BAKU—The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis, in Baku today, emphasized the importance of Azerbaijan in securing regional stability, and urged the authorities to work towards progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process and implement OSCE commitments to further democratic reforms, including promoting pluralism.
“All parties agree that there is no acceptable alternative to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The settlement process led by the Minsk Group Co-Chairs has kept the dialogue going, but now is the time for leaders to achieve a genuine breakthrough in negotiations,” he said, following meetings with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov.
“In my meetings we discussed the need for strengthening the ceasefire regime and for further confidence-building measures. Recent incidents reconfirm my conviction that the parties must withdraw snipers from the line of contact. Neither side can win from the current situation, neither militarily nor politically. I further expect that the parties will follow through on their agreement made in Sochi on 5 March, including to investigate incidents on the line of contact.”
“I hope that the parties will honour their pledge to refrain from threat or use of force,” he emphasized. Advancing the settlement of the region’s protracted conflicts is a priority of Lithuania’s 2011 OSCE Chairmanship.
While in Baku, Ažubalis also met Ogtay Asadov, Chairman of the Milli Mejlis (Parliament), representatives of political parties and the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh as the staff of the OSCE Office in Baku.
The Chairperson presented other priorities of Lithuania’s Chairmanship, including promoting media freedom, energy security and regional co-operation, in particular on border management and fighting transnational threats.
“Azerbaijan and the South Caucasus are important for the security and stability of the whole OSCE region,” he said, underlining continued OSCE support for furthering domestic reforms, including through initiatives such as community policing.
“The continued strong co-operation with the OSCE Office in Baku offers a solid basis for advancing the reform process.”
“Media freedom is an important priority of our Chairmanship, and we will host a conference in Vilnius in June on the safety of journalists, in co-operation with the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic,” he added. “The OSCE stands ready to support efforts to promote media freedom in Azerbaijan. I support the call by Ms. Mijatovic for the release of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev in line with the decision by the European Court of Human Rights.”
Ažubalis discussed the follow-up process to the Astana Commemorative Declaration, which was adopted by the Heads of State and Government at the OSCE Summit in Astana in December. In the Declaration all OSCE participating States renewed their commitments in all three dimensions of security – the politico-military, the economic and environmental, and the human dimensions.
“At the Summit in Astana, OSCE States reaffirmed their commitments, including to protect the right of people to peacefully assemble and express their views freely. I urge the Azerbaijani authorities to fulfil their commitments to safeguard freedom of expression, assembly and association,” he said.
The Chairperson will be in Georgia on March 15 and 16 and in Armenia on March 17 and 18.