Azerbaijan + 1 more

Azerbaijan: Official calls on EU to resume aid to refugees

Deputy Prime Minister and chairman of the State Committee on Refugees Ali Hasanov has called on the European Union to resume its assistance to Azerbaijani refugees.
He told the "Population displacement in the Southern Caucasus" seminar in Baku on Monday that the government is concerned over EU's suspension of its aid to refugees and internally displaced persons in 2001.

The Deputy Prime Minister regarded this as an 'unfair step' taken under the pretext of the stalling resolution of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Upper Garabagh and a mistake that should be rectified.

"The government hopes that the organization will change its approach", he said.

Chair of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) subcommittee on refugees Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold said she has looked into the living conditions of refugees settled in five Azerbaijani districts. The longer the Upper Garabagh conflict remains unsettled, the more difficult it will be to return refugees home, she said.

Mangold said donor organizations are growing reluctant to provide financial aid to refugees and international organizations should assist in solving the problem.

The participants discussed joint assistance to refugees by intergovernmental and international organizations, return of refugees' property, as well as de-mining and fighting human trafficking.

The seminar, organized by the PACE subcommittee jointly with the Milli Majlis (parliament) was attended by representatives of various countries at PACE, the Georgian ministry of refugees and settlement affairs, the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as local and international NGOs.

Representative of Armenia's "Veradarts Haik" non-governmental organization Robert Melik-Pashayev, who also attended the event, expressed concern over the plight of Azerbaijani and Armenian refugees.

Pashayev said he was born and lived in Baku but left for Armenia after the conflict between Azerbaijanis and Armenians flared up late in 1980s.

"I know how hard the refugees' living conditions are. But I am not going to return to Azerbaijan as anti-Armenian propaganda is underway here."

Pashayev noted that both Armenians and Azerbaijanis are to blame for kindling the Upper Garabagh conflict, which can be solved through talks and cooperation. The governments and public organizations of the two countries should work toward this goal, he added.

The Garabagh Liberation Organization (GLO) has come out strongly against the Armenian representative's participation at the event.

About 30 representatives of the pressure group attempted to protest outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown Baku where the seminar was held.

Parliament member, member of the Azeri delegation at PACE Asim Mollazada met with the protesters and tried to convince them that no Armenians attended the event. The rally was discontinued after interference by the police.

Deputy GLO chair Firudin Mammadov said the protesters would not try to disturb the seminar as 'it represents importance for Azerbaijan', but warned that the organization will resort to more acute actions if 'such instances occur again'.