Baku, Azerbaijan, June 11
Azerbaijan gave one month to the office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Baku to close down, which was interpreted by Western media as a response to criticisim of the country's human rights and media freedom record, the leading online media on EU affairs EurActiv writes.
But Western diplomats told EurActiv a completely different story, the article said.
"Diplomats in Baku and in the OSCE headquarters in Vienna told EurActiv that if anyone was to blame for the closure of the organisation's office in the capital of Azerbaijan, it was US diplomacy," said the article. "The Amercians were basically pushing for regime change in this country, they claimed."
The various reports agree on several points, according to the article. The OSCE mission in Baku, which was opened in 2000, had faced difficult times during the mandate of the previous OSCE ambassador, Koray Targay of Turkey, writes EurActiv. Reportedly, between July 2012 and July 2013, Targay made very critical remarks about the government, under US pressure, according to some accounts, the article said.
"A high point was reached in the summer of 2013 when OSCE mission members participated to a non-authorised opposition demonstration," said the article. "OSCE mission members can observe such events, but only from a distance. It is alleged that the mission members actually participated in the protest."
As the scandal unfolded, Azerbaijan authorities said they wanted to close the mission. OSCE missions are opened at the invitation of the host country, according to EurActiv.
"Ukraine and Turkey intervened, lobbying to keep the mission afloat, but with a new mandate," said the article. "The new mandate doesn't allow it to make political declarations, and transforming the bureau into an "OSCE Project Coordinator" office."
A new mandate was adopted in July 2013 and a new ambassador, the Frenchman Alexis Chahtahtinsky arrived in March 2014, according to EurActiv.
"Reportedly, the new ambassador strictly respected the mandate and refrained from making political statements and criticising the authorities," said the article. "But the US ambassador in Vienna Daniel B. Baer wanted him to play a much more political role and basically to follow up Washington's alleged strategy of seeking a regime change in Azerbaijan of the type of Georgia's or Ukraine's."
"According to diplomatic sources, US and UK pressures increased in Vienna on France, and on the OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier of Italy," writes EurActiv. "As a result the OSCE didn't renew the ambassador's contract, which expired on 31 May."