The closure of the OSCE office in Baku was the result of US pressure, Ilham Aliyev told the EU-Azerbaijan parliamentary committee yesterday (20 September). EurActiv.com revealed the reasons of its shuttering in June 2015.
Speaking to a joint parliamentary session in Baku, in which MEPs and members of the National Assembly of Azerbaijan discussed bilateral issues, the Azerbaijani president regretted that a resolution adopted by the European Parliament on Azerbaijan a year ago caused “a serious regression in relations”.
“This came out as a surprise,” said Aliyev, as quoted by Trend news agency. “We, in Azerbaijan, consider this as a step based on a very hostile, inaccurate, false information and bias and as an attempt to harm our country’s reputation.”
Aliyev said that it will be difficult to move forward and plan future activities without clarifying this matter, adding he had a document to reveal.
The document says that OSCE Baku office was closed in July 2015 in accordance with the decision of the Azerbaijani government to terminate the Memorandum of Understanding between the Azerbaijani government and OSCE.
“It was terminated, but there was a reason,” Alyiev stressed.
He explained that the country representative of the OSCE office was Alexis Chahtahtinsky, a French citizen of Azerbaijani origin, who was the only Azerbaijani origin diplomat working at France’s foreign ministry, adding that he was a member of a very famous family.
Members of the family to which he belongs were among the founders of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the first democratic state in the East, in the Muslim world, in 1918, said the president. The family enjoys great respect in Azerbaijan, he added.
“After working in Azerbaijan for only one year, he was dismissed as a result of serious interference of the US Representative to (the) OSCE, Daniel B. Baer, who blamed him during the standing committee’s meeting for having a photo with me in his office,” Aliyev went further.
He said that that according to the information he possesses, pressure was put on the French government and without any notice, the OSCE representative Chahtahtinsky was dismissed.
His career was ruined. He left the foreign ministry. Only because of having a photo with me”, said President Aliyev.
“What can we talk about, if the US representative to the OSCE thinks that it is a crime to take a photo with me?! What did I say?! I said that if Chahtahtinsky is dismissed, the office will be closed down. I warned them, but they didn’t listen and we did it. Now they want to resume the office’s operation,” said the president.
“I put forward a condition: Reinstate Chahtahtinsky, bring him back, restore his career, restore justice, and then we will reopen the office. That is the issue,” he added.
On 5 June 2015, Radio Free Europe reported that Baku gave one month to OSCE to close its offie, and gave no explanations. This was presented as a reaction to heightened criticism of Azerbaijan’s record on civil society and media freedoms by Western officials and international human rights watchdogs.
On 9 June, EurActiv.com reported a different story. 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. The Americans were basically pushing for regime change in this country, they claimed.
The same sources informed EurActiv that if anyone was to blame for the closure of the organisation’s office in the capital of Azerbaijan, it was US diplomacy. The Americans were pushing for regime change in this country, they claimed.
EurActiv was told that Azerbaijan’s government interpreted this as a message: if Chahtahtinsky’s successor worked in the same way, he would be dismissed as well. This would encourage him to work in violation of his mandate. This was unacceptable, so Baku decided to close the mission.