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President Ilham Aliyev once again proved that Azerbaijan`s interests are perfectly protected

Interview with  Chairwoman of Sub-Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, MP Sahiba Gafarova

Q: President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev addressed the Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on June 24. As an Azerbaijani delegate who attended the session, we would like you to tell us how European parliamentarians reacted to the speech of the President?

A: I should note that the speech by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev at the Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe caused great interest. The head of state highlighted Azerbaijan`s economic achievements in the last years, the government`s measures to develop democracy, strengthen the protection of human rights and freedoms, rule of law, Azerbaijan`s role in ensuring energy security of Europe, the country`s important role in the region, the history and consequences of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He also laid out Azerbaijan`s plans for the future. This made big impression on European parliamentarians. I have been a member of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe since 2010, I have seen many presidents address the assembly. And I can say with full sincerity that none of them have ever sparked so much interest as the President of Azerbaijan.

Q: It`s not a secret that some forces are annoyed by Azerbaijan`s pursuing independent policy and its development. And the session proved this once again…

A: Yes, some circles are concerned that Azerbaijan has made great achievements in a short period of time. Although Azerbaijan restored its independence  just 23 years ago, the country managed to build its independent policy and reach the level of the world`s developed countries. We have repeatedly witnessed biased approach to Azerbaijan in many international organizations, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Just recall discussions of the issue of “political prisoners” in our country last year. But we can say with confidence that such anti-Azerbaijani initiatives have always ended in fiasco.

At the recent session too, some parliamentarians attempted to undermine Azerbaijan`s image and mislead the Assembly. But President Ilham Aliyev gave brilliant responses to all those biased parliamentarians. President Ilham Aliyev once again proved that Azerbaijan`s interests are perfectly protected.

Q: What the President said about the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were welcomed by the Azerbaijani society with great interest…

A: The President`s speech on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was brilliant. The President said: “The biggest of the problems that we face is the violation of our internationally recognised territory – the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan puts the whole region in danger. It is called a “frozen” or “protracted” conflict, but neither is it frozen nor can it be frozen, because it must be resolved. Nagorno-Karabakh is an historic part of Azerbaijan; Azerbaijanis lived in Nagorno-Karabakh for centuries and Armenians settled in the area less than 200 years ago, but historic monuments and our heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh have now unfortunately been destroyed by the occupying Armenian army. The conflict resulted in the occupation of 20% of the internationally recognised territory of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijanis were the subject of ethnic cleansing by Armenian gangs and the Armenian army and one million Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh and seven districts around it have been under occupation for more than 20 years. That is the biggest injustice.”

“As I said, Nagorno-Karabakh is an historic part of Azerbaijan. Even the word “Karabakh” is of Azerbaijani origin and, in fact, all the geographic toponyms of that area belong to our people.

 According to the norms of international law, Nagorno-Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan. The whole world recognises Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan and no one, including Armenia, recognises Nagorno-Karabakh and its illegal regime as an independent entity. The United Nations Security Council, the world’s highest international body, has adopted four resolutions demanding unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied territories. As I said, those resolutions unfortunately have not been implemented. Again, we have a policy of double standards. Some UN resolutions are implemented within hours, but in our case it has been more than 20 years. There is no mechanism to deal with the situation and Armenia simply does not want to liberate any territories. It does not want to leave occupied territory; it wants everything unchanged and to keep the status quo. That is in total contradiction to the efforts of the international mediators, the OSCE Minsk Group and its co-chairs. The Presidents of the United States, Russia and France, three permanent members of the UN Security Council, have on a couple of occasions made clear statements that the status quo is not acceptable, which means that Armenia should start withdrawing its occupying forces from occupied territory. The Armenians, however, simply ignore international law, statements from leading countries of the world and the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which was adopted in 2005. A corresponding resolution has been adopted by the European Parliament, and it and the decisions of the OSCE all demand de-occupation and the withdrawal of Armenian troops from occupied territories. Unfortunately, however, the conflict has not been resolved. Azerbaijan behaves very constructively. For more than 20 years, we have been committed to the negotiation process. Everyone, including the Armenians, should understand, however, that something might happen, so the sooner that the Armenian leadership recognises that it is unacceptable in the 21st century to occupy the territory of other countries, the better. Unfortunately, the approach of the Armenian leadership is not adequate,” said the President.

Q: Azerbaijan is now the president of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. How do you think what does this presidency promise our country?

A: Azerbaijan has been a member of the Council of Europe for 13 years. In this short period of time, the country made great achievements and earned great respect. The key priorities of our chairmanship have been chosen in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. They were identified taking into account some of the most pressing issues on the agenda of the Council of Europe as well as the contribution that Azerbaijan might make in the light of its specific experience and strengths. Azerbaijan strongly believes that social cohesion is a fundamental precondition to the development and sustainability of stable, prosperous and diverse societies. Our chairmanship will therefore seek to complement the Council of Europe’s undertakings to ensure everyone’s access to social rights without discrimination. Vulnerable groups in particular should fully enjoy the rights provided for in the various Council of Europe instruments. Experiencing itself large-scale displacement due to foreign occupation, Azerbaijan will undoubtedly pay close attention to the protection of human rights of internally displaced persons, a vulnerable segment of the population, within relevant activities of the Chairmanship.