The Occupation in Figures
Nagorno-Karabakh: 1988-1992, territory 4400 km2; Shusha: may 08, 1992, territory 289 km2; Lachin: may 18, 1992, territory 1840 km2; Kalbajar: april 2, 1993, territory 3054 km2; Aghdam: july 23, 1993, territory 1150 km2; Fizuli: august 23, 1993, territory 1390 km2; Jabrayil: august 23, 1993, territory 1050 km2; Gubadli: august 31, 1993, territory 802 km2; Zangilan: october 29, 1993, territory 707 km2.

PACE president: Problem of liberation of Nagorno-Karabakh region and other surrounding districts of Azerbaijan from occupation must be solved

PACE president: Problem of liberation of Nagorno-Karabakh region and other surrounding districts of Azerbaijan from occupation must be solved


APA. Interview with Pedro Agramunt, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

Q. Mr Agramunt, what will be your main directions during the PACE Presidency?

A. I am thinking of four main directions in presiding PACE. The first direction is the global fight against terrorism, a problem that is worrying entire Europe as well as the whole world. Nowadays, European countries are facing terrorist attacks that are mostly carried out by Islamic radicals. The flow of refugees and migrants into Europe should also be noted since many of them come from areas where the Islamic State terrorist organization (known as IS, ISIL or Daesh) is operating. Global terrorism continues to be one of the issues we are concerned by. The second direction is the right of Europeans to live in peace and tranquility with no fear. That is to say, we have to do all we can so that people have no fear to visit public places like cafés and sport venues. We have to solve this problem too. The third direction is about populist political forces that have recently arisen in European countries. This is worrying for us. I’m not going to mention the name of a certain country but in many European countries there are political parties—extremist right-wing or left-wing—that resist European values. We need to pay special attention to this problem as well and remain loyal to the ideas of European founders. We should further strengthen European ideas like solidarity, democracy, legal state, human rights, etc. and work harder on this issue. The fourth direction is that the existence of conflicts in Europe that still remain unsettled.

Q. By the way, I would like to ask a question about it. As you said, there are conflicts between some member states and I’d like to underline the occupation of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region and other adjacent regions by Armenia. What contributions canPACE make to the settlement of this conflict?

A. Of course, these conflicts should be solved soon. There are still conflicts in Europe with values like democracy and human rights. Though we are calling them “frozen” conflicts, they are not frozen. We are mostly speaking about the Ukraine conflict, the Crimean annexation, but there are also conflicts between Georgia and South Ossetia and Abkhazia, conflict between Moldova and Transnistria region, conflict in Balkans, as well as Armenian occupation of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 adjacent districts for more than 20 years. This conflict is completely frozen and there is no progress in the settlement process despite the involvement of international organizations. I think that all these issues, including the occupation of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region and other adjacent regions should be solved.

Q. You have been one of the main co-rapporteurs on Azerbaijan and an author of several reports on the country. Thus, you know the country well enough. How do you asses the current status of relations between PACE and Azerbaijan. Are you satisfied with the level of bilateral relations and what are your expectations in this regard?

A. Surely, as I have acted as a co-rapporteur on Azerbaijan for many years, I know this country well. I have acted as a co-rapporteur on Azerbaijan for five years and this is the maximum possible time in PACE. Right, during my tenure, I have also been a co-rapporteur on other countries and developed a number of reports. My activity regarding Azerbaijan was not only limited to my tenure as a co-rapporteur. I have also acted on other issues related to this country. For instance, I observed elections in Azerbaijan. I think Azerbaijan’s relations with theCouncil of Europe and PACE are on the rise. To my mind, the key role of the Council of Europe and PACE is to contribute to the development of democracy and human rights in countries and provide necessary assistance to them in establishment of full democratic society in the example of Europe and Western countries. Obviously, the current situation is not so good, thus, when we began to cooperate years ago, the situation was more complicated. In this regard, we need to demonstrate political will and understanding and the countries need to cooperate with PACE and other institutions of the Council of Europe. The situation was completely different during my first visit to Azerbaijan. Today, the situation has positively changed in Azerbaijan, and the country’s economic sector is on the rise. The living standards of the people and the middle class have improved in Azerbaijan. The country has made progress towards democracy. However, in Azerbaijan, there are still problems needed to be solved. Nevertheless, there is some progress. For example, I have attended a number of elections and I can say that there are advancements in this regard. I understand that there were more problems when the country had just gained independence and there was no considerable change of opinion. The outdated Soviet thinking was lingering on people’s minds. But now I’m confident that the current head of state seeks to further develop these areas to make his country fully democratic and a legal state and has a clear political will to carry out it.

Q. You are planning to pay a visit to Azerbaijan on Feb. 28-29 to hold several meetings. What is the purpose of your visit, with whom are you planning to meet and what issues are you going to discuss in Baku?

A. I will arrive in Baku on late Sunday and start meetings on Monday. However, I will not be able to stay long in Baku, it is only a two-day visit. Immediately after the Baku visit, I will have to attend the meetings of thePACE Bureau and Standing Committee in Paris. During the visit, I’m planning to meet with members of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE, parliament speaker, foreign minister, civil society representatives and lawyers. At the same time, I will have the most important meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. As I said, in recent years, there have been positive developments in Azerbaijan in the field of democracy, and I will ask the president at the meeting to achieve even more progress in this area. In this regard, I’m optimistic and hope that the Azerbaijani government will consent to our opinions and will continue cooperation and discussions with the Council of Europe and its institutions such as thePACEVenice Commission, General Secretariat and others. Besides, another more important issue is that I must meet with imprisoned Ilgar Mammadov during this visit of mine. This has always been approved and I hope that no problem will occur. As you know, this is a very sensitive issue. The European Court of Human Rights has issued a decision in this regard. Therefore, this issue is very important for us.

Q. As you know, two resolutions on Azerbaijan’s occupied territories were tabled during the PACE winter session in January. One of them was approved, the other was not, although both documents pertained to the occupation of Azerbaijani territories.  What is your attitude in this regard?

A. I cannot comment on it. I am the President of PACE and the approval of the documents in the Assembly is determined by voting. The Assembly is an independent body, as a result of voting some documents are approved, and some others are disapproved.

Q. But before these discussions the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs had made a joint statement urging the Assembly not to adopt Robert Walter’s report. What do you think of it? How could any other organization possibly influence another independent organization like PACE?

A. You know, PACE is an utterly independent European organization. TheCouncil of Europe, which is the first and oldest European organization, has done a lot so far for the development of democracy and human rights in Europe. And by no means could we accept to be influenced from outside. I think the Assembly would never accept the pressure of others, either. No one can tell us what to do. Decisions can only be made by our independent Assembly.

Q. The Assembly had a special subcommittee on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. But afterwards it stopped operating. The chairmen before you—Mevlut Cavusoglu and Jean-Claude Mignon—sought to organize regular meetings between the two countries’ delegations at PACE. Are you thinking of restoring the subcommittee during your chairmanship and organizing meetings between the two countries’ delegations?

A. These meetings are not supposed to take place within a special committee only. But I did note in my first speech after being elected that one of my concerns is about some conflicts that remain in European countries to this day. I stressed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This is one of the most important issues and during my chairmanship I will try to keep this issue in mind. I will do all I can to bring the delegations of the two countries together. I will try to encourage the efforts of the two countries’ officials and governments to find a solution to the conflict.