Sources: RFE/RL, Turan Information Agency
Azerbaijan closed down the local representation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE),
reported on June 5, 2015.
OSCE spokesman Shiv Sharma told RFE/RL on June 5 that Azerbaijani authorities this week “informed us of their intentions of closing the office” of its project coordinator in Baku and that the 57-member security organization is “now assessing our options.”
News Agency reported that the following letter was sent from the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on June 3, 2015 to the OSCE head office in Vienna: “The government of Azerbaijan has reported that there is no need for more activities of the OSCE Project Coordinator in Baku. Therefore, the Government of Azerbaijan considers the “Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Azerbaijan and the OSCE on the OSCE Project Coordinator in Baku,” signed September 24, 2014, null and void as of yesterday June 4, 2015. The government provides the OSCE one month to complete the technical issues that arise in such a situation.”
Two years ago, Baku downgraded the OSCE status from the embassy to the Project Coordinator.
RFE/RL reported that the move to close the OSCE office came days after the contract of the OSCE project coordinator in Baku Alexis Chahtahtinsky expired. Chahtahtinsky was criticized by the US Ambassador to the OSCE in July 2014 for being photographed with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and foreign minister but not “with civil society.”
Earlier this week, the
German Olympic Sports Confederation
demanded the release of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, joining the call of UN Special Rapporteur
. Azerbaijan is only a few days away from hosting the inaugural European Games.
Human rights watchdogs note that crackdown on human rights activists, journalists and international rights groups has intensified in Azerbaijan, ruled by Aliyev since 2003, ahead of the European Games. Reporters without Borders ranked Azerbaijan 162 out of 180, behind Belarus, Egypt and Kazakhstan. The Azerbaijani government is paying for travel and accommodation expenses for more than 6,000 athletes participating in the inaugural European Games.