BAKU—“I have been engaged in U.S. – Azerbaijani relations since 1992 and I haven’t seen a situation worse than the one that currently exists in Azerbaijan,” former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Kauzlarich (1994-1997) said when answering questions from the Azerbaijani news agency Turan.
Richard Kauzlarich expressed serious concerns about the political situation in Azerbaijan, pointing to new facts on persecutions of journalists and political activists. Meanwhile, dozens of American diplomats, congressmen and other officials are going to participate in a conference called “Vision for the Future” held in Washington on April 29-30. Some observers believe that this is a PR event sponsored by the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), Turan reports.
According to Kauzlarich, the American Co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, James Warlick, is being criticized in Azerbaijan, while U.S. Congressmen are accused of espionage. At the same time, the Azerbaijani authorities are financing an Azerbaijani-American conference to be held in Washington “to support the U.S.-Azerbaijan strategic partnership.”
Referring to the arrest of journalist Rauf Mirkadirov in Azerbaijan, Kauzlarich said the arrest of this prominent independent journalist after his forced deportation from Turkey, raised serious concerns among human rights groups all around the World.
Rauf Mirkadirov’s arrest for Kauzlarich “is the last link in the downstream actions of Aliyev’s regime aimed to suppress political dissidence, freedom of media and any attempts to engage in positive contacts between Armenians and Azerbaijanis.”
“The regime is not afraid of Russia or Iran but of its own citizens … [The Azerbaijani authorities] even prohibit hotels to host events organized by NGOs that criticize the regime. This is all further proof that the regime doesn’t care about foreign reactions to the growing suppression of the Azerbaijani people,” Kauzlarich emphasized.
As Turan notes, it is expected that at the upcoming U.S –Azerbaijani conference, six key U.S. Senators and the Deputy Assistant of the Secretary of State for Energy Diplomacy will make speeches at the special session on “Eurasian Energy Corridor.” At the same time, 20 other congressmen will discuss the U.S.-Azerbaijani strategic partnership in the Caspian region.
U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Morningstar and the deputy assistant of the Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas, along with several American scholars and an Azerbaijani member of parliament will make speeches at a panel discussion titled, “Azerbaijan, A Reliable Friend at the Most Important Global Crossroads.” None of those discussions are dedicated to the political situation in Azerbaijan.
Recently, the embassy of Azerbaijan has hired former member of Massachusetts’ House of Representatives Bill Delahunt to work on the organization of strategy and relations with the legislators, on relations with the U.S. government, communication with U.S. officials, and, perhaps, also with the American mass media, Turan reports.
Rauf Mirkadirov, a columnist for the Azerbaijani newspaper “Zerkalo,” was arrested on April 18 in Ankara on charges of expiration of documents. On April 19, Mirkadirov was deported to Azerbaijan, where he was immediately arrested and put in custody by the MNS on suspicion of treason. On April 21, the court in Baku sanctioned his arrest for three months. Mirkadirov is accused of cooperating with special services of Armenia; specifically he is accused of transferring state secrets, including information about the deployment of Azerbaijani armed forces to Armenia during 2008-2009.