions in ties between Azerbaijan and Armenia, it is essential that the negotiation process does not stop. The invitation of the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers to Paris in September, by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, enabled them to meet each of the two ministers. They urged the continuance of efforts towards resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through negotiations.”

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Lords debate Azerbaijan

2012-11-19

A debate on Azerbaijan and South Caucasus has taken place at the House of Lords at the initiative of Lord Laird, Advisory Board Member, The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS). During his introduction, Lord Laird addressed the current state of UK–Azerbaijani relations, the rapid economic development of the country, and the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions.

Lord Laird explained that the OSCE Minsk Group, tasked with achieving a negotiated peace to the conflict, had been unsuccessful over nearly 20 years. He underlined that the three Co-Chairs – the US, France and Russia – were countries in which the Armenian diaspora had a strong presence, and questioned the priority given to the conflict by the UK government. Lord Laird explained that the UK could play a major role in achieving resolution, and offered to organise the visit by a delegation of Lords to Azerbaijan.

Lord Sheikh stated that the Azerbaijani economy ranks amongst the most rapidly-evolving in the world. He said: “The spheres that Azerbaijan wants to develop include finance, telecommunications and infrastructure. Some important contracts have been recently signed in the technology and construction sectors with companies from several European countries. We should hurry to improve our commercial relations with Azerbaijan, unless other countries leave us behind.” He underlined the importance of organising delegations to improve commercial co-operation with Azerbaijan.

This view was reiterated by Lord Kilclooney, who stressed the need for visits by David Cameron, UK Prime Minister, and William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary. He also outlined the tolerance of the country, where Jews, Muslims, Christians and members of other religious communities enjoy equal rights. With regard to the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Lord Kilclooney explained that around 18 per cent of Azerbaijani territory remains under Armenian occupation, and noted that the OSCE Minsk Group applies double standards.

Lord German, Lord Wallace, Lord Triesman and Lord Sandwich also made contributions, underlining the need to further enhance UK–Azerbaijani relations. Baroness Cox, Chair, British–Armenian All-Party Parliamentary Group, levelled a series of unsubstantiated allegations against Azerbaijan.

Lord Wallace concluded the debate, stating that the UK Parliament was committed to the region and underlining that Prime Minister Cameron had met Azerbaijani President Aliyev on two occasions. He explained: “We are committed to this region because it is part of the wider European neighbourhood. We are committed with our European partners because we share common interests. We are committed, as a country that is an active exporter, to compete with our European partners – the Germans, the French and others – for business and investment in the region. So, we have a mixture of interests in which we recognise the growing importance of Azerbaijan, the importance of the Caucasus, as a whole, to our future energy security, and the importance of helping the Caucasus to become more stable, more prosperous, and more democratic for the peace of that region and for our broader region.”

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Forum for Azerbaijani students in Europe hosted in Vienna

2012-11-19

The two-day Vienna Forum on the Armenian–Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, aimed at Azerbaijani students from European countries, took place on 26–27 October, during which details of the legal, humanitarian and other aspects of the conflict were discussed. Tofiq Musayev, Deputy Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the UN and Expert on International Law, commented on the legal background, and provided information on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, according to international law. Rovshan Rzayev, Azerbaijani MP, spoke on the foundation and development of the Azerbaijani Community of Nagorno-Karabakh public organisation, and the contribution of public diplomacy towards conflict resolution, raising awareness of the humanitarian elements.

Farhad Mammadov, Head, Azerbaijani Centre for Strategic Studies, outlined the international research undertaken in relation to the conflict, and Leyla Aliyeva, Nijat Mammadli and Sevinj Isgandarova from the Justice for Khojaly campaign voiced their opinion about the organisation of youths and students towards informing the world community about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The event concluded with presentations from Matthew Bryza, former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan and currently Head of the International Centre for Defence Studies; Nigar Göksel, Editor-in-Chief, Turkish Policy Quarterly; and Adil Baguirov, Executive Director, US Azeris Network (USAN), who spoke about the work that is currently taking place to develop understanding of the Azerbaijani position.

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Lennmarker recognises impact of Armenian diaspora

2012-11-19

Göran Lennmarker, former Special Envoy of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, and Chair, Stockholm International Institute of Research, gave an interview about the prospects for conflict resolution to the news.az website. He commented: “The Armenian diaspora is prosperous, but this causes some problems. Armenians in Armenia want peace, as they live in the region. However, the diaspora lives far beyond the country’s boundaries in California and other locations. These are mostly nationalists, in the worst meaning of the word, as compared to Armenians in Armenia. Armenians must understand that the only solution for Armenia is life in harmony with its neighbours, and especially with Azerbaijan.”

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Ambassador Morningstar: cultural heritage must be preserved

2012-11-19

In a US Embassy press release, H.E. Richard Morningstar, US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, acknowledged that many historical monuments had been destroyed or damaged across the South Caucasus as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He said: "I am, nevertheless, heartened by stories of efforts to protect each country’s heritage, despite the conflict. Today in Baku, for example, I visited the Armenian Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator, where I learned of the church’s history and the preservation of books and manuscripts in the Armenian language."

Morningstar said that the US supports efforts in both Azerbaijan and Armenia to protect the historical archives of each other’s communities in their countries. For example, Armenian and Azerbaijani archivists will soon visit the US on a joint programme to learn more about preservation of cultural artefacts. He continued: "Such efforts deserve recognition, and we will do our best to support these initiatives in the future. Most recently, I travelled to Nakhchivan, and I have also made visits to Lenkoran, Sheki, Oguz, Guba and Lahic. It has been an opportunity to see this country's diverse cultural heritage up close – an experience that I think is important for anyone coming to live and work in Azerbaijan."

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2012-10-20

During a meeting at the Building Bridges conference in Baku with Jacques Santer, former President, European Commission; Members of the European Parliament (MEPs); and other diplomats from across Europe, Azerbaijani President Aliyev confirmed Azerbaijan's commitment towards forging stronger ties with the European Union (EU). He commented: “"Our main focus should be concentrated on how to build bridges and increase mutual trust."

Hosted by the Association for Civil Society Development in Azerbaijan (ACSDA) and the Institute for European Affairs (INEA), the conference was attended by more than 200 delegates. The objective was to discuss political, economic and cultural links between Azerbaijan and the EU. Elkhan Suleymanov, Head, Azerbaijani delegation to the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly, commented: "Azerbaijan is committed to building stronger bridges with the EU, and is therefore engaged in close political dialogue, harmonisation of its legal system, and is co-operating with Europe in the economic, public and cultural spheres.” He also noted that Azerbaijan is playing an increasingly essential role in ensuring European energy security.

Suleymanov stressed that it was critical to find a lasting solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He called for the international community to adopt a more objective and unbiased approach towards "one of the few nations with a predominantly Muslim population that is integrating with the EU." Mesut Yılmaz, Former Turkish Prime Minister, urged his European colleagues to take firm action regarding the conflict. He stated: "The role of France within the OSCE Minsk Group is limited, and doesn't reflect the EU's stance. The EU is an international actor, and should act accordingly to solv “frozen” conflicts."

Jacques Santer praised Azerbaijan and emphasised that the country has already fulfilled all conditions required of a modern country integrating into the European space. Arjen Uijterlinde, Dutch Ambassador to Azerbaijan, stated that the EU sees Azerbaijan as a reliable partner, and is interested in developing its relations in all areas, including trade, the economy and telecommunications. He continued: "Amsterdam supports the accession of Azerbaijan to the World Trade Organisation and the negotiations between Azerbaijan and the EU on visa facilitation." Ivo Vajgl, Slovenian MEP, commented that Brussels” position regarding Azerbaijan as "a strategic partner of the EU" is clear. He stated: "We want to re-establish the sovereignty of Azerbaijan across its entire territory and the right of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees to return to their native land."

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Russian military base transfers to Yerevan

2012-10-20

Ziyafet Asgarov, First Deputy Speaker, Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament), commented during the opening meeting of the parliamentary autumn session that Azerbaijan is concerned that Russia has revealed plans to transfer its existing military bases in Armenia to Yerevan. He continued: "Several meetings have been held with the relevant agencies, which stated that the issue is under consideration. An official response will be given after these conversations are completed."

Sabir Rustamkhanli MP went further: "No-one can guarantee that Russian armaments will not be supplied from Armenia to occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, as Armenians will work at these bases." He stressed the need for the UN to appeal to Russia regarding the prospective move.

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OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs meet Foreign Ministers in New York

2012-10-20

The representatives of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs – Ambassadors Robert Bradtke (US), Igor Popov (Russia) and Jacques Fauré (France), together with Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-office " met Edward Nalbandian, Armenian Foreign Minister, in New York on 26 September and Elmar Mammadyarov, his Azerbaijani counterpart, the following day.

During the meetings with the Ministers, the Co-Chairs discussed recent regional developments and urged the parties to return to the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations. They also expressed their concern over the lack of tangible progress in recent months. Both Foreign Ministers reiterated their support for peaceful resolution, and their willingness to continue dialogue.

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PACE President receives Azerbaijani and Armenian delegation heads

2012-10-20

Jean-Claude Mignon, President, Parliamentary Assembly to the Council of Europe (PACE), organised a meeting attended by Samad Seyidov, Head, Azerbaijani Delegation to PACE; David Harutunyan, his Armenian counterpart; and Jordi Chukla, Spanish MP and Chairman, PACE Subcommittee on Nagorno-Karabakh. No details of the discussions were revealed to the media, which was organised by Mignon following Seyidov’s proposal to hold discussions at PACE on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

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UK Minister for Europe expresses need for conflict resolution

2012-10-20

Speaking in Yerevan during a joint press conference with Edward Nalbandian, Armenian Foreign Minister, David Lidington, UK Minister for Europe, commented: "The UK wants the peace process within the OSCE Minsk Group to restore peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The fact that Azerbaijan has significant British commercial interests means that the UK has an obvious wish to promote peaceful reconciliation and stability in the South Caucasus."

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Davutoglu addresses UN on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution

2012-10-20

Speaking at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkish Foreign Minister, reiterated his country’s position regarding the restoration of Azerbaijani territory. He explained: "The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has not been resolved for two decades. We believe that a solution should be found within the framework of Azerbaijani territorial integrity."

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Youth resolution adopted in Kiev

2012-10-20

Youth organisation representatives from 26 countries have adopted a resolution regarding settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within Azerbaijani territory. The move took place in Kiev during the 4th International Forum on UN Youth Policy. The event brought together about 200 representatives from 40 countries, including diplomats and political experts. The report also specifies that the approximately 875,000 IDPs and refugees should be permitted to return home.

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Mammadyarov: Azerbaijanis and Armenians will live "shoulder-to-shoulder"

2012-10-20

During his address to the 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, remained positive about the prospects for peace in Nagorno-Karabakh. He stated: "The Azerbaijani and Armenian communities in the Nagorno-Karabakh region will one day live shoulder-to-shoulder. We sincerely believe there is no alternative to peace, stability, and mutually beneficial regional co-operation. Azerbaijan is the most interested party in a swiftly negotiated settlement of the dispute."

During his statement, Mammadyarov addressed his country’s role as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) during 2012–13. He explained how Azerbaijan, which served as President of the 15-member body in May, organised a meeting under the Arria Formula, a very informal consultation process that enables UNSC members to hear perspectives in a confidential, informal setting. He explained that this had "encouraged a frank exchange of views… on the role of mediation, judicial settlement and justice in promoting durable, international, law-based peace and reconciliation."

In particular, Mammadyarov expressed Azerbaijan’s concerns regarding the Middle-East peace process, which he said has "been at a standstill," calling on the parties to create the necessary conditions conducive to the resumption of negotiations.

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Aliyev meets Hollande

2012-10-20

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met French President François Hollande on 18 September at the Élysée Palace during his state visit to Paris, during which they discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The move was significant, as the visit took place soon after President Hollande took up his office. The final months of the Sarkozy presidency had seen a marked deterioration in Franco-Azerbaijani relations, when the French Senate attempted to ratify a bill criminalising denial of the so-calle “Armenian Genocide”, which was eventually overturned by the Constitutional Council. Bilateral relations between the countries are currently flourishing, particularly regarding Total’s explorations of newly-discovered gas deposits at the Absheron field.

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New French Ambassador to Azerbaijan admits that status quo is fruitless

2012-10-20

During a meeting with Colonel-General Ramil Usubov, Azerbaijani Interior Minister, H.E. Pascal Meunier, the recently-appointed French Ambassador to Azerbaijan, has requested further impetus towards resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He explained: "Progress in Nagorno-Karabakh settlement depends on the political will of the sides. We can assist with this, but without the political determination of both countries, it will be impossible to find a solution." Ambassador Meunier recalled that conflict resolution was central to the recent discussions in Paris between Azerbaijani President Aliyev and French President Hollande.

Meunier continued: "We cannot say that France remains inactive regarding the establishment of a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as the latest meeting between [the mediating] OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia took place in Paris."

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$431.5bn – the cost of Armenian damage

2012-10-20

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Economic Development has assessed the extent of the damage caused to Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions by the conflict and ongoing Armenian occupation. Natig Hasanov, Deputy Head, Intergovernmental Economic Co-operation Dept., explained that the cost of damage by the Armenian occupation equates to $431.5bn (£269.1bn). He justified this estimate by saying: "This index was based on research from various ministries, including the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, State Committee on Work with Refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other state organisations, together with the Ministry of Economic Development."

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British parliamentarians express support for Azerbaijan

2012-10-20

Numerous peers, MPs and MEPs have used the receptions organised by The European Azerbaijan Society at the three main party conferences to express their support for Azerbaijan, recognising its increased relevance to Europe.

The most popular event was at the Conservative conference, when over 200 supporters attended the Baku to Birmingham reception. Christopher Pincher, MP for Tamworth; member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee; and Chair, Azerbaijan All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), said: "Azerbaijan is vital to ensure European energy security, and construction of the Southern Corridor is necessary to diversify supply routes away from Russia. Senior cabinet members should visit Azerbaijan to demonstrate our high regard for relations with Baku. In particular, I believe that a visit to the country by William Hague, Foreign Secretary, would be very beneficial.

"We should also remember that Azerbaijan’s success has occurred despite the forceful occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions by neighbouring Armenia. This has caused 875,000 citizens to become internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, and remains a major concern for the Azerbaijani people. It is necessary for swift, peaceful, resolution to be achieved through diplomatic means, and the UK should be more active in supporting the Azerbaijani position."

At the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton, Lord German of Llanfrechfa, member of the Azerbaijan APPG, spoke of the country’s strategic location. He also outlined the country’s enormous economic potential, due to its natural resources, and commented that the UK continues to contribute the greatest proportion of Foreign Domestic Investment (FDI) to the country. He also requested stronger support from the UK regarding resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

At the Labour Party reception, Richard Howitt MEP, Labour Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs in the EU, stated: "We want Europe to engage as much as possible with Azerbaijan. We are aware of the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and would like to see movement towards the swift and peaceful resolution of this. Azerbaijan’s oil and gas resources are incredibly important for Europe with regard to the future of energy security."

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Baroness Ashton reiterates need for peace

2012-09-29

In response to a question from Maltese MEP David Casa (PPE), Baroness Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President, European Commission (EC), has reiterated her request for peace in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. She commented: "I have repeatedly called for the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. On 8 June, my spokesperson expressed my concern about the reported serious armed incidents on 4, 5 and 6 June. I called on both sides to strictly respect the ceasefire and to exercise restraint, both on the ground and in public statements, in order to prevent further escalation of the situation. The statement further recalled that the threat or use of force does not contribute to conflict resolution.

"These incidents highlight the importance of a functioning incident investigation mechanism, as proposed by the OSCE. Moreover, they reinforce the need for progress in the negotiation process. Consequently, I urge Armenia and Azerbaijan, as partner countries, to step up their efforts to reach agreement on the Madrid Principles, as a basis for peace, and to fully implement the commitments made by their Presidents in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. The EU fully supports the OSCE Minsk Group and the efforts of its co-chairs aimed at a peaceful conflict resolution."

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Fuzuli and Jabrayil occupation remembered

2012-09-29

On 23 August, the 19th anniversary of the occupation of the Fuzuli and Jabrayil regions by Armenian armed forces was commemorated. On this day, 51 villages and the centre of the Fuzuli region were seized, resulting in more than 55,000 inhabitants becoming internally-displaced persons (IDPs).

The Fuzuli region, covering 1386km2, encompasses the territory from the south-eastern slopes of the Karabakh Mountain range to the Araz River. It also borders the Azerbaijani regions of Khojavand, Jabrayil, Agjabadi and Beylagan, along the Araz River. Azerbaijanis are currently located in 13 settlements in 20 villages in this region, which were liberated from Armenian occupation. Of the 13 settlements in the region, 12 were constructed post-occupation and are currently used to house IDPs.

Since 1988, the Fuzuli region has been subjected to constant attack from Armenian snipers, resulting in the death of 1100 inhabitants, the taking of 113 prisoners and disablement of 1450 people.

The Jabrayil region remains under occupation, covering 1050km2, encompassing 72 secondary school buildings, eight hospitals, five mosques, two museums, 129 historical monuments and 149 cultural centres. Currently, 61,100 IDPs from the Jabrayil region reside in more than 2000 settlements across 58 regions of the country.

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Nagorno-Karabakh under the microscope

2012-09-29

In an interview with EurActiv.com, Diogo Pinto, Secretary-General, European Movement International, Brussels, has indicated the need for greater impetus towards achieving a negotiated Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement. He commented: "Apart from the violations of the ceasefire that very often end with deaths on both sides of th “contact line”, this conflict has a huge impact on the economic, political and social situation in the two countries. It is hampering what could be a harmonious development and a successful regional integration process, together with a progressiv “Europeanisation” of the entire region, which has been defined a “vital” to European interests.

"I recently chaired a meeting that brought together representatives of European Movement International from the three countries in the Southern Caucasus region – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – which is aimed at starting direct dialogue between the two sides. The meeting took place in Tbilisi, as Georgia is seen as neutral ground and the only country with good relations with both neighbours, making it easily accessible to citizens from both sides.

"After the initial tension was overcome, two aspects emerged as the most striking. On one hand, there is the tremendous impact that the conflict has on both Armenia and Azerbaijan, be it economic (in Armenia more than in Azerbaijan) or social (more in Azerbaijan than in Armenia), together with the quality of democracy and the respect for individual and collective freedoms. On the other hand, it was almost shocking how little one side knows about the other, and how much of it is based on propaganda-induced prejudices.

"One of the outcomes of this meeting was that it would not be the last. The decision was made to pursue the dialogue, with the next meeting being scheduled to take place in November, this time in Baku. Initiatives, such as this, deserve to be supported by the European Union (EU). The EU has a lot to gain from increasing its efforts and commitments towards peaceful resolution of the conflict, and by getting more decisively and more visibly behind the civil society actors from the region that are willing to work for change."

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Former Armenian advisor: Armenia will remain weak until Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution

2012-09-29

Gerard Libaridian, a Senior Advisor to the former Armenian President, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, has stated that Armenia will continue to be the weakest country in the South Caucasus until the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is resolved. In an interview with Trend News, he commented: "We are in conflict with two neighbouring countries – Turkey and Azerbaijan. Armenia will not develop until these conflicts are resolved."

Libaridian had travelled to Baku to participate in a conference entitled Joint Efforts for the Future of the Caucasus: Lessons of the Past 20 Years. This was jointly organised by the Centre for Strategic Studies under the Azerbaijani President (SAM), together with the Caucasus International and Turkish Policy Quarterly magazines.

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Azerbaijani soldier dies in hospital

2012-09-29

According to the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, an Azerbaijani soldier who was shot by an Armenian sniper in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic on 13 July died in hospital on 7 September. Named as Rabbi Jafarov, he was the 14th soldier to have been killed this year on either side.

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Azerbaijani prisoner-of-war taken

2012-09-29

On 26 July, 20-year-old Firuz Farazov crossed the north-eastern section of th “contact line” and was captured by Armenian troops. A statement from the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence announced that: "While in the Tovuz section of the army frontline, Firuz Farazov became lost and accidentally fell into captivity."

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Nagorno-Karabakh volatility recognised by USAREUR Head

2012-09-29

The US periodical Foreign Policy has published a report entitled Security and Conflict in the Caucasus Region – Not Frozen by General Mark Hertling, Head of the US Army Europe (USAREUR). He commented: "While the Minsk Group spearheads the OSCE’s efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan both remain frustrated with the lack of political resolve. European Command’s strategy of Theatre Security Co-operation – and USAREUR's contribution, as part of that strategy, in training and exercising with the militaries and engaging with military and political leaders – is bearing significant results. The four nations of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey (GAAT) are integrating forces in NATO out of theatre and in peacekeeping operations in places like Afghanistan and Kosovo, and the potential for peaceful management of the region’s substantial security challenges is improving.

"The Caucasus” position as a geographical, cultural, and political epicentre means that movements – positive and negative – in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan reverberate well beyond the local region. With the continued support of the US, the Caucasus will remain a source of stable, reliable, interoperable partners who are the foundation of future regional and global security."

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UNSC to analyse proposed illegal resettlement of Syrian Armenians

2012-09-29

Following protestations by Azerbaijan, the UN Security Council (UNSC) will examine the reliability of Armenian media reports that Yerevan is planning or already involved in resettling Armenian refugees from war-torn Syria and Lebanon in Nagorno-Karabakh. In an interview with Lider TV, Agshin Mehdiyev, Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the UN, commented: "We have raised this issue at the UNSC and asked the relevant Security Council bodies dealing with Syria to draw attention to this. If the reports are confirmed, then we can demand that the OSCE Minsk Group takes certain measures and raises this issue at the UNSC in a different way."

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Armenian military training proves provocative

2012-09-29

Elman Abdullayev, Spokesman, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, has condemned recent Armenian military manoeuvres in the occupied territories. He commented that these reflect the aggressiveness of Yerevan and its reluctance to peacefully resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He continued: "The fact that Armenia is holding these exercises on internationally-recognised Azerbaijani territory speaks for itself."

Abdullayev noted that the international community remains fundamentally indifferent to these actions by the Armenian government, yet: "After this, the world community speaks about justice." The Spokesman revealed that the Azerbaijani and Armenian Foreign Ministers would potentially meet at the opening of the UN General Assembly in September.

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International organisation supports Azerbaijani community

2012-09-29

On 3 September, the Azerbaijani Community of Nagorno-Karabakh hosted a meeting with Gyorgy Tatar, Chairman, Budapest Centre of the Foundation for International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, and Enzo Maria Cervini, Deputy Chairman of the Foundation.

Orkhan Akbarov, Chairman, Co-ordinating Council, Azerbaijani Community of Nagorno-Karabakh, initially provided detailed information about the conflict, explaining how around 875,000 Azerbaijanis have continued to be IDPs and refugees over the past 20 years. He went on to outline the implications of the ongoing ethnic cleansing policy of Armenia in the region. The delegates were informed of the objectives of the Foundation, which pledged to investigate the Khojaly Massacre in collaboration with the Azerbaijani Community of Nagorno-Karabakh, highlighting its significance amongst the international community.

Noting the importance of undertaking investigations into the Khojaly Massacre under unbiased and mutual co-operation, the guests voiced concern over the atrocities faced by Azerbaijan. Elchin Ahmadov, Head, Analytical Department, Azerbaijani Community of Nagorno-Karabakh, went on to give further information on the Massacre. The meeting concluded with an agreement for future co-operation.

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Lebanese Armenians undertake military training

2012-09-29

According to the Regnum agency, military sports featuring 20 members of the Lebanese–Armenian youth movement have been organised by the unrecognised régime in Nagorno-Karabakh. During their time on Azerbaijani territory, they resided at the army encampment and undertook military training and target practice.

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Turkey urges France to be active in conflict resolution

2012-09-29

Egemen Bagis, Turkish Minister for EU Affairs, has requested that greater pressure from France should be exerted towards settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He continued: "Currently, nearly 20 per cent of Azerbaijani lands are occupied. Such a situation threatens regional stability."

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European Union Energy Commissioner: Azerbaijan is a significant EU partner

2012-09-29

Günther Oettinger, Commissioner for Energy, European Union (EU), has acknowledged the current and future importance of Azerbaijan in his declaration on the country. He said that Azerbaijan’s co-operation with the EU is built on solid principles, reflecting clear common interests. This message was communicated via Otto Hauser, Honorary Consul of Azerbaijan in Stuttgart.

According to Oettinger, the participation of Azerbaijan in the EU Eastern Partnership is an historic milestone: "By signing the Southern Corridor Declaration, Azerbaijan has confirmed its essential role, and reaffirmed its commitment to the EU. The country, at the western shores of the Caspian Sea, offers an important basis for Europe’s energy diversification, due to its abundant oil and gas resources."

Oettinger simultaneously stressed that it is in EU interests to develop relations with energy-producing countries, such as Azerbaijan. He also related this to the unresolved Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, stating: "It is necessary for Europeans to play a more active role. As an important energy partner for the EU, Azerbaijan also has to be listened to and supported in its problems. There are clear resolutions by the UN and other international organisations that the region of Nagorno-Karabakh is an integral part of the sovereign Republic of Azerbaijan."

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MEPs visit Azerbaijan

2012-09-29

According to a statement from the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament), a delegation of 16 Members of the European Parliament (MEP) visited Azerbaijan from 30 August–3 September. On 31 August, they met Ali Hasanov, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Committee for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs); Gulmammad Javadov, Azerbaijani Deputy Minister of Industry and Energy; Elshad Nasirov, Vice-President, State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic (SOCAR); Mahmud Mammadguliyev, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister; and the Azerbaijani delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly. On 1 September, the MEPs visited the IDP village in the Aghdam region and travelled to Shamakhi and other regions.

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2012-08-29

The unrecognise “presidential elections”, organised by the occupying force in Nagorno-Karabakh, has resulted in Bako Sahakyan being appointed for a second five-year term. Results indicated that he had attracted over 66 per cent of votes. His nearest rival was Vitaly Balasanyan, Deputy of the National Council, who secured 32.5 per cent of votes. Experts responded by pointing out a new feature in th “elections” – a significantly decreased gap between the winner’s votes and those of his main opponent. In 2007, Sahakyan won by 85.1 per cent, whilst Masis Mailyan, his main opponent, scored only 12.5 per cent.

Around 80 observers from Armenia, together with other CIS and Western countries, observed the vote. The non-Armenian observers represented non-governmental organisations or acted in a personal capacity, as the region has not been officially recognised by the international community. The European Parliament also sent two observers, although it does not recognise the framework in which the vote was held.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry condemned the poll as "illegitimate", and threatened to declare foreigners observing the voting as personae non grata. It commented in a statement: "The so-calle “elections” are held with the aim of concealing Armenia’s policy of annexing Azerbaijan’s occupied territories." Elman Abdullayev, Spokesman, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, commented: "This is completely contrary to the efforts of Azerbaijan and international organisations regarding peaceful resolution of the conflict."

Baroness Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Vice-President of the European Commission, condemned the elections: "On 19 July “presidential elections” will take place in Nagorno-Karabakh. I would like to reiterate that the EU does not recognise the constitutional and legal framework in which they will be held. Thes “elections” should not prejudice determination of the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh in the negotiated general framework of the peaceful settlement of the conflict."

Baroness Ashton reiterated the need for EU support of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs from the US, France and Russia, commenting: *"I call upon the parties to step up their efforts to find a negotiated solution to the conflict on the basis of the Madrid Principles, which would allow progress beyond the status quo. I reiterate the EU’s readiness to provide further support for efforts in this direction."

Leon Cook, Director of Communications, TEAS, welcomed "this important statement of the EU’s position", that serves to acknowledge that the occupied region is internationally-recognised Azerbaijani territory. He also praised the increased attention to the conflict that Baroness Ashton and the EU institutions have demonstrated in recent months. Cook stressed his support for the redoubling of EU efforts to help solve this conflict, which threatens regional stability, adding: "We remain committed to co-operating constructively with the European institutions in order to achieve this goal."

He noted Baroness Ashton’s support for the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, but said: "Unfortunately, the OSCE Minsk Group has not yet achieved any success in its efforts towards settlement of the conflict, which is continuing to destabilise the whole region. We believe strongly that peaceful conflict resolution is the only guarantee for the economic and social stability of the South Caucasus."

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs likewise condemned the provocative move, stating that they: "noted reports about the conduct o “elections” that took place yesterday in Nagorno-Karabakh", but emphasised that "none of their three countries, nor any other country, recognises Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent and sovereign state."

Th “elections” attracted worldwide condemnation. Alexander Lukashevich, Spokesman, Russian Foreign Ministry, commented: "We, together with other world countries, do not recognise Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state. We do not regard the so-calle “elections” as determining the future course of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process." The Turkish Foreign Affairs Ministry reiterated this, saying: "Turkey will not recognise the results of this so-calle “presidential election”, which it considers illegitimate and invalid in terms of international law. The Nagorno-Karabakh dispute continues to be the biggest obstacle before the establishment of peace, stability and co-operation in the South Caucasus. Moreover, it hinders the settlement of a climate that could lead to good neighbourhood ties and co-operation between the countries of the South Caucasus."

Philipp Missfelder, German MP and Foreign Policy Spokesman, CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group and Member of the German Commission on Foreign Affairs, stated: "The international community considers Nagorno-Karabakh to be an inseparable part of Azerbaijan, according to international law. The position of Germany and the EU is that solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can only be resolved in a peaceful manner. Neither Germany nor the EU recognise th “parliamentary elections” held in Nagorno-Karabakh."

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Azerbaijani officer killed by an Armenian sniper

2012-08-29

The Azerbaijani Defence Ministry has revealed that an Armenian sniper shot dead Jafar Jafarov, an Azerbaijani Senior Lieutenant, near th “contact line” in the direction of the Alibeyli village of the Tovuz region of Azerbaijan. The shooting took place on 20 July.

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OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs demonstrate concern

2012-08-29

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs – Ambassadors Robert Bradtke (US), Igor Popov (Russian Federation) and Jacques Fauré (France) – together with Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk (Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office) – travelled to Baku, Nagorno-Karakakh and Yerevan from 10–13 July.

In Baku, the Co-Chairs met Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijani President, and Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister; in Nagorno-Karabakh they spoke to the authorities of the occupying force in the unrecognised republic; and in Yerevan, they exchanged dialogue with Serzh Sargsyan, Armenian President; Edward Nalbandian, Armenian Foreign Minister, and Seyran Ohanyan, Armenian Defence Minister. On 11 July, they crossed th “contact line” on foot, and the following day travelled from Nagorno-Karabakh to Yerevan via Kelbajar, being their first visit to that region since October 2010. The Co-Chairs reaffirmed their countries’ commitment to peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as emphasised by the Presidents of the three Co-Chair countries in their statement in Los Cabos, Mexico, on 18 June.

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs also continued discussions from their meeting in Paris on 18 June with the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers. They expressed their concern over recent incidents along th “contact line”, and reiterated that the sides’ political will regarding the achievement of peace should be demonstrated by respecting the 1994 ceasefire agreement, and abstaining from hostile public rhetoric.

With regard to reports relating to the controversial planned opening of an airport in Nagorno-Karabakh, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs received renewed assurances from both sides that they would reject any threat or use of force against civil aircraft, pursue the matter through diplomatic steps, and refrain from politicising the issue. They reaffirmed that operation of this airport does not signify any change in the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, and urged the sides to act in accordance with international law that is consistent with current legislation regarding flights over their territory. The Co-Chairs are to meet the Azerbaijani and Armenian Foreign Ministers separately in order to prepare for a joint meeting of the Ministers in September.

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Nagorno-Karabakh discussed at OSCE Parliamentary Assembly meeting

2012-08-29

The report OSCE – Region of Change, by Vilija Aleknaite, Lithuanian MP, has been discussed at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Azay Guliyev, Azerbaijani MP, commented: "The unresolved nature of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will cause the continuation of tension along th “contact line”." In his speech, Guliyev agreed that the rapporteur had touched on the existing unsettled and protracted conflicts in the OSCE region. He explained: "As the first important step, Mrs Vilija Aleknaite suggests that snipers should be withdrawn to maintain the ceasefire agreement. She has also requested that detailed research should be undertaken following incidents along th “contact line”. Azerbaijan agrees with establishing such a mechanism. However, this mechanism can only logically have an effect after the withdrawal of Armenian troops from our lands. If it happens, there will be no need for snipers."

Guliyev requested that the MP should inform Armenia that it would not accept the continued current status quo and legalisation of the occupation. He commented: "Armenia seriously violates all international conventions and legal norms by holding Azerbaijani areas under occupation. We desire the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within the international norms, and await the same attitude to be demonstrated by the opposite side."

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Vienna forum in Baku to concentrate on Nagorno-Karabakh

2012-08-29

The Vienna forum for Azerbaijani students studying across the EU will focus on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during a conference in Baku on 26–27 October. The event is organised by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Youth and Sports; the Centre for Strategic Studies under the Azerbaijani President (SAM); the Azerbaijani Embassy in Austria; the Youth Fund, under the Azerbaijani Ministry of Youth and Sports; the Azerbaijani Community of Nagorno-Karabakh Public Union; and the Azerbaijani Students and Alumni International Forum (ASAIF).

During the forum, Azerbaijani officials and experts will undertake discussions on the historical aspects of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and legal, humanitarian and other aspects of the negotiation process. Azerbaijani students studying in the EU at all levels can apply to participate by visiting http://bit.ly/ViennaForum.

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Book on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict published in Paris

2012-08-29

Paris-based L’Harmattan has published an English version of Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: Just Peace or Imminent War? by Professor Fazil Zeynalov, Baku State University. The book highlights the historic roots of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and the author stresses that thousands of Iranian and Turkish Armenians were resettled in the Nagorno-Karabakh, Nakhchivan and other Azerbaijani lands by the Tsarist Russian Empire, following the signing of the Treaty of Turkmenchay between the Russian and Persian Empires in 1828.

Numerous French, English, Russian, Turkish and Azerbaijani sources were used during the writing of the work, which covers the historical, geopolitical and legal basis of the conflict. Professor Zeynalov initially details historic sources from the Caucasian Albanian and Middle Ages; the work of the Russian Orientalists in the 19th–20th centuries; and outlines the discoveries of prominent Azerbaijani historians.

The author also discusses the régime in Nagorno-Karabakh that was imposed by Armenia, following the regaining of Azerbaijani independence in 1991. The book mainly focuses on the achievement of a peaceful, negotiated conflict resolution, based on international law and following mutual agreement of the parties.

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Musical tribute to Khojaly premiered in Gabala

2012-08-29

This year’s Gabala International Music Festival has featured the premiere of a powerful new piece by the Russian composer Aleksandr Tchaikovsky simply entitled Khojaly, dedicated to the 613 civilians killed by Armenian and Soviet forces in February 1992. The piece was performed by the Moscow Soloists Group, led by viola player Yuri Bashmet, alongside pianist Farhad Badalbeyli, cellist Dmitry Yablonsky and tar-player Sahib Pashazade. Throughout, the tar was predominant, the mugham elements permitting improvisations around such traditional themes as Lachin. The piece attracted a four-minute standing ovation, and will be recorded in the near future.

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TEAS agrees with Ashton's criticism on today's illega “elections” in Nagorno-Karabakh

2012-07-29

On 19 July, The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) welcomed a statement from Baroness Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy regarding the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Baroness Ashton said that the EU "does not recognise the constitutional and legal framework" in whic “presidential elections” are taking place today in Nagorno-Karabakh and commented that they "should not prejudice the determination of the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh." She urged that greater efforts should be exerted to find a negotiated solution and underlined "the EU’s readiness to provide further support to efforts in this direction."

Leon Cook, Director of Communications, TEAS, welcomed "this important statement of the EU’s position", which acknowledges that the occupied region is internationally recognised Azerbaijani territory, and the increased attention that Baroness Ashton and the EU institutions have paid to the conflict in recent months. He urged the redoubling of efforts by the EU to help solve a conflict that threatens regional stability, adding "we remain committed to co-operating constructively with the European institutions in order to achieve this goal."

He noted Baroness Ashton’s support for the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, but said: "Unfortunately, the OSCE Minsk Group has not yet achieved any success in its efforts towards settlement of the conflict, which is continuing to destabilise the whole region. We believe strongly that peaceful conflict resolution is the only guarantee for the economic and social stability of the South Caucasus."

Mr Cook said that the EU statement was in line with the unequivocal condemnation by the EU of all previou “elections” in occupied Nagorno-Karabakh. He said that four outstanding United Nations Security Council resolutions have stipulated that Armenian troops should leave Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding districts, which have remained occupied for almost 20 years.

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The European Azerbaijan Society welcomes OSCE Minsk Group statement on Nagorno-Karabak “elections” – but criticises one element as "illogical and unhelpful"

2012-07-29

The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) welcomed the main points in a statement, issued on 20 July, from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-Chairs regarding the ‘presidential elections’ in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, representing the United States, Russia and France "noted reports about the conduct o “elections” that took place yesterday in Nagorno-Karabakh", but emphasised that "none of their three countries, nor any other country, recognises Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent and sovereign state." This is in line with the principles of international law and the fact that the whole Nagorno-Karabakh region is an internationally recognised territory of Azerbaijan.

Leon Cook, Director of Communications, TEAS, said: "As the Co-Chairs rightly point out, Nagorno-Karabakh does not exist as a legitimate sovereign entity. This being the case, it is illogical and unhelpful for the Co-Chairs to accept the need for th “de facto authorities” to "try to organise democratically the lives of their population."

He continued: "Any support – no matter how tangential – given to the illegal occupation of Azerbaijani soil has the effect of slowing down the glacial progress towards a negotiated settlement, and further delays the return to their homes and lands of 875,000 Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs)."

In line with the European Union statement by Baroness Ashton, the Co-Chairs also emphasised that the so-calle “presidential elections” held on 19 June "in no way prejudge the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh or the outcome of the ongoing negotiations to bring a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."

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Van Rompuy requests implementation of the Madrid Principles

2012-07-29

During his inaugural visit to Azerbaijan, Herman Van Rompuy, President, European Council, met Azerbaijani President Aliyev, and commented: "Both Azerbaijan and Armenia need to take decisions to reach a lasting and peaceful settlement, based on the Madrid Principles." He went on to praise the rapid modernisation of the country, and stressed the value of the EU–Azerbaijani relationship, and the benefits that both had gained through co-operation, particularly regarding the future of energy security; Azerbaijani commitment to the principles of religious coexistence; and the strong and developing EU–Azerbaijani relationship within the EU Eastern Partnership.

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MEPs urge EU action on Nagorno-Karabakh and request Armenian withdrawal

2012-07-29

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from across Europe and the political spectrum have requested EU action to challenge the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh by demanding Armenian withdrawal from the occupied territories.

Speaking on 20 June during a meeting of the European Parliament’s Security and Defence Subcommittee, a group of MEPs commented that, without action, the stability of the entire South Caucasus could be threatened. They also called on the EU to express its clear support for withdrawal of Armenian armed forces to help achieve a peaceful settlement.

Their calls were welcomed by The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS), and Roman Huna, Head, TEAS Belgium, commented: "We hope that the EU will heed these calls and take prompt action. It is unacceptable that this conflict on Europe’s borders remains unresolved, due to the Armenian disregard for international standards and the rule of law. We believe that the EU and the international community should be very clear in stressing the necessity for Armenian withdrawal from Azerbaijani territory."

MEPs backing action included Milan Cabrnoch (European Conservatives and Reformists Group, Czech Republic), who suggested that return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh should be the first step. Ivo Vajgl (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) said the EU should make its non-acceptance of the status quo clear to Armenia, and not be seen to legitimise the occupation. It should emphasise that Azerbaijani territories remained occupied, and that international conventions are being flouted.

Vytautas Landsbergis (European People’s Party, Lithuania) continued: "We need to clean our vocabulary. These are no “disputed”, bu “occupied” territories", and supported the European Parliament’s (EP) April 2012 resolution demanding "withdrawal from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan." He noted that Armenia was effectively a Russian protectorate, and that the Azerbaijani military budget was dwarfed by Russia.

His party colleague, Anna Ibrisagic (Sweden) said: "There is an occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories, and we need courage to tell the other side that this is wrong." She acknowledged it was necessary to end the occupation, let the internally displaced persons (IDPs) return to their homes and then work on a settlement. She also urged the EU to react to the military parade that took place in Nagorno-Karabakh in May in front of Armenian President Sargsyan. Maria Elena Koppi (Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, Greece) reinforced this view by explaining the importance of understanding that Armenia remains reluctant to return the occupied territories.

The Parliamentary committee heard from several experts. Philippe Lefort, EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and crisis in Georgia, stressed that it is important to "respect the principles of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act," and that the "status quo is unacceptable for the EU." He underlined the importance of the recent EP Resolution, passed on 18 April, which is now a cornerstone of EU policy regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Lefort also commented on the Madrid Principles, drafted by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, which provide a foundation for peaceful resolution. He explained that this does not mention the right of self-determination, or the necessity for a referendum in Nagorno-Karabakh.

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European specialist gives short-term perspective on Nagorno-Karabakh

2012-07-29

In an interview with news.az, Amanda Paul, Policy Analyst, EU Eastern Neighbourhood, Russia, Turkey and Eurasia at the Brussels-based European Policy Centre gave her assessment of the current EU–Azerbaijani relationship. She commented: "The EP, firstly through its report entitled The EU Strategy for the South Caucasus in May 2010, and now through the Association Agreements with Azerbaijan and Armenia, is demonstrating that it recognises the importance of the region. It also acknowledges the danger of the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the need to adopt further methods for pushing the leaderships of both Azerbaijan and Armenia into increasing their efforts in the peace talks. It is hoped that the ‘carrot’ of further integration with the EU will entice Yerevan and Baku to make greater strides towards reaching a solution.”

The analyst continued: "Azerbaijan is a very important partner for the EU in terms of its energy diversification plans. Gas from the Caspian will be fundamental in reducing EU dependence on Russia. Furthermore, Azerbaijan may also act as a key transit state for gas eventually coming from Central Asia to the EU market."

However, she remained pessimistic about the potential for a change in Armenian policy, commenting: "Going into a cycle of elections in the region, Armenia is not going to change its policy. Rather, the negative rhetoric may increase, as the election draws closer. Generally, Armenia continues to feel vulnerable, and maintains a siege mentality to this end.

"Furthermore, Russia’s military exercises – which it is presently conducting from its military base in Armenia – further aggravate tensions in the region. This is set to increase, as the exercises will culminate in a massive Caucasus 2012 exercise in September, which will be carried out in Armenia, the occupied territories of Georgia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) and Russia. The Armenians seem to be claiming that the current exercises demonstrate that Russia will now allow war, whilst the Georgians see them as a blatant provocation, increasing regional instability, aimed at escalating tensions within Georgian politics in the run-up to key parliamentary elections in October."

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US Senate confirms Morningstar as US Ambassador to Azerbaijan

2012-07-29

The US Senate has confirmed Richard Morningstar’s appointment as US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, following his nomination by US President Barack Obama in April. The position of US Ambassador has remained vacant since the departure of Matthew Bryza in December 2011. Bryza had attained the position as “recess appointment” by President Obama, which had bypassed the Senate, that he held for just under one year. However, the pro-Armenian senators Barbara Boxer and Robert Menendez blocked his subsequent election nomination.

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Controversial Nagorno-Karabakh airport ready to service flights

2012-07-29

The renovated airport in Khankendi (Stepanakert), constructed by the Armenian occupying force in Nagorno-Karabakh, is technically ready for operation, according to a senior aviation official. Dmitry Adbashyan, Head, Civil Aviation Department of the unrecognised republic, revealed that issues relating to the certification of the airport’s staff have also been settled over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The airport was closed in 1994, following the ceasefire declaration between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Renovation work took place from 2009–11, but the reopening of the airport has since been postponed, following condemnation of the move by the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe (PACE).

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OSCE Secretary-General reiterates need for swift conflict resolution

2012-07-29

During his first official visit to Azerbaijan, Lamberto Zannier, Secretary-General, OSCE, emphasised the need for increased political will in negotiating a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He stressed that the OSCE would continue collaborating with the country towards implementing its commitments.

Zannier explained that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict presents an enormous threat to regional security and is inhibiting economic development in the South Caucasus. He reiterated his support of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and the OSCE Chairperson’s Personal Representative towards establishing a negotiated solution to the conflict and strengthening the ceasefire régime.

He commented: "The conflict will not be resolved by the use of force. Negotiations are the only way forward; and political goodwill and the commitment of all those involved is an essential prerequisite for finding a lasting, peaceful, solution."

Zannier underlined that he was "seriously concerned" by the recent incidents on th “contact line”, which "marred the efforts to bring long-awaited peace and stability to the people living in these areas." He we went on to request that all parties should refrain from the use or threat of force, abstain from retaliatory measures, remove snipers from the ‘contact line’, and implement the agreed confidence-building measures, including a mechanism for investigating incidents on the front lines. During his visit, Zannier met Azerbaijani President Aliyev; Ziyafet Askerov, Deputy Chair, Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament); and civil society representatives.

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Nagorno-Karabakh conflict agreement must respect international law

2012-07-29

On 18 June, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs from Russia, France and the US met the Azerbaijani and Armenian Foreign Ministers in Paris. Here, they expressed their disappointment over the continuing stalemate in the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations shared by the three Co-Chairing Presidents – Vladimir Putin (Russia), Barack Obama (USA) and François Hollande (France) – at the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.

The OSCE Statement commented: "We, the Presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries – France, the Russian Federation, and the USA – are united in our resolute commitment to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The parties to the conflict should not further delay making the important decisions necessary to reach a lasting and peaceful settlement. We regret that the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia did not take the decisive steps that our countries called for in the joint statement at Deauville on 26 May 2011. Nevertheless, the progress that has been achieved should provide the momentum to complete work on the framework for a comprehensive peace.

"We call upon the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to fulfill the commitment in their 23 January 2012 joint statement at Sochi t “accelerate” reaching an agreement on the Basic Principles for settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As evidence of their political will, they should refrain from maximalist positions in the negotiations, respect the 1994 ceasefire agreement, and abstain from the hostile rhetoric that increases tension. We urge the leaders to be guided by the principles of the Helsinki Final Act – particularly those relating to the non-use of force or the threat of force, territorial integrity, and equal rights and self-determination of peoples – and the elements of a settlement, outlined in our countries’ statements at L'Aquila in 2009 and Muskoka in 2010.

"Military force will not resolve the conflict, and would only prolong the suffering and hardships endured by the peoples of the region for too long. Only a peaceful, negotiated settlement can allow the entire region to move beyond the status quo toward a secure and prosperous future."

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Armenian misinformation discredited by US Chargé d’Affaires

2012-07-29

Adam Sterling, US Chargé d’Affaires in Azerbaijan, has strongly refuted claims in the Armenian media that the US government had imposed a ban on the sale of US arms to Azerbaijan. According to the APA news agency, Sterling explained to journalists that US companies selling defence equipment to other states must obtain a license from the US State Department and submit a list of countries engaged in the sale. He acknowledged: "One US private company, after referring to the US State Department, withdrew Azerbaijan from its list." The diplomat refused to disclose the name of the company.

Sterling reiterated that US–Azerbaijani relations in the security sector are long-established, with broad co-operation in the security field, and this remains unchanged. According to information previously distributed by the Armenian National Committee of America, the US State Department had removed Azerbaijan from a list of countries approved for the sale of American military equipment, and had refused to sell components for military helicopters to the country.

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NATO expresses support for peaceful Nagorno-Karabakh resolution

2012-07-29

During a visit to Baku, James Appathurai, Special Representative, South Caucasus and Central Asia, NATO, expressed his support for a mutually acceptable solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He continued: "There is the OSCE Minsk Group process and we don't participate in that, but we support it and its goals, which are the achievement of a mutually acceptable, peaceful solution. Recently there have been heightened tensions and a number of incidents, which worry us. There must be a political solution, and there will be no successful military solution."

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Nagorno-Karabakh play “vital” role towards Armenia’s EU integration

2012-07-29

Baroness Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has commented that resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict "is vital if Armenia’s political association and economic integration with the EU is to achieve its full potential." The comments were made in Brussels on 27 June, following her meeting with Armenian President Sargsyan.

Baroness Ashton expressed concern over the serious armed incidents in early June along th “contact line”. She urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to step up their efforts to reach agreement on the Madrid Principles, and to fully implement the commitments made by their presidents within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.

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OSCE PA summer session to hear report on Nagorno-Karabakh

2012-07-29

A report entitled OSCE – Region of Change will be heard at the summer session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) that will open in Monaco. Prepared by Vilija Aleknaite Abramikiene, a Lithuanian rapporteur, this will reflect issues of security in the OSCE area, including such protracted conflicts as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Eldar Ibrahimov, a member of Azerbaijani delegation to the OSCE PA, explained that the document notes that protracted conflicts have created a new threat to regional security and stability. He said: "As stated in the document, one of these facts is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as a result of which losses continue, and tension is increasing in th “contact line” between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops. The report calls for the continuation of work on the peace treaty."

The text initially states that the first step in this direction is the withdrawal of snipers and observance of the ceasefire. It also explains that it remains essential to investigate incidents in the conflict zone.

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Clinton condemns violence escalation

2012-06-22

During her second visit to Azerbaijan, Hillary Clinton, US Secretary-of-State, commented on the upsurge in violence on the Nagorno-Karabak “contact line” on 4–5 June, which allegedly claimed the lives of five Azerbaijanis and three Armenians. Speaking to reporters following a speech by Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, she explained: "Regarding security, I reiterated my appreciation for Azerbaijan’s past contributions in Iraq and Kosovo and its vital ongoing work in Afghanistan. Azerbaijan is essential to the transportation of troops and non-lethal supplies that support the international effort in Afghanistan. Today, we discussed the continuing important role of the Northern Distribution Network and emphasised supporting the Afghan people after 2014 when they transition to full responsibility for security.

"We also had in-depth discussions about Nagorno-Karabakh, including the most recent incidents and deaths along th “contact line”. As I said earlier this week in Yerevan, I am deeply concerned about the danger of escalating tension, which could have unpredictable and disastrous consequences. This cycle of violence and retaliation must end, and everyone should work to keep the peace and comply with the obligations under the 1994 ceasefire agreement. I have stressed to President Aliyev that the US is prepared to do whatever it can to help reach a settlement based upon the principles of the Helsinki Final Act. And I have asked the President, as I have asked the President of Armenia, to work together to exercise restraint and to take the steps necessary for peace, not conflict.

"Regarding energy, the US works closely with Azerbaijan on energy security. This is a common strategic interest for both countries, and one of the great global challenges of our time. Today, I briefly visited the Caspian Oil and Gas Show, and I conveyed to the President and Foreign Minister our great appreciation for the central role that Azerbaijan plays in efforts to diversify supplies of oil and gas as well as the routes over which they are transported. The US supports Azerbaijan’s goal of establishing a Southern Corridor for natural gas exports to Europe – a crucial link that will solidify Azerbaijan’s ties to the Euro-Atlantic community. And I look forward to even deeper co-operation in this area."

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Armenian forces shoot five Azerbaijani troops

2012-06-22

The Azerbaijani Defence Ministry has accused Armenia of violating its border and shooting dead five of its soldiers. According to reports, Armenia “saboteurs” killed four soldiers in one incident, with a fifth Azerbaijani soldier being shot dead in another. Hillary Clinton, US Secretary-of-State, who was visiting the South Caucasus at the time, went on to call for restraint.

A statement from the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry explained that an "Armenian sabotage group" had tried to enter Azerbaijani military positions at around 06:30hrs on 5 June in the village of Asagi Askipara, in the Qazax district of western Azerbaijan. It went on to explain: "However, they sustained casualties and retreated." Four Azerbaijani soldiers were killed in the fighting.

The fifth Azerbaijani soldier was killed in a separate shooting incident in the Qazax district, the Ministry said, without giving details. The Armenian Defence Ministry accused Azerbaijani forces of attempting an incursion across the border. Hillary Clinton commented: "I am very concerned by these incidents and have called on all parties, all actors, to refrain from the use or threat of force. There is a danger that it could escalate into a much broader conflict that would be very tragic for everyone concerned."

This was followed by the death of a sixth Azerbaijani on 8 June, when a landmine explosion killed 19-year-old Saadatdin Mammadov. According to Teymur Abdullayev, Spokesman, Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, the incident occurred on th “contact line” in the direction of the Tovuz region. The Goranboy Region Military Commissariat had conscripted Mammadov into military service. Following this, two Azerbaijani officers were severely injured in mine blasts near Goranboy on 11 June. Zafir Mammadov, Chief, Azerbaijani Military Engineering Service lost a leg, whereas Ilgar Verdiyev, Departmental Commander for the same section, lost an arm.

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Clause in NATO Chicago Declaration supports Azerbaijani perspective

2012-06-22

Elman Abdullayev, Spokesman, Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has commented that the Final Declaration of the NATO Chicago Summit accurately reflects the progress of negotiations regarding settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Abdullayev explained that the opinions of Edward Nalbandian, Armenian Foreign Minister, could potentially damage the negotiation process regarding the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. He explained: "Such statements by the Armenian Foreign Minister are completely baseless. This article absolutely corresponds with the L’Aquila and Muskoka declarations, negotiations process, and updated Madrid Principles."

The spokesman said the Azerbaijani side highly appreciated this support, stating: "This declaration shows that NATO continues to demonstrate its fair position. Several countries, including the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries of France and the US, also signed the declaration." The summit was attended by Azerbaijani President Aliyev, but not by Armenian President Sargsyan.

The Declaration states: "We remain committed in our support of the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Moldova, and will continue to back efforts towards achieving a peaceful settlement of these regional conflicts, based upon these principles and the norms of international law, the UN Charter, and the Helsinki Final Act."

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Lithuania seeks deeper EU involvement in the South Caucasus

2012-06-22

Audronius Ažubalis, Lithuanian Foreign Minister, has revealed that Lithuania is a strong proponent for more extensive EU involvement in the South Caucasus region. Speaking to Eurodialogue.org, he commented: "We regard the EU Eastern Partnership as an indispensable instrument from which to develop relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

"Lithuania fully supports closer South Caucasus rapprochement with the EU, including negotiations on Association and Visa Facilitation agreements. As a holder of the EU Presidency in the second half of 2013, Lithuania will support political association and further economic integration between the EU and interested partner countries, including closer economic ties and increased mobility."

Ažubalis recognised that the persistence of protracted conflicts remains one of the greatest threats to security and co-operation within the OSCE area. He said: "With regard to Nagorno-Karabakh, we have worked closely with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and made our contribution towards preventing the volatile situation in and around Nagorno-Karabakh from worsening."

He noted that a joint statement was agreed by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair Countries with the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers in the margins of the Vilnius Ministerial Council on 6 December, where the heads of delegations agreed on the need to continue the negotiation process in the format of the OSCE Minsk Group and improve the climate towards achieving peaceful conflict resolution.

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Shusha remembered

2012-06-22

On 19 May, a solemn remembrance took place at Azerbaijan House, Shoreditch, London, entitled Remembering Shusha, attended by H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK, and Dr Ali Atalar, Chairman, Azerbaijan House, amongst others. This commemorated the 20th anniversary of the occupation of Shusha, the largest town in Nagorno-Karabakh, by Armenian forces on 9 May 1992. The event began with a video on the Khojaly Massacre, issued by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, which explained the systematic relocation of Armenians to the South Caucasus under the Tsarist Russian Empire, the attempts to gain territory to form th “Great Armenia” and the belligerence of the Dashnakian party. It also explained how Sir Winston Churchill believed that Armenians in the region would stem the spread of Communism. The video went on to graphically show some of the 613 Massacre victims.

Following this, a film entitled The Damage Caused to Historical and Cultural Heritage in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan was shown, produced by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This comprised photos from the late 1980s of the most famous buildings and monuments in Shusha, such as the Ganja Gates, the Saatly Mosque, Panah Khan’s Palace and the statues to Uzeyir Hajibeyli, composer of Layla and Majnun, the first opera of the Muslim East (1908) and the famous singer Bulbul. The scenes were juxtaposed with recent, covertly-taken, photos of occupied Shusha, showing the devastation wreaked upon these unique Azerbaijani constructions.

Ambassador Gurbanov commented: "It is now 20 years since the occupation of Shusha. This is particularly painful for Azerbaijanis, as the town was the cultural capital of Azerbaijan, and home to such musicians as Hajibeyli and Bulbul and the poetess Natavan. As could be seen in the film, the panorama of the city demonstrates its architecture, surrounded by the beauties of nature.

"Azerbaijan believes that a peaceful solution is the best way forward. It is most regrettable that the Armenian invaders did not preserve out heritage, and inflicted destruction on our ancient buildings. In Azerbaijan, we have a different attitude. Armenian churches are restored by the state, and they are safe and sound for future generations to appreciate. We will continue the peace process through diplomacy, and remember those who died in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."

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Congress of European Azerbaijanis issues statement on Shusha

2012-06-22

The Berlin-based Congress of European Azerbaijanis has issued a statement addressed to Azerbaijanis living in Europe to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the occupation of Shusha. According to the Azerbaijani State Committee on Work with Diaspora, the document says: "Shusha, currently held under Armenian occupation, has a particular position in Azerbaijani history. Founded by Panah Khan, the founder of the Karabakh Khanate, it was occupied by Armenian forces on 8 May 1992, supported by the 366th regiment of the former Soviet army. At least 200 people were killed, 600 were wounded, 150 became invalids, 552 children were orphaned, and more than 20,000 people became refugees and internally-displaced persons (IDPs)."

The document was signed by Samira Patzer-Ismailova, President, Congress of European Azerbaijanis, and continued: "The Congress of European Azerbaijanis calls on international organisations to demand that Armenia should withdraw its forces from the occupied lands of Azerbaijan. The congress also calls on all Azerbaijanis in Europe to inform the public communities, governmental and non-governmental organisations of the countries in which they reside about the crimes perpetrated by Armenians against the people, history and culture of Azerbaijan."

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Armenian actions regarding Shusha remain provocative

2012-06-22

Despite the outrage of Azerbaijanis across the world, the Armenian army held a military parade on 9 May in Khankendi, Nagorno-Karabakh, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of invading Shusha. This was attended by Bako Sahakyan, President of the occupying force, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, and Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, amongst others.

Sahakyan commented: "We liberated Shusha, our ancient fortress, a cultural and spiritual centre that had been in captivity for years, that is reviving and getting a new breath of life today. In this sense, the defence army, the most important guarantor of our nation’s freedom, security, pride and achievements, was formed." Armenian President Sargsyan remained belligerent: "Victory in the Great Patriotic War opened new opportunities for development of our nation. It was a historic opportunity that allowed Armenia and its people in the following years and decades to register impressive achievements in almost every area. Our entire nation brought its contribution to the victory through enormous sacrifice.

"On 9 May 1992, the heroic deeds of their grandfathers and fathers were repeated by modern-day freedom fighters, multiplying the glory and honour of the Armenian army. The liberation of Shusha once again opened new doors for our people’s peaceful, creative work and the development of the nation. This victory too was achieved through the greatest sacrifice of our people."

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Occupation force holds regular exercises

2012-06-22

The defence army of the occupying force in Nagorno-Karabakh will continue to hold regular military exercises, according to Senor Hasratyan, Press Secretary for the occupying forces. The statement was made in response to reports in the Azerbaijani media that Armenian forces are conducting exercises using heavy artillery in the Shahbulag Mountain and Uzundere areas. Hasratyan explained: "Along the lines of the annual plan, th “Defence Army” subdivisions undertake regular exercises in order to enhance their combat-readiness."

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Azerbaijani progress highlighted by EU Ambassador Kobia

2012-06-22

On 17 May in Baku, Ambassador Roland Kobia, Head of the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan, held a press conference. This was partially dedicated to the publication of the Progress Report on Azerbaijan within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy. During his speech, Ambassador Kobia underlined the important work and achievements undertaken by Azerbaijan within the Azerbaijan–EU Action Plan.

Ambassador Kobia emphasised that the Progress Report noted Azerbaijan’s achievements in the domains of the economy, poverty reduction, adoption of the new Customs Code, monetary and financial stability, increased trade turnover with the EU, energy co-operation, and harmonisation with the EU regarding the prevention of crime, money-laundering and terrorism. He also welcomed Azerbaijan’s achievements in the fight against corruption, and its developments in trade, the judiciary, and prison hygiene.

With regard to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions, Kobia noted his support for the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group. However, the European Commission acknowledged that the OSCE Minsk Group had not achieved its objective of achieving a peaceful solution to the conflict. The EU has recently initiated the creation of a new position – that of a special ambassador, whose mission is to focus on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

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Azerbaijani Republic Day remembered

2012-06-22

The achievements of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) were commemorated on 25 May in London during an event organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the UK, held at Baku Restaurant in Sloane Street. Around 200 Peers, MPs, Diplomats and friends of Azerbaijan attended the event. Republic Day was subsequently celebrated in Azerbaijan on 28 May.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, there was considerable turbulence across the former Russian Empire, and the only way for Azerbaijanis to stop this violence was to establish their own State and National Army. On 28 May 1918, the Muslim National Council held its opening sitting in Tiflis, and adopted the Declaration on Independence, which proclaimed the establishment of the independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) in south and southeast Transcaucasia. This became the first Constitutional Act in the history of Azerbaijan, affirming Azerbaijani statehood. On 16 June, the national council and the cabinet of the ADR were relocated to Ganja – the second biggest Azerbaijani city. The primary goal of the government was to liberate Baku and the other cities of Azerbaijan from Armenian and Bolshevik occupation.

Following the successful liberation of Baku and other cities by the Caucasian Islamic Army, comprising Azerbaijani and Turkish troops, the capital of the ADR moved from Ganja to Baku. On 7 December 1918, the first session of the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament) was held, being the first parliament based on democratic principles to be established in the entire Muslim East. The Parliament included representatives from the main ethnic groups in the country.

International recognition of the ADR was soon achieved and, on 11 January 1920, the Supreme Council of the Paris Peace Conference resolved to recognise the independence of Azerbaijan. During its brief period of existence, the leadership of the ADR managed to create a well-operated state machine, establishing relations with more than 20 countries. On 26 June, the government established the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, and amongst the achievements of the ADR were the granting of the franchise to all men and women over the age of 18 years, predating such developments in the UK and US; the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers; the opening of Baku University; and the receiving of government scholarships to study in leading European universities. Unfortunately, the ADR only lasted for 23 months, its life being curtailed by the occupation of Azerbaijan by the Red Army on 28 April 1920.

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New French President Hollande congratulated by Azerbaijan

2012-06-22

The Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) has requested that Azerbaijani internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees should be permitted to return to their homes. According to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, the comments were made in the Ashgabat Resolution, adopted during the organisation’s international conference, entitled Refugees in the Muslim World, which took place in the Turkmen capital on 11–12 May.

The adopted document recalls the resolutions and documents of the Council of Foreign Ministers on the Aggression of the Republic of Armenia against the Republic of Azerbaijan, expressing concern over the plight of 875,000 Azerbaijani IDPs and refugees expelled from the occupied territories in and around Nagorno-Karabakh and their subsequent humanitarian problems.

The document concludes: "We call for the Azerbaijani IDPs and refugees to return to their homes in safety, honour and dignity, and reaffirm our total solidarity and support for the efforts undertaken by the Azerbaijani government and people of Azerbaijan to this end." The OIC also demanded the full implementation of the relevant OIC, UN General Assembly and UN Security Council resolutions.

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New French President Hollande congratulated by Azerbaijan

2012-05-27

Following his election on 6 May, H.E. François Hollande, the new Socialist French President, received a congratulatory letter from Azerbaijani President Aliyev. He stated: "The high level of interstate relations and our fruitful co-operation in the political, economic and humanitarian spheres are very reassuring. Our joint activities in international organisations, within the framework of European institutions, and in the area of energy security, are characteristic of our bilateral co-operation and collaboration in the multilateral format.

"As a country co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group, France has played an important part in the negotiated settlement of Azerbaijan’s most painful problem – the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh – on the basis of international law. We are hopeful that your country will further enhance its efforts in the peace process, and that you will personally contribute to this cause."

Mubariz Gurbanli, Azerbaijani MP, commented: "I hope that, after the anti-Turkic actions and statements by Sarkozy, which didn’t yield any result, Hollande will have a clear opinion on the matter." He also noted that resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict depends not on the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and the Co-Chair countries, but on their joint activity. He explained: "If the three countries simultaneously place pressure on Armenia, we will achieve the desired result."

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Armenian election marred by fraud

2012-05-27

International observers gave a mixed assessment of the Armenian parliamentary elections that took place on 6 May, praising the pre-election environment in the country, but reporting irregularities in a "significant number" of polling stations on voting day. The election saw President Sargsyan’s party, the Republican Party of Armenia, achieving 44 per cent of the vote, whilst another party in the ruling coalition, the Prosperous Armenia Party, won 30 per cent. In their preliminary findings, nearly 300 observers, mostly deployed by the OSCE, avoided stating whether the vote was democratic.

Francois-Xavier de Donnea, a Belgian parliamentarian who headed a short-term OSCE monitoring committee, commented: "Armenia deserves recognition for its electoral reforms and its open and peaceful campaign environment but, in this race, several stakeholders too often failed to comply with the law. Election commissions frequently failed to enforce this. As a result, the international commitments to which Armenia has freely subscribed were not always respected."

Representatives of smaller monitoring teams deployed by the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) agreed with this conclusion. Baroness Emma Nicholson, who led the 27-strong PACE team, expressed concern over: "Reports of widespread interference regarding the running of polling stations, voters” movements and the casting of votes throughout the day by certain political parties. The authorities must address this unacceptable behaviour before the presidential election next year."

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Azerbaijani expatriates convene in Berlin

2012-05-27

A convention of the Congress of European Azerbaijanis (CAE) has taken place in Berlin. Bashar Komur, President, CAE, revealed that 61 diaspora organisations from numerous European countries were in attendance. He explained that the CAE is working hard to counter the anti-Azerbaijani efforts of the Armenian lobby, and has taken important steps to bring the truth about the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh to the attention of the world community.

Ali Hasanov, Head, Department for Social and Political Issues, Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, said: "Azerbaijan’s growing power and achievements of international importance have been annoying its enemies and prompting them to embark on anti-Azerbaijani activities. Diaspora organisations have a great responsibility to fend off anti-Azerbaijani efforts by hostile forces and to communicate accurate information about the country to those in Europe and beyond."

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Azerbaijani President meets UN Secretary-General

2012-05-27

In New York, Azerbaijani President Aliyev met Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General. Ban Ki-moon underscored the importance of the Presidential visit to New York visit since Azerbaijan took over the UN Security Council Presidency for May. He reiterated his support for placing the topic Threats to International Peace and Security caused by Terrorist Acts on the agenda of the UN Security Council, as it remains a very pressing issue.

President Aliyev outlined Azerbaijan’s role in the war on terrorism and in the counter-terrorism coalition. He spoke of the political and economic reforms that have been undertaken since Azerbaijan regained its independence in 1991. He also reiterated the country’s position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

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Retired Bryza speaks out

2012-05-27

Matthew Bryza, the former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, has retired from the US State Department. Despite this, his support for the Azerbaijani perspective on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains undimmed. Whilst speaking at a recent event in Washington D.C., organised by the Jamestown Foundation, Bryza identified internal reform, energy, and security as the three pillars of US foreign policy in the Caucasus.

From Bryza’s perspective, the biggest conundrum in the Caucasus is Nagorno-Karabakh. Mr Bryza maintained that the US: "Has lost its way in the last few years," as the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process took a back seat to the failed attempt at Turkish-Armenian normalisation. He continued: "The problem is that neither the Azerbaijani or Armenian President trusts his counterpart sufficiently to take the final step and agree on a comprehensive peace formula."

In his opinion, the stalemate will continue until the US government: "Leans in at a very senior level and helps break the ice" between the two Presidents. Prior to taking up his responsibilities in Baku, Bryza served as US co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, tasked with achieving a negotiated settlement to the conflict. He continued: "Turkish-Armenian normalisation is also a very important process," but cannot occur "in the absence of a breakthrough in Nagorno-Karabakh" since Azerbaijan’s allies in Turkey will hinder reconciliation until the Nagorno-Karabakh situation is resolved. Bryza went into an early retirement at the start of 2012 after the US Senate declined to confirm his recess appointment as US Ambassador to Azerbaijan. US-based Armenian diaspora organisations had expressed strong opposition to this decision.

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NAM approves final document on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

2012-05-27

During a ministerial meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has adopted a final document, which reaffirms the importance of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. In a statement, Elman Abdullayev, Spokesman, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, revealed that the NAM Co-ordinating Bureau adopted the final document on 9 May.

Abdullayev explained that one of the items in the document confirms that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict poses a threat to stability and security in the region. He continued: "The NAM member countries have reaffirmed the importance of conflict resolution based on three internationally-recognised principles – through negotiations, respect for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and non-use of force." According to Abdullayev, the fact that the NAM, comprising 120 countries, has adopted such a document proves that Azerbaijan has a justified position on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Azerbaijan became a NAM member in May 2011.

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Shusha: two decades on from occupation

2012-05-27

On 8 May, Azerbaijanis throughout the world paused to remember the 20th anniversary of the Armenian occupation of Shusha and the devastation of this most picturesque and vibrant town in Nagorno-Karabakh. Shusha is uniquely important for the history and culture of Azerbaijan. This mountainous community gave Azerbaijan the overwhelming majority of its poets, singers and composers, including the medieval princess-poet Natavan and Uzeyir Hajibeyli, who composed Layla and Majnun, the first Eastern opera, in 1908.

The future of Shusha has a crucial role to play in any settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The soul of Shusha is not in the present-day Armenian-controlled ghost town – it lives among the communities of internally-displaced persons (IDPs) scattered around Azerbaijan. Therefore, restoring Shusha is not an architectural reconstruction project – it can only be an initiative that includes a peace agreement and brings its Azerbaijani natives back home.

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Azerbaijani refugees” plight highlighted

2012-05-27

In a report from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Ulvi Telmansoy, a journalist for ANS, has highlighted the deplorable conditions under which IDPs and refugees from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict reside. She stated: "Refugee officials say Ganja is home to 16,000 people displaced by the war, 11,000 of which are from Kelbajar, one of several areas outside Nagorno-Karabakh that the Armenians captured and simply retained. Many are still living in communal hostels, whilst the lucky ones have had housing built for them by the authorities."

Ulvi continued: "The main problem is overcrowding in the hostels. There are four or five people to a room, sometimes even seven or eight," Nushab Mammadov, head of the Tomris human rights organisation in Ganja, said. "This isn’t an isolated problem facing individual families – it affects the majority of refugees living in Ganja."

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IYDU announces draft resolution on Nagorno–Karabakh

2012-05-27

On 13 April, The International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) announced the drafting of a resolution on Nagorno-Karabakh at its board meeting in Beirut. The IYDU draft highlights the four outstanding UN Security Council resolutions passed in 1993 as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict raged in Azerbaijan’s occupied territories. Each resolution reaffirmed the inviolability of international borders and the inadmissibility of the use of force for the acquisition of territory. They also demanded the withdrawal of Armenia’s occupying forces. The IYDU highlights the fact that the resolutions were written in accordance with Article 2 of the UN’s charter, that: "All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the integrity or political independence of any state…"

The IYDU recognises that 20 years is too long for a state of conflict to be permitted to continue by the international community, highlighting the fact that it is denying an entire generation the right to return to their homes; is obstructing economic development in the region; contravenes international law; and stresses that an escalation of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan would "at the very least" threaten energy supplies from Azerbaijan.

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OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs reiterate support for Sochi declaration

2012-05-27

The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, tasked with achieving peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, travelled to Yerevan and Baku from 11–14 May, where they met Armenian President Sargsyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev to discuss the most recent efforts made towards resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The Co-Chairs continued their discussions on how to implement the commitments made by the Presidents in their joint statement in Sochi, signed on 23 January. These included proposals to "accelerate" the achievement of an agreement based on the Basic Principles as a framework for a comprehensive peace settlement; working on the mechanism to investigate ceasefire violations; and the development of humanitarian contacts. The Co-Chairs expressed their concern over recent incidents along the frontline, and urged the sides to exercise restraint and refrain from retaliation. They also welcomed the sides” reaffirmation of their commitment to seek a peaceful settlement.

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EU to consider greater role in OSCE Minsk Group

2012-05-27

During the European Parliament (EP) Plenary session in Strasbourg on 18 April, the two resolutions were adopted on the negotiations of the Association Agreement between Azerbaijan and the European Union (EU), and between Armenia and the EU. In 2009, Foreign Ministers of the EU countries provided the European Commission with a mandate to start negotiations to conclude the EU bilateral Association Agreements with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. These will become a new practical instrument, replacing the bilateral action plans.

Both EP resolutions underline that the Association Agreements being negotiated between the EU with Azerbaijan and Armenia should make the South Caucasus region safer, by promoting peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The EP highlights the crucial role of the OSCE Minsk Group in this process, although the EP AFET Committee has already been discussing the idea of the EU replacing France. In both resolutions, the EP clearly says that the unresolved conflict prevents the full realisation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which is the basic framework for the EU approach to the region.

Armenia has not yet implemented the four UN Security Council’s resolutions on the liberation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjacent territories. It is the view of TEAS that both Association Agreements cannot be signed within the EU Eastern Partnership until the Azerbaijani occupied territories are liberated.

The Azerbaijan resolution stipulates the requirement for resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in accordance with international law, highlighting the ongoing plight of around 875,000 internally-displaced persons (IDPs). The resolution also supports the basic principles of the Helsinki Final Act; the immediate withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh and the right of all IDPs and refugees to return to their homelands and properties. The new EP Resolution on the EU–Azerbaijan Association Agreement clearly supports the position of Azerbaijan, including Nagorno-Karabakh.

TEAS welcomes that the resolution acknowledges the progress made in various sectors, such as transparency, information and communications technology (ICT) e-governance and developing conformity with EU standards. Azerbaijan is widely applauded as playing a positive role in the framework of the ENP and contributing to the solution of the EU's energy security problems. Moreover, the resolution stresses Azerbaijan's pivotal location for enabling a direct and unimpeded transit link to be established between the EU and the countries of Central Asia.

TEAS also welcomes the fact that Azerbaijan is seen by the European Community as an important regional partner, playing a positive role in the framework of the ENP and contributing to the solution of the EU’s energy security challenges.

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NATO Secretary-General Representative to visit Azerbaijan

2012-05-27

James Appathurai, Special Representative of the NATO Secretary-General to the South Caucasus and Central Asia, will arrive in Azerbaijan in early July. He will participate in the events dedicated to NATO week in Azerbaijan. The official is also expected to attend the opening ceremony of Ceyrancol on 6 July, which is a joint project between the Azerbaijani National Agency for Mine Actions (ANAMA) and the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA).

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TEAS activities outlined to Azerbaijani youth

2012-04-27

Speaking at the inaugural congress of the World Azerbaijanis” Youth Union in Baku, Tale Heydarov, Chairman and Founder, TEAS, outlined the role of TEAS in raising awareness of the country across Europe. He initially explained TEAS” role in publishing articles in the European media and the making of films for screening on European television. Tale went on to reveal that US journalist Professor Thomas Goltz is concluding the editing of a film produced to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Azerbaijan regaining its independence in 1991. This film will include discussions between European diplomats and politicians regarding Azerbaijan’s achievements over the past two decades.

He continued: "We aim to broadcast this film on television channels across the world. We are also using the internet to increase awareness of the country. In the UK, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Azerbaijan now has over 60 members, and they have visited the country. These visits are very significant, as the members come and witness the development of Azerbaijan with their own eyes." Tale also focused on publications as a method of substantiating the Azerbaijani position: "TEAS has published many books, including The Armenian Question in the Caucasus: Russian Archive Documents and Publications, which has prompted objections from Armenians in the US."

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Swedish Embassy in Baku to open in a few months

2012-04-27

H.E. Mikael Eriksson, the newly-appointed Swedish Ambassador to Azerbaijan, has commented: "There is great potential for development of political, economic and trade relations between Azerbaijan and Sweden. I think that the two countries will particularly collaborate in the renewable energy sector."

He also noted that there is the potential for some Swedish companies to supply equipment for the Azerbaijani oil and gas industry. With regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Ambassador Eriksson reiterated: "We support the activities of the OSCE Minsk Group, and believe that only a peaceful solution may be found to the conflict. The parties must reach a consensus." He revealed plans to open a Swedish Embassy in Baku at the end of Summer. Ambassador Eriksson is currently based in Stockholm, although he frequently visits Baku.

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Azerbaijani conflict film presented in Paris

2012-04-27

On 3 April, the Azerbaijani film Hostage (Girov), directed in 2006 by Eldar Guliev, was screened during a festival o “art” films entitled L’Europe autour de l’Europe. The evening was organised by TEAS and Confrontations Europe. The screening was attended by around 70 cinéphiles, being followed by a discussion in the presence of Qurban Ismayilov, the lead actor. Attendees then enjoyed a performance by the Azerbaijani singer Tarana, before heading to an Azerbaijani buffet.

In her inaugural speech as President of Confrontations Europe, Claude Fischer expressed her joy at seeing Azerbaijan represented for the first time amongst the films screened in this year’s festival. She then gave the floor to Eliza Pieter, Head, TEAS France, who thanked Confrontations Europe for this initiative and stressed that such events enabled TEAS to promote cultural exchange between the Azerbaijani and French peoples. Irena Bilic, Director, L’Europe autour de l’Europe, introduced the film and thanked Qurban Ismayilov for travelling from Baku to Paris on this occasion. She reminded the audience of the purpose of the festival – to present rarely-shown films from various cinematic traditions to a European audience (see the IMDb summary plot at: http://imdb.to/Girov1)

During the question-and-answer session, Ismayilov and the audience discussed such topics as the development of the film industry in Azerbaijan and the reaction of the Azerbaijani audience towards him after playing the role of an Armenian captive in Hostage. For Ismayilov, the film sent out a message of peace, and reminded viewers that before being enemies, men were brothers, husbands and fathers. He also stressed that the film paid tribute to women’s pain and losses brought about by war. One viewer asked Ismayilov why the film was produced in 2006, yet set in the late 1980s. The actor replied that it is always difficult to talk about war when it remains fresh in the viewers” collective consciousness. He also explained that the taking of hostages was a frequent occurrence at this stage of the conflict.

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Nagorno-Karabakh highlighted at Euronest assembly in Baku

2012-04-27

Energy and security, a stronger role for parliamentary democracy and civil society, and economic assistance to the EU’s Eastern neighbours, were the key topics of the second Euronest meeting that concluded on 4 April in Baku.

Kristian Vigenin MEP, Co-President, Euronest, admitted that: "Nagorno-Karabakh was one of the most dividing issues in this parliamentary assembly." He commended the ability of Armenia and Azerbaijan to sit at the same table, despite their difficulties, and continued: "What we have seen in this session is a very European approach, and I am proud of it."

Whilst expressing hope that the conflict would "not last forever", Vigenin explained that Euronest was not the "format" in which bilateral conflicts could be solved, and placing this issue high on the agenda would only split members. He continued: "We can only strive to provide more trust, understanding, and channels of dialogue." Boris Tarasyuk MEP, Co-President, Euronest, commented: "Unfortunately the Soviet Union has left us this very sad heritage, and the problems in the Eastern neighbourhood are the direct consequences of this."

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Nagorno-Karabakh highlighted at Euronest assembly in Baku

2012-04-27

Energy and security, a stronger role for parliamentary democracy and civil society, and economic assistance to the EU’s Eastern neighbours, were the key topics of the second Euronest meeting that concluded on 4 April in Baku.

Kristian Vigenin MEP, Co-President, Euronest, admitted that: "Nagorno-Karabakh was one of the most dividing issues in this parliamentary assembly." He commended the ability of Armenia and Azerbaijan to sit at the same table, despite their difficulties, and continued: "What we have seen in this session is a very European approach, and I am proud of it."

Whilst expressing hope that the conflict would "not last forever", Vigenin explained that Euronest was not the "format" in which bilateral conflicts could be solved, and placing this issue high on the agenda would only split members. He continued: "We can only strive to provide more trust, understanding, and channels of dialogue." Boris Tarasyuk MEP, Co-President, Euronest, commented: "Unfortunately the Soviet Union has left us this very sad heritage, and the problems in the Eastern neighbourhood are the direct consequences of this."

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OSCE Minsk Group requests exertion of greater political will

2012-04-27

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs countries – the US, Russia and France – have urged Azerbaijan and Armenia to demonstrate the necessar “political will” to find a lasting settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This statement was issued by Hillary Clinton, US Secretary-of-State; Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister; and Alain Juppé, French Foreign Minister, to mark the 20th anniversary of the formal request to convene a conference aimed at achieving a negotiated settlement to the conflict, which led to the formation of the OSCE Minsk Group. The statement continued: "A new generation has come of age in the region, with no first-hand memory of Armenians and Azerbaijanis living side by side, and prolonging these artificial divisions only deepens the wounds of war. For this reason, we urge the leaders of the sides to prepare their populations for peace, not war."

However, the Co-Chairs acknowledged that: "Progress toward peace has been made," citing joint presidential statements from the OSCE Minsk Group over the last three years outlining elements of a framework towards negotiating a comprehensive peace settlement. They went on to recall a statement from Azerbaijani President Aliyev, Armenian President Sargsyan, and Russian President Medvedev, where a pledge was made to reach agreement on the Basic Principles.

The Co-Chairs concluded: "We urge the leaders of the sides to complete work, as soon as possible, on the framework agreement and subsequent final settlement – based on the Helsinki Final Act principles of non-use or threat of force, territorial integrity, and self-determination and the equal rights of peoples; the United Nations Charter; and the norms and principles of international law."

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March Days remembered after almost a century

2012-04-27

On 31 March, Azerbaijanis across the world commemorated the 94th anniversary of the Soyqırım, also known as the March Days. From 30 March–2 April 1918, the armed units of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, supported by the Soviet Bolsheviks, undertook the mass killing of Azerbaijanis in the city of Baku and its surroundings. According to contemporaneous reports in the New York Times, nearly 12,000 Azerbaijani civilians were massacred during these four tragic days. Since 1998, 31 March is commemorated in Azerbaijan as the Day of Soyqirim, in remembrance of the massacres and deportations of Azerbaijanis by Armenians throughout the 20th century.

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Westerwelle stresses need for swift settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

2012-04-27

According to the German magazine Stern, Guido Westerwelle, German Foreign Minister, has reiterated the need to expedite resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. During a trip the South Caucasus, Westerwelle met Armenian President Sargysan and discussed possible methods for settling the conflict. During a press conference alongside Edward Nalbandian, his Armenian counterpart, Westerwelle called on the conflicting sides to accept compromise and exert all efforts towards achieving peaceful conflict resolution.

The report in Stern underlined that Nagorno-Karabakh is a territory of Azerbaijan, according to international law, and these lands remain under Armenian occupation, which is almost entirely dependant on Russia for armaments and supplies. Westerwelle also recognised that resolution of the conflict will play a vital role in ensuring prosperity of the South Caucasus.

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Armenian military parade to be held in Shusha

2012-04-27

The de facto Armenian authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have revealed plans to organise an unprecedented and provocative military parade in Shusha, the capital of the Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, on 9 May, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of their invasion. The display will include the infantry, armoured vehicles and the airforce.

According to Trend News, Aydin Mirzazade, Azerbaijani MP, recalled: "The parade, which Armenia held in Yerevan last September, was a frivolous and ill-prepared show. This event, which will be held in the Azerbaijani occupied lands by the disorganised, poorly-equipped Armenian Army, cannot be accurately called a parade. The Armenian people are interested in resolving everyday social issues, security and integration into the global community, rather than the claims of field commanders."

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A living remembrance of the Khojaly victims – 20 years on

2012-03-27

On the morning of 15 March, members of the Azerbaijani community travelled to a clearing in St. Albans, north of London, to plant the final 13 of 613 saplings. This event was organised by TEAS. Each of these saplings represented one of the men, women and children whose lives were cut short 20 years ago during the massacre in Khojaly, in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.

In a solemn ceremony, these living memorials were dedicated to the victims, and a plaque on a stone plinth was unveiled. After planting the final tree, Tale Heydarov, Chairman and Founder, TEAS, commented: "This year, 613 trees are being planted to commemorate the victims of Khojaly on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy. This will be a memorial for the future, and we will return to this site each year. It is important to keep their memory alive." Also present to plant the final saplings were representatives of Azerbaijani student societies in London, including the Chairpersons of the societies at University College, London; the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS); The University of Westminster; and Goldsmith’s, University of London.

This symbolic act formed part of a series of commemorative events organised by TEAS across London, which also included a landmark concert of Azerbaijani and Western classical music at St. John’s, Smith Square, attended by around 300 people, and the dedication of a bench in Battersea Park.

The Armenian–Azerbaijani war over Nagorno-Karabakh raged from 1988–94, claiming the lives of around 30,000 people on both sides. This resulted in the Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions, which together equate to around 18 per cent of Azerbaijani territory. To this day, 875,000 Azerbaijanis remain displaced and reside in camps across their country. A ceasefire was called in 1994, and four UN Security Council resolutions were passed against the occupation. Despite these resolutions, the occupation continues to this day.

TEAS is dedicated to raising awareness of this flouting of international law across Europe. In particular, it seeks to raise awareness of the Khojaly Massacre, which went largely unreported by western media at the time. To view a short documentary entitled Khojaly – a massacre ignored, visit www.teas.eu/content/khojaly-massacre-ignored

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TEAS France office launched

2012-03-27

The TEAS France office was formally opened on 7 March at the 18th Century Maison des Polytechniciens, located near the diplomatic district of Paris, during an event attended by nearly 300 delegates.

Attendees initially viewed a photographic exhibition entitled Azerbaijan – Land of Fire, depicting the culture, landscape and nature of the country. Following this, Eliza Pieter, Head, TEAS France, outlined TEAS’ activities and the objectives of the French office, stressing that it had been launched to bring Azerbaijan closer to the hearts of the French people. She also made a reference to the common principles of secularism and the rule of law shared by France and Azerbaijan.

Tale Heydarov, Chairman and Founder, TEAS, continued by reminding the audience about the links uniting France and Azerbaijan, making a reference to the visit by the Three Musketeers’ author Alexandre Dumas to Nagorno-Karabakh during his journey through the Caucasus in the mid-19th century. He highlighted the fact that, if he were travelling today, Dumas would be unable to visit and experience the heritage of that region, as it remains under Armenian occupation.

Jean-Louis Dumont, French Deputy, Chairman, France–Azerbaijan Friendship Group, French National Assembly, outlined the importance of TEAS’ activities in France. He commented that these would help to further strengthen the sociopolitical ties between the two countries. Mr Dumont recalled that France is a Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group that has been tasked with negotiating peace in the Armenian—Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, and that it was important to attract understanding and support from all elements of French society. Coming from the Lorraine region, which has known occupation and the displacement of people, he indicated his empathy with the 875,000 internally-displaced persons (IDPs) in Azerbaijan, who are a casualty of the Armenian occupation.

Senator Nathalie Goulet, Vice-President, France–Caucasus Friendship Group, French Senate, who recently led a delegation of six French Senators on a familiarisation trip to Baku, then took the floor. She commented on the courage that Azerbaijan was showing in facing the current situation, where there is a rapidly developing economy, despite 10 per cent of the Azerbaijani population being evicted from their homeland. She appealed to TEAS to support the youth of Azerbaijan, so as to move towards the future, whilst respecting the past.

Following this, Saida Zulfugarova, the leading Azerbaijani classical pianist, resident in Paris, together with percussionist Nicolas Vrancken, accompanied mezzo-soprano Djamila Babayeva in a programme of Azerbaijani and Western classical compositions. To see a video of the opening and interviews with Jean-Louis Dumont, Senator Jean-Marie Bockel and Senator Sylvie Goy-Chavent, visit www.teas.eu/teas-tv. To contact TEAS France, vsit www.teas.eu/content/teas-france.

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A succinct outline of Azerbaijan’s current position

2012-03-27

Murad Ismayilov, Doctoral Student, University of London, and Research Fellow, Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy, has delivered a swift delineation of Azerbaijan’s current role during a presentation to a packed lecture theatre at the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Speaking at an event entitled Turks in the Global World: New Challenges at the Beginning of the 21st Century, he explained the background to the ethnic mix of the country, going on to outline the democratic successes of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (1918–20). Ismayilov then covered such topics as secularisation, female emancipation, literacy, industrialisation and urbanisation, all of which benefited the country during the 20th Century.

Ismayilov then explained the country’s achievements since regaining independence in 1991, and how it has responded to a range of western influences, particularly following the signing of the Contract of the Century in 1994. He also gave his view on the impact of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, taking into account the human and economic cost and how the situation has affected Azerbaijani nationalism and regional cultural awareness.

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Strength of Azerbaijani–NATO relations discussed

2012-03-27

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary-General, NATO, held a joint press conference in the NATO Headquarters in Brussels. Rasmussen stated his appreciation of the Azerbaijani–NATO partnership and congratulated the President on the election of Azerbaijan as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. President Aliyev replied: "We were, from the very beginning, in Afghanistan, and as the Secretary-General mentioned, we provide flights and land transportation for non-lethal supplies. I’m very glad that the importance of Azerbaijan as a transit country for cargoes to Afghanistan is growing. Today, we discussed our future activity in this respect, and we are ready to consider new proposals in order to expand our co-operation in this area.

"At the same time, we provide our military servicemen to serve in Afghanistan, which forms part of our commitment to International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operations. Today, I also informed the Secretary-General that we are seriously considering contributions to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund, and will consider future continuation of this financial contribution. At the same time, we will provide training for Afghan diplomats in our Diplomatic Academy and in our Border Security Academy. We also we work on demining and other humanitarian issues, and are ready to expand our co-operation.

"Today, we also discussed regional security issues, particularly with respect to negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. I informed the Secretary-General of the current status of these negotiations, and reiterated our hope that the conflict will be resolved as soon as possible, and that the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan would be restored. There is a very good legal basis for that. The UN Security Council adopted four resolutions demanding an unconditional and immediate withdrawal of the Armenian troops from the occupied territories, and we expect Armenia to comply with these."

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Khojaly Massacre commemorated in London

2012-03-27

A stark reminder of one of the most terrible crimes of the ongoing Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh took place close to the Palace of Westminster at St. John’s, Smith Square, on 22 February. Organised by TEAS, the event was attended by around 300 people – from the UK and elsewhere.

The Khojaly Massacre ranks amongst the worst incidents of the conflict. On the night of 25–26 February 1992, 613 civilian inhabitants of Khojaly, the second largest city in Nagorno-Karabakh, were brutally murdered by Armenian and Soviet forces. The death toll included 106 women, 63 children and 70 elderly people.

Preceding the concert, Sabina Rakcheyeva, Arts and Cultural Advisor, TEAS, and Member of the European Cultural Parliament, commented: "This event, in the heart of London, is to commemorate the victims of the Khojaly Massacre; a terrible tragedy in modern Azerbaijani history of a magnitude that should not be experienced by any country."

Chris Heaton-Harris MP, Member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Azerbaijan, continued: "I have visited Azerbaijan twice, and can confirm that Baku is a beautiful city, bustling with energy. The UK has very strong links with the country, dating back to World War I. My colleagues in the APPG for Azerbaijan and myself want to do all that is possible to bring about resolution to this conflict, which has continued for over 20 years."

Lord Ahmad, also a Member of the Azerbaijan APPG, echoed these sentiments: "Today, we remember the 613 men, women and children who were the victims of the Khojaly Massacre. We cannot and will not forget that so many innocent lives were lost. Their memory will never die, and we hope that the conflict that is impacting the country will be resolved. We appeal to the Armenian government to conform with international law, and return Azerbaijani territory."

Tale Heydarov, Chairman and Founder, TEAS, concluded: "The Khojaly Massacre was a terrible crime, and the violence continues to this day. The perpetrators of the crime were never brought to justice. The occupied region of Nagorno-Karabakh was central to Azerbaijani culture, and many of the composers featured in tonight’s concert were born there. Now, the people from the region are internally-displaced persons (IDPs) within their own country and the culture is at risk of being lost. It is hoped that tonight’s concert will draw attention to the Khojaly Massacre and stop any future recurrence of such tragedies."

Following this, there was the screening of a TEAS-produced short documentary film, entitled Khojaly – A Massacre Ignored, including moving testimony from survivors of the Khojaly Massacre, Western scholars and UK journalists, who explained why the West generally failed to recognise and report this tragic event.

Following the film, a concert by the Orion Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Collon and the television celebrity Sue Perkins, featured a range of reflective Western and Azerbaijani classical compositions, including Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Sir Edward Elgar’s Nimrod (from the Enigma Variations) and Gara Garayev’s Adagio (from the Seven Beauties Ballet). A particularly moving moment occurred when Sabina Rakcheyeva, the first Azerbaijani graduate from the Juilliard School in New York, performed the main theme to the Steven Spielberg film Schindler’s List by John Williams, preceded by her improvised piece entitled Dua (A Prayer).

The concert formed part of a series of commemorative events organised by TEAS, including the dedication of a new bench in Battersea Park and the planting of 613 trees in North-West London – one for each of the victims.

This event was an emotionally intense meditation on the enormity of the Khojaly Massacre. It served as a graphic reminder of this tragedy and the urgent need for international governmental pressure to be exerted to bring about a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. To view Khojaly – A Massacre Ignored and a short video of the evening, please visit www.teas.eu/teas-tv.

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French Khojaly photojournalism exhibited in Baku

2012-03-27

In Baku, TEAS organised an exhibition of photographs depicting the aftermath of the Khojaly tragedy, taken by the French photojournalist Frédérique Lengaigne. The event was held at the Museum Centre in Baku as part of the commemorations to mark the 20th anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre. During his opening address, Tale Heydarov, Chairman and Founder, TEAS, commented: "The main goal of TEAS is to inform the world about the realities of the Khojaly tragedy and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a whole. This exhibition serves to showcase the unique photos of Lengaigne. She witnessed the events at Aghdam, and these are being presented to the Azerbaijani public for the first time, 20 years after they were photographed. This exhibition will also travel to Brussels, Strasbourg and Paris."

In 1992, Lengaigne was Head, Photographic Department, Reuters. She commented: "First you try just doing your job, but then you think about the tragedy, and even feel guilt because that is all you can do. You take a photograph of the suffering, but it is impossible to help the people. We shot these images for a foreign audience in 1992 but, 20 years later, these photos returned for your history."

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Azerbaijan applauds Armenia “genocide” bill cancellation

2012-03-27

Azerbaijan has welcomed the decision by the French Constitutional Council to veto the bill criminalising denial of the Armenia “genocide” in 1915, which allegedly occurred during the final days of the Ottoman Empire. This had previously been ratified in the French Senate. Ali Hasanov, Head of Department, Social Policy Issues, Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, commented that work to overturn the bill had been undertaken by Azerbaijani and Turkish diplomats in various foreign countries; representative offices in the Council of Europe, OSCE and other structures; and diaspora organisations. He explained: "From this perspective, we congratulate Turkey and Azerbaijan. I believe that this is the first joint success of these states."

Hasanov also voiced hope that the future evaluation of historical occurrences would not be assessed by politicians, but by historians, following impartial research. He explained: "This will stop such events being appropriated for political capital. The Armenian side sought to justify anti-Turkic activity on the basis of this fictional history." He revealed that a group of French Deputies, who eventually vetoed the bill and joined the France-Azerbaijan Friendship Group in the French National Assembly, had recently visited Azerbaijan at the invitation of the Azerbaijani government.

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CDU/CSU Bundestagsfraktion issues position paper

2012-03-27

The Foreign policy working group of Germany’s CDU/CSU Bundestagsfraktion has issued a position paper on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Entitled 20 years of conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh: a new impulse for a peaceful conflict resolution, this explains the facts behind the conflict, and goes on to comment: "The international community sees Nagorno-Karabakh as an integral part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. In this context, both Germany and the EU support a permanent and peaceful resolution of the conflict. Neither Germany, nor the EU, has recognised the 2010 parliamentary elections in Nagorno-Karabakh.

"By now, the conflict is so serious that the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against any travel to Nagorno-Karabakh, and cannot give consular help or support to travellers visiting the region. An arms race is at work in the South Caucasus, and military expenses in Armenia and Azerbaijan have constantly increased during the past few years. In Azerbaijan, defence expenditure accounts for about 20 per cent of the entire state budget. In August 2010, Armenia signed an agreement with Russia regarding increased military co-operation, and Russia continues to run several military bases in Armenia."

The paper concludes by making several recommendations to the German Federal Government, including:

  • increased awareness of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, in conjunction with greater attention from the OSCE, NATO and the UN
  • a stronger role for the EU in the conflict resolution process, eventually serving to replace France in the OSCE Minsk Group and providing the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus with a clear mediation mandate
  • Russian motivation to engage in a more constructive role in order to overcome the status quo, stop the arms race, and achieve permanent conflict resolution
  • support for Turkey in playing a greater role in conflict resolution that is commensurate with its regional responsibilities.

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Belgian parliament hosts Nagorno-Karabakh hearing

2012-03-27

The Federal Parliament of Belgium has hosted a hearing entitled Occupied territory, forgotten territory – humanitarian and legal aspects of the Armenian–Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The meeting, organised by Elkhan Suleymanov MP, Head, Azerbaijani-Belgian Interparliamentary Working Group, was also attended by Ali Hasanov, Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Committee for Refugees and internally-displaced persons (IDPs); Sevinj Hasanova, Azerbaijani Deputy Minister for Economic Development; Claude Moniquet, Director, European Centre for Security and Strategic Studies; and Pierre Legros, Founder, Borderless Lawyers Organisation.

The meeting was opened by Philippe Blanchard, Deputy, Belgian Parliament, and Head, Belgian–Azerbaijani Working Group, followed by a screening of the Euronews report entitled Nagorno-Karabakh: a visit to a refugee. Hasanov provided background on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which has led to the Armenian occupation of nearly 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territory, and commented that the total cost to the Azerbaijani economy has now exceeded $60bn (£38.4bn). He also explained the facts behind the Khojaly Massacre, which claimed the lives of 613 men, women and children 20 years ago.

Moniquet replied that Europe should become more involved in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and urged the EU to implement political sanctions against Armenia. Legros stated that the international community must be educated on this issue, enabling Europe to make a positive contribution. He also acknowledged the failure of the OSCE Minsk Group, which has been attempting to broker a negotiated peace for 20 years.

Gudrat Gasanguliyev, Azerbaijani MP, expressed the view that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains dependent on Russia, noting that: "This conflict is often referred to as frozen, but it is not. One ceasefire violation at the contact line may result in a fully-fledged war." Following the discussions, David Geerts, Belgian MP, stressed the need to intensify efforts regarding a peaceful settlement over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and said that a resolution should be submitted to the Belgian Parliament.

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OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs issue statement

2012-03-27

In early March, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs – Robert Bradtke, USA; Igor Popov, Russian Federation; and Jacques Fauré, France – travelled with Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, to Yerevan, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Baku. The Co-Chairs met Azerbaijani President Aliyev, Armenian President Sargsyan, and the de facto authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Co-Chairs presented a plan for implementation of the recommendations contained in the statement made by the former Russian President Medvedev, alongside President Aliyev and President Sargsyan, during their Summit Meeting in Sochi in January. Building on the two Presidents’ joint commitment towards expediting an agreement on the Basic Principles, the Co-Chairs proposed steps aimed at finalising the framework for a comprehensive peace settlement. In particular, they discussed the development of a mechanism to investigate incidents along th “contact line”. The Co-Chairs reported that they had requested, through the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, that the OSCE High-Level Planning Group should further develop this mechanism as an important method for enhancing stability and improving trust.

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IDP plight highlighted

2012-03-27

The latest briefing from the International Crisis Group (ICG) is entitled Tackling Azerbaijan’s IDP Burden, which examines the impact of the continuing Armenian occupation on the 875,000 IDPs who are casualties from the conflict. The researchers report that, since 2004, the Azerbaijani government has intensified efforts to deal with the IDP situation. It has achieved a considerable reduction in poverty rates, and the state is constructing better housing and enhancing health care.

Lawrence Sheets, Caucasus Project Director, ICG, commented: "The Azerbaijani government…has moved towards a new approach of dealing with the painful reality of trying to cope with the economic and social needs of its extremely large displaced population." However, the report acknowledges that 400,000 people still live in sub-standard dwellings and approximately 128,000 IDPs and permanent residents live in close proximity to the 180km-lon “contact line”. They are exposed to the immediate threat of ongoing frontline skirmishes that claim the lives of around 30 people each year.

Sabine Freizer, Europe Programme Director, ICG, concluded: "Whilst the Azerbaijani government has taken important steps to improve living conditions for IDPs, it is shocking that, a generation on, displacement and occupation continue to mar regional development and security. The lack of sustainable solutions is an important reason why a negotiated settlement is essential, if eventual resumption of all-out war is to be avoided."

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Two Azerbaijani soldiers shot nea “contact line”

2012-03-27

The AFP agency has reported that Armenian snipers claimed the lives of two Azerbaijani soldiers near th “contact line” in the Gazakh region on 3 March. Teymur Abdullayev, Spokesperson, Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, commented: "An investigation is currently being undertaken by the Republic Military Prosecutor’s Office, following the death of Dibirov Vugar Bakhtiyar and Seyidaliyev Seyidali Shikhislam. The results will be made public."

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Azerbaijan seeks legal means to remove France from OSCE Minsk Group

2012-02-18

During a meeting at the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament), Oktay Asadov, Speaker, commented that France has lost the moral, rather than the legal, right to continue as an OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair, charged with achieving a negotiated peace in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Asadov stated: "We must determine the legal means for removing France as an OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair. This issue does not depend on our wishes."

Azerbaijani MPs voiced the initiative to exclude France from the OSCE Minsk Group as a sign of protest against the new French law criminalising denial that the mass killing of Armenians, during the final days of the Ottoman Empire in 1915, constitute “genocide”. This was passed on 23 January by the French Senate by a margin of 127 votes for, with 86 against.

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European Liberals demand free, fair Armenian elections

2012-02-18

Speaking in Yerevan to around 70 members of the Armenian political opposition, together with EU and OSCE observers, Lousewies van der Laan, Vice-President, European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR), commented: "The tragic events of 1 March 2008, following the fraudulent Presidential elections in Armenia, must not be repeated in the forthcoming elections this May." The comments were made during a meeting jointly organised by the Armenian National Movement (ANM) with the South Caucasus Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty.

Van de Laan continued: "Members of the ELDR party will be particularly watchful during the run-up to the Armenian parliamentary elections, as the party will meet for its annual spring council meeting on 11–12 May in Yerevan, attended by around 150 liberal delegates from ELDR’s 54 member parties across Europe. The ELDR also asks the European People’s Party’s leadership and main sister parties to maintain a responsible stance and remind the Armenian member parties in government to ensure that genuine elections are held that reflect the will of the people. The EU is a community of common values, and we therefore have a shared responsibility to guarantee fundamental democratic procedures in the immediate neighbourhood of the EU."

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Lord Fraser acknowledges Armenian breaches of international law

2012-02-18

In an interview, Lord Fraser, Co-Chair, Anglo-Azerbaijani Society, has given his perspective on the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. He commented: "Azerbaijan’s recent successes, including gaining a seat on the UN Security Council and winning the Eurovision Song Contest, demonstrate to me what great strides the country has taken as an independent nation. I welcome that progress, but I am sure even more achievements will be made in the future and bring increasing prominence for the country.

"The Anglo-Azerbaijani Society is not political but, speaking as a lawyer, it seems quite clear to me that, with the UN Security Council resolutions on Nagorno-Karabakh in favour of Azerbaijan, there has been a breach of international law by Armenia and the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan has been abused. Under no circumstances is ethnic cleansing justified."

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A musical commemoration of the Khojaly Massacre

2012-02-18

The European Azerbaijan Society is organising a landmark concert in the heart of London to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre, which occurred during the Armenian-Azerbaijani war over Nagorno-Karabakh, which claimed the lives of 613 civilians. Taking place at St. John’s, Smith Square, London, SW1P 3HA on 22 February from 19.30–21.00hrs, the concert will combine Western and Azerbaijani classical music in order to remember the victims.

The concert will be given by the Orion Orchestra, featuring Sue Perkins (winner of the BBC television programme Maestro) and Nicholas Collon (conductors); Guy Johnston (cello); and Sabina Rakcheyeva (violin), the first Azerbaijani graduate from the Juilliard School of Music, Member of the European Cultural Parliament, and Cultural Advisor, TEAS. The programme will include Soltan Hajibeyov’s Caravan; Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings (from op. 11); Sir Edward Elgar’s Nimrod (from the Enigma Variations, op 36); and Kara Karayev’s Adagio (from the Seven Beauties Ballet). To register for free tickets, e-mail Ulviyya Allahverdiyeva on ulviyya@teas.eu.

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Fresh evidence on th “Armenian Question” highlighted in London

2012-02-18

The roots of the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh were outlined in the heart of London on 6 February during the launch of a new book, published by The European Azerbaijan Society, entitled The Armenian Question in the Caucasus: Russian Archive Documents and Publications. The event was attended by H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK; H.E. Ünal Çeviköz, Turkish Ambassador to the UK; Harold Formstone, Former UK Ambassador to Azerbaijan; Dr Ali Tekin Atalar, Chair, Azerbaijan House; and more than 70 journalists, historians, students and friends of Azerbaijan.

These three authoritative volumes incorporate facsimile documents from the Russian State Historical Archive, St. Petersburg, and the Russian State Military History Archive, Moscow. These invaluable historical documents, many of which are published for the first time, chart the systematic migration of Armenians to the Caucasus and their subsequent protection during the time of the Russian Empire.

During his speech at St. James’s Hotel and Club, Professor Kerim Shukurov, who spearheaded the research, commented: "This is a key resource, taken from the Russian archives. All documents have been systematically arranged for publication and, to date, we have gained access to over 10,000 pages, of which 2000 pages have been published in these three volumes. There is no exact definition of The Armenian Question, but by collecting the material and arranging it correctly, Azerbaijan can seek to gain understanding of its position. Future books will cover relations with Georgia and Armenia in the years beyond 1914."

He continued: "The Azerbaijani position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is supported by the publication of these books, which prove that Armenians were systemically relocated to the Caucasus during the time of the Russian Empire."

Lord Laird stated: "I recently discovered the South Caucasus area, which has great future potential, particularly due to its expanding relations with Europe. The Armenian Question does not try to rewrite history – it is a serious work of archive research. It is very important to ensure that the Azerbaijani case is understood, and these books assist with achieving this."

Professor Tadeusz Swietochowski, Monmouth University, USA, then contextualised the importance of these books, saying: "These books contain important, overwhelming details. During the late 19th century, Azerbaijan’s international position changed, due to the oil revolution. Baku became a cosmopolitan, urbanised hub of intellectual development, with a booming economy. It was also the centre of the press in the Turkic world. However, the Armenian aggression of 1905–06 changed this situation, and this is charted in the books." To order a copy, go to http://amzn.to/xZ8bGD, and an interview with Professor Swietochowski may be viewed at http://bit.ly/x0HkAn.

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TEAS petition calls on British PM to condemn Khojaly massacre

2012-02-18

A petition, calling for UK Prime Minister David Cameron to condemn the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani land and the massacre at Khojaly, has been placed on a UK government website by Ulviyya Allahverdiyeva, Political Liaison, The European Azerbaijan Society. The petition reads: "On 26 February, Azerbaijan mourns the 20th anniversary of one of the darkest days in its history. On this day in 1992, Armenian military forces brutally murdered 613 civilian inhabitants of the town of Khojaly in the illegally-occupied region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

"20 years after this fateful day, we remember those who died during events which led up to the illegal occupation of around 18 per cent of Azerbaijan's sovereign territory, which still continues to this day, in direct contravention of four UN Security Council resolutions." The petition then calls for the UK Prime Minister to condemn the massacre and occupation. In the UK, if an online petition collects at least 100,000 signatures, it will be debated in the House of Commons. If you are a UK resident, please support the petition, which may be found at http://bit.ly/yRoqEK.

The European Azerbaijan Society also asks all UK residents to urge their MPs to sign Early Day Motion (EDM) 2690, which similarly asks for condemnation of the Khojaly Massacre and requests that increased UK government pressure be exerted to achieve peaceful conflict resolution. Please complete the proforma letter at www.teas.eu/teas-campaigns.

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Azerbaijani journalists sue Armenia in the European Court of Human Rights

2012-02-18

A group of Azerbaijani journalists, who became internally-displaced persons (IDPs) due to the occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenia, have brought a case against Armenia before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The petitioners were Khalid Asif Kazimli, Khalid Valid Kazimov, Etibar Seyidagha, Seymur Verdizadeh, Mahabbat Orujiv, Aynur Elgunash, Sevil Hilalgizi and Samir Kazimli. They sought to demonstrate that Armenia infringed their right to property, life, education and other rights, and exposed them to material and moral damage during the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.

Khalid Asif Kazimli told the APA agency that the case was initially discussed in early 2011. He explained: "We postponed this submission for various reasons. But we knew that a similar claim by a group of Lachin residents was accepted by the European Court of Human Rights, and met once again to finalise the issue. The Armenian army burnt the houses, and annihilated the property of everyone who signed this document. The committers of such crimes cannot remain unpunished in the 21st century. Even if Armenia and Azerbaijan sign a peace treaty tomorrow, and our houses are rebuilt and returned to us, it is impossible to reimburse us for the deprivations that we have faced since being expelled from our homeland."

In the official complaint, the journalists will ask the European Court of Human Rights to acknowledge that Armenia infringed their rights and occupied their lands. They will also demand payment of an indemnity by Armenia.

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Black January commemorated in London

2012-02-18

Azerbaijanis across the world remember the date of 20 January each year. On that day in 1990, 137 civilians lost their lives when Soviet troops crushed independence uprisings in central Baku, ordered by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. In London, their sacrifice was remembered at an event in Azerbaijan House, Shoreditch, jointly organised by Azerbaijan House and the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the UK, which attracted a capacity audience.

After a minute’s silence, Dr Ali Tekin Atalar, Chair, Azerbaijan House, commented: "20 January is a very significant day in the Azerbaijani calendar, for it was the day that Baku’s residents came to the streets, seeking lives of independence and freedom. The people came together to bring about the end of Soviet rule in Azerbaijan, and responded to calls to unite. They achieved independence – their objective – within two years of the Black January events."

H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK, continued: "We remember the victims who died 22 years ago today. I was an eyewitness to the events, and these people sacrificed their lives for the independence of Azerbaijan. In the US State of New Hampshire, the official motto i “Live Free or Die”, and I thought of Black January when I saw this on a car license plate for the first time. It was totally unexpected – Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union at the time, and we did not anticipate that the State would turn its troops on its own citizens.

"Azerbaijanis never thought the impact of their actions would have such far-reaching ramifications. Soon after Black January, the Gorbachev government and Soviet state collapsed. This led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Gorbachev later admitted that his decision to sign the decree that resulted in Soviet troops firing on civilians in Baku was the greatest mistake of his leadership."

The attendees went on to view a graphic video entitled The Black Face of Red Terror, about Black January, followed by moving reports on the brutal Soviet suppression of other uprisings in Georgia, Lithuania and Kazakhstan.

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Internally displaced persons – a massive cost to Azerbaijan

2012-02-18

According to Ali Hasanov, Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Committee for Refugees and internally-displaced persons (IDPs), state budget expenditure per IDP during 2011 amounted to $910 (£576), which is the highest in the world. He explained: "In 2011, $500m (£316.5m) was spent on the needs of refugees and IDPs, of which $295m (£186.7m) came from the State Budget; $175m (£111m) from the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ) and $30m (£19m) from international humanitarian organisations."

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Soldier captured in Nagorno-Karabakh

2012-02-18

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has confirmed the capture of Mammadbagir Akhundzade, an Azerbaijani soldier. The ICRC Khankandi Office received information from the de facto authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh regarding the capture, according to Shahla Gahramanova, Spokesperson, ICRC Baku Office. It is hoped that ICRC employees will soon be able visit the soldier to assess his condition. According to Armenian media outlets, Akhundzade was captured near the Yukhary Chayli village on th “contact line&rsquo: between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops.

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UK Prime Minister supports the Azerbaijani perspective

2012-02-18

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh should be solved on the basis of the agreed principles. Cameron responded to questions from Armenian MPs following his speech at a PACE session in Strasbourg. He replied: "The OSCE Minsk Group is engaged in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and the UK supports its activities. This means that we support the current process, which can lead to resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict." Cameron called on the OSCE Minsk Group and other international organisations to increase efforts towards achieving dispute resolution.

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ICRC supports communities close to th “contact line”

2012-02-18

The ICRC has inaugurated two new water supply systems in the front-line villages of Gazakhlar and Mirzanagilar, in the Fizuli district. The ICRC reported that one inhabitant commented: "Those of us living in Gazakhlar and Mirzanagilar didn't believe that the ICRC would manage to supply water with good pressure, regardless of where people live in the villages. Today, thanks to the two 10m elevated reservoirs, the dream has actually come true." In front-line regions, the problem of access to drinking water is not new. Due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, sources of drinking water – located along the front line – have become inaccessible for residents.

Julien Berda, ICRC water engineer, explained: "The new water supply system both provides good-quality drinking water and enables 760 people in both villages to resume small-scale irrigation activities, such as vegetable growing. We have also completed two other water supply systems in the villages of Tazakend and Damirchilar, in the Terter district. Altogether, across all four communities, over 2,600 people will benefit."

Operating in partnership with the British Red Cross, and with the support of the Red Crescent Society of Azerbaijan, the ICRC also provided 934 needy families, living in eight communities, with small-scale economic support through conditional cash grants. The ICRC has been active in the region since 1992.

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Azerbaijan takes its UN Security Council seat

2012-01-18

The UN Security Council (UNSC) held its first working session for 2012–13 on 3 January, attended by five new non-permanent members, including Azerbaijan, all of which were elected during the General Assembly in October 2011. Each non-permanent member sits for a two-year period.

Agshin Mehdiyev, Azerbaijani Permanent Representative to the UN, told ITAR-TASS that: "Azerbaijan plans to be actively involved in all processes taking place at the UNSC, in developing and making decisions, and participating in committees and working groups."

Reiterating that Azerbaijan is a member of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation and the Non-Aligned Movement, Mehdiyev stated that: "Azerbaijan has its position on many issues of the UNSC agenda. If this coincides with those of other countries at some point, then it is great. If not, then we have our principles and we are not going to disavow these."

Mehdiyev revealed that Baku would insist on the necessity of upholding the UNSC resolutions on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. He expressed the hope that: "Azerbaijan’s increased authority in the international arena and its membership to the UNSC will play a positive role in resolving the conflict."

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Franco-Turkish relations sink to a new low

2012-01-18

The vote in the French National Assembly that makes it a crime to deny that the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 constitute “genocide”, punishable with a year of imprisonment and a maximum fine of €45,000 (£37,237), has seriously impacted the Franco-Turkish relationship. The law awaits final ratification by the French Senate in the coming months. Following the move, Ogtay Asadov, Speaker, Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament) stated that he would appeal to the French Senate, asking them to reject the bill. He also asked Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to denounce the bill which, with Azerbaijan and Turkey, comprise the Turkic-Speaking Countries Parliamentary Assembly (TÜRKPA).

The move marks the culmination of a decade-long debate. In 2001, the French parliament passed a bill recognising the 1915 killings as constituting "genocide", since when there have been several attempts to penalise denial of this. In 2006, although the National Assembly passed a bill, the French Senate blocked this with assistance from Nicolas Sarkozy, who was Mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine at the time. However, in 2007, the year of his Presidential election, Sarkozy promised to adopt the document by the end of his term. Moreover, with the French economy in trouble, escalating unemployment and popularity at 34 per cent, just four months before an election, Sarkozky is desperate to improve his ratings and requires votes from nearly a million Franco-Armenian citizens.

President Abdullah Gül subsequently requested the immediate withdrawal of French membership from the OSCE Minsk Group, of which it is a Co-Chair. This is tasked with mediating a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. These comments were reiterated by Allahshükür Hummat Pashazadeh, Grand Mufti of the Caucasus, who stated: "Adoption of this decision calls into question the fate of peaceful settlement processes across the Caucasus, which are of vital importance. This decision by France, an OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair, harms its international authority, and deprives us of confidence in its fair position."

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UPDATE: Azerbaijani outcry over French Parliament’ “Armenian Genocide” bill

2012-01-24

On 23 January, Azerbaijan denounced the French Senate’s ratification of a law that makes it illegal to deny that the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 by Ottoman Turkey constitute “genocide” as "anti-democratic".

The statement by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry continued: "The Republic of Azerbaijan deplores the law adopted by the French Senate to criminalise the denial of th “Armenian genocide”, and strongly protests over this. The move is against the principles of democracy, human rights, freedom of speech and expression."

Ali Ahmadov MP, Executive Chairman, New Azerbaijan Party, commented: "Any step against Turkey is also against Azerbaijan either directly, or indirectly. The bill passed in France on the so-calle “Armenian genocide” affects the interests of Azerbaijan. The passage of such an absurd and groundless bill means that France openly introduces itself as the defender of Armenia. It should not be forgotten that France must have a neutral position as a Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, tasked with achieving resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. But it fails, or does not want to do this. France’s behaviour as the lobbyist of Armenia’s interests means betrayal of his mediation mission."

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Switzerland requests historical investigation of Armenian claims

2012-01-18

Micheline Calmy-Rey, Swiss Foreign Minister, and President, Swiss Federation, has urged Turkish and Armenian historians to investigate the mass killing of Armenians in 1915. In her keynote speech at the Fourth Annual Ambassadors’ Conference in Ankara, she recommended that academics from both sides should investigate the Armenian allegations. Calmy-Rey continued: "The historians would then contribute to discussions with their findings." She went on to explain that Swiss laws do not acknowledge any incident as constitutin “genocide”, unlike France.

Calmy-Rey recalled that Switzerland had mediated between Turkey and Armenia from 2007–09, in an attempt to establish diplomatic relations, open their borders, and establish sub-committees to investigate the 1915 events. In another session, Ahmet Davutoǧlu, Turkish Foreign Minister, replied that Turkey is ready to confront its history, stated that this should be handled objectively, referring to tragic losses on both sides during World War I. He urged that historians should discuss Turkish-Armenian history in an intellectual environment with open archives. He also commented that resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would unblock the normalisation process between Turkey and Armenia, resulting in enduring peace.

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The roots of the Armenian Question

2012-01-18

The systematic migration to the Caucasus and protection of Armenians under the Tsarist Russian Empire is generally recognised as the genus of the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. However, much of the documentary evidence behind this policy has remained enshrined in secrecy and stored in Russian archives throughout the Tsarist and Soviet periods.

However, TEAS has now accessed many previously unpublished documents from the Russian State Historical Archive, St. Petersburg, and the Russian State Military History Archive, Moscow and published these in a triple-volume set of books entitled The Armenian Question in the Caucasus: Russian Archive Documents and Publications. Comprising facsimile texts, with English commentaries, these invaluable books serve to substantiate the Azerbaijani position from an historical perspective.

The UK launch of The Armenian Question will take place on 6 February at St. James’s Hotel and Club, 7–8 Park Place, St. James’s, London, SW1A 1LS at 19.30hrs. This will comprise a short presentation by renowned Caucasus expert Professor Tadeusz Swietochowski, Monmouth University, USA, who will outline the importance of the texts. Following this, free copies of the books will be available, together with refreshments. To register your attendance, please e-mail editor@teas.eu.

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Ireland pledges to resolve conflicts as OSCE Chair

2012-01-18

As Chair of the OSCE during 2012, Ireland has pledged to address protracted conflicts, and strengthen co-operation between the 56 OSCE States, amongst other objectives, according to Irish Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. He continued: "The world is facing unprecedented security challenges, and the multilateral co-operation made possible by the OSCE is now needed more than ever. Ireland is committed to upholding core OSCE values, promoting peace, security and respect for human rights and the rule of law in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian region.

"Ireland will seek to build on this momentum through the supporting existing processes, including the OSCE Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We will draw on our own experience of conflict resolution in the context of the Northern Ireland peace process to advance these processes and facilitate engagement by all parties."

Pádraig Murphy, former Irish Ambassador to Moscow, will be the Co-Chair of the Geneva talks as the OSCE Special Representative for the South Caucasus. He acknowledged: "Ireland’s chairmanship faces a lot of challenges." His brief will include the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

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Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents to meet in early 2012

2012-01-18

In his final press conference as French OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair, Bernard Fassier has revealed that Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Armenian President Sargsyan will meet to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at the beginning of 2012. He recalled that the meeting had been requested during the OSCE Ministerial Council in December last year, and stated: "We urge the parties to continue negotiations in order to achieve results."

He explained that the negotiation process remains complex, as it is challenging to obtain the consent of the conflicting parties to any of the mediators’ proposals. Fassier underscored that the Basic Principles remain an essential tool in obtaining resolution, and noted the importance of regular visits to the occupied territories by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. He continued: "Unfortunately, our hopes for the Kazan meeting in June between the Presidents of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia proved ineffective. But we must be optimistic that there will be progress in the negotiations."

During a farewell visit to the region, Fassier met Azerbaijani President Aliyev; Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister; and Allahshükür Hummat Pashazadeh, Grand Mufti of the Caucasus.

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New IDP residence opened in Agjabadi

2012-01-18

On 24 December, his 50th birthday, Azerbaijani President Aliyev visited a new block of residential buildings, constructed to house internally-displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in the Agjabadi region. Ali Hasanov, Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister, who also serves as Chief of the State Committee for Work with Refugees and IDPs, explained that refugee camps have now been closed in the region, and that the new development comprises ten five-storey residential buildings, housing around 560 people. According to Hasanov, 70 settlements have now been built for refugees and IDPs across the country. During the past seven years, Azerbaijani President Aliyev has signed 27 orders and decrees aimed at improving the conditions for these casualties of the conflict.

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MEPs visit Agdam

2012-01-18

During their trip to Azerbaijan, Dominique Riquet and Philippe Boulland, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), visited the Agdam region. The MEPs met Zulfu Gasimov, Deputy Head, Agdam Region, who briefed them on the problems of IDPs and refugees. The MEPs expressed regret over the lack of success by the OSCE Minsk Group, and went on to view a film entitled Caucasian Hiroshima, featuring views of Agdam before and after the occupation by Armenia. During a press conference, they stressed the need for immediate, peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

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Hasanov condemn “indifference” of international community

2012-01-18

In an interview to AzerTAc, Ali Hasanov, Head, Social and Political Department, Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, remonstrated: "The main reason that the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has lasted more than 20 years is the indifference of the international community to Armenia’s destructive position. Nevertheless, we will try to eliminate the double standards and indifferent attitude to the international legal norms at every opportunity."

He continued: "One of the main reasons that Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement has been delayed is attributable to the insipid position and double standards of the UN. For example, NATO and the leading countries fulfilled the UN Security Council’s (UNSC) resolution on Libya within one day. But they do not solve the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, which has continued for many years." Hasanov stated that, as a member of the UNSC, Azerbaijan would regularly include this issue on the agenda.

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Azerbaijan casts doubt over French OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship

2012-01-18

Members of the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament) have warned, in a letter to the French Senate, that France may cast a shadow over its neutrality regarding its Co-Chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group by making it a crime to deny that the killing of Armenians in 1915 by Ottoman troops should be regarded a “genocide”. The letter reiterated Azerbaijani concerns over the bill, which was passed by the French Assembly in December, and awaits ratification by the French Senate.

Ali Hasanov, Head, Social and Political Department, Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, added fuel to an ongoing debate in Azerbaijan as to whether or not France can continue as an honest broker. He subsequently commented that France’s mediating role in would be discussed at the next OSCE Minsk Group meeting. Meanwhile, Turkish President Gül has urged France to withdraw from the OSCE Minsk Group if the bill becomes law.

Elman Abdullayev, Spokesman, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry commented that, as France is one of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, it is regrettable to note that the judgement by some French MPs has been affected by pressure from the Armenian diaspora. He said that if France is to take a principled approach to certain issues, it should also consider the Khojaly Massacre, during which Armenian and Soviet troops killed 613 Azerbaijani civilians in 1992.

The decision attracted condemnation from across the Azerbaijani political spectrum, with Asim Mollazade MP, Head, Democratic Reforms Party, commenting: "France has totally lost its reputation by endorsing this bill." He explained that Azerbaijan should work to replace France with the EU as a mediator in the OSCE Minsk Group, which may break the stalemate in the conflict.

Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, expressed concern over the move. She commented: "I believe that the final adoption of these legal amendments would raise serious concerns with regard to international standards of freedom of expression. Furthermore, it could set a precedent internationally for politically construed, ad-hoc criminalisation of public debates. This criminalisation of debates on history’s true course, even of obviously false and offensive statements about a nation’s tragic moments, is not conducive to a better understanding among people, communities and authorities of OSCE States." Mijatovic went on to stress her support for defeat of the bill in the French Senate.

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Condemnation of occupation in Presidential address

2012-01-18

In his speech to mark the Day of Azerbaijani Solidarity on 31 December and New Year’s Day, Azerbaijani President Aliyev commented: "The most troubling challenge for Azerbaijan is the unresolved status of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan is stepping up its efforts in all countries, especially in recent times. As you know, resolution of this issue is not solely dependent on us.

"Unfortunately, Armenia’s unconstructive stance, its hypocrisy during negotiations, and the practical defiance of talks, has dealt a serious blow to the process. The world community and the countries directly dealing with the issue are shying away from naming the party responsible for disrupting the talks. This year, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs have repeatedly indicated that the ongoing status quo is unacceptable. We support these statements, but these should be followed by specific decisions, which have not been taken."

President Aliyev stated that Azerbaijan would continue its diplomatic and political efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict: "We have a principled stance in the negotiations. Nagorno-Karabakh is native and historical Azerbaijani land. The international community and the UN recognise and support Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. The international community views Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan. The conflict must be resolved precisely on these principles. The territorial integrity of our country must be restored. The occupying forces must withdraw from all our occupied territories. We will never tolerate a second Armenian state on Azerbaijani lands."

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Baroness Ashton in Azerbaijan

2011-12-18

The peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was a main topic of discussion during a meeting between Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Baroness Catherine Ashton, Foreign and Security Policy High Representative, EU, during her visit to the South Caucasus. The two sides also discussed issues related to bilateral co-operation, including energy.

Prior to this, Baroness Ashton referred to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during an interview with the APA News Agency. She commented that the EU was: "Very concerned about the lack of progress in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and would like to see how it could play a more active and helpful role, in full support of the OSCE Minsk Group."

She continued: "I have appointed a new EU Special Representative, Philippe Lefort, to take this work forward. A solution to the conflict would unlock huge potential for the entire region and particularly boost regional co-operation. Conflict resolution and reconciliation are key values, on which the EU itself is based, and which we believe can also inspire a renewed effort in the South Caucasus region. We will, of course, discuss the further development of our bilateral and multilateral co-operation in the context of the EU Eastern Partnership."

Baroness Ashton added that: "The OSCE Minsk Group has the mandate to mediate between the parties to the conflict. Our intention is to see whether we could do more to support its work, help build confidence between the two sides, and more generally act in support of the OSCE Minsk Group’s work. There is much at stake in this conflict, and a great deal to gain if it was resolved, both for the people of the region, and also for the EU. We are very worried, therefore, about the rise in tensions and the increase in incidents, and would like to see how we could help reverse this trend." Following the meeting, Baroness Ashton visited Georgia and Armenia, before travelling to Moscow to attend a meeting of the EU–Russia Council.

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CNN gives a week of special coverage to Azerbaijan

2011-12-18

As Azerbaijan prepares to host the Eurovision Song Contest 2012, the crew of CNN’s Eye On… series of short reports has visited the country. In the Eye on Azerbaijan series, CNN reporters Jim Clancy and Jim Boulden presented a mix of reports and interviews, covering some of the major Azerbaijani business, cultural and sporting stories.

Mike McCarthy, Vice-President, Coverage and Feature Programming, CNN International, commented: "Azerbaijan has changed beyond recognition since it gained independence from the Soviet Union 20 years ago. It has formidable energy resources, a rich culture and a burgeoning tourism industry. We want to look at some of the untold stories in the country, and take its temperature at this interesting time in its development."

Altogether, ten films were broadcast, focusing on such diverse topics as the exploitation of oil and gas reserves, including a visit to the Sangachal Terminal; women’s football, chess; caviar; carpets; mugham, incorporating an interview with Alim Qasimov; and preparations to host the Eurovision Song Contest. One of the most powerful videos comprised an interview with the photojournalist Reza, a National Geographic Fellow, who has powerfully documented the history of the country over more than 20 years, including Black January, the aftermath of the Khojaly Massacre and other aspects of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, in addition to powerful images of Azerbaijani culture, history and nature. To view the videos, go to http://bit.ly/udS3mn.

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Karabakh mediators cross contact line into Azerbaijan

2011-12-18

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs have crossed th “contact line” separating Armenian and Azerbaijani troops. According to the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, the mediators crossed the northern end of the line on foot between the Armenian village of Kayan and the Azerbaijani village of Jafarli in the Gazakh District.

Bernard Fassier, French OSCE Minsk Goup Co-Chair, commented: "This time we made the crossing not in Nagorno-Karabakh, but over the Armenian–Azerbaijani border. Fortunately, the tension here is less than along th “contact line”." The Co-Chairs then met Ayaz Asgarov, Head of the Gazakh Executive Authorities, and left for Baku via helicopter. Prior to crossing th “contact line”, the Co-Chairs exchanged views with the head of the executive authorities in the Armenian district of Tavuz. During their visit to Armenia, the Co-Chairs met President Serzh Sargsyan to discuss the current stage in negotiating a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, in advance of the meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Vilnius.

At the outset, Fassier introduced Armenian President Sargsyan to Jacques Fauré, his replacement as French OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair. Fauré was previously French Ambassador to the Ukraine. The ceasefire along th “contact line” is regularly monitored by the OSCE. Despite this, exchanges of fire are frequent, with two Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers being killed in separate incidents along the contact line during November. Some analysts have predicted that the role of France in the mediation process will increase in the wake of Russian President Medvedev’s apparent failure to broker a framework deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan in June.

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Meeting of Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh approved

2011-12-18

Official Baku has indicated its approval for the arrangement of meetings between the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh. Ali Hasanov, Head, Public and Political Department, Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, commented: "Any method that may contribute towards achieving resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, including meetings between the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh, is acceptable and will receive backing. We should welcome any activity leading towards settling the problem and creating conditions for its negotiated solution."

Rabiyyat Aslanova MP, Chair, Human Rights Committee, Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament) commented: "The meetings between the communities are extremely important, since Nagorno-Karabakh is an Azerbaijani territory and Armenians residing there are the citizens of Azerbaijan. Once peace is attained, these two communities will live and work together on this land."

The parliamentarian noted that developing ties between the two communities would serve to: "Create additional opportunities for informing the wider community about affairs in Nagorno-Karabakh, together with developing further plans in this direction."

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Armenian and Azerbaijani communities to meet in Paris

2011-12-18

Rasim Musabeyov, Azerbaijani MP, has revealed that: "A meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of Nagorno-Karabakh is expected to take place in Paris during December." The move follows an event in Berlin entitled Dialogue Forum: Nagorno-Karabakh – Meeting of Azerbaijanis and Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh, which was also an initiative by the Azerbaijani Community of Nagorno-Karabakh that was boycotted by the Armenian community. Musabeyov explained: "Everyone was aware that the population of Nagorno-Karabakh did not solely comprise Armenians." He went on to explain that the organisers of the meeting in Berlin regretted the Armenian non-participation: "We explained our position during the meeting in Berlin, but the Armenian side decided not to attend, under the pretext of concerns regarding the meeting format. It was proven again that Azerbaijanis are ready to co-exist with Armenians, but the Armenians are unable to do so. This factor is understood across Europe."

The Berlin meeting was attended by many representatives from the Azerbaijani Community of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the Azerbaijani MPs Rovshan Rzayev and Rasim Musabeyov; Ramig Maharramov, Head Physician, Shusha Regional Central Hospital; and Farhad Badalbeyli, Director, Baku Music Academy, whose ancestral home is Shusha; together with Armenian representatives and German scientists and politicians.

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Azerbaijani soldier killed by Armenian sniper

2011-12-18

Teymur Abdullayev, Deputy Chief: Press Service, Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, has acknowledged the killing of the 19-year-old Azerbaijani soldier Elmar Samad Habibzade by Armenian snipers on 26 November in the Terter region. The Lankaran Regional Military Commissariat had drafted Habibzade in April.

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Nagorno-Karabakh statement to be adopted within OSCE Ministerial Council framework

2011-12-18

The Delegation Heads to the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries – Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister; Hillary Clinton, US Secretary-of-State; and Jean Leonetti, French Minister for European Affairs – met Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Affairs Minister and Edward Nalbandian, his Armenian counterpart, at the OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting in Vilnius on 6 December. All participants reaffirmed the importance of reaching a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Recalling the Moscow Declaration in November 2008, together with their countries’ statements at the OSCE Ministerial Council meetings in Helsinki (2008) and Athens (2009) and at the OSCE Summit in Astana (2010), the five Delegation Heads agreed that it was necessary to continue the negotiation process within the OSCE Minsk Group format. Within this, they agreed that further efforts should be implemented to investigate ceasefire violations, following the joint statement of Azerbaijani President Aliyev, Armenian President Sargsyan, and Russian President Medvedev at the Sochi Summit in March 2011.

Noting the statement of their Presidents at Deauville in May 2011, which urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to finalise the Basic Principles for the Peaceful Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, the Delegation Heads at the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair Countries expressed regret that the parties had been unable to take this decisive step. The three Delegation Heads reiterated the impossibility of a military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They stressed that the UN Charter, the Principles of the Helsinki Final Act, and the elements outlined in the joint statements of their Presidents at L’Aquila in July 2009 and Muskoka in June 2010 provided the route for all sides to move beyond the unacceptable status quo to reach a peaceful settlement.

Mammadyarov and Nalbandian informed the Delegation Heads of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries that their Presidents are ready to meet again in the near future to continue direct dialogue regarding the methods by which they may bring peace, stability, and prosperity to their peoples.

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Sammut expresses wish for enhanced EU role in conflict resolution

2011-12-18

Dennis Sammut, Director, LINKS, has commented that expansion of the EU role in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is key. The comments were made in a paper written for the Italian International Affairs Institute entitled After Kazan, a Defining Moment for the OSCE Minsk Process.

When commenting on the failure of the Kazan Summit between Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Armenian President Sargsyan, brokered by Russian President Medvedev, Sammut stated: "The peace process has not collapsed, but has been damaged." In the paper, Sammut proposed numerous measures aimed at improving the peace process, including greater scrutiny of the negotiations, spearheaded by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs; enhanced ceasefire maintenance; a review of OSCE Minsk Group composition; involvement of the Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh and the displaced Azerbaijanis from the region; and consideration of the conflict within the wider context of the former Soviet Union and Europe; together with a more powerful role for the EU.

Sammut said: "The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs have to somehow find a way of taking the negotiations forward. Over a long period, many observers have considered that the negotiations were being conducted in an overly secretive manner. There is a need for greater transparency, and the Co-Chairs need to be courageous at this juncture. The peace process must be opened up to greater scrutiny, and the sides – Armenia and Azerbaijan – together with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, need to consider if there are other methods that can be harnessed to pursue the peace process in the future."

Discussing the composition of the OSCE Minsk Group, Dennis Sammut stated: "Whilst the option that the EU may replace France as a Minsk Group Co-Chair is not on the agenda for the moment, a wider EU role is not only desirable but, in some ways, now inevitable. Philippe Lefort, the new EU special representative for the South Caucasus, has a clear mandate to engage with the conflict and peace process."

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Two decades of the OSCE Minsk Group – no cause for celebration

2011-12-18

Whilst speaking to journalists, Araz Azimov, Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, recognised that: "Next year is the 20th anniversary of the OSCE Minsk Group. But it will not be a very solemn celebration." Azimov went on to state that the body had failed to achieve any result, despite the diplomats appointed as Co-Chairs being periodically replaced. He stressed the need for the Co-Chairs to be resolute in their mission. Azimov noted the Armenian dependence on the three Co-Chair nations and the pressure exerted by the Armenian disapora.

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Mikheil Saakashvili acknowledges the tragedy of Nagorno-Karabakh

2011-12-18

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, speaking at the Georgian–Armenian Business Forum in Tbilisi, has given his personal view regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Directing his speech at Armenian President Sargsyan, he commented: "The most painful issue for us is the conflict that exists between Armenia and Azerbaijan. As it is painful for the Caucasus, it is painful for Georgia. In the future, I believe that the economy of the Caucasus should be integrated."

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Azerbaijani Lieutenant slain by sniper fire

2011-11-18

Captain Teymur Abdullayev, Spokesman, Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, has revealed that 25-year-old Lieutenant Emin Elmar Aliyev was killed by Armenian sniper fire on 2 November near the Kuropatkino village of the Khojavend region.

The Lieutenant was a nephew of Major-General Lankaran Aliyev, who commented: “Emin defended his soldiers and was killed by an enemy sniper. We are proud of his sacrifice.”

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World Bank project to improve IDP conditions

2011-11-18

Due to a World Bank-financed project, around 185,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Azerbaijan will gain enhanced access to infrastructure, services, housing conditions and employment opportunities. The move follows an approval by the World Bank’s Board of Directors for a $50m (£31.1m) International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) loan, aimed at benefiting the Azerbaijani IDP’s Living Conditions and Livelihoods Project. Including the $28.5m (£17.7m) Government contribution, total project financing is expected to reach $78.5m (£48.8m).

The World Bank recognised that Azerbaijan continues to have one of the highest concentrations of IDPs per capita in the world. Currently, seven per cent of its population remains displaced, due to the Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding territories. Around half of these IDPs continue to live in unacceptable conditions.

Joanna De Berry, head of the World Bank team that prepared the report, commented: “Recent research and analysis by the World Bank and Azerbaijani Government indicates that, despite much investment, IDPs still remain vulnerable; are more likely to experience poverty than non-IDPs; have worse living conditions; and lower employment rates than the non-displaced. They also rely heavily on state transfers as their main income source. The project is designed to respond to these challenges and to complement the existing state-funded programmes for IDP housing provision. The project draws on experience gained from the World Bank Programme on Forced Displacement and from supporting the livelihoods of the rural poor across the world.”

The new project will build on the successful implementation of past World Bank-funded IDP support projects, under which more than 400 microprojects were implemented, benefiting over 120,000 IDPs across Azerbaijan. This will expand community microprojects, whilst strengthening the focus on improving the living conditions of those IDPs continuing to reside in public buildings and providing sustainable job opportunities to enhance their independence.

Asad Alam, Director, South Caucasus, World Bank, outlined: “The Azerbaijani Government and the World Bank are undertaking a 12-year partnership to promote IDP development in the country. The success of this partnership is attributable to the high level of commitment demonstrated by the Azerbaijani Government towards addressing IDP requirements.”

The project objectives include:

  • investment in small infrastructure and services microprojects that IDP communities identify as their priorities. An estimated 200 microprojects will benefit 120,000–150,000 persons.
  • rehabilitation of up to 95 collective centres, thus improving the housing conditions of about 30,000 persons.
  • vocational training and grants for around 1,400 young people to facilitate establishment of their own businesses.
  • training and resources for around 200 community groups to finance the launch of small enterprises. As part of the income-generating activities, approximately 1500 micro-credits will be extended to IDPs to start up or expand their businesses.

Since joining the World Bank in 1992, Azerbaijan has received approximately $2.9bn (£1.8bn) across 43 projects.

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All change on the Karabakh front?

2011-11-18

Azerbaijani sources have predicted that the next meeting between Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Armenian President Sargsyan may take place under the mediation of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sources claim that the proposal was made during the French leader’s recent visit to the region, and that it had been discussed and approved by the Russian and US Presidents.

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OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs’ report published

2011-11-18

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs – Ambassadors Bernard Fassier (France); Robert Bradtke (US); and Igor Popov (Russian Federation), together with Andrzej Kasprzyk, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, have presented their annual report to the Permanent Council of the OSCE, preceding the forthcoming OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting in Vilnius.

According to an OSCE press release, the Co-Chairs noted that they visited the region eight times during the past year, holding 14 separate meetings in various locations with Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Armenian President Sargsyan. The Co-Chairs also crossed the ‘contact line’ by foot four times in the past 14 months, thereby demonstrating that the line is not a permanent barrier between the peoples of the region, and that military co-ordination regarding ceasefire implementation is possible, when all the sides are willing.

Highlighting the continued engagement of their three governments, the Co-Chairs reiterated that there would be no military solution. They stressed that political will by all sides is essential to ensure that the necessary difficult decisions are made, and that the sides can move beyond the unacceptable status quo and achieve peace.

The Co-Chairs also described the additional efforts being implemented to foster an atmosphere that would be conducive to negotiations; strengthen implementation of the ceasefire; and promote understanding amongst the peoples of the region. The Co-Chairs plan to revisit the region at the end of November to further develop proposals on these issues and discuss continuation of the negotiation process.

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UNESCO discusses Armenian destruction of Azerbaijani monuments

2011-11-18

Eleonora Huseynova, Azerbaijani Permanent Representative to UNESCO, has drawn attention to the ongoing Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territory at the 36th session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris.

She explained that this occupation has resulted in the destruction of many historical and cultural monuments across Azerbaijan. Huseynova revealed that nine centralised library systems, comprising 927 libraries and 4.6m books, had been plundered and destroyed in Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions. The occupied territories also housed some 22 museums, which contained over 100,000 exhibits; 808 clubs; four theatres; two concert halls; eight amusement parks; four art galleries; and 85 music schools.

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The Great Wall of Nagorno-Karabakh?

2011-11-18

Azerbaijan’s ANS Press has reported that a wall is under construction along the ‘contact line’. The stone structure will stretch for almost 3km in the Terter District in order to “protect the residents of Azerbaijani villages from Armenian bullets.”

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ICG dismisses conflict resolution hopes for two years

2011-11-18

Sabine Freizer, Director, Europe Programme, International Crisis Group (ICG), has dismissed any chance of achieving resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for the next two years. During a press conference in Istanbul, she explained: “The situation will continue because elections are scheduled to take place in the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries – the US, Russia and France. Following this, elections will be held in Azerbaijan and Armenia.”

Freizer went on to explain that negotiations always slow on the eve of elections: “The world community, including the Co-Chairs, pinned great hopes on the Kazan meeting. Unfortunately, the summit yielded no result.” However, she expressed the view that if high-level meetings are not organised, then contact through the civil societies in both countries remains a necessity.

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Potential meeting between Azerbaijani and Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh communities

2011-11-18

Rabiyyat Aslanova, Head, Human Rights Committee, Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament) has revealed that the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh may meet in Khankandi, provided that security is ensured. The statement came in the wake of an initiative from Bahar Muradova, Vice-Speaker, Milli Majlis, to organise such a meeting. In turn, the unrecognised Armenian leadership in Nagorno-Karabakh replied that Khankandi could be the venue for this.

In the first instance, Aslanova reiterated that Khankandi remains Azerbaijani sovereign territory. She explained: “There is a need for this meeting. In any case, regardless of the placename used, there is a great need for a meeting between the two communities. We should also listen to the opposite side – the Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is Azerbaijani land. They still hold Azerbaijani citizenship. Today, some Armenians even dream of dual citizenship.”

Aslanova continued: “We think about tomorrow, and believe that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue will be solved peacefully. We are ready to reconstruct buildings and conduct mine clearance in these areas.”

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Azerbaijani success recognised in the European Parliament

2011-11-18

The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) has expanded its European activities by hosting a conference in the European Parliament, Brussels, for over 60 stakeholders. Held on 20 October, this was entitled 20 years of independence: Azerbaijan’s future opportunities. During the event, the distinguished Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Tunne Kelam (EPP – Estonia); Evgeni Kirilov (S&D – Bulgaria); and Ivo Vajgl (ALDE – Slovenia) joined H.E. Emin Eyyubov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to European Institutions, in giving an optimistic outlook for the country. They stressed the need for peace in the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and the continuity of accelerated economic development. The other members of the panel were Tale Heydarov, Chairman and Founder, TEAS; and Göran Lindblad, former Vice-President and Chair, Political Affairs Committee, PACE, who moderated the discussion.

Initially, Mr Kelam gave a brief overview of Azerbaijani history, explaining how the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) was the first democracy in the Muslim East, prior to the Soviet invasion. Mr Kirilov went on to explain the need for reconciliation between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh situation, and the requirement to ensure that Azerbaijani sovereign territory is maintained.

Mr Vajgl went on to emphasise how EU member states are developing good relations with Azerbaijan and contributing towards conflict resolution. He stated that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue remains “a piece of Cold War” and a “deeply rooted political problem”. The MEP commented on the activities of the OSCE Minsk Group, and urged the Co-Chairs to increase their efforts. He argued in favour of giving a clear path for EU alliance with both Azerbaijan and Armenia to accelerate regional development.

Ambassador Eyyubov summarised Azerbaijani democratic development and explained that his country was “an ancient nation”, despite being a “young State”. Following an initial period of “disarray” from 1991–93, due to the war with Armenia, combined with economic recession, the situation rapidly improved and stability was achieved. He emphasised the potential economic benefits to Armenia if peace was achieved, as this would enable hydrocarbon resources to be transported across its territory.

The Ambassador stressed that, since 1994, Azerbaijan had been transformed into “a locomotive” for hydrocarbon resources, becoming a secure source of Western European energy. He cited figures from The Economist, which concluded that Azerbaijan had experienced the greatest GDP growth in the world during the past decade, now accounting for 83 per cent of the entire South Caucasus GDP.

Turning to security, he underlined the participation of his country in various NATO peacekeeping missions, including those in Afghanistan. He acknowledged that the greatest challenge remains the achievement of “a constructive solution” to the Nagorno-Karabakh situation.

Mr Vajgl expressed hope for stronger co-operation between the EU and Azerbaijan, which could potentially become an EU member. He also called for an end to the Armenian invasion of Azerbaijani territory. Mr Kirilov explained the need for energy supply diversity, also mentioning the necessity for enhancement of relations with Turkmenistan and the expedited development of Transcaspian pipelines. The Ambassador commented that the decision on the Azerbaijani government’s favoured pipeline projects would be finalised by the end of 2011.

The panel discussion was followed by a reception, having been well-attended by MEPs, EU Commission members, the diplomatic community and NGO representatives.

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Ambassador addresses LSE students

2011-11-18

H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the UK, has delivered a lecture to the LSE Students’ Union Grimshaw International Relations Club as part of the celebrations to commemorate the 20th anniversary of regaining Azerbaijani independence. Speaking before 40 students, he outlined the struggle to regain independence during the collapse of the Soviet Union, and how this built upon the progressive achievements of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) (1918–20).

The Ambassador continued: “Azerbaijan is located in a complex geopolitical position, and was in a challenging state of economic disadvantage when it regained its independence. The Azerbaijani enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh always contained around 75 per cent Armenians, but both nationalities lived alongside each other. The conflict with Armenia resulted in nearly a million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) being expelled from their homeland, thereafter living in camps across their own country. Following the ceasefire in 1994, Armenia has since ignored the four UN Security Council Resolutions passed against its illegal occupation of these territories.” He also explained the failure of the OSCE Minsk Group, which has been attempting to achieve a negotiated ceasefire since 1994.

Ambassador Gurbanov went on to outline Azerbaijani membership of various international bodies, including the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe (PACE); Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); the EU Eastern Partnership; and its participation in the NATO Partnership for Peace Programme. He went on to discuss the Basic Principles proposed by Azerbaijan to ensure the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, including the granting of a high degree of autonomy for the region.

The Ambassador also discussed the achievements of Azerbaijan during the past two decades: “For several years, Azerbaijan posted the highest GDP growth in the world, and is in a privileged situation. Currently, the Baku–Tibilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, of which BP has the controlling share, delivers 1m barrels of oil per day. There are more than 170 UK companies in Azerbaijan, and it is home to more than 5000 UK expatriates. Azerbaijan is attempting to diversify its economy away from the oil and gas sector, and is particularly concentrating on such sectors as IT, tourism and agriculture.”

He concluded: “20 years is a short period, and Azerbaijan has faced many challenges. It has achieved a great deal, and the government has a responsibility to ensure future economic sustainability.” The speech was followed by a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, covering such areas as preparations to host the Eurovision Song Contest, and the potential threat of armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

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Azerbaijan participates in Eastern Partnership Summit

2011-10-24

Azerbaijani President Aliyev has attended the EU Eastern Partnership Summit in Warsaw. In his introduction, Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, expressed a wish that visa facilitation and readmission agreements should be concluded with Azerbaijan and other member states.

During his time in the Polish capital, President Aliyev met Baroness Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President, European Commission. Discussion topics included the latest developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict peace talks and EU–Azerbaijani co-operation in energy and other sectors. He also met Georgian President Saakashvili to outline plans for further development of bilateral economic and trading relations. President Aliyev went on to meet the three Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, tasked with brokering peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This discussion with Robert Bradtke, USA; Bernard Fassier, France; and Igor Popov, Russia; accompanied by Andrzej Kasprzyk, Personal Representative, OSCE Chairman-in-Office, focused on the current state and prospects for peace talks regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

President Aliyev also met Vladimir Filat, Prime Minister, Moldova, stressing the significance of expanding bilateral economic co-operation and their joint involvement in international and regional organisations, including the GUAM Organisation for Democracy and Economic Development.

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Nagorno-Karabakh death toll rises before Sarkozy visit

2011-10-24

According to the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, Armenian snipers have killed two Azerbaijani soldiers near the Nagorno-Karabakh ‘contact line’, just hours before the start of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to the South Caucasus. The killings occurred on 5 October – the same day that President Sarkozy gave an interview urging Armenia and Azerbaijan to take more decisive steps towards striking a peace deal.

Teymur Abdullayev, Spokesman, Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, commented: “Shooting from the Armenian side killed 20-year-old soldier Novruz Aliyev and 22-year-old serviceman Suleiman Askerov.” In an interview preceding his two-day Caucasus visit, President Sarkozy called on both Armenia and Azerbaijan to “take the risk of peace.” He commented: “There is no greater danger than inaction, which gives rise to illusions, fuels resentment and, bit by bit, delays the chances of peace on a daily basis.” To date, this year has seen 17 soldiers killed on both sides, amidst regular exchanges of gunfire along the ‘contact line’.

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OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to visit South Caucasus in October

2011-10-24

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs – Robert Bradtke, USA; Bernard Fassier, France; and Igor Popov, Russia – tasked with brokering a negotiated peace over Nagorno-Karabakh, will pay their next visit to the region during October. Popov made the announcement to APA’s Moscow correspondent, but did not reveal the exact dates of the visit. The three Co-Chairs recently met Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Armenian President Sargsyan separately during the EU Eastern Partnership Summit in Warsaw. The Co-Chairs also reaffirmed the commitment made by Russian President Medvedev, US President Obama, and French President Sarkozy in their Deauville Statement of 26 May in which they pledged to assist the sides in achieving a settlement. The Co-Chairs will also meet at the OSCE Ministerial Council in Vilnius in December.

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Germany pledges support for the Azerbaijani perspective

2011-10-24

H.E. Herbert Quelle, German Ambassador to Azerbaijan, has commented that peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is only achievable with the support of the international community. Speaking during the Day of German Unity in Baku, he reiterated: “World public opinion will play a key role in establishing this support. We have always backed Azerbaijani territorial integrity, although we must simultaneously accept the OSCE Minsk Group negotiation format and that this must not be disturbed.”

He went on to explain that the EU, including Germany, is mostly concerned with questions on how to construct a framework around the ongoing negotiations that will be conducive to a solution. He continued: “I am confident that the new EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus will establish some proposals in the near future.”

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PACE President requests respect for Nagorno-Karabakh Subcommittee

2011-10-24

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, President, Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe (PACE), has pledged his support for re-establishment of the PACE Subcommittee on Nagorno-Karabakh, requesting respect from all parties on this matter. During a press conference in Strasbourg concerning the move, he answered questions from Armenian journalists regarding the development: “PACE adopted the resolution on Nagorno-Karabakh in 2005, and the PACE Bureau passed a decision to establish a Subcommittee on Nagorno-Karabakh. Following the death of Lord Russell-Johnston, the first Committee Chairman, the PACE Bureau reconsidered the issue and passed a decision to resume its activity, which was not accepted by the Armenian side.

“But I must reiterate that any decision passed by PACE and its Bureau must be accepted by all member states, and this decision must be respected. I consider it important to reiterate that this Subcommittee will be engaged mainly in the humanitarian elements of these issues and make efforts towards strengthening dialogue between both countries’ delegations to PACE. The next meeting of the Committee will be held today, and I hope the Armenian delegation will participate in its work.”

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Azerbaijani army officer suffers head wounds

2011-10-24

Gabil Abdullayev, an Azerbaijani Lieutenant, was wounded by the Armenian armed forces on 14 September in the ‘contact line’ of the Fuzuli region. He was hospitalised with head wounds, which an Azerbaijani Defence Ministry spokesman described as ‘stable’.

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Armenian mines in Aghdam

2011-10-24

According to the APA news agency, Armenian-made PMN-57 anti-personnel and anti-tank mines have been discovered in the Khachin River, near the Ashagi Garvand village in the Azerbaijani Aghdam region. The devices were discovered by the local residents, who immediately informed the Azerbaijani National Agency for Mine Actions (ANAMA).

The mine-clearance specialists commented that such mines are frequently discovered in rivers and tributaries passing through the Armenian-occupied territories. Armenian-made plastic-coated mines are lightweight and can easily be released in water.

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Mammadyarov addresses UN General Assembly

2011-10-24

Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, has reiterated his call for the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from Nagorno-Karabakh, during a meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York. He explained: “Azerbaijan is confident that conflict resolution must start with the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories, according to the fixed timetable. This should be followed by the restoration of communications, return of refugees and internally-displaced persons (IDPs) and the creation of conditions to ensure the peaceful coexistence of Azerbaijanis and Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.”

According to Mammadyarov, the incremental approach, which has been proposed by the mediators and supported by the international community, other than the Armenian leadership, will bring about durable peace, stability and predictability for the region.

Mammadyarov welcomed the UN General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution on strengthening the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution. He continued: “In this document, the UN General Assembly reiterates that all Member States should strictly adhere to their obligations, as laid down in the UN Charter, and reaffirms the commitment to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all States. Azerbaijan looks forward to implementation of the relevant guidance for more effective mediation, as indicated in the resolution, and we are ready to actively contribute to its elaboration.”

The Minister recalled that, in 1993, the UN Security Council adopted four resolutions, which demanded the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and reaffirmed the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of internationally-recognised Azerbaijani borders. The same appeals were made by other international organisations. He commented: “Unfortunately, Armenia continues to ignore the calls of the international community.”

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Bryza maintains positivity

2011-10-24

Matthew Bryza, US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, has voiced his opinion regarding a perceived reduction in military rhetoric from the sides regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He commented: “Statements regarding the military solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are being heard less frequently than was previously the case. This is a very positive indicator and development. I wish to state that Azerbaijan advocates the non-use of force and a peaceful solution to the conflict. It is necessary to finalise the process of co-ordinating the basic principles. This is not an impossible issue, and dischord between the sides can be resolved. I reiterate that the conflict cannot be solved by military methods.”

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Pashayeva demands PACE condemnation of Nagorno-Karabakh elections

2011-10-24

Ganira Pashayeva, Member of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE, has delivered a stinging rejection of the elections held in Nagorno-Karabakh by the occupying powers. She explained: “Armenia has not fulfilled its PACE and UN resolutions, and has held illegal elections in the occupied Azerbaijani lands, including the unrecognised ‘Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’. It has not paid attention to the calls and demands of the Council of Europe. The municipal elections held in the occupied Azerbaijani territories on 18 September are contrary to international law, to UN, OSCE and PACE resolutions, and are simultaneously a serious blow to the negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia regarding the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They have also caused tension in the region. The Assembly must condemn such cases and demand that Armenia stops their recurrence.”

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Nagorno-Karabakh motion tabled in Swedish parliament

2011-10-24

The Swedish-Azerbaijani Academic Society (SAAS) has announced that a motion for resolution regarding the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories will be presented to the Swedish parliament. The motion specifies the withdrawal of the Armenian military forces from the occupied Azerbaijani lands, and the rights of the Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs to return home. Mehmet Kaplan, the renowned and influential Swedish MP, who leads the Green Party in the Swedish Parliament, tabled the motion.

The motion demands that Sweden, within the UN, EU and other international organisations should work to:

  • break the international silence on Nagorno-Karabakh, and ensure that the issue is brought up the international political agenda
  • bring about the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Armenian military forces from the occupied Azerbaijani lands
  • ensure that the Armenian minority in Nagorno-Karabakh is guaranteed safety, security and autonomy within the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial boundaries
  • develop special programmes for reconciliation and tolerance between Azerbaijanis and Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Before the Swedish parliament votes on whether to adopt the motion, the Foreign Affairs Committee will debate its contents. If it fails to gain unanimity in its recommendations, voting in the assembly will be preceded with a discussion. The decisions of the parliament are mandatory, thus a positive outcome of the voting would necessitate that the Swedish government should execute the contents of the resolution and adopt it as an active part of its foreign policy.

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New letter on Nagorno-Karabakh issued to UN Secretary-General

2011-09-23

Agshin Mehdiyev, Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the UN, has despatched a new letter to Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General. According to the UN News Service: “Instead of preparing its people for peace and a prosperous and stable future in friendship and co-operation with its neighbouring nations, the President of Armenia openly incites the youth and future generations of his country to new wars and violence. The increasing number of casualties over the past few months amongst Azerbaijani civilians residing in the front-line areas testifies to Armenia’s apparent disregard of its obligations under international law and in the context of the ongoing conflict settlement process.

“In their joint statement of 26 May, made in Deauville, France, the Presidents of France, the Russian Federation and the USA inter alia, strongly urged the sides to prepare their populations for peace, not war. At a meeting with the participants in the fifth Pan-Armenian Olympiad for the Armenian Language, Literature and Armenian Studies held in Gara Chichek (Tsakhkadzor), Armenia, on 25 July, the head of the Armenian State instructed the youth of his country to continue implementing the policy of hatred and mistrust among the peoples of the region. Thus, in response to the question from a student about the prospects for expanding Armenia’s territory at the expense of neighbouring Turkey, Serzh Sargsyan said that the realisation of this duty would depend on the efforts of the new generation, and referred to the fulfilment of a task to capture part of what he called “our fatherland – Karabakh.”

Mehdiyev continued by stating: “Azerbaijan considers the historical assertions of the Armenian side to be false, a vivid example of which is the reference by the President of Armenia to the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan as allegedly the occupiers’ ‘historical land’ or ‘fatherland’. These have the sole purpose of misleading the international community and justifying a policy of violent territorial expansionism.” Mehdiyev noted that, having implemented the total ethnic cleansing of both the territory of Armenia and the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, the Armenian President had succeeded in creating an uniquely mono-ethnic culture in these areas. He concluded: “Thus, the Armenian leadership has unveiled its expansionist intentions, at the core of which are historical delusions and racial animosity.”

The letter concluded by outlining the impact of Armenian ceasefire violations during July, highlighting the deaths of a 13-year-old Azerbaijani girl and an Azerbaijani soldier, together with the wounding of two civilians.

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Kobia requests accelerated conflict settlement for Nagorno-Karabakh

2011-09-23

During a press conference, Roland Kobia, Head of the EU representative office in Azerbaijan, outlined the necessity for expediting resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He stated: “Armenia and Azerbaijan failed to reach an agreement on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement during the Kazan meeting, but this does not indicate that the whole procedure has failed. Of course, the inability to reach an agreement at the meeting is disappointing, but a few days later a meeting was held in Sochi between the Azerbaijani and Russian Presidents. I heard it was held in a positive atmosphere, and we would like this process to continue. I would not like to think that the settlement process has ended."

Kobia then touched upon the incidents occurring at the ‘contact line’ between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops. He explained: “We are saddened by the situation in the frontal zone. Such cases from the Azerbaijani or Armenian sides must not take place, because there is a ceasefire régime. No-one should die there, and both sides must respect the this.”

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ICRC missing persons database created for Nagorno-Karabakh

2011-09-23

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has registered 4,575 unaccounted Azerbaijanis as ‘missing persons’, all of whom disappeared during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Sylvie Graenicher, Co-ordinator, ICRC Defence Programme Co-ordinator in Azerbaijan, explained that the ICRC had collected this information from the families of disappeared people to create the Ante Mortem database. The ICRC undertook the work in collaboration with the Azerbaijani Red Crescent Society. To date, questionnaires regarding 3,631 missing persons have been received. Graenicher explained: “The collection of Ante Mortem data is being undertaken by the ICRC to support the authorities’ efforts, as they bear primary responsibility for clarifying the fate of the missing persons.”

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Official protests over illegal visit of French MPs

2011-09-23

The Azerbaijani Embassy in Paris has submitted a formal protest to the French Foreign Ministry regarding an illegal visit by four French MPs – Guy Teissier, Jacques Remile, Georges Colombier and Valérie Boyer – to Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding territories. Elman Abdullayev, Spokesman, First Secretary of the Foreign Ministry, revealed: “The French MPs will be added to the ‘blacklist’ of persons whose entrance to Azerbaijan is considered undesirable, due to a lack of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and failing to inform the relevant Azerbaijani government bodies about visiting the Nagorno-Karabakh region.”

Abdullayev went on to explain that the Azerbaijani Embassy in Paris had sent a protest note to the French Foreign Ministry. It also appealed to the French Foreign Ministry, requesting clarification from the French National Assembly. He outlined: “In this letter, Baku demanded an explanation in connection with the French parliamentary delegation’s visit to the occupied Azerbaijani territories.”

Previously, France has repeatedly voiced official support for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. However, the Azatutun (Freedom) radio station reported that Guy Tessier, Chairman of the French Assembly’s Defence and Armed Forces Committee, led the delegation. He is the mayor of the ninth and tenth arrondissement of Marseille, which is densely populated by Armenians. The visit was clearly an attempt to gain diaspora votes in the French legislative elections, scheduled to take place next year.

Musa Gasimli, Azerbaijani MP, commented: “France is one of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, and mediators should be neutral, impartial and operate within their mandates. The French MPs’ visit to the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan casts a shadow on the mediation mission of this country.”

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ICRC employees visit Azerbaijani POW in Armenia

2011-09-23

Members of the ICRC visited Roman Huseynov, Azerbaijani Prisoner-of-War (POW), who is currently being held in Armenian captivity. According to Shahla Gahramanova, Spokesman, ICRC Baku Office, employees from the ICRC Yerevan Office assessed the prisoner’s conditions, followed by an exchange of letters to and from his family. Azerbaijani army sergeant Huseynov was captured on 27 August 2010. Working under the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC has operated in the region since 1992, in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

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Armenia boasts of military buildup

2011-09-23

Lieutenant-General Movses Hakobian, Armenian Armed Forces Commander in Nagorno-Karabakh, has revealed that the Armenian-controlled territory has substantially boosted its weapons arsenal over the last six months, according to RFE/RL. The Commander estimated that the ‘military potential’ of his troops grew by 20 per cent during the first half of 2011.

During a press conference, he explained: “During this period, the qualitative and quantitative state of our weapons and military hardware changed considerably. Quite serious reforms were implemented, involving the restructuring of two army brigades.” Hakobian explained that the military would obtain new artillery, air defence and anti-tank weaponry, and this year would receive two divisions of new tanks. These have been supplied by Armenia, presumably having originally been sourced from Russia, although no disclosure has been made on the UN Register.

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Important role for Germany in Nagorno-Karabakh resolution

2011-09-23

Professor Udo Steinbach of Hamburg University, specialist in Middle-East studies, has given his perspective on EU–Azerbaijani integration and the potential for resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He explained: “On the German side, I think we could do more, we should be more aware about Azerbaijan and the place of the country in terms of political stability in the Caucasus. When it comes to Nagorno-Karabakh, the Germans have a role to play. Unfortunately, Germany and – especially – the German parliament and government do not fully comprehend how Germany should participate in bringing about a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. This is slowly developing, but is inadequate at present.”

He continued: “I think that there is apprehension in Germany and in Berlin about retaking Nagorno-Karabakh by force. The politicians are continually insisting that this problem should be solved politically. If a military conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh came to pass, this would exacerbate instability in the Southern Caucasus and the entire Near East region. People are very sceptical whether anything would be achieved by military means. We should do all that is possible to contribute towards a political solution, and this is a widespread opinion here in Berlin. Many other people and myself are trying to increase awareness about Nagorno-Karabakh in Berlin to make the German government more ready and open to contributions from a German perspective regarding the achievement of a political solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

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Aliyev and Medvedev meet in Sochi

2011-08-18

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev met in Sochi to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, issues of bilateral relations, and the status of hydrocarbon deposits in the Caspian Sea. President Medvedev stated: “I would like to have a sincere conversation on the next steps to be taken and how developments are continuing, taking into consideration our last trilateral meeting held in Kazan, and previous meetings in this format.”

President Aliyev replied: “Azerbaijan and Armenia are neighbours, both being Caspian nations and Caucasian countries. In many respects, developments in the region are determined by our interaction. In Azerbaijan, we greatly appreciate your personal involvement in this process. These rounds of negotiations, held in a trilateral format, have brought the sides very much closer.

“The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains a major problem of regional security, and Azerbaijan is interested in resolution of the conflict in the very near future, enabling the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to return home and facilitating the re-establishment of peace in the region.” It is unclear whether Medvedev plans to hold similar talks with Armenian President Sargsyan.

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No US aid for Nagorno-Karabakh

2011-08-18

In a statement, Azerbaijani diaspora organisations in the US have welcomed the decision by the US Congress to omit Nagorno-Karabakh from the recipients’ list for US aid in 2012.

Board Members of the Pax Turcica Institute, Azerbaijan Society of America and Azerbaijani–American Council welcomed the recent decision by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programmes to eliminate direct US assistance to the Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent territories from the Fiscal Year 2012 budget appropriations for the South Caucasus.

The US Congress has been allocating funds to address the humanitarian needs of the victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict since 1992. Since 2005, under pressure from Armenian–American groups, US funds have been solely provided to the Armenian community in the occupied regions, whilst the 870,000 Azerbaijani IDPs and refugees received no assistance.

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EU interest in Nagorno-Karabakh increases

2011-08-18

An EU meeting in Strasbourg has indicated enhanced interest in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Michal Labenda, Polish Ambassador to Azerbaijan, outlined Poland’s EU Presidency priorities, emphasising that that the country would particularly seek to promote the EU Eastern Partnership. He commented that the Partnership Summit in September would: “Provide an impetus for the integration process of Azerbaijan in the EU.” Jérôme Pons, Chargé d'affaires of the EU delegation to Baku, stated that: “Nagorno-Karabakh has always been considered a part of the territory of Azerbaijan and this is the approach of the international community.”

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Gallup poll finds strong Armenian pro-Russian sentiments

2011-08-18

A recent Gallup opinion poll has found that three-quarters of the Armenian population approve of Russia’s current leadership. This makes it the fifth most pro-Russian country in the world.

The poll – conducted in 104 countries last year – shows that only seven per cent of Armenians are critical of the Kremlin’s leadership, with another 17 per cent being undecided. The remaining 75 per cent positively assess policies pursued by President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Moscow enjoys higher approval ratings in only four other countries included in the survey – Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, and Uzbekistan. Despite increasingly favouring closer ties with the West, many Armenians continue to regard Russia as a guarantor of their country’s security. A Gallup spokesman commented: “The high approval rating reflects how dependent many residents of these counties are on remittances from Russia.” In Armenia, these monies constituted 13 per cent of the country’s GDP last year. Government data shows that around 80 per cent of the 2010 cash remittances totalling at least $1.3bn (£80m) emanated from Russia, which is home to hundreds of thousands of Armenian migrant workers.

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Azerbaijani President receives PACE delegation

2011-08-18

Azerbaijani President Aliyev has received a delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). During the meeting, he spoke about the development of the country since the regaining of Azerbaijani independence; the strength of the economy; and the country’s relationship with all EU member states and NATO partners. President Aliyev went on to reiterate the inherent racial and religious tolerance of Azerbaijan, this fact being acknowledged by Luca Volontè, Chairman, European People’s Party’s group (EPP), PACE.

In contrast, Volontè was informed about the realities of Armenian ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in 870,000 Azerbaijani refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs), and the flouting of four UN Security Council resolutions. President Aliyev reiterated his call for influential countries to support Azerbaijani territorial integrity.

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Basic principles must be agreed as top priority

2011-08-18

Lamberto Zannier, Secretary-General, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), has commented that the South Caucasus is important in maintaining security and stability across the entire OSCE area.

As the OSCE addresses protracted conflicts through agreed formats, Zannier stated that he shares the opinion of the OSCE Minsk Group that the Basic Principles must be agreed as a top priority, enabling Armenia and Azerbaijan to move towards the drafting of a comprehensive peace settlement.

He added that: “All OSCE efforts are based on mandates agreed by consensus across the 56 participating states,” and thus “the countries of the South Caucasus – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – are not only ‘consumers’ of our efforts, but also contributors to the work of the OSCE, as a whole, to promote security, prosperity and democracy throughout the OSCE space.” He was therefore: “Optimistic that progress can be achieved.”

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OSCE remains most effective Nagorno-Karabakh resolution format

2011-08-18

João Soares, newly-appointed Special Representative for the South Caucasus, OSCE, has commented that the OSCE Minsk Group remains the most effective format for Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations. He stipulated that his mandate would focus on protracted conflicts, together with implementing and monitoring the important democratic reforms across the three South Caucasus countries.

Soares added that he would visit the area in the immediate future, as he considers this to be necessary to facilitate direct dialogue regarding Nagorno-Karabakh with all segments of society in both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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Nagorno Karabakh conflict – an EU responsibility?

2011-08-18

Dr Sofie Bedford, Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University, has given her perspective on the US, Russian and European intervention in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. She commented that the US hosting of a meeting between Azerbaijan and Armenia could provide benefits, such as recognition of the unacceptability of the status quo, although there would potentially be intimidation from Russian leaders, who had previously operated as mediators.

Whilst describing the significance of the Azerbaijani–Armenian Kazan Summit, mediated by Russia, Dr Bedford mentioned that the significance of this meeting is that, despite the lack of progress, the talks are continuing.

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Armenia and Azerbaijan respond to amended Basic Principles

2011-08-18

Late July was a period of daily contact between Armenian and Azerbaijani officials and the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs from Russia, the US and France. This culminated in answers from Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Armenian President Sargsyan regarding Russian President Medvedev’s proposal that both sides should accept the amended Basic Principles.

The Co-Chairs went on to issue a joint statement on 18 July, which states: “In Baku and Yerevan, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs met Presidents Aliyev and Sargsyan, respectively. They reiterated to both Presidents the importance of reaching agreement on the Basic Principles as the framework for moving toward final settlement negotiations. The Presidents committed to making their decisions regarding the most recent formulations proposed in the framework document, and to continue working with the Co-Chairs and the Co-Chair governments on the process of seeking a peaceful settlement.”

Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, stated that Azerbaijan was calling upon Armenia to start work on a peace treaty regarding settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without further prevarication, as Baku is ready to start negotiations on peace treaties with the Armenians. He expressed the view that the Kazan Summit was not entirely unsuccessful, instead representing a rapprochement of the sides.

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EU to financially assist Nagorno-Karabakh settlement

2011-08-18

Štefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and the European Neighborhood Policy, revealed in an interview with RFE/Radio Liberty that the EU is likely to promote its participation in the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, being ready to provide financial assistance towards promoting settlement and reconstructing the region. However, if the sides reach a lasting agreement, the EU will provide more funds, including measures for social and economic development. He stated that the OSCE Minsk Group process would continue, and that replacement of one or more Co-Chairs had not been considered.

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After two decades, mine clearance continues

2011-08-18

Azerbaijan’s National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) defused nine anti-tank and four anti-personnel mines in July. According to a press release, during the month, it cleared an area covering 2,232,269 m. sq., also destroying 483 unexploded ordnances (UXOs). All the devices date from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which raged from 1988–94. Since 1998, ANAMA has cleared 167,029,079 m. sq. of Azerbaijani territory, destroying 662,446 mines and UXOs.

The July operations involved 480 mine specialists, 120 rescue workers, six mine-clearance vehicles and 32 specially-trained dogs. ANAMA is currently undertaking demining operations in Agdam, Agjabadi, Fizuli, Goranboy, Terter, Yevlakh and the Güzdek settlement.

In July, Aygun Shahmaliyeva, was killed by an explosive device placed inside a toy that she picked out of the Tovuz River, near the Armenian border. It is alleged that the toy came from Armenia. In another incident last month, soldier Hasil Sarkhanov, aged 19 years, was injured by an antipersonnel mine on the ‘contact line’ separating Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in the Terter District.

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Armenian armed forces injure Azerbaijani civilian

2011-08-18

An Azerbaijani 22-year-old civilian has been injured by Armenian armed forces whilst she was resting near the Mazam Lake, near the Armenian border. Abisalam Heydarov, Gazakh Regional Prosecutor, explained that the bullet passed through her arm. She was taken to the Gazakh Central Hospital, where her state was described as ‘critical’ although this assessment was revised to ‘stable’, following an operation. An investigation is now underway.

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Azerbaijani–Ukrainian co-operation within Euronest

2011-08-18

Elkhan Suleymanov, Azerbaijani Member of Parliament (MP) and Head of the Azerbaijani group in the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, held a meeting with Boris Tarasyuk, Chairman, Ukrainian Parliament’s European Integration Committee and Co-Chairman, Euronest. Issues of bilateral co-operation between the countries within Euronest were discussed at length.

Following this, the importance of developing interparliamentary ties between the countries was reiterated during a meeting between Pavel Klimkin, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister, and Eynulla Madatli, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Ukraine. Klimkin received a range of new publications on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, including a book on the Khojaly genocide, together with information on Azerbaijani participation in pan-European organisations.

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Armenians in Baku wish to remain in adopted homeland

2011-08-18

According to Hürriyet, the Turkish newspaper, many of the 20,000 Armenians living in Azerbaijan have indicated a wish to remain in the country, regardless of the possible recurrence of hostilities between Baku and Yerevan.

The Hürriyet journalist questioned four ethnic Armenian women that had resided in Baku since birth, and had never considered leaving the city. All had subsequently married Azerbaijani husbands and given birth to children, some of whom served in the Azerbaijani army.

One of the women, known as CR, aged 54 years, a graduate of the Baku Oil Academy, commented: “There was no difference between Azerbaijanis and Armenians during our childhood. We all grew up in with Azerbajanis, and we were all one. At the time, we did not know who was Azerbaijani and who was Armenian, as the separation began after the Nagorno-Karabakh war.”

Another woman, SG, aged 48 years, revealed that she had felt anxious during the Nagorno-Karabakh war, yet had never considered leaving the Azerbaijani capital. She continued: “We were born here, our parents are from Baku, and this is our land. How can we ever leave here? I have not personally witnessed any discrimination due to my Armenian identity. During the war, Armenians residing in Baku were protected by the state. Policemen gave us their personal telephone numbers, and asked to us to call them directly if something happened.”

AR, aged 56 years, recalled: “My son served in the Azerbaijani army and my neighbour’s son, who was also an Armenian, died in the Nagorno-Karabakh war whilst fighting on the Azerbaijani side. How can we say that we are different to our neighbours?”

Although the women had not experienced major problems, many Armenians left Azerbaijan during the war, according to RN, a 60-year-old housewife. She recalled: “Almost all of the Armenians who left Azerbaijan wish to return to their lands. I have friends and relatives in Russia, Belgium and the US, and they all want to come back.” Some Armenians also echoed their government’s perspective on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Armenian housewife CK, aged 54 years, stated: “Nagorno-Karabakh has been Azerbaijani land for decades; they have the right to ask for it back.”

Read the original article in Hürriyet here.

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Turkish support for refugees and IDPs

2011-08-18

Ali Hasanov, Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Committee on Refugees and IDPs, held a press conference with Turkish journalists to talk about the current state of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the work being undertaken by the Azerbaijani government to improve the living conditions of refugees and IDPs. He revealed that the government had allocated around $4.5bn (£2.7bn) to improve welfare standards during the past 20 years.

Hasanov called for the continuity of Turkish–Azerbaijani solidarity in combating Armenian expansionist activity. He also stressed his appreciation for the work of Turkish humanitarian organisations in Azerbaijan.

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US acknowledgement of Azerbaijani tolerance

2011-08-18

Matthew Bryza, US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, has met members of the Christian Udin community in the Nij village, Gabala region, and visited the restored 17th century Udin church. This was constructed on the site of a Christian Caucasian Albanian church from the 4th Century AD.

Ambassador Bryza noted the importance of such projects, as they preserve the rich cultural heritage of the South Caucasus region. He commented: “The preservation of such monuments has great importance that prevails over political, cultural and religious differences. Preservation of your church, culture and language is a splendid example of diversity and tolerance. I recently visited the Armenian Church in Baku, and believe that a day will come when the people will be able to pray in that church like you do here. I am glad to see the respect of the local officials and citizens for such sacred places.”

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Azerbaijan pursues successful foreign policy

2011-08-18

Azerbaijan has become one of the strongest countries in the Caucasus region, due to its pivotal role in political and economic sectors. Speaking on National Diplomats’ Day, Nadir Huseynov, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister, explained that this position was attributable to the country’s rich natural resources and strategic geopolitical position; pursuit of a balanced foreign policy; internal sociopolitical processes; political stability; integration with the global community and sustainable development, amongst other factors.

Huseynov continued: “We must strive to continue conveying the true facts about our country to the international community, together with strengthening the Azerbaijani position to protect our national interests at a higher level. Naturally, our diplomats in missions across the world are playing an integral role in achieving these objectives. In particular, they must become active in raising awareness of the continuing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

“Azerbaijani foreign policy collaborates with other countries and international organisations to combat terrorism; human trafficking; illegal migration; and international organised crime. Co-operation towards tackling such challenges will continue.”

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YAP Deputy Chairman meets PACE co-rapporteur

2011-08-18

Ali Ahmadov, Deputy Chairman and Executive Secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) has received Pedro Agramunt, Co-rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly to the Council of Europe (PACE); Agustín Conde Bajén, a member of the PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights; and Egidijus Vareikis, Chairman, PACE Regulatory Committee.

Ahmadov stated that Azerbaijani society expects international organisations to take action regarding the fair settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as significant results have not yet been achieved, to date. He commented that the international community should combine its efforts towards achieving satisfactory conflict resolution.

According to Ahmadov: “Azerbaijan remains an important country for Europe and plays an important role in achieving energy security.” He stated that YAP co-operates with the European People’s Party, of which Agramunt is a member, to which it has made a membership submission.

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Karabakh Foundation to present a book on Azerbaijani composers

2011-08-18

The Washington DC-based Karabakh Foundation has published a new book of sheet music by the most famous 20th century Azerbaijani composers. This comprises sections dedicated to each composer, each of which is prefaced by introductory material from renowned musical figures. The website is www.karabakhfoundation.org.

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Armenian occupation transformed Nagorno-Karabakh into a wasteland


Property abandoned by fleeing IDPs