Azerbaijan Blocks Armenian Participation in CIS Defense Meeting

YEREVAN (RFE/RL/Yerkir)–Armenia’said on Tuesday that Azerbaijan has prevented it from participating in this week’s meeting in Baku of high-ranking defense officials from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

The one-day session of the CIS Council of Defense Ministers is scheduled to open in the Azeri capital on Wednesday. Yerevan said last week that Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian will not attend it–because Azeri authorities failed to guarantee the security of the Armenian delegation.

In a statement–the ministry said it has been informed by the Moscow-based Secretariat of the CIS structure that the Azeri authorities have refused to guarantee the security of the Armenian participants. It condemned the move–accusing Azerbaijan of failing to honor its international obligations.

"This fact again confirms that Azerbaijan is not able to meet its commitmen’s to secure participants of international meetings in its territory," said the statement. "The Council Secretariat has to create equal conditions for all participant states of the meeting."

"We expect an official response from the CIS Council of Defense Ministers to the incident," added the statement.

A spokesman for the Azeri Defense Ministry confirmed that Baku is against Armenian participation in the meeting.

Previously–the Azeri Government also refused to allow a group of Armenian army officers to take part in a NATO-led military exercise that had been due to take place in Azerbaijan in September 2004. NATO officials responded by canceling the multinational drills.

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