Two Canadian MPs banned from Azerbaijan for visiting Karabakh
Two Canadian Conservative MPs Tony Clement and Rachael Harder have been banned from Azerbaijan for visiting Nagorno-Karabakh, according to a report by The Globe and Mail.
STEPANAKERT, SEPTEMBER 2, ARTSAKHPRESS: Azerbaijan's foreign ministry has accused the MPs of falling for the "propaganda of the Armenian side" and ignoring four resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.
The Conservative MPs are visiting the region on a trip paid for by One Free World International, a Toronto non-profit group headed by a Muslim-turned-Christian that advocates for persecuted minorities. They are accompanied by Armenian National Committee of Canada executive director Sevag Belian, who helped set up meetings with top government officials.
According to the source, Azerbaijan has lodged a protest with the Canadian government about the MPs' trip and placed them on its list of undesirable persons.
Azerbaijani foreign ministry chief spokesperson Hikmat Hajiyev told The Globe and Mail that the visit ‘is completely immoral and against the values of the Canadian government and Canadian society.’ “It is completely unacceptable,” he announced.
In a telephone interview from Armenia's capital of Yerevan on Friday, Mr. Clement said he was taking part in a documentary that is being produced by One Free World.
"I am not here endorsing anyone. I want both sides to have a negotiated settlement of the situation but I am here on a fact-finding and humanitarian mission along with Rachael Harder," Mr. Clement said.
However, he conceded that he accepts Armenia's claims that Azerbaijani forces have committed atrocities, citing beheadings and cutting off of the ears of Armenian soldiers.
"What I saw with my own eyes is very disturbing in terms of the atrocities that were committed by Azerbaijani forces. In terms of the political situation, I am sure I echo Global Affairs Canada when I say it is better to have a negotiated solution than a continuing war," Mr. Clement said.
A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland did not directly criticize the two MPs, but made clear that the Canadian government does not wish to take sides in the territorial dispute.
“We fully support the [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's] efforts to forge a peaceful and comprehensive settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the region," press secretary Adam Austen said. "A military solution is not the answer. This is a position we have communicated to the governments of both Armenia and Azerbaijan."
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