Azerbaijani MP accuses EU – Interview
Chairman of Azerbaijani Delegation to the Euronest PA, Elkhan Suleymanov’s interview toAPA
Chairman of Azerbaijani Delegation to the Euronest PA, Elkhan Suleymanov’s interview toAPA
– You attended the next meeting of the Euronest PA and returned to Azerbaijan. How would you assess the meeting as a Chairman of Azerbaijani Delegation to the Euronest PA?
– The meeting of Political Affairs, Human Rights and Democracy Committee of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly was held on 4th November in Brussels, Belgium. A number of issues were discussed in the meeting, where Mr. Tibbels, Head of Division on Eastern Partnership from European External Action Service, Mr. Blockmans, senior research fellow of the Center for European Political Studies, and Dr. Beata Martin- Rozumilowicz, Head of OSCE/ODIHR Election Department, were invited as well. Taking into consideration the importance of discussed issues and very tense debates, I would like to focus on a number of points.
Among this, I’d like to note the presentation by Mr. Tibbels, Head of Division for Eastern Partnership, Regional cooperation & OSCE on the development of the Eastern Partnership for 2014-17. Mr. Tibbels, Head of Division of EEAS, asked in his presentation about necessary measures for Azerbaijan to do to join the Association Agreement. I took the floor, stating that Azerbaijan is interested in close cooperation with the European Union and thus, tries to use all opportunities. Azerbaijan supports the bilateral form of partnership with EU. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan has certain expectations from the European Union and believes that for this purpose, the European Union should make some efforts and refrain from pressing Azerbaijan on different excuses, including the excuses of human rights. Azerbaijan wants more cooperation with the EU, maybe a new treaty, but only if the EU treats it more like an equal partner, with more respect and invests more in its security – like it does with Moldova, Georgia and especially Ukraine.
Taking this opportunity, I also asked some questions to Head of Division from EEAS. For example, I tried to learn his view on how the EU can help find a solution to the Armenian occupation of Azeri territories, as well as how will Armenia deal with the European Union if it has signed a Customs Union Treaty with Russia, which makes it incompatible with further cooperation with the EU. I also suggested Mr. Tibbels whether the money from the European Neighbourhood Instrument would be better suited helping strengthen the cooperation between the EU and the countries which want a partnership, instead of Armenia.
Furthermore, I noted in my speech that the territorial integrity of all Eastern Partnership countries, namely Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, except Armenia, was violated, and this is a direct threat to European security system. It was stated over and again in the Euronest PA that this institution doesn’t deal with the resolution of conflicts and thus, doesn’t discuss them. If this institution doesn’t discuss the most important problems of the member states and make no efforts for their resolution, then the perspectives of this institution is obscure.
– The agenda also covered the presentation on the sanctions of the European Union against Russia…
– Yes, according to the agenda, Mr. Steven Blockmans, Senior Research Fellow of the Centre for European Policy Studies spoke about the challenges facing the Eastern Partnership, in the context of sanctions implemented by EU and Russia, the conflict in eastern Ukraine and threats over security in Europe. Taking the floor, I asked him the reason for lack of sanctions against Armenia due to its occupation of Azerbaijani territories for over 23 years in the context of EU’s support to Ukraine and the EU’s role in the elimination of this occupation in general. The senior research fellow of the Centre for European Policy Studies was ironic to the question and refused outright to answer it, stating that “We don’t discuss here the question of Nagorno Karabakh”.
– Probably, the presentation by Head of OSCE/ODIHR Election Department was one of interesting topics for Azerbaijan…
– The presentation by Dr. Beata Martin-Rozumilowicz, Head of OSCE/ODIHR Election Department dealt with the 2014 election observation activities in the Eastern European partner countries. Taking note of the fact that there were no elections in Azerbaijan during this year, I was surprised to hear quoting of Azerbaijan in this presentation. Dr. Beata Martin-Rozumilowicz voiced very critical opinions against Azerbaijan in her summary. Taking the floor, I brought to the attention of participants that the elections in Azerbaijan were held in 2013, and that the Council of Europe, European Parliament, and OSCE PA evaluated these elections as free, fair, transparent, and democratic ones. Moreover, I noted that OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission is composed of low ranking officials from different member states, who easily undergo various kinds of pressure. These officials base their reports not on the facts, but on the orders of their leaders. Therefore, this mission was distinguished with biased reporting in several recent elections and OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission lost its credibility.
– Mr. Suleymanov, how do you see the perspectives of partnership between EU and EaP countries in general? Is this cooperation forward-looking? What does Azerbaijan expect from this cooperation?
– One of the main points in the Committee meeting was presentation by Co-Rapporteurs Mr Michal BONI, EP and Mr Victor DOLIDZE, Georgia, and discussion of the draft report on “Engaging in a stronger partnership between the EU and Eastern European partner countries through the European Neighbourhood Instrument for 2014-2020”. I welcomed the importance of the report for EaP countries and noted that the claims that Azerbaijan has refrained from signing the Association Agreement, has “tarnished” the Eastern Partnership are unacceptable. Azerbaijan is committed to this initiative, but it also needs to see significant improvements from the EU side. The agreements to be signed have to be in advantage of both sides and the Eastern Partnership can only be made better by that. Another point in my speech was the fact that Armenia actually refused the cooperation with Eastern Partnership by singing the Customs Union Treaty with Russia. I expressed my concern on the fact that this issue wasn’t mentioned in the report, despite Armenia’s endangering the cooperation, and focused the attention of the co-rapporteurs on the importance of better reflecting this fact in their report.
I spoke about another question of concern: If we are to condemn Russia for its behavior in Ukraine and Georgia, why are we not condemning Armenia for its occupation of Azeri territories?
I further stated that it was false to present recent developments in Nagorno Karabakh as a conflict and that it aimed at confusing the international community: “How could it be called a conflict if Armenian armed forces occupied the Azerbaijani territories?” Therefore, I brought to the attention of co-rapporteurs the necessity of using a word “occupation” instead of the word “conflict”.
– What was the attitude of Armenian MPs to your speech and proposals? Generally, how did the members present meet the proposals of the Chairman of Azerbaijani Delegation?
– One of the main points of attention during the debates was outnumbering of Armenian MPs other delegations at the Committee meeting. The Armenian delegation was represented by totally 6 members, including 3 MPs and 3 substitutes. Furthermore, 2 representatives of Armenian Embassy and several Armenian NGOs attended the meeting. This fact once more proved that Armenians are organized, gallant and patriotic. Armenians are seriously concerned about our efforts on presenting them as an aggressor on the international level and this makes them more militant and combines all Armenians together. We should not be alone in our fight against the crafty aggressor.
The Committee meeting was chaired by the vice-chair, Armenian MP Naira Zohrabyan. I’ve to mention that regretfully, only I represented the Azerbaijani delegation at this meeting and undoubtedly, the meeting mostly saw hard points between me and 6 members of Armenian delegation. Thus, they tried to interrupt my speech, monopolized the discussion, and constantly blocked my attempts to elicit obvious answers on key subjects from the European speakers.
Even Ms. Zohrabyan tried to interrupt me several times saying that “you only want to discuss about Nagorno-Karabakh”. Another Armenian MP Mr. Arzoumanyan attacked Azerbaijan because of the imprisonment of Leyla Yunus, saying that “Ms. Yunus is a very close friend cooperating with me for many years and sister of mine”. I immediately mentioned that Leyla Yunus was accused of treason and was investigated for facilitating the leaking of Azeri secrets to Armenia and “Arzoumanyan’s words prove this fact”. In fact, I believe that it is impossible to be friends with any Armenian, which has committed and continues committing massacres against the Azerbaijani people and has occupied our native lands for over 23 years.
Generally, the speakers were explicitly prevented by the Armenian members to express themselves on the topic, as if occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh was discussed at the Armenian Parliament. This meeting resembled a meeting of Armenian Parliament, with only Armenians or pro-Armenian experts and MEPs voicing their views, repeating over and over the same weak arguments they use to try to justify their occupation of Azeri territory. This Euronest meeting held in Brussels was almost the preparation for the meeting to be held in Armenia on March. The Armenians, who apparently occupied the territories of the other state, joined the Customs Union, but the names of which was not mentioned in the report in question, monopolized the meeting. EU is a hypocrite organization, where Armenians always did and will do whatever they want. They are under “umbrella” here, as in all international organizations.
Finally, I should inform that the European Parliament component was represented at the Committee meeting with new members. The approaches of new members to this or other issues indicate that EP component of the Euronest PA will pursue a guarantee policy against this or other kinds of pressure and sanctions on the aggressor’s behaviour, by taking Armenia under its umbrella.
– Mr. Suleymanov, why did only you represent Azerbaijan, while 6 Armenian representatives attended the meeting?
– We faced such a situation, as Azerbaijan sent only one member from each committee to this meeting of Euronest. Apparently, the reason is the presence of the opinions that this meeting was not so important for Azerbaijan. As I have already mentioned above, Armenians are more organized and responsible on such issues. And as usual, we haven’t learnt to evaluate our enemies as necessary yet and try not to reply the attacks of enemy in similar way, but to protect ourselves from these attacks. I would like to give an example. Recently I was questioned by one of my European colleagues, who asked me: “2014 was a year of Azerbaijan’s Chairmanship in PACE. Nevertheless, this year saw hard attacks and continuous pressure by PACE against your country. The report on “Azerbaijan’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe: what follow-up on respect for human rights?”, which could serious undermine the image of your country, was presented and focused the attention all over the world. Why didn’t Azerbaijan take this opportunity to call at least one meeting regarding the occupation of its territories and hundreds of thousands Azerbaijan citizens, rights of whom had been grossly violated?” My colleague meant that the Azerbaijani side should fight more actively against this injustice. I fully share his opinion.