Azeri envoy to US explains why world ignores Nagorno-Karabakh, focuses on Israel

“It does appear that the world feels more comfortable ignoring the conflict.”

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April 7, 2016 01:03
3 minute read.
Azerbaijan

SERVICEMEN OF the army of Nagorno-Karabakh rest at their positions near the village of Mataghis, yesterday.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The world rewards violence and uncivilized behavior and ignores those asserting their rights through appeals to international law and conscience, Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Washington, Elin Suleymanov, said Wednesday.

Suleymanov’s comments came during a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post when asked why the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia – a conflict that has left some 20 percent of Azerbaijan occupied, led to 30,000 people killed in a war in the early 1990s, and some million refugees and internally displaced people – does not get a fraction of the world’s attention that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict gets.

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“That is an interesting question,” he said. “You live in the Holy Land, and that has its benefits and drawbacks – you will always have global attention.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a symbolic and emotional impact around the world.”

A tense cease-fire held Wednesday, halting fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia forces over Nagorno-Karabakh that flared up on Friday and has killed at least 50 people.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an ethnic Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan that was taken over by Armenia during a six-year war that ended in 1994.

Considering the dimension of the conflict, Suleymanov said, “it does appear that the world feels more comfortable ignoring the conflict.”

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Pressed why he thinks this is, he replied, “Our displaced population is not engaged in any violence. They did not emigrate anywhere. Our refugees and internally displaced people moved in the areas outside the occupied areas in Azerbaijan, and have built their lives there.”

In contrast to how the Arab world and the Palestinian Authority has treated Palestinian refugees, Suleymanov described a situation whereby the Azerbaijan government has spent a great deal of money and made it a priority to integrate hundreds and thousands of their compatriots.

The down side, he said, is that if refugees are integrated and build a normal life, “the world seems to say you have no rights, forgets your right to return to your homeland. In a sense it is unfair. The world rewards violence, the world rewards uncivilized behavior.

And when you try to build a normal society and raise issues legally, appeal to international law and conscience, people seem to ignore it.”

Asked if Azerbaijan erred in absorbing its refugees, Suleymanov replied, “Of course not. We are fellow citizens of these people. They are among the most talented people of Azerbaijan. We are building a society, a nation, and from a national point of view it was the right decision.”

He said that Baku has found the balance between asserting its legal right over Nagorno-Karabakh and getting international bodies to recognize those rights, without sacrificing the daily life of the refugees.

Suleymanov, a seasoned diplomat whose country maintains good ties both with Israel and the Palestinians, sidestepped whether he thought the Palestinians and Arab world could learn a lesson from how Azerbaijan dealt with the displaced people.

“It is not up to me to say whether our example can be used by the Palestinians or not,” he said. Everyone decides their own way how to build their society.”

Suleymanov reiterated what Ali Hasanov, a senior adviser to Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, told the Post on Monday – that Azerbaijan expects Israel to publicly come out with support on the issue.

“We expect and count on support from our friends, including Israel,” Suleymanov said. “When Azerbaijan is under attack, it is good to see our friends stand with us.”

Israel, however, has not yet issued any comment on the conflict, and is not interested in publicly getting involved in the issue. Azerbaijan, on the border of Iran and a country that provides Israel with some 40 percent of its oil, is strategically important to Jerusalem, while Armenia is heavily backed by Russia, another country of immense strategic importance to Israel.

Although Israel may not be giving diplomatic support to Azerbaijan publicly, The Washington Post reported Wednesday that what appeared to be an Israeli-made suicide drone was seen flying over Nagorno-Karabakh. The report said the drone, apparently an IAI Harop, targeted a bus full of “Armenian volunteers,” killing seven.

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