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PACE President, ending visit: I believe Azerbaijan is ‘at a turning point’

“I believe Azerbaijan is at a turning point which will allow it to improve its relations with Europe and the Council of Europe,” said Pedro Agramunt, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), ending a two-day state visit to Azerbaijan (29 February-1 March).

“From my high-level discussions, I sense the possibility of a wind of change as Azerbaijan faces up to a variety of challenges,” said Mr Agramunt, who met the President, Speaker of Parliament and Foreign Minister, among others. “These challenges go beyond energy issues and human rights, and include the financial crisis and the need to attract foreign investors through the rule of law and transparency, all this in the context of the sensitive geopolitical situation that Azerbaijan finds itself in.”

“I was encouraged by the frank and open discussions with my high-level interlocutors about a number of rule of law and human rights issues, which I was able to raise after having had the benefit of input from a number of NGOs, journalists, lawyers and also ambassadors based in Baku. I was able to discuss openly with the highest authorities some of the problems faced by civil society in terms of the recent legislation affecting NGOs, I could raise some of the issues arising from the recent parliamentary elections, including the need for a re-run of elections in Constituency 90, and I was in a position to press for greater co-operation with the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and use of its legal advice.”

“Not surprisingly, one of the issues high on the agenda in all my meetings was that of implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, and in particular those affecting persons in detention, including Ilgar Mammadov, whom I met in detention during my visit. From my discussions with all involved, it was clear how sensitive an issue this is, but also that solutions can be found and need to be found, not just in terms of individual cases, but in relation to legal processes. In this respect I was assured that the Azeri authorities would co-operate with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe in his Article 52 report on effective implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that dates would be set to receive the SG’s mandated representatives. This is a good starting point which I hope will quickly lead to further advances on this dossier.”

Ending his statement, Mr Agramunt also highlighted that Azerbaijan continues to face the consequences of the deadlock over the conflict concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh region. “It is essential that solutions are found to the occupation of Nagorno-Karabkh and other regions of Azerbaijan. This conflict not only destabilises both Armenia and Azerbaijan, affecting their economies and their societies, but it also adversely affects the capacity of these countries to progress in the fields of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”