BAKU: Azeri ministry concerned at UK reporter’s visits to Karabakh

Azeri ministry concerned at UK reporter’s visits to breakaway Karabakh

Ekho, Baku
1 Apr 04

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry intends to look for verification of
the reports carried by Kavkazskiy uzel news agency and some other
sources that British journalist Thomas de Waal, coordinator of the
Caucasus project of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, has
visited Stepanakert. The visit’s objective was familiarization with
preparation for the first edition of the new “public Karabakh
newspaper Demo”, sponsored by an international foundation.

Armenian sources maintain that Thomas de Waal, author of the book,
Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War, on the
Nagornyy Karabakh conflict, was an informal intermediary in this
process between the British grant-givers and the newspaper. The
sources said that in addition to material about life in Karabakh, Demo
will carry reports about other countries of the Caucasus region.

[Passage omitted: minor details]

De Waal said that over the past eight years he has visited Nagornyy
Karabakh 10 times. Certainly, he visited the occupied Azerbaijani
territories without the official permission of the Azerbaijani

The head of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s press service, Matin
Mirza, said that if the reports are confirmed, then the ministry will
tell the UK embassy in Azerbaijan about its concerns. As for de Waal’s
private visits to Stepanakert, this issue must be looked at from
different perspectives, Mirza said.

“The Armenians may, as usual, hype up the information about de Waal’s
visits to Stepanakert and his objectives. They mainly do this to
attract more attention from the international community. However, it
must be noted that foreign citizens do not have the right to visit
Nagornyy Karabakh without permission from the Azerbaijani
government. This is unacceptable and jeopardizes the notions of
territorial integrity and inviolability of Azerbaijan’s borders, as
well as threatens peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict,” he

In addition, Mirza described the assistance of a UK citizen in the
publication of a newspaper in the separatist entity as “an attempt of
blatant intrusion in the process of peaceful settlement of the
conflict”. De Waal’s stance on this issue has to be interpreted as
assistance in the dissemination of Armenia’s anti-Azerbaijani
propaganda, Mirza said.

Yesterday [31 March], Ekho newspaper managed to get in touch with de
Waal, who was in Tbilisi. In response to a question about the
Azerbaijani government’s permission to visit Stepanakert, he said that
he “never even thought about making such a request to the Azerbaijani

In his words, he is a man monitoring developments in Karabakh,
Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. “In my job, I advise the press
publishers on how to organize their work. I have paid many visits to
Karabakh,” he said.

De Waal confirmed to Ekho that he had recently visited Stepanakert. “I
have visited Azerbaijan and met high-ranking officials here for many
years. I have never concealed and will not conceal that I visit
Karabakh. When in Azerbaijan, I inform the officials that I was in
Karabakh. For this reason, I never ask for permission to visit that
region. I am a foreign correspondent who often visits unrecognized
territorial entities, such as Karabakh, Abkhazia, Chechnya and
others. This is the duty of foreign reporters.”

He told Ekho that he intends to continue visits to Karabakh skirting
the Baku government. “I consider myself a neutral person and can make
such visits.”

In conclusion, de Waal said that he will soon visit Azerbaijan. He
hoped that Azerbaijani officials will not obstruct his visit to Baku.