Baku, Azerbaijan, May 4
Trend presents interview with Permanent Representative of the Republic of Azerbaijan to OSCE Galib İsrafilov
Q: According to press reports, at today’s OSCE Permanent Council meeting, the Austrian Chairmanship announced that it was not possible to arrive at consensus on the extension of the mandate of the OSCE Office in Yerevan. What would be your comment on this issue?
A: As you may know, OSCE opened its field missions both in Azerbaijan and Armenia almost simultaneously in the beginning of 2000s. Since, the matters related to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict were already dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Group, an understanding was reached that the activities of the OSCE Offices in Baku and Yerevan will not involve these matters.
This verbal agreement was put into doubt, when all of a sudden the OSCE Office in Yerevan started to engage in demining-related activities. By the way, the Armenian Delegation to OSCE confirmed this today at the OSCE meeting that the former Yerevan Office was not bound by this agreement. Azerbaijan questioned these activities, in particular with regard to their scope in terms of substance and geographic limits. We specifically inquired about the need for such a project in Armenia, which has not been a theater of military actions during the Armenia-Azerbaijan war. We consistently raised our concerns that the demining project by the Office will strengthen capacity and skills of Armenian structures, which can be easily used against Azerbaijan in the occupied territories.
The information from the Armenian press as well as from the Office in Yerevan confirmed that the demining-related activity of the Office is directly related to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and that the geographic scope of the activities of the recipients of assistance from the Office extends to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. So, the Armenian authorities took advantage of ambiguity of the mandate of the OSCE Mission in Yerevan. The only way to rectify the situation and to extend the mandate of the Office was to eliminate the ambiguity and bring more clarity into the mandate.
After several rounds of consultations the Azerbaijani side, in principle, supported the clarifications to the mandate put forward by the Austrian Chairmanship in the draft decision. And we are thankful to the Austrian Chairmanship for its efforts to address the concerns of Azerbaijan
If adopted, this decision would have reaffirmed that activities of the OSCE Office in Yerevan are confined exclusively to the territory of the Republic of Armenia and in no way can include any matter related to the conflict dealt with by the Minsk Conference and its settlement process. Readiness to support the decision proposed by Chairmanship was goodwill gesture of Azerbaijan, given the fact of continued occupation of its territories by Armenia.
However, the stance of the Delegation of Armenia clearly showed that it was not genuinely interested in finding a solution to the issue and refused to support the compromise proposal of the Chairmanship.
We regret that the Office was closed down, but this was a result of a deliberate attempt of Armenia to use every mean possible to maintain the status quo and consolidate the occupation of Azerbaijani territories.
The situation around the Office in Yerevan has once again demonstrated in the OSCE that Azerbaijan proceeds from a constructive, but principled position and, accordingly, will protect its legitimate interests and resolutely act against any attempt to infringe upon its sovereignty and territorial integrity.