BAKU, Azerbaijan, Nov. 27
By Elchin Valiyev, Editor-in-chief at Trend News Agency
Mutual visits of journalists from Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Armenian community of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan were made on November 17-22. Armenian journalists visited Baku, Guba and Ganja, while Azerbaijani journalists visited Yerevan, Dilijan and Azerbaijani Shusha and Khankendi cities.
Numerous articles related to the visits were published in Armenian media and social networks, various opinions were expressed. Armenian journalists along with Foreign Ministry and the Armenian prime minister’s office directly in charge of this visit, tried to launch a propaganda machine.
Having carefully studied written materials, in particular those of Armenian journalists who participated in the trip, I would like to summarize the following aspects:
- There is no reason to be upset or rejoice. What actually happened? Occupied Azerbaijani territories have not been liberated and the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has not been resolved. Three journalists made mutual visits;
- Despite that Armenia has made numerous requests to organize this visit, it eventually tried to turn it into propaganda. Why? The answer is simple. The long-lasting propaganda of Armenian journalists was based on some illusions about Azerbaijan, in which they believed.
It is about Azerbaijan in early 1990s. Armenian journalists expected to see chaos, severe xenophobia, discrimination, poverty, Islamic fundamentalism and things of similar nature. Their opinions are formed on stereotypes of anti-Azerbaijani media outlets. Therefore, there were no protests against the arrival of Armenian journalists as part of the group, who were known to be provocateurs, to Azerbaijan.
Not believing their own eyes, Armenian journalists, the mirage of which was shattered quickly, saw reality, modern and developing Azerbaijan. Armenian journalists saw multiculturalism existing in Azerbaijan, met with representatives of a dynamic civil society and fastidious media representatives;
- An opportunity was also created for the arrival of a journalist of Armenian origin, who was a native of Karabakh. Karabakh is Azerbaijan’s historical land and the Armenians and Azerbaijanis living there are citizens of Azerbaijan.
The arrival of a Karabakh native, an Azerbaijani citizen of Armenian origin, in Baku, his acquaintance with the DOST and ASAN services will create the opportunity for him to be proud of Azerbaijan. His visit and the meeting with the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh in Baku are also part of the dialogue between the communities. Azerbaijani community of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan has already issued an appeal in this context;
- Armenian journalists saw with their own eyes that Azerbaijani society has a position on resolving the conflict. This position is Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, which is the “red line”. Other issues may be discussed within this framework;
- Reportedly, in connection with the visit, the OSCE co-chairs wanted to make a statement, then Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Andrzej Kasprzyk was to make a statement. Allegedly, the Azerbaijani side didn’t agree to this. If Azerbaijan didn’t give consent, I think the country made the right decision. What extraordinary happened for such statements to be made? Is the organization of this trip of journalists the only result of the co-chairs’ visits lasting more than 25 years?
- Putting stereotypes and propaganda aside, I must say that I wasn’t surprised by what I saw in Armenia, that is, I saw what I expected to see. There are empty and dilapidated settlements on the road from the Georgian border to Yerevan. Demographic problems and poverty are evident. The strategically important road with the only way out of the country is at a low technical level;
- In Yerevan, indifference and little interest in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were felt. Just like Armenian journalists who arrived in Baku, representatives of Armenian NGOs and journalists in Yerevan also live by stereotypes. I felt attempts by some of them to rather turn the conflict into an excuse to earn money. The leaders of Armenian NGOs, who are friends of Leyla Yunus, under the pretext of “people’s diplomacy” received major grants from Western circles;
- The Armenian society sees and understands the strategic difficulties that the country has encountered, the futility of its economic development, but finds it difficult to acknowledge this because there are serious complexes. They admit it when talking face to face.
- It’s hard to say that nothing is being built in Yerevan. But this is not government policy. Even if there is construction, it is taking place only through donations from individual Armenian millionaires from the diaspora;
- In Armenia there is no family that doesn't receive money from abroad. This is the basis of Armenian economy. This was admitted by the people with whom we spoke;
- There are sharp anti-Russian sentiments in Armenian society. It can be assumed that this comes from the team of Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan;
- The opinions that have been voiced in connection with the development of information technology sector in Armenia are inflated. There is some development, but this is far from "Silicon Valley". In this sector, Azerbaijan is ahead of Armenia for at least ten years;
- In Armenia, people have already begun to see Nikol Pashinyan as a somewhat comical leader. Both weakness and lack of professionalism of his team are being pointed out. Armenians understand that the period of euphoria is over. They are still afraid of the Sargsyan and Kocharyan mafia. What's next? Another revolution?
- Demographic problem is more obvious in the occupied territories. It is empty along roads. In Shusha, it's generally difficult to talk about existence of normal life. Karabakh reminded me of a lifeless backgrounds from Hollywood films. Unprofitable food enterprises are built for show in Khankendi. This is more propaganda than real economy. In both Armenia and Karabakh, there is a serious fear of war. The people understand that from a military point of view, Azerbaijan is stronger.
- The Yukhari Govhar Agha Mosque has been renovated in Iranian style. The participation of Iranian companies in this project is undeniable. I believe that this issue needs to be raised before the Iranian government.
- The Armenians living in Karabakh came to the meeting alarmed. They were seriously warned by their intelligence agencies. One of the journalists secretly filmed the meeting with us on his phone. These people understand that they are stuck in the past, and with hopelessness and despair look into the future. They also understand that they are a tool in the hands of Armenian politicians in Yerevan and abroad. This could be seen during the conversation under control.
- Opinions that our visit was allegedly "organized by the Foreign Ministry of the illegal regime" are absurd. We traveled on OSCE vehicles. At the same time, communication with representatives of the Armenian community of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan is important. I think that it is necessary to expand communication with ordinary people there. I am sure that if they come and see Azerbaijan, they will again agree to live as part of it.
P.S. I believe that Azerbaijan's strategy to resolve the conflict is the right one. To return the occupied lands, comprising 20 percent of the country, it is necessary to develop the rest 80 percent. This is the policy pursued by President Ilham Aliyev: strong state, strong economy and strong army.