Fuad Isgandarov: Political dialogue should not turn into a monologue
- What is your view of the European Parliament’s recent resolution on Azerbaijan?
- First of all, I want to note that during the extraordinary session the Azerbaijani Parliament demonstrated its position through speeches and the adoption of a decision. This document provided a comprehensive analysis of what is happening within the European Parliament and of the situation in EU-Azerbaijan inter-parliamentary relations, the decision part of it reflected the specific requirements, appeals and recommendations. As head of the permanent representation to the EU, I can only shed light on several issues.
Firstly, the recent resolution of the European Parliament is of no legal significance – for neither Azerbaijan nor the executive bodies of the EU. The document is a recommendation. Therefore, from a legal point of view this document has no effect on the daily activities of the EU. Executive bodies of the EU (the European Commission, the Council of the EU External Action Service) are not planning to implement the resolution. On the contrary, during the hearings in the European Parliament the European commissioner expressed readiness to develop relations with Azerbaijan.
Secondly, this resolution does not demonstrate the attitude toward Azerbaijan of all European Parliament members. During intense discussions, the leading faction – the European People's Party (Christian Democrats in EU countries) opposed to the resolution. Frankly, during the discussions of earlier anti-Azerbaijani resolutions this fraction never supported Azerbaijan. But this time, in contrast to the three small political groups that have put forward a draft resolution, the position displayed by the European People's Party, which has great political experience, during the hearing and the vote was due to the fact that the adoption of this resolution may be a risk of losing this reliable partner – Azerbaijan.
Thirdly, the main initiator of the resolution is one of the smaller groups of the Parliament - Greens / European Free Alliance. Members of the European Free Alliance are representatives of the separatist organizations in EU member states. They have repeatedly visited occupied territories of Azerbaijan, met with "officials" of the separatist regime there. The European Free Alliance admitted the so-called organization - Democratic Party of Artsakh to membership on April 17, 2015.
- Does the adoption of the resolution as a result of the activity of a few pro-Armenian groups give grounds to say that the European Parliament is a pro-Armenian organization?
- There are ample opportunities in the European Parliament for the activities of such forces. The question is not only about anti-Azerbaijani resolutions. Despite the protests of the Azerbaijani side, Bako Sahakyan, Alakram Hummatov (twice) and ‘elements’ trying to create separatist tendencies in the north of Azerbaijan participated and even addressed the events held in the European Parliament at the invitation of relevant parliamentarians.
- It turns out that the European Parliament hasn’t taken unbiased position toward Azerbaijan so far?
- The resolution, adopted by the former composition of the European Parliament on 23 October 2013, contains a special article about Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied Azerbaijani territories, support for four UN resolutions and the fact that occupation by one Eastern Partnership country of territory of another is unacceptable. It was reflected in all subsequent resolutions of the European Parliament. However, the forces related with the Armenian lobby are regularly trying to present Azerbaijan in the European Parliament as a country violating human rights in order to weaken our position on the conflict. Though the number of such forces in the Parliament increased, Azerbaijan's territorial integrity has been confirmed once again with the majority of votes in resolutions adopted in 2015. Aforementioned infuriated groups brought up "problem of democracy" in Azerbaijan, exaggerated the issue, discussed it in plenary session through emergency hearings and put up for voting. The reality is that no one can prevent the application of international law through discussion of artificially inflated issue.
- In such a situation, how do you see the future of EU-Azerbaijan relations?
- In the current situation there are some forces in Europe that do not want the development of relations with Azerbaijan. Imagine that more than 50 percent of trade turnover of our country accounts for EU member states and about 50 percent of foreign investment comes from the EU. Azerbaijan integrates into Europe with the project of the Southern Gas Corridor worth $ 45 billion. Naturally, some external forces are trying to discredit the state that has strong economic cooperation through certain political technologies. They are trying to do through the resolutions of the European Parliament as well as their explanation for other issues. This is not the first such resolution of the European Parliament. Last year's resolution against Azerbaijan was adopted on September 17, the day before the ceremony of laying the foundation of the Southern Gas Corridor. Organized at the European Parliament this year, the first anti-Azerbaijani hearings were held on June 12 – the opening day of the European Games. Could it be a coincidence?
- What do you think of the view that the European Union is the savior of Azerbaijan?
- Azerbaijan has never asked anyone for savior. Azerbaijan tries to establish equal relations with all of its partners, neighbors – except Armenia, international organizations, the EU and its institutions, and member states. Azerbaijan offers the EU strong support, not only in energy but also in the fight against terrorism, illegal migration, extremism and organized crime. In this situation, when the EU is going through a difficult crisis and the situation of migrants has become a humanitarian disaster, I think that the EU should maintain its reliable friends, especially those in close proximity. Azerbaijan has already proved itself as a reliable partner of the EU. In this case, how thoroughly does the European Parliament’s resolution serve EU interests at a time Europe itself is facing a dangerous situation. In my opinion, behind this are forces that are against Europe itself. First of all, the EU itself is not interested to lose Azerbaijan and ruin its relationship with our country. In the EU and at its committees and foreign relations service there are many people who understand it. The EU's interest in developing relations with Azerbaijan is growing, and this process can be carried out not only through economic ties, but also through political dialogue. But now, unfortunately, the inter-parliamentary dialogue has turned out to be a critical monologue for the European Parliament. We will never put up with this approach. Azerbaijan may be ready for the construction and development of entirely equitable relations with the EU and all its institutions provided the European Parliament should prove its desire to maintain constructive political dialogue with Azerbaijan through concrete actions.