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This week, several human rights defenders and political experts from Armenia and Azerbaijan announced the creation of a ‘peace platform’ between the two countries.
In their statement addressed to international organizations and the presidents of both Armenia and Azerbaijan, the founders of the platform called for “civil society institutions, non-governmental organizations, civil and religious leaders, experts, scientists and ordinary citizens of Armenia and Azerbaijan” to join the new and peace oriented initiative.
What is distinct about this effort from previous peace – making initiatives?
Also, has the former distrustfulness demonstrated by the Azerbaijani government towards civil society members participating in peace projects come to an end?
Start of a longterm process
One of the human rights defenders who signed the document, Vahe Avetyan, called this initiative a longterm process in an interview with BBC Azerbaijan. He described his participation in the creation of the platform as a result of his ‘pragmatic’ political attitude.
Even though he evaluates both Azerbaijan and Armenia as “dictatorships”, Mr. Avetyan stated that there is no alternative but to cooperate with both governments
He further added that his being allowed in Azerbaijan in
is proof of the Azerbaijani government’s support for his project. He did, however, emphasize that up until now, his activities have not been financed by the Azerbaijani government.
“I was responsible for my own financial expenses during my first visit to Azerbaijan. The next visit, however, was joint – financed by local NGOs”, he said.
“The necessity emerged as a result of the economic crisis”
Rauf Mirgadirov, a former journalist for Ayna – Zerkalo newspaper, was arrested on charged of treason and is currently a political refugee in Switzerland. He assessed the platform as a ‘positive’ new step in his interview with BBC Azerbaijan.
In his opinion, the reason for the distinctively open and welcoming position of the Azerbaijani government for the peace – oriented initiative is a result of the economic crisis of the country and the international criticism it faced during the 4 – Day War in April.
Mentioning that Azerbaijan does not currently have the financial resources to buy costly weaponry en masse, Migadirov stated that focussing on the peace process would be, for now, more beneficial to the government.
Future of the platform
Vahe Avetyan stated that both countries’ attitudes towards human rights are open to criticism by international organizations. However, in order to have a meaningful dialogue on the peace process, government support is necessary.
Mirgadirov is more concerned about the participation of the Azerbaijani government in the process, stating that “democracy and Karabakh should not be mixed” because of a potential risk to the effectiveness of the initiative.
“The government and opposition forces in both countries demonstrated similar positions during the fighting in April”, he said, “because politics requires that you present the position of the majority.” He thinks that neither the Armenian nor the Azerbaijani population are really interested in peace, and that this is the result of hate – propaganda during recent years.
Vahe Avetyan, who lives in Sweden, said that some people sent him death – threats after his visit to Azerbaijan. However, he is sure of the possibility for peace and intends to garner support for the platform during an upcoming visit to Armenia.
“I’m one of the founders of Armenian Republican Party and know influential politicians in Armenia”, he said, “I’m sure I will be able to arrange all the meetings I need”.