Reflections on Hillary Clinton`s South Caucasus tour

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will embark on a South Caucasus tour on June 4, which will also take her to Turkey. The four-day visit comes amid straining U.S.-Iran relations, growing international pressure on Syria, emerging uncertainty about NATO prospects at Chicago Summit, continuing effects of the crisis in the EU, and Iran`s growing pressure on Azerbaijan in direct contradiction to norms of international law and political ethics. Clinton will meet presidents of the regional states and civil society representatives. She will also open the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission in Georgia and attend an international anti-terrorism conference in Turkey.

Clinton`s visit to the region means that the United States has new plans with regard to political and security issues in the South Caucasus. NATO’s summit on May 20-21 in Chicago again rejected Georgia`s years-long membership bid, and only decided to develop and expand the bilateral cooperation with the South Caucasus country. Knowing Russia`s position on the issue, NATO doesn`t hurry to grant full membership to Georgia. The Alliance`s admitting Georgia amid the United States` attempts to develop an anti-missile and air defense system in Eastern Europe can worsen already tense relations with Russia.

In Armenia, the U.S. Secretary of State will meet President Serzh Sargsyan and foreign minister Edward Nalbandian to discuss bilateral relations, expansion of political and economic cooperation, as well as regional and international issues. And, most obviously, democracy and human rights will top the agenda.

But will Clinton notify Sargsyan of the U.S.` criticism of  May 6 parliamentary elections in Armenia, including human rights violation, restrictions on freedom of speech, voting irregularities, pressure on opposition and media?

Having declared “war” against anti-democratic regimes and imposed economic and political sanctions on them, for some reason the U.S. has not yet applied any sanction when it comes to Armenia. Instead, Washington gives tens of millions of dollars to Armenia in an aid on a yearly basis. Such double-standard approach by the United States contradicts its policy of advocating democracy, human rights and freedom of speech.

Shortly before Clinton`s regional tour, the U.S. Department of State released the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011, in which it said that “ethnic Armenian separatists, with Armenia’s support, continued to control most of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and seven surrounding Azerbaijani territories”. This created a good atmosphere between the U.S. and Azerbaijan ahead of Clinton`s visit. Media reports say the U.S. Secretary of State will discuss with President Ilham Aliyev bilateral relations, energy security, expansion of economic and political cooperation, regional and international security problems, democracy, human rights and freedom of speech.

Azerbaijan has recently faced unfair criticism from the U.S., European countries and the European Parliament with regard to democracy, human rights and freedom of speech. Although certain problems exist, the country has made considerable achievements on this front in the past 20 years. And the existing problems are not insoluble like the Western world alleges. It is not right to demand that Azerbaijan solves the problems concerning democracy, human rights and freedom of speech in a moment, it is not right to generalize from individual problems. Azerbaijan is quite a democratic state, which is committed to expanding cooperation with European organizations to develop democratic traditions, is contributing to solving energy problems, and is cooperating in the economic, political and security fields.

The U.S. and Europe accuse Azerbaijan of violating democratic principles, human rights and freedom of speech, whereas in most cases they themselves seriously infringe these universal values and norms. Independent experts say migrants, religious minorities (especially Muslims) in Europe and the United States have their rights continuously violated, while governments do not take necessary measures. Although the U.S. and Europe changed the ruling regimes in Yemen, Egypt and Libya, with Syria still struggling against this interference, for the sake of democracy, all that they “successfully” ensured in these countries is separatism, civil war, the political and economic crisis, and a split.

The U.S. and Europe, which claim to be champions of democratic values, human rights and freedom of speech, are turning a blind eye to Armenia`s occupation of 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territories, and do not support Azerbaijan`s initiatives to ensure the restoration of human rights of nearly one million refugees and IDPs. Despite the fact that the principle of territorial integrity lies at the heart of UN Charter and is one of the fundamental principles of international law, the U.S. continues to give the Nagorno-Karabakh regime millions of dollars every year. Although it is Azerbaijan that had its territories occupied by Armenia, the United States has not yet fully abolished Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which bans any kind of direct U.S. aid to the Azerbaijani government.

Azerbaijan is a state, which values democratic, human rights, and which ensured freedom of speech. And the U.S.` and Europe`s double standards cast serious doubt on their sincerity.

Dr. Hatam Jabbarly,

chairman of Eurasian Security and Strategic Studies Center

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