US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Morningstar has denounced the Azeri state-run media for distorting his comments and alleging that he praised Azerbaijan’s democratic developments, reported James Morrison in The Washington Times’ Embassy Row column on Sunday.
After visiting Nakhichevan and not being allowed to visit Djulfa, the Azeri state media attributed comments to Morningstar where he praised democratic development in Azerbaijan.
In fact, Morrison reported that the US Embassy in Baku “issued a blunt statement last week, accusing state media of distorting reports on Mr. Morningstar’s visit to the Nakhchivan [sic] region on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.”
“The ambassador did not make such comments to anyone, and any reports claiming that he did so are not true,” the embassy said of state media coverage that said he praised the progress of democracy during his trip to Nakhchivan, reported Morrison.
According to the Embassy Row report, the embassy said that contrary to state media, Mr. Morningstar used the visit to highlight the poor quality of democracy and human rights in Nakhchivan and made a point of meeting with human rights activist Malahat Nasibova, the embassy said.
“Ambassador Morningstar met with a wide range of leading governmental and nongovernmental figures during his visit, including human rights activist Malahat Nasibova, whose office he visited in a show of support, and whose important work he praised during his public comments. Ambassador Morningstar also called publicly and privately for an open dialogue between local authorities and human rights defenders such as Ms. Nasibova,” the embassy said.
In a US Embassy statement on November 5, Morningstar stated that, when he was recently in Nakhchivan, he “discussed at length with local authorities one such site in Julfa, where, according to evidence from credible sources, an ancient Armenian cemetery was desecrated or destroyed. I regret that the authorities, citing security reasons, made it impossible for me to visit the site and personally see what is there.”
“Ambassador Morningstar cannot take no for an answer,” said Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian at the time. “He can either keep knocking on the Ilham Aliyev’s door until this baseless ban is lifted, or simply travel to the site of the Djulfa cemetery on his own. Either way, it’s clear that, as Americans, we should neither sell arms to an Azerbaijani military that destroys cemeteries, nor send any aid to a government in Baku that blocks U.S. ambassadors from visiting sites of peace-time cultural desecration.”