Sep 102012
 

By PETER RUTLAND
Published: September 10, 2012

In recent days there have been two symbolic events that run the danger of igniting hostilities in an already tense neighborhood of the Caucasus.

On Aug. 31 a former Azerbaijan Army lieutenant, Ramil Safarov, flew back to Baku after serving eight years in a Budapest jail for killing Gurgen Margarian in 2004. The victim, an Armenian officer, had been a fellow participant in a NATO Partnership for Peace exercise. Safarov hacked him to death in his sleep with an ax.

The Hungarian government transferred the prisoner to Azerbaijan on the understanding that he would serve out the rest of his life sentence in his home country. But immediately upon his arrival in Baku, Lieutenant Safarov was pardoned by President Ilham Aliyev, restored to military duties, promoted to major, given an apartment and awarded back pay for his time in prison. These actions drew universal condemnation from Washington, Moscow and European governments.

Apart from the fact that such a step is an affront to basic notions of justice and the rule of law, even more troubling is the message that it sends to the rest of the world: that the Azerbaijani government thinks it is acceptable to kill Armenians. Apparently, the grievances they suffered in their defeat by Armenian forces in 1992-94 are so profound that even murder is excusable. It is hard, then, to ask the Armenians living in Karabakh to quietly accept the idea that the solution to their disputed territory is for them to return to living under Azerbaijani rule.

This one single act could undo the patient efforts of diplomats and activists over many years to try to rebuild connections and work toward mutual trust — without which any kind of peace settlement will be a pipe dream.

Compounding the problem was a less significant but still noteworthy gesture. On Sept. 3, Richard Morningstar, the new U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, paid his respects to Heidar Aliyev, the deceased former president (and father of the incumbent), by laying a wreath at his statue in central Baku. Apparently it is standard protocol for U.S. ambassadors to include this stop in their round of duties when arriving in Baku. Photographs also clearly showed the ambassador bowing his head before the monument, though a State Department spokesman later denied this.

Mr. Morningstar’s far from empty gesture sent two wrong signals.

First, it is disheartening to Azerbaijani democratic activists to see the United States so cravenly supporting dictatorship as a suitable form of rule, a pattern all too familiar from U.S. policy toward the entire Middle East.

Second, it signals to Armenia — and its principal ally, Russia — that the United States is an unqualified backer of the Azerbaijani government, warts and all. Strategic interests — Caspian oil, access to Central Asia, containment of Iran — count for more than the niceties of human rights and democratic procedure.

This makes it all but impossible for Armenia to expect the United States to act as an honest broker in the peace process. And if the United States cannot play that role, no one else will.

Diplomacy has long revolved around such symbolic acts. In 1793, the Earl Macartney, British ambassador to China, was thrown out of the country when he refused to kowtow before the emperor. More recently, visits by Japanese government ministers to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, commemorating the souls of warriors, have triggered protests from China and South Korea.

By contrast, when Chancellor Willy Brandt fell to his knees before the monument to the Warsaw Ghetto in 1970 he turned a page in German atonement for its past atrocities. In the same spirit, Vladimir Putin sent a clear message of reconciliation when in 2010 he knelt at the monument to the Polish officers killed at Katyn on Stalin’s orders.

What we need in the Caucasus are leaders willing to follow the examples of Mr. Brandt and Mr. Putin, with the courage to show contrition and a willingness to meet with their former adversary and figure out a way to live together. We may be in for a long wait.

Peter Rutland is a professor of government at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on September 11, 2012, in The International Herald Tribune.


Source: New York Times

Sep 072012
 

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville

We are seriously concerned about the case of Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani military officer who was sentenced to life in prison in Hungary for the brutal 2004 murder of an Armenian officer, Gurgen Markaryan, who was taking part in the same NATO training programme in Hungary. The murder was clearly ethnically motivated.

The concerns relate to the fact that, around a week ago, Safarov was extradited from Hungary to Azerbaijan, where instead of serving out the rest of his sentence, he was pardoned by the President, publicly praised, and promoted by the Defence Ministry. This has resulted in an international furore.

International standards regarding accountability for serious crimes should be upheld. Ethnically motivated hate crimes of this gravity should be deplored and properly punished – not publicly glorified by leaders and politicians.

We are also in full agreement with the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group who earlier this week expressed deep concern about “the damage the pardon and any attempts to glorify the crime have done to the [Nagorno-Karabakh] peace process and trust between the two sides.”


Source: Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Sep 042012
 

Strasbourg, 4/9/2012 – Commissioner Muižnieks expressed today his deep concerns about Azerbaijan’s decision to pardon and honour Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani army officer who in 2004 brutally murdered Armenian officer Gurgen Markaryan.

“Racist crimes must not go unpunished. Violent offences motivated by bias, such as racial or inter-ethnic hatred, are a particularly pernicious form of criminality. Apart from the destructive effects on the victims and those close to them, they can be devastating to whole communities and unravel the very fabric of society. States are under an obligation to apply strongly dissuasive sanctions against those who have perpetrated bias-motivated crimes.”

Moreover, the Commissioner deplored the fact that the convicted murderer has been glorified and rewarded by Azerbaijan. “It is already highly regrettable if someone who commits a gruesome murder motivated by the victim’s ethnicity or nationality is treated with a leniency not displayed towards others convicted of crimes. However, to glorify and reward such a person flies in the face of all accepted standards for human rights protection and rule of law. Such glorification of hate crimes can only send a message that others belonging to the same ethnic group as the victim, or indeed other members of vulnerable groups, are “fair game”. This is an extremely dangerous message.”


Source: CoE Commissioner for Human Rights

Sep 032012
 

The decision of the Azerbaijani authorities to pardon and release from liability Ramil Safarov, extradited from the Republic of Hungary,  runs contrary to the international law and questions the viability of the interstate crime suppression system.

This move is clearly made for the sake of political goals and cannot be justified in any way. Moreover, the glorification of criminal will only serve to the  increase of already high regional tension.

I am convinced that the international community will not hesitate to make an objective assessment of what happened.


Source: CSTO [Original statement is in Russian. Translated to English by Karabakhfacts.com]

Sep 032012
 

PRESS RELEASE

OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs meet with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan

PARIS, 3 September 2012 – The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Ambassadors Robert Bradtke of the United States of America, Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, and Jacques Faure of France) and the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-office, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, met on September 2 with the Foreign Minister of Armenia, Edward Nalbandian, and on September 3 with the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, to address recent events in the region and efforts to peacefully resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The Co-Chairs discussed with the two Ministers the August 31 decision of the Government of Azerbaijan to pardon Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani army officer who had been serving a life sentence in Hungary for the brutal 2004 murder of an Armenian officer in Budapest. They expressed their deep concern and regret for the damage the pardon and any attempts to glorify the crime have done to the peace process and trust between the sides.

The Co-Chairs reiterated to both Ministers that, as their Presidents stated in Los Cabos on June 19, there is no alternative to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They will continue to maintain contacts with the sides to reduce tensions and advance the peace process.


Source: OSCE Minsk Group page

Mar 312011
 

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) was established by the Council of Europe. It is an independent human rights monitoring body specialised in questions relating to racism and intolerance. It is composed of independent and impartial members, who are appointed on the basis of their moral authority and recognised expertise in dealing with racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance.

In the framework of its statutory activities, ECRI conducts country-by-country monitoring work, which analyses the situation in each of the member States regarding racism and intolerance and draws up suggestions and proposals for dealing with the problems identified.

Here is what the 2011 ERCI report on Azerbaijan says about discrimination against persons of Armenian origin:

98. As mentioned in other parts of this report, persons of Armenian origin are at risk of being discriminated against in their daily lives. Certain people born of mixed Armenian-Azerbaijani marriages choose to use the name of their Azerbaijani parent so as to avoid problems in their contacts with officialdom; others who did not immediately apply for Azerbaijani identity documents when the former Soviet passports were done away with today encounter difficulties in obtaining identity papers. These problems and the prejudice reigning within society with regard to Armenians also cause serious difficulties of access to social rights.

99. ECRI is still deeply concerned about the fact that the constant negative official and media discourse concerning the Republic of Armenia helps to sustain a negative climate of opinion regarding people of Armenian origin coming under the Azerbaijani authorities’ jurisdiction. This prejudice is so ingrained that describing someone as an Armenian in the media is considered by some people – including by certain Armenians themselves – to qualify as an insult that justifies initiating judicial proceedings against the persons making such statements. ECRI underlines the seriousness of this situation, where it seems that persons belonging to the group discriminated against in this way may themselves have interiorised this discriminatory attitude.

100. ECRI is moreover puzzled by the contradictory information it has received as to the number of persons of Armenian origin currently living in Azerbaijan. On the basis of the previous census, 120 700 Armenians were living in Azerbaijan in 1999. The authorities have indicated that the number of Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh or the areas affected by the conflict over it could be estimated at about 120 000, in line with the results of the last census carried out in the region during the Soviet era. Outside those areas, 700 people declared themselves as being of Armenian origin. In view of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and the areas affected by the conflict over it, it was again not possible to count the real number of Armenians living in this part of the country during the census carried out in 2009; the estimated figure of 120 000 will accordingly be deemed still current for these areas and only the figure of 700, corresponding to the number of persons actually counted in the remainder of Azerbaijani territory, is likely to change. ECRI points out that these explanations, albeit clear, differ strikingly from the figure of 30 000 Armenians living in the parts of Azerbaijan under the Azerbaijani authorities’ effective control, which is regularly cited by the authorities. ECRI considers that questions can be raised as to the reasons why less than 3% of those concerned are prepared officially to declare themselves as belonging to this group. Thought should be given, inter alia, to the measures that might be taken to eliminate the prejudices and stereotyping existing within the majority population that can give rise to discriminatory attitudes towards persons of Armenian origin.

101. ECRI refers to the recommendations made in other parts of this report concerning the need to adopt an appropriate response to all cases of discrimination and hate speech against Armenians, and to its recommendations concerning the application of the relevant legal provisions. It considers that the Azerbaijani authorities should actively contribute to generating a climate where all persons of Armenian origin living in Azerbaijan can declare their ethnic origin without fear.


File: 2011 ERCI Report on Azerbaijan
Source: Publications, European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)

Jul 102009
 

We, the Presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group’s Co-Chair countries France, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America affirm our commitment to support the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan as they finalize the Basic Principles for settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

We are instructing our mediators to present to the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan an updated version of the Madrid Document of November 2007, the Co-Chairs last articulation of the Basic Principles. We urge the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve the few differences remaining between them and finalize their agreement on these Basic Principles, which will outline a comprehensive settlement.

Fact sheet

The ministers of the US, France, and Russia presented a preliminary version of the Basic Principles for a settlement to Armenia and Azerbaijan in November 2007 in Madrid.

The Basic Principles reflect a reasonable compromise based on the Helsinki Final Act principles of Non-Use of Force, Territorial Integrity, and the Equal Rights and Self-Determination of Peoples.

The Basic Principles call for inter alia:

  • return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani control;
  • an interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh providing guarantees for security and self-governance;
  • a corridor linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh;
  • future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh through a legally binding expression of will;
  • the right of all internally displaced persons and refugees to return to their former places of residence; and
  • international security guarantees that would include a peacekeeping operation.

The endorsement of these Basic Principles by Armenia and Azerbaijan will allow the drafting of a comprehensive settlement to ensure a future of peace, stability, and prosperity for Armenia and Azerbaijan and the broader region.


Source: OSCE Minsk Group page

Nov 022008
 

The Presidents of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia and the Russian Federation, meeting on November 2, 2008, in Moscow, at the invitation of the President of the Russian Federation,

Having held substantive discussions in a constructive spirit on the state and prospects for political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through a continuation of direct dialogue between Azerbaijan and Armenia through the mediation of Russia, the USA and France as co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group,

  1. Declare that they will facilitate improvement of the situation in the South Caucasus and establish stability and security in the region through political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on the principles of international law and the decisions and documents approved within this framework, thus creating favourable conditions for economic growth and all-round cooperation in the region.
  2. Affirm the importance of having the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group continue their mediation efforts, including based on the outcome of the meeting between the parties in Madrid on November 29, 2007, and subsequent discussions on further steps to agree on the basic principles for political settlement.
  3. Agree that peace settlement should be accompanied by legally binding guarantees for every aspect and stage of the settlement process.
  4. Note that the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia have agreed to continue work, including through further contacts at the highest level, on reaching a political settlement to the conflict and have instructed the heads of their respective foreign ministries to work together with the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group to activate the negotiation process.
  5. Consider it important to encourage the establishment of conditions for carrying out confidence-building measures in the context of work on a peace settlement.

Source: Official website of the President of Russia [unofficial translation]
Original source: Official website of the President of Russia [in Russian]
Armenian source: President of Armenia
Azerbaijani source: President of Azerbaijan

Mar 142008
 

Ms. Štiglic (Slovenia): The European Union recognizes the right of Member States to bring issues to the attention of the General Assembly for consideration, subject to the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and the rules and procedures of the General Assembly.

However, the European Union believes that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group should retain the lead in settling the Nagorny Karabakh conflict. The EU fully supports the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group towards a peaceful, just and lasting settlement. The EU reiterates its support for all the principles, without exception, established within the Minsk Group and values the views of the Group’s Co-Chairs.

The settlement of the Nagorny Karabakh issue is an important element of the European Neighbourhood Policy of the European Union and features prominently in the related action plans. In that context, we remain ready to support all steps which contribute to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The European Union calls on the parties concerned to avoid any actions that could lead to heightened tensions and undermine the ongoing mediation efforts.

 

Mr. Wolff (United States of America): The political-level representatives of France, the Russian Federation and the United States, as Co-Chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group dealing with the Nagorny Karabakh conflict, jointly proposed a set of basic
principles for the peaceful settlement of the Nagorny Karabakh conflict to the sides in November 2007 on the margins of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Madrid. Those basic principles are founded on the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, including those related to refraining from the threat or use of force, the territorial integrity of States and the equal rights and self-determination of peoples. The proposal transmitted to the sides in Madrid comprises a balanced package of principles that are currently under negotiation. The sides have agreed that no single element is agreed until all elements are agreed by the parties.

Unfortunately, the draft resolution before us today selectively propagates only certain of those principles, to the exclusion of others, without considering the Co-Chairs’ proposal in its balanced entirety. Because of this selective approach, the three OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries must oppose this unilateral draft resolution. They reiterate that a peaceful, equitable and lasting settlement of the Nagorny Karabakh conflict will require unavoidable compromises among the parties that reflect the principles of territorial integrity, non-use of force and equal rights of peoples, as well as other principles of international law.

While the three Minsk Group Co-Chair countries will vote against this unilateral draft resolution, which threatens to undermine the peace process, they reaffirm their support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and thus do not recognize the independence of Nagorny Karabakh. At a time when serious clashes with loss of life have occurred along the line of contact, both sides must refrain from unilateral and maximalist actions either at the negotiating table or in the field.

 

Mr. Ripert (France) (spoke in French): As just stated by the representative of the United States of America on behalf of the Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group, France, along with the other two Co-Chairs, will vote against the draft resolution that has been unilaterally presented by Azerbaijan. Our country would reaffirm at the same time our full support for the Common Position of the European Union on the question of the Nagorny Karabakh conflict, as presented by Slovenia.

 

Voting results: 39 in favour to 7 against, 100 abstentions:

In favour: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Colombia, Comoros, Djibouti, Gambia, Georgia, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Moldova, Morocco, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Turkey, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Yemen.
Against: Angola, Armenia, France, India, Russian Federation, United States, Vanuatu.

Abstain: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saint Lucia, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia.

Absent: Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Palau, Paraguay, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Syria, Tajikistan, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.


Source: UN Official Records – A/62/PV.86

File: UN Official Records – A/62/PV.86