Baku doubts Paris’ role
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Azerbaijani Ambassador Bagirov (L) tells Ankara Bureau chief Serkan Demirtaş that it was only Azerbaijan which gave support to Turkey in its push to annul a French bill.Baku is mulling whether to move to end France’s role in the Minsk Group, which is tasked with solving the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, on the grounds that it has lost its impartiality following legal moves in favor of its strong Armenian diaspora.
“The Minsk Group has 15 members and Turkey is part of it, too. [France’s position as the body’s co-chairman] could be brought to the agenda of the group either by Turkey or by Azerbaijan,” Azerbaijani Ambassador to Turkey Faik Bagirov told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview Feb. 8. The Minsk Group was formed by the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 1992 with the task of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh problem between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Alongside France, Russia and the United States are co-chairs of the group, which has been mediating for the last two decades without any solid success. France’s recent attempt to punish denials of the 1915 incidents as genocide caused a reaction both in Ankara and Baku and has brought its role as a mediator into question.
“The Minsk Group was formed March 24, 1992; thus we are commemorating its 20th year. A meeting could be held on this occasion in which France’s role would be discussed as well. It’s no doubt that France’s neutrality is already a matter of question,” Bagirov said, but added that there was no clear procedure on how to expel a co-chairing country.
Minsk Group under scrutiny
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said France would no longer play a constructive role in the South Caucasus since it had already shown itself to be pro-Armenian.
“Of course, 20 years is a very long time. The group whose task was to find a solution to this problem failed to do so. In the meantime, some acts taken by France only helped Armenia to distance itself from the main principles of international law and to ease its hands in negotiations,” the ambassador said.
Bagirov said Azerbaijan was also closely following France’s legislative process with particular attention to the Constitutional Council, which will decide whether or not the “genocide” denial bill is admissible.
“From the very beginning, we have said this attempt was in violation of democratic principles and freedom of expression,” Bagirov said, expressing his disappointment over media claims that Baku did not exert enough efforts to stop the legislation in France.
“I want to underline this fact: No country in the world other than Azerbaijan supported Turkey in this process. Not a single country of the Islamic Conference Organization [lent it support]. It was only Azerbaijan which gave this support because our ties are based on brotherhood and friendship,” he said.
For Bagirov, those who planted the idea of a lack of Azerbaijani support among the Turkish public were members of “some hostile circles who tried to sow discord between Turks and Azeris.” “Their purpose is to damage Turkish-Azeri friendship. The media should be very careful in regards to internal and external attempts to this end,” he said.
One of the fault lines between Turkey and Azerbaijan was observed during the unfinished reconciliation process between Ankara and Yerevan in 2009. Though the two countries signed two protocols to normalize ties and open their sealed border, Turkey refused to ratify the agreements due to strong Azerbaijani reaction.
“Consider if these protocols had been approved,” he said, noting that they would have only served to support “an occupying state.” “The Turkish Republic openly understood this.”
End of visas this year
Touching on an end to visa requirements between Ankara and Baku, Bagirov said the process could be completed by the end of the year after Azerbaijan harmonizes its relevant laws. The issue will be raised during a high-level strategic council meeting that is expected to be held in the coming months.