Ambassador Elin Suleymanov
Nagorno Karabakh

Azerbaijan's ambassador to Ireland criticises EU Parliament's resolution on Nagorno-Karabakh

Tensions remain high between Azerbaijan and Armenia with Azerbaijan this week hosting joint millitary drills with Turkey near the border of Armenia.

AZERBAIJAN’S AMBASSADOR TO Ireland and the UK has criticised the European Parliament for accusing Azerbaijan of ethnic cleansing and said the tone of the conversation surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh “needs to change”.

Speaking to The Journal, Ambassador Elin Suleymanov, rejected the Parliament’s accusation as an “emotional decision” and said Azerbaijan wants to work with the EU as an equal partner “not somebody who would be mentored, lectured and have fingers pointed at”.

Earlier this month, the European Parliament passed a resolution which said it considered that the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh amounted to ethnic cleansing and strongly condemned the “threats and violence committed by Azerbaijani troops”.

The parliament also called on the EU and member states to immediately offer all necessary assistance to Armenia to deal with the influx of refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh and the subsequent humanitarian crisis.

The resolution was passed by a landslide with 491 votes in favour, 9 against and 36 abstentions.

Azerbaijan rejects this claim of ethnic cleansing, but Ambassador Suleymanov accepted that at least 100,000 people have fled Nagorno-Karabakh into neighbouring Armenia following Azerbaijan’s offensive on the region in September.

The United Nations sent a monitoring mission to the region at the beginning of October to find the area largely deserted but has not itself used the term ethnic cleansing. 

A UN spokesperson said at the time: “Our colleagues were struck by the sudden manner in which the local population fled their homes and the suffering that the experience must have caused them.”

The spokesperson added that the UN did not come across any reports of violence against civilians following the latest ceasefire while the UN has committed to further visits to the region.

However, Armenia said that the monitoring mission had come too late.

Internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh became a breakaway state under the control of ethnic Armenian forces in 1994 following a six-year conflict and has remained a point of tension ever since.

A war in 2020 returned control of much of the area to Azerbaijan. Flash forward to last month, a lightning offensive by Azerbaijani forces resulted in separatists relinquishing the rest of the region.

Last week, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev raised his nation’s flag over the capital city in a ceremony reaffirming Baku’s control over it.

Speaking to The Journal earlier this month, Armenia’s Ambassador to Ireland Varuzhan Nersesyan warned that the situation with Azerbaijan is at risk of deteriorating further and urged the international community to guarantee the rights of ethnic Armenians to return to the region. 

Prospects of peace agreement

Azerbaijan has consistently claimed that ethnic Armenians who wish to return will have their rights protected if they choose to do so, but Armenia does not believe this will be the case. 

Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Ireland, Elin Suleymanov said he can understand Mr Nersesyan’s “emotional frustration” and said that he believes there definitely needs to be a signed peace agreement between the two countries.

“Our objective is to build a region where we can all live in peace and cooperate with each other towards a more prosperous future for all of us,” he said. 

Suleymanov added that a “fundamentally important question” is why the Armenian ambassador “talks about the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan all of the time?”

“He doesn’t speak about anything else,” he said.

Azerbaijan’s blitz offensive on September 19 has resulted in a huge refugee crisis, when almost all of the 120,0000 ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh fled to Armenia.

Suleymanov pointed out that between 800,000 and 900,000 Azerbaijani’s were expelled from the region in the 1990s.

“We don’t want to do what they did to us.

“Most of those people who escaped Armenian occupation, their houses were destroyed. They were escaping violence, murders, military also. People who left Azerbaijan today for Armenia, they did not do so under direct order and they were not encouraged to leave,” he said.

Suleymanov said what Azerbaijan wants to see now is for both countries to sign a peace agreement.

However, tensions remained heightened between both countries with Azerbaijan this week hosting joint military drills with Turkey near the border of Armenia. 

Suleymanov said that such drills are routine and pointed to Armenia’s purchase of defensive military equipment from France this week and said “Azerbaijan has to be prepared”.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s Ambassador to Ireland warned this month that the situation with Azerbaijan is at risk of further deterioration and said Azerbaijan has “openly expressed territorial claims towards the Republic of Armenia”.

Suleymanov refuted this point and said: “Remember, on many occasions, the President of Azerbaijan said very clearly, and every official in Azerbaijan has repeated: we have no military objectives on Armenian territory.”

“Against all this rumor mill, we don’t have any plans to attack Armenia,” Suleymanov said.

On the same day that Azerbaijan started its drills near the border of Armenia, representatives from both countries, along with Turkey and Russia, met for talks hosted by Iran in a bid to find a solution without the West.

Iran and Russia both denounced European and US interference in the issue, with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov calling out the EU in particular.

Peace talks hosted by the EU have been proposed for later this month by European Council President Charles Michel, but a date has not yet been set.

Additional reporting from AFP.

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