BAKU: Azeri MPs expect no Council of Europe sanctions

Azeri MPs expect no Council of Europe sanctions

Zerkalo, Baku
4 Jan 05

Text of C. Bayramova report by Azerbaijani newspaper Zerkalo on 4
January headlined “Calm, just stay calm” and subheaded “Azerbaijan
will not face Council of Europe sanctions”

“The Council of Europe will not impose sanctions on Azerbaijan,”
Andreas Gross, co-rapporteur of the Monitoring Group of the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE], has said
().

“We hoped that in the absence of bitter political struggle (the
opposition’s boycott), the 17 December municipal election would have
become the first free and fair election. However, the ‘election
machine’ worked as it was programmed once again,” he said.

Gross also said that he came across exaggerations of voter turnout
figures in some precincts. Instead of the actual 5-7 per cent, the
final protocol featured 45-47 per cent. There were other major
violations as well, and they influenced the outcome of the election as
a result.

There are many symptoms (the trial of opposition leaders, restrictions
on freedom of speech and assembly and so on) which allow one to
conclude that the Azerbaijani authorities ignore PACE
resolutions. However, he said that the co-rapporteurs do not intend to
raise the issue of imposing sanctions on Azerbaijan.

“Should we expel Azerbaijan from the Council of Europe, this will not
mean that the authorities will have problems. It is the population,
first of all, that will face problems. By expelling Azerbaijan we will
first of all lose the opportunity to help the Azerbaijani people. The
Azerbaijani delegation to PACE is a bridge by which we conduct talks
with the government on economic reforms,” Gross said.

In a conversation with our Zerkalo correspondent, MP Qulamhuseyn
Alibayli, a member of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE, said that
the “falsified 17 December municipal election” may, in effect, be
recognized as invalid. “It is no secret to anyone that the protocols
were written under the dictation of the local executive authorities,”
he said. It is no surprise that these circumstances did not elude
Gross’s attention, Alibayli said.

Nevertheless, PACE will not discuss sanctions against Azerbaijan in
the near future. The January session will discuss other topics,
Alibayli said. “In particular, the Karabakh conflict whose discussion,
I think, should not affect the image of Azerbaijan. On the contrary,
it is Azerbaijan’s territory that has been occupied and harsh
sanctions must be imposed on separatist Armenia,” Alibayli said.

Drawing conclusions on what was said above, the MP said that the
Council of Europe is pursuing any objectives by imposing sanctions on
the countries that fail to comply with the organization’s
resolutions. “Rather, one can talk about disapproval or, to put it
mild, reprimands, but certainly not sanctions,” he said.

It is interesting that when we asked Alibayli whether this fact will
“untie the hands” of the authorities, Alibayli said: “I do not think
so, because the political climate in Azerbaijan is gradually improving
as a result of international pressure and criticism”.

Meanwhile, the head of the Azerbaijani delegation, MP Samad Seyidov,
does not rule out that the PACE agenda may include some irregularities
in the 17 December municipal elections. However, this will not happen
before the June session in 2005.

“It is known that Andreas Gross and Andres Herkel carefully monitored
the municipal election, but they did so as PACE co-rapporteurs, not as
observers. When they visited some polling stations, they registered
certain irregularities and later briefed the Central Electoral
Commission [CEC] in this regard. I hope that the CEC will take
appropriate measures to investigate the evidence. Naturally, such
issues may be reflected in the reports of the co-rapporteurs about how
Azerbaijan complies with its commitments to the Council of Europe. I
believe that they will report in June 2005,” Seyidov said.

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