ICRC Refutes Azeri Propaganda at Baku Forum on Refugees

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Larisa Alaverdian–Executive Director of the Fund against Violations of Law said at a press-conference on Tuesday that no changes in the Azerbaijani attitude toward the Karabakh conflict have been observed during the past nine years. Together with Chairman Gagik Yeganian of the Department for Migration and Refugees’ Affairs–she participated in a forum held in Baku May 17-18. Participating in the forum were also representatives of the Parliamentary Standing Foreign Relations Commission and of the Union of Young Lawyers. The forum was organized by the Council of Europe Committee for Migration–Refugees’ Affairs and Demography and was dedicated to problems of refugees and forcibly displaced people in the South Caucasus.

Alaverdian said Azerbaijan has intensified its efforts at spreading anti-Armenia propaganda over the past year. The Azeris are denying the forced displacement of people from Azerbaijan. Moreover–so-called "historical grounds" according to which Armenia’s "appeared" in the region only in the middle of the 19th century–have also been presented. Azerbaijan has been insisting that the only way the Karabakh conflict will be resolved is if the "occupied" territories are returned to Azerbaijan. They claim that the Armenian authorities also consider these territories occupied–referring to the recent statement made by Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. According to Alaverdian–the only positive change in Azerbaijan is the liberalization of the mass-media.

In his turn–Gagik Eganian pointed out that–even though Azerbaijan invited the Armenia’s to participate in the forum–they excluded the possibility of any contacts with the Armenian delegation. This course of action was disapproved by representatives of different international organizations also participating in the forum. Referring to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)–the Azeris stated that 700 Azerbaijani citizens are being held hostage in Armenia. In response–the ICRC representative at the forum said that no such information exists. Eganian said the Armenian delegation expressed its disapproval regarding Azerbaijan’s spreading of false information.

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