Protesters hold country up for ridicule over NATO conference – Azeri paper
25 Jun 04
The three-day planning conference of the Cooperative Best Effort-2004
field exercises ended in Baku yesterday. The conference was part of
NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme.
It was attended by 32 representatives from 10 NATO member countries
and 49 representatives from 11 partner states, including Armenia.
[Passage omitted: reported details]
Strange as it may seem, the conference was in the public spotlight not
because of the seriousness of the issues it discussed, not even
because of the forthcoming NATO exercises, but because it was attended
by Armenian officers.
Members of the Karabakh Liberation Organization (KLO), several
political parties and media outlets issued harshly-worded statements
in this regard, saying that the arrival of Armenian officers was
unacceptable. But hard as I tried, I could not understand who those
protests were addressed to. The conference was organized within the
framework of NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme, invitations had
been sent out to all partner states and Armenia is a partner country
of the North Atlantic bloc, as is Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijani authorities agreed to hold the conference in Baku and
ensure the security of its participants, including the Armenian
officers. The rules of the game within this programme are established
by the bloc and, as the proverb goes, when in Rome act as the Romans
In principle, we could have demanded that the NATO administration
expel Armenia from the programme. We could have asked the
administration of our own country not to hold the conference in Baku
or to bar the Armenian officers from it.
But “infuriated patriots” did not ask for any of these. Was anyone
actually so naive to expect the Armenian officers to see things from
our point of view and refuse to come over?
By and large, all this speculation surrounding the arrival of the
Armenian officers is designed only for very short-sighted people,
though it may be far-reaching. Suffice it to remember the hue and cry
raised over the issue of visas to the Armenian officers. While
everything is clear on the Armenian side, which wanted to show the
world that Azerbaijan is rejecting all attempts to establish a
dialogue, it remains unclear why Baku chose to play the second fiddle
Azerbaijan has repeatedly been visited by Armenian officials,
including the prime minister and the interior minister. Likewise,
Azerbaijani officials have visited Armenia. Mutual visits have been
paid at the level of media representatives and nongovernmental
organizations. And no-one had to obtain a visa, not because our
countries maintain normal inter-state relations, but because there are
no visa regulations among the CIS countries. That’s all.
Under such circumstances it is not clear why a representative of our
embassy in Georgia stated without expanding on the reasons that the
Armenian officers will never receive Azerbaijani visas in Tbilisi. Why
play a game of patriotism when it is not necessary at all? All these
issues should have been sorted out by the conference organizers
through diplomatic channels.
The statement by Azerbaijani Parliament Speaker Murtuz Alasgarov that
the Armenian officers had come to Baku “secretly” and without the
consent of relevant institutions could hardly be any more absurd. If
we were to believe Alasgarov, the officers of the Armenian Defence
Ministry crossed the border illegally. If this were so, then the
relevant bodies should have arrested them immediately. Besides, if the
law-enforcement authorities were unaware of their arrival, which hotel
could have provided them with accommodation?
Furthermore, our valorous police, which so “professionally” crushed
the opposition’s banned demonstrations, could not withstand the
pressure of a dozen of KLO members outside the conference venue and
let them chant their anti-Armenian slogans in the assembly room.
[Passage omitted: known details]
It is always said in Azerbaijan that the country is at war with
Armenia. But in terms of international law, this is not the case. For
a country to be officially at war with another, a corresponding note
has to be sent to the head of the aggressor state and all relevant
international organizations. But Azerbaijan has never issued such a
note. Armenia is quite happy with the “neither peace nor war”
situation, because it leaves it a lot of room for manoeuvring. But why
aren’t we doing anything? Because if the two countries were really at
war, hardly anyone could offer economic cooperation to Azerbaijan
before the conflict with Armenia is resolved, and the situation such
as this could not have happened.
The gist of this story is that we should target our protests, and not
simply display patriotism, because by doing this, not only do we hold
ourselves up for ridicule, we also undermine our relations with such
international bodies as NATO.