BAKU: Armenian officers’ visit to Baku sparks public outcry

Azer News, Azerbaijan
June 24 2004

Armenian officers’ visit to Baku sparks public outcry

The final conference of the “Cooperative Best Effort-04” training
opened in Baku on Tuesday within NATO’s Partnership for Peace
program. Representatives from ten NATO member states, eleven
Partnership for Peace program-participant states, NATO’s

Southern Europe and European Allied Forces Command, as well as from
the International Committee of the Red Cross and the US embassy in
Baku are attending the conference to last till Thursday. The
“Cooperative Best Effort-04” training will be held in Baku this
September. The participation of Armenian officers – Colonel Murad
Isakhanian and Senior Lieutenant Aram Hovanesian – in the event
sparked nationwide protest in the country.

Akif Naghi, chairman of the Garabagh Liberation Organization (GLO),
told a news conference last week that Armenian officers won’t be
allowed to attend a NATO conference even if they arrive in the Azeri
capital. According to Naghi, Armenia aims to cover up the occupation
of Azerbaijani lands by sending its officers to Baku. “Therefore, the
goal of the GLO is to prevent the realization of Armenia’s plans,”
said Naghi, underlining that a series of actions will be conducted in
this respect.

Public concern justified
Commenting on the differing attitudes of the public and the
organizers of the event towards the issue, Ali Hasanov, head of the
Socio-political Department of the President’s Palace, said that the
positions of both sides are understandable. Hasanov regarded the
negative attitude of the public towards the participation of the
officers of the occupying army in any event in Baku as normal. Noting
that the undertaking is organized not by Azerbaijan but NATO, Hasanov
stressed that such events may be organized not only in Azerbaijan but
also in other program participant states. However, the government
allowed the officers of aggressor Armenia to arrive in Baku on Monday
evening. On Tuesday morning, GLO members held a protest action to
condemn the Armenian officers’ participation in the NATO conference,
stating that “no business relations can be established with Armenia
unless the occupied lands of Azerbaijan are liberated”.

Members of the Garabagh Liberation Organization (GLO) picketed the
Europe Hotel on Tuesday protesting the participation of Armenian
officers at the conference being held in Baku within the NATO
‘Partnership for Peace’ program. The protesters tried to block
Tbilisi Avenue, disrupting traffic, and then clashed with police in
front of the hotel. Several GLO members succeeded in making their way
to the conference room. However, the conference continued
uninterrupted after police and hotel security officers disbursed the
picketers. Five demonstrators led by the GLO chairman Akif Naghi and
his deputy Barat Imani were detained and taken to the Nasimi District
police department. “The Armenian officers’ visit to Baku and the
Azerbaijani government’s position on the issue is unacceptable. The
authorities must primarily defend the interests of the state, prevent
officers of an aggressor country from coming to Baku and put forward
a firm position to international organizations on the issue”, the GLO
said in a statement. Also on Tuesday, members of another group, the
All-Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFPA), tried to hold a similar
action. In a Milli Majlis session on Tuesday, parliament members
expressed their indignation with the participation of Armenian
officers in the conference being held in Baku within NATO’s
Partnership for Peace program. MP Sabir Rustamkhanli regarded the
admittance of Armenian officers, guilty of shedding the blood of
innocent Azerbaijanis, to Baku as a disgrace. Rustamkhanli said NATO,
as an entity cooperating with Azerbaijan, should respect Azerbaijani
national moral values. Speaker Alasgarov said the Armenian officers
came to Baku secretly and will leave Azerbaijan after the first NATO