www.csxxr.org, influential USA center studying the post-Soviet countries, published an interview with MP Elkhan Suleymanov. We present the translation of the interview to our readers.
Political Affairs Committee of the PACE calls for “the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” reports MP Suleymanov
Paris, November 4th, 2015 : After very tough debates during several hours, the PACE Political Affairs Committee adopted eventually with very large majority, by 26 in favor, 10 against and 3 abstentions, a resolution proposing the Assembly to call on “the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces and other irregular armed forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan, and the establishment of full sovereignty of Azerbaijan in these territories.”
After a fierce fight of many years, this is a major accomplishment for Azerbaijan, in its attempt to bring this issue back to the attention of international parliamentary organization PACE.
The resolution also calls on “all parties directly involved in the illegal conviction of Dilgam Asgarov and Shahbaz Guliyev by unrecognised “courts” in Nagorno-Karabakh and their continuing imprisonment there, to ensure their immediate release by the occupying power, Armenia.”
Furthermore, the resolution proposes that “the Assembly strongly condemns the lack of cooperation by the Armenian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly and the government of Armenia in the preparation of this report. The Assembly considers that such behavior is in breach of Armenia’s commitments as a member of the Council of Europe and resolves to consider what measures can be taken in this instance and to ensure that its Rapporteurs are not hindered in the future in the pursuit of their mandates.” Rapporteur Robert Walter (United Kingdom) precised during his keynote speech that the Assembly should envisage this lack of cooperation by Armenia as being in breach with Rules of the Assembly, insisting that this should be fully investigated by the PACE’s Rules Committee, expectedly leading to sanctions against the Armenian delegation.
At last, after so many years of desperate silence, the illegal occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan by Armenia is now fully back on the international agenda, ” exclaimed Azerbaijani MP Elkhan Suleymanov.
Since almost three years several initiatives by Suleymanov to have this issue back on the international political agenda were thwarted, and supportive MP’s were intimidated by Armenia, without any scruples.
Precisely same low behavior was noticed this time in Paris. During crucial votes an Armenian MP stood up to take pictures with her cell phone of those MP’s voting in support of Azerbaijan, by raising their hand. This was done by this Armenian MP with obvious purpose to pressure, even blackmail MP’s later on. This shameless and scandalous Armenian behavior was loudly contested by many MP’s, as it is in breach with basic deontology rules, but biased secretariat didn’t stop this Armenian MP. On the contrary, after the final vote which turned out in tremendous victory for Azerbaijan, Secretary-General Sawicki – who was also present, as he is only for important occasions – could no longer hide his strong dissent with the Committee’s decision. His very evident negative body language in public was shocking many MP’s. Full of anger he immediately rushed out of the meeting room towards a small office to make a few apparently very urgent calls. Who was he calling? We can only guess, but it was for sure no call to congratulate the Azerbaijani delegation… In less than one hour after all this, first MP’s from several European countries already received phone calls by their respective governments, being alarmed by Armenian officials about Armenian defeat. European MP’s were extremely pressured to review their vote, they were even openly blackmailed by Armenian officials. During these contacts Armenians were using all kind of pressure, mainly geostrategic and religion-inspired, but obviously they never use one single argument directly related to the issue of their illegal occupation of Azerbaijani territories. They always call on the great international Christian community against evil Muslim country Azerbaijan, whereas it’s commonly known that Azerbaijan is far more tolerant on religions than Armenia. Armenians can’t admit that Azerbaijani claims are right, just and fair, even when they have no proper argument against it. We can only hope that all MP’s who voted in support of Azerbaijan in Paris will have strong backbone and will be able to resist this tremendous and very well-organized Armenian pressure, and we hope that they will keep on defending our just and fair cause, also in future.
Already in April 2013 a first motion for resolution critical of the international community turning a blind eye to Armenia’s illegal occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and its 7 surrounding regions, signed and tabled by Elkhan Suleymanov and 24 of his colleagues in PACE, was blocked by a veto by Mr Mignon, the then President of the Assembly, during PACE 2013 spring session in Strasbourg.
“On May 9th 2013 I tabled a new motion,together with 31 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe” explains Elkhan Suleymanov, “and whereas this motion was not subject to veto by the President of the Assembly, it was again blocked with his support, this time by Presidential Committee.” So both 2013 motions for resolution, even when being clearly in order, did not get the political response that fairly could be expected. Both were blocked before any debate.
“Why ? Why does Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe blindly support Armenians and ignore the just right of Azerbaijan ? What is the purpose of these repeated actions ?” were questions which to Suleymanov remained unanswered.
But it’s not Suleymanov’s style to abandon so easily. Any general discussion on occupied territories constantly being blocked, he now demonstrated the huge urgency of this debate by highlighting the strategic importance and genuine threat of neglected Sarsang reservoir : “On June 26th 2013, I tabled a third motion for resolution, co-signed by 45 MP’s, members from PACE, originating from 18 different countries. This motion calls on some urgent and immediate political action from the PACE, stressing the high emergency of the very poor and dangerous condition of Sarsang reservoir, being of vital importance for at least about one million Azerbaijani inhabitants of surrounding non-occupied provinces in Azerbaijan, due to lack of maintenance as a result of occupation, and its danger for the population of surrounding provinces.” But also this motion was blocked, once again, by President and Presidential Committee. This new setback would drive many to distraction, but not Elkhan Suleymanov.
On April 1st he reiterated a new motion on Sarsang, and after considerable effort had been put in it, he could eventually convince decision-makers so it was adopted for report by Bureau, to be prepared and discussed in the Social Affairs Committee. Elkhan Suleymanov : “It was a big step forward, as it was the first time since many years that any report on such topic was agreed. We now hope that the outcome of this report on Sarsang reservoir by beginning of 2015 will be fair, neutral and comprehensive.”
Sanctions against Armenia ?
In the meantime, a new motion for resolution on initiative of Elkhan Suleymanov, demanding the application of sanctions against Armenian delegation for its continuous armed occupation of Azerbaijani territories, was published on PACE website on June 18th, 2014. This motion was co-signed by not less than 58 Members of Parliament representing 14 PACE member states.
But now PACE Secretary-General Mr Sawicki hold high the torch of Armenian interests, and he raised a trumped-up procedural objection against the motion.
But no “Rule” to justify his objection could be quoted. Nevertheless, Suleymanov wanted to use this momentum, and he immediately tabled a new motion. “In only two hours’ time I collected 28 new signatures from colleagues from 16 member states, and Mr Sawicki who was fighting against us since the beginning was so perplexed by this realization, that he had to accept my new motion !”
But the battle is not over. Elkhan Suleymanov comments the Bureau meeting of Friday 27th June, 2014: “Now Mr Sawicki – as a civil servant supposed to be neutral! – even openly calls my initiative a provocation to Armenia, and the proposed title totally unacceptable. The Armenian mandarin drops his mask!” After some controversial interventions by Secretariat the meeting of Bureau ends in total confusion, and the decision is once again postponed, till September 2014 meeting of Bureau in Paris.For Elkhan Suleymanov “after so many deceptions, so many blockades and postponements, the September 2nd 2014 meeting in Paris has to be decisive.”
Fortunately in Paris the common sense prevailed over the ongoing maneuvers by the Head of Secretariat. By 20 votes against 5, motions were referred for report to the Political Affairs Committee. But Mr Sawicki is not giving up easily : he warns the Bureau that their decision still needs to be ratified by the Chamber, and still can be contested in the Committee. For Suleymanov “it was for sure an historical day, this victory in Paris, but it became crystal clear that during next month all the stops would be pulled out. And that’s exactly what happened.”
Monday 29 September at 3 PM, Plenary Chamber : ratification of the report on Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories, votes.
The most important moment of that week was – beyond any doubt – the debates and votes on the Progress report, on Monday, as it includes the ratification by the Chamber of the Bureau’s decision in Paris to have a report on Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Under normal circumstances this report including Bureau’s decisions is always accepted unanimously, even without any vote. The initiator of the report, Elkhan Suleymanov was also surprised: “it was a quite strange view that so many MP’s were present in the Chamber this time, on an ordinary Monday afternoon meeting. All this was clearly the result of the strong lobbying and mobilizing by Armenian diplomats, who during recent weeks addressed every single MP in all European capitals, in order to convince them to be present and NOT to ratify the Bureau’s decision on Monday. But many of those MP’s spontaneously informed me about Armenian’s sly maneuvers, so we were ready.”
All Armenians took the floor, heavily criticizing the Bureau’s decision, furiously arguing that this issue is the monopoly of the OSCE-Minsk-Group and nobody else is allowed to discuss it. “But this made me smile,” said Elkhan Suleymanov, “as it was obviously an argument that would return right in their face : how can you get the sympathy from a parliament convincing them that they are not competent ?”
Several other MP’s mentioned the overwhelming majority in Paris, 20 votes against 5, in support of the report, as an extra argument in favor of Azerbaijan.After a two hours debate, the vote took place. For the author of the motion, Elkhan Suleymanov, it was one of the most tense moments in his life : “The Armenian proposal to kill my motion being referred for report was rejected by 74 against 41, and 13 abstentions. This landslide victory for Azerbaijan was welcomed by many friends, but I realized that now the battle to confirm the title and to appoint the rapporteur in the Committee still had to follow.”
Wednesday 1 October 2014 at 2 PM, Political Affairs Committee : last attempt by Armenia to reject the report, last attempt to change the title, appointment of rapporteur, all through votes.
Some 70 European MP’s attending the meeting, were first confronted with last possible attempt by Armenians to reject the start of this report. But since debates in the Chamber it became clear to huge majority of MP’s unreliability of Armenian arguments. “Armenian position was only supported by 3 MP’s, while dozens of others spontaneously supported Azerbaijani position” exclaims Suleymanov, “it gave me real hope that maybe today I could write history for my country !”.
As expected, and even predicted earlier by omniscient Secretary-General Sawicki, the title of the report “Escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” was furiously challenged by Armenians, but also in vain. Once the title was confirmed by vote, Armenians slammed the doors of Committee room. Their fight was over.
But the sting is in the tail! Appointment of rapporteur was very last decision, but beyond any doubt most important before commencement of the report itself. One single candidate, Mr Bob Walter, was informally accepted by group leaders, and supposed to be appointed. But at very last minute, socialist leader Mr Gross proposed Mr Mignon, former president of the Assembly..! All committee was perplexed by this proposal, realizing that person with authority as former president was very likely candidate.
“For me this last underhand trick was more than I could take,” exclaims Suleymanov, “Mignon had extensively proved to be against this report, as he vetoed it twice during his presidency. How can such a man be proposed rapporteur ?Few days ago he was a candidate, than he pulls back, now he raises again. During meeting Armenian delegates expressed exactly same wordings that he used to pronounce, opposing the report as he is in favor of dialogue between both countries, which shows again how close Mignon stands to Armenians and their diaspora.” Suleymanov continues “moreover, it was then president Mignon who suspended activities on the sub-committee on Nagorno-Karabakh. Was such decision also inspired by his “favor for dialogue” ? Mignon knows perfectly well that Armenians never showed up on any meeting “to enhance dialogue”, because they run away from being confronted with their criminal behavior in occupied territories”, Elkhan Suleymanov concludes.
“During Committee meeting I exposed the biased position of Mr Mignon to all committee members, and urged all not to support him. The vote took place : Mr Walter beat Mr Mignon, with 35 against 32, very narrow result, but justice at last!”
The preparation of the report and resolution by Rapporteur Mr Walter
Mr Walter proposed in one common letter, addressing both governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia, to pay visits to both countries and to the line of contact in the occupied territories, from each viewpoint. He was granted full cooperation by Azerbaijani authorities and paid visits accordingly. All his repeated requests to Armenian authorities remained without any concrete answer, Armenia postponing his possible visits again and again, for various groundless reasons.
As usual, Armenian strategy consisted in keeping status-quo and not allowing any discussion to unblock the existing deadlock since twenty years.
Mr Walter rightly states this unacceptable Armenian attitude in his resolution as “The Assembly notes that the displacement of 600 000 IDPs from the region means that the status quo is not acceptable and must not be seen as a fait accompli, ultimately to the benefit of one party.”
The report and the resolution being adopted by the PACE’s Political Affairs Committee, is now an official PACE document.
What can Azerbaijan expect from both reports ?
When rapporteur will make fact-finding visits and will report on assessments, it can strongly raise awareness on this future tragedy. Neutral international expert will prove the bad condition of the Sarsang premises, and the immediate danger for thousands of citizens living there. In this case call for sanctions will eventually seem evident, and could be implemented as a possible leverage to return this reservoir to its rightful owner, Azerbaijan.
Water deficiency is becoming a global problem, threatening millions of people in the near future. United Nations predict that by 2018 Azerbaijan will be ranked as 37th country in the world, suffering from water deficiency.
So, by all means, this report will be very actual.
Occupied territories report
Final decision to have a report, a rapporteur being appointed, and a resolution being adopted by the Committee is a landmark in our fight for justice. It is a genuine historical victory to have put the ongoing injustice on occupied territories under international political attention again, after almost ten years of silence.
It does not mean that occupied territories will be released now or in the near future, we need to be realistic. But it will for sure raise awareness in Europe and elsewhere in the world that Armenians are illegally occupying one fifth their neighboring state Azerbaijan and that their ethnic cleansing policy led to one million IDP’s. It will unmask their refusal to comply with international decisions. “That’s precisely the reason why Armenians are so hesitative regarding this report” explains Suleymanov, “they know perfectly that occupation occurred under leadership of Gorbatsjov, and that it was implicitly endorsed by all global powers at that time. They achieved not to be called aggressors for last 20 years, and they’re obviously afraid that this could change now, after such report. Be assured that they are terrified to be called in international legal document from now on as aggressor!”
“It remains a surrealistic scene in my memory that my initiatives were vetoed and blocked so many times,” remembers Suleymanov, “that discussion continued at all levels, even when Bureau eventually decided in favor, after Chamber also decided in favor, it looked like lawyers continuing the debates even when the court already took judgment. One can imagine to what extend Armenians are desperate to face the truth.”
“But first of all this is a great day for my country,” confirms Elkhan Suleymanov, “because a major topic for us, which by Armenians was already buried in the cemetery, now publicly resurrected. And I do hope that other international organizations will now follow soon, and also include this topic on their agenda’s.”
“Moreover, we show the world that we don’t give up our rightful demands, that we will always defend the integrity of our territory. If the report will be neutral, not biased, the whole world will know what happened to hundreds of thousands of IDP’s. And hopefully it will open the eyes of the western world, that religious arguments which are always raised by Armenians, are only a false pretext to gain their sympathy and support, and to cover up the illegal occupation of their neighbors’ territory. Religion is a personal capacity of every individual human being, it cannot be abused to cover up criminal behavior.”
“Very finally”, adds Elkhan Suleymanov, “I want my Azerbaijani compatriots to know that Europe is happy to cooperate with Azerbaijan when it’s in its own interest, but that Azerbaijan always will stand alone, if some situation would get tough. To my feeling there is no sincere and genuine support for us, and Azerbaijanis should consider that !”