France, Strasbourg / corr Trend A.Maharramli / An intreview of Lord Russel Johnston, the chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Ad Hoc Commitee, with Azerbaijani journalists on the implementation of PACE Resolution 1416.
Question: Did your meeting with the speaker Asadov take place today? What was discussed and what are the outcomes of this meeting?
Answer: Specific outcome. I explained to him that I was anxious to see the work of my committee continue. That it was necessary to have some guarantees of cooperation from the both countries. And consequently I was intending at least to write to both President Aliyev and President Kocharian. Posibly to see them both, to visit them both. And if so happens that I am may be in Baku on 9 November, but that is not yet confirmed. That might be an occasion on which that might turn to reality depending of course on the president's schedule. I said to speaker Asadov that I regretted the fact that the visits that have been planed both by my committee and the cultural committee had been cancelled at a short notice. But I hope that the situation could be reasonably resolved.
Question: We also heard that there was a meeting yesterday in the subcommittee between the heads of the Azerbaijani and Armenian delegations. And apparently Armenia is interested in issues that were discussed at this meeting, And also specifically the Azerbaijani delegation is proposing to change the formation of these visits and meetings, meaning to go to the Nagorno Karabakh through the Azerbaijani territory. If that at all could be called as a change of the formation of the work of the committee. What can you say about this?
Answer: Well, it did represent a change of the format. As the understanding was both by me and also by Mr O'Hara at the cultural committee that there would be an interview in Yerevan. And that was changed very suddenly and quickly. And that was not a great problem for me, because the meeting was the next week. But for Mr O'Hara it meant everything be changed of the week-end with one-day notice. And that was not really good.
Question: Would these format changes prevent the visit?
As I said before I do not regard my committee as being concerned to mediate on Nagorno Karabakh. The idea was that we would try and improve contact and dialog particularly in the first place between Azeri and Armenian parliamentarians; possibly to hold seminars in Baku and Yerevan. And try to improve the relationship, but not, I mean ... The Nagorno Karabakh conflict will only solve between Kocharian and Aliyev in the end.
Question: The last question. There will be a meeting of the PACE's monitoring committee on frozen conflicts in November in Berlin. We assume that you were invited and if so, the question is as follows: Initially the idea was to have Azerbaijani and Armenian delegations to discuss the things, but yesterday apparently the Armenian delegation at the meeting with PACE president proposed to have also the representatives of the Armenian community of Nagarno Karabakh. So what do you think about it?
I don't want to cover that as I know nothing about it. But if I may ask a couple of things: the Council of Europe said to me apart from being very anxious to see a resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and in particular of the occupied territories with the refugees. They are also concerned naturally about internal policies in both Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Azerbaijan is fortunate in having huge economic growth. That should not lead it to neglect basic democratic questions. Our main concern is about the political prisoners, some of them are very old and sick. And also journalists freedom. There were seven journalists imprisoned recently. I just add that as a postscript.