Even though Azerbaijan currently has chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE), Baku has come in for some stinging criticism ever since the opening of the PACE plenary session on June 23 in Strasbourg.
Of note are the remarks made today by PACE President Anne Brasseur reminding Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev to heed his own words that regardless how much a country develops economically, it can never be a success if democracy is lacking. (Aliyev had earlier addressed the session)
Brasseur pointed out that while Azerbaijan has signed 57 conventions since becoming a member state of the CoE in 2001, issues still remain in the realm of democracy, defense of human rights and others.
Brasseur said she was pleased to have been able to discuss freedom of speech, the press, and other issues with Aliyev during her recent visit to Baku.
Aliyev, in response, said he was glad to hear Brasseur quote his past statements, adding that the reforms achieved in Azerbaijan show that the country is indeed on the road to success.
The Azerbaijan president couldn’t continue for Brasseur interrupted him, requesting that reporters at the session leave the chamber. She then chided certain deputies for vocally agreeing or disagreeing with Aliyev’s pronouncements.
“I ask that you do not express any signs of agreement or disagreement,” Brasseur said, “Excuse me Mr. Aliyev, but as PACE president I must ensure the smooth working of this session.”
Aliyev responded, “You’ve quoted me twice, and you can interrupt me twice. I’m ready for it.”
During a subsequent Q&A between Aliyev and PACE deputies, Michael McNamara (Ireland) rose and stated that there are 39 political prisoners in Azerbaijan and charged that the recent presidential election was fraudulent.
Aliyev shot back that there are no political prisoners in his country.
“If you make such statements, that’s your biased approach towards our country. You have tried to insult our country on several occasions. Azerbaijan will not fall victim to such provocations that result from geopolitics. Your speech of yesterday amounted to nothing because it was based on disinformation and distortions of reality,” said Aliyev.
Earlier, the Irish delegation had presented a bill about political prisoners in Azerbaijan and cases of violence against reporters and restrictions placed on them.
Surprisingly, not one member of Armenia’s PACE delegation posed a question to Aliyev.
P.S. Yesterday, Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov address the session, followed by speeches by a number of deputies. Watch the video.