YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Azerbaijan’s Interior Minister Ramil Usubov attended a meeting of his counterparts from other former Soviet republics in Yerevan on Friday in what was a rare visit to Armenia by an Azerbaijani government official.
Surrounded by tight security, Usubov could not be approached by journalists covering the regular session of the Council of Interior Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Nor did he deliver any speeches there.
The chief of the Armenian police, Alik Sargsian, told journalists that he met with Usubov separately before the start of the session. “We did not discuss political issues. Our structures are apolitical,” he told reporters, according to PanArmenian.net.
Russia’s Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev praised the two men for not raising the touchy issue of Nagorno-Karabakh at the ministerial session. “I am glad that this issue is not on the agenda of relations between Ramil Usubov and Alik Sargsian,” he said. “We do realize that there are issues that are directly dealt with by politicians.”
Mutual visits by Armenian and Azerbaijani government officials and other citizens have been rare because of the unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. They usually take place within the framework of multilateral events.
Azerbaijan has sought to minimize such contacts over the past decade. It considers the presence of Armenian officials and public figures on Azerbaijani soil to be an affront to the country’s honor and territorial integrity.
Usubov’s trip to Yerevan was strongly condemned on Friday by an Azerbaijani pressure group opposed to any concessions to the Armenians. “Nothing can justify that visit,” the Karabakh Liberation Organization said in a statement cited by the SalamNews online service.
“Nothing can justify the fact that Ramil Usubov stepped over the blood of our martyrs, his own relatives brutally killed by Armenians in [the Karabakh town of] Khojaly, and went to visit murderous Armenians,” it charged.
The Yerevan meeting discussed joint efforts to combat transnational crime in the loose grouping of 11 ex-Soviet states, including both Armenia and Azerbaijan. In a joint statement, the CIS police chiefs said they approved, among other things, a strategy of coordinating their fight against cyber crime.
Addressing the meeting, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian called for closer cooperation among the CIS police services. “The speed and, sometimes, unpredictability of political processes, negative financial and economic phenomena taking place in the CIS countries as well as their effects make it imperative to work out a strategy of joint actions and reinforce further cooperation among us,” he said.
Also present at the meeting was Ronald Noble, the American secretary general of Interpol. Noble was received by President Serzh Sarkisian on Thursday.