STRASBOURG, France—Member of European Parliament and President of the Artsakh Group Frank Engel addressed a letter to Azerbaijani parliamentarians refuting any illegality toward his and fellow parliamentarians’ visit to the Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) Republic.
Azerbaijani authorities on February 23 issued arrest warrants against European Parliamentarians Engel, Eleni Theocharous and Jaromir Stetina who visited Artsakh to monitor the Constitutional referendum on February 20.
They are wanted on the grounds of visiting Artsakh, as well as for acting as monitors of the referendum.
“This is a part of Baku’s campaign,” Stetina said following the Baku arrest warrants, “which began about a month ago when Russian [Israeli] blogger [Alexander] Lapshin was arrested in [the Belarusian capital city of] Minsk; this is a part of the intimidation policy of Azerbaijan.”
Engel’s letter is addressed to Chair of the Committee on Foreign and Inter-Parliamentary Relations of Azerbaijan Samad Seyidov, Head of the Azerbaijani Delegation to EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly Fuad Muradov, and Co-Chair of the EU-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Co-operation Committee Javanshir Fezyiyev.
Engel’s letter can be read in its entirety below.
“Gentlemen, you thought it fitting to accuse three members of the European Parliament of all evils on the basis of the simple fact that they travel to Karabakh.
To start with, I will have to state that I categorically refute the statements contained in your letter dated 2nd March 2017, and your extremely ill-placed accusations contained therein.
Azerbaijani and Armenian soldiers die on the frontline because a war is being fomented there, not because parliamentarians visit a territory. They die because somebody doesn’t respect a cease-fire they should be respecting since 12th May 1994. They die because somebody refuses to have the cease-fire monitored by the OSCE.
Now, for the substance of visits to Karabakh: There is no trace in any internationally relevant legal text of the notion that a contested territory could not be visited. No principle of international law prohibits such visits. No country except Azerbaijan fantasizes about there being such a principle, or a text. Moldova doesn’t threaten to arrest visitors to Transnistria, Georgia doesn’t threaten to arrest visitors to Abkhazia, China doesn’t threaten to arrest visitors to Taiwan, Serbia doesn’t threaten to arrest visitors to Kosovo. No one does that accept Azerbaijan, on the basis of purely internal texts which stand outside any international principles or norms of law applicable in comparable situations and circumstances.
The European Parliament, in its resolution of 18th April 2012, has stated very clearly that it wants the Council, the Commission and the External Action Service to ‘underline the need for unconditional access for representatives of the EU to Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding occupied regions.’
You will not succeed because if we bowed to your will, we would consciously and against reason, humanitarian ideals and European values, agree to isolate the population of Karabakh from the outside world. We would contribute to your relentless efforts to stifle the expression of their political and institutional will. We would accept that the people of Karabakh be forgotten and forsaken, that their right to exist be denied. We will not do that.
I am not blind to the suffering that the war and the internal displacement have inflicted on the people of Azerbaijan. I am not indifferent to the pain of the hundreds of thousands who lost loved ones in war. But for that suffering to be remedied, the war of 92-94 must be brought to a definitive conclusion by a peace agreement, instead of the next war prepared. You insist to continue treating myself and colleagues who engage with Karabakh like criminals. Under these circumstances, you will have to accept that I, and the many colleagues in the European and national parliaments who are thus treated by you, will seek due attention to your behavior and that of your authorities. This is the only way to protect ourselves from the arbitrary threats you submit us to.”