NEW YORK, NY – ANCA Eastern Region Executive Director Garo Manjikian confronted Azerbaijan Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov on the Aliyev government’s track record of war mongering and aggression towards Nagorno-Karabakh, at an event hosted by the Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the United Nations and the Harriman Institute of Columbia University last week. Following intense criticism from attendees on Azerbaijan’s human rights record and crackdown on pro-democracy institutions, organizers limited questions to three, cutting short discourse on a wide range of audience concerns.
Manjikian, asking the second question of the evening stated, “It is very obvious the Azeri Government is working hard to portray itself as a stable, reliable and peaceful country in the Caucasus, while at the same time having an extensive track record of aggression and war mongering towards Nagorno-Karabakh.” Manjikian then cited three specific statements that President Aliyev made in the past two years with direct threats to take Nagorno-Karabakh by force. Manjikian continued, “How do you reconcile these two points and can you, right now, state on behalf of the Azerbaijani government that it will not continue or renew any kind of war or threats to use force against Nagorno-Karabakh?”
Azimov first answered by arguing that Manjikian’s citations did not qualify as war mongering but are really statements regarding Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Instead, he accused Armenia of war-mongering, arguing that any statements made about the self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh is an attack on Azerbaijan. Azimov also added that statements coming from Azerbaijan are just a reaction to Armenia, and that there can only be self-rule of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan.
The event featured questions by Ambassador Ertu?rul Apakan, from the Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations, who expressed hope that the recent rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey will spark positive developments between Armenia and Azerbaijan to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Most of the event included the standard Azerbaijani propaganda describing Azerbaijan is a model nation of the former Soviet Republics in almost all regards including human rights and democracy. The country was also touted by its Ambassadors as the answer to Europe’s need to diversify its energy resources and routes. More disturbing comments by Azimov in his speech included that:
> It is the Turkey-Azerbaijani relationship, which has created progress in the Caucasus and will shape the future of the region.
> There can’t be balance in the region with Armenia-Turkey relations and Turkey-Azeri relations taking place at the same time. Azimov asgued that Turkey should not risk this balance and challenge Aliyev.
> Armenia’s foreign policy is not compatible with Azerbaijan’s foreign policy.
> The recent Armenian-Turkish Protocols call for recognition of borders including Azerbaijan.
> Armenia must get rid of its outrageous policies towards neighbors.