From November 17 to 21, media representatives from Armenia and Artsakh visited Azerbaijan, while media representatives from Azerbaijan visited Armenia and Artsakh.
Artsakh Journalist's Response to Azerbaijani Side
STEPANAKERT, NOVEMBER 28, ARTSAKHPRESS: Days after the visit, the head of the so-called “Azerbaijani community of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh Region” Tural Ganjaliyev made provocative comments about which "Artsakhpress" had an interview with Edgar Elbakyan, the Artsakh participant, who took part in the journalist exchange program.
Question: Mr. Elbakyan, what can you say about this project and how was it organized?
Answer: The program was prepared and implemented under the coordination of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and with the involvement of the relevant state agencies of Armenia, Artsakh and Azerbaijan. The agreement for organizing such events in the humanitarian field was reached as a result of the meeting between Nikol Pashinyan and Ilham Aliyev held in Vienna, on March 29.
Question: Five days after the visit, the head of the so called “Azerbaijani community of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh Region”, Tural Ganjaliyev stated that the so-called "Armenian community of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno Karabakh Region" also participated in the mutual visits of journalists, and the "Azerbaijani community" also participated in the meeting with Armenian journalists. How would you comment this statement?
Answer: I have participated in the program from Artsakh as a journalist from Artsakh Public Television. Naturally, the wording has been the same both at the project preparation stage and during the program, and the Azerbaijani side was aware of it. Moreover, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Artsakh has been in contact with the Office of Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, which - at least within this program - demonstrates the involvement of the official Stepanakert. As for their “community,” according to the Azerbaijani domestic legal regulations, it has the status of a non-governmental organization. On November 18, a representative of that NGO also attended our meeting with other NGOs and analysts. She introduced herself as Aybaniz Ismayilova, the vice president of the organization.
Question: Was she the only representative from that organization?
Answer: Yes. Tural Gyanjaliev in an interview with REAL TV, either on purpos or unconsciously noted "... our community members (sic!) participated in a meeting with Armenian journalists." But it is a lie. Only Mrs. Ismayilova was present at the meeting.
Question: Have there been any contacts with them? Are the Azerbaijani side's assertions true in this regard? Answer: Yes. Both my colleagues and I had an opportunity to listen and talk to Mrs. Ismayilova. I first asked her a question about the second generation of their refugees’ integration into the Azerbaijani society, socio-educational status and career preferences. What I heard in response to my question was very satisfying; at least in the case of the heirs of those settled in Baku and the suburbs, we deal with people who are refugees only within the Azerbaijani state propaganda, but in fact they are full and sometimes very successful members of that society. This is satisfying both in terms of simple human empathy and in the context of the conflict transformation perspective.
Question: And what do you think about defining such a brief communication as a "dialogue between the two communities"?
Answer: It is a false and artificially politicized approach. I reiterate that I was representing the Artsakh Public TV, and that woman represented one of the NGOs being presented at the meeting. In the same manner, my contact with her can be described as the beginning of a dialogue between the present population of the Artsakh Republic and the ethnic Azerbaijani "diaspora" thereof. This assertion, by the way, would sound more realistic than Mr. Ganjaliyev’s interpretation. I understand the attempts of the Azerbaijani state propaganda machine to gain maximum political dividends from this visit organized in the humanitarian field, but these attempts are in vain. By the way, let me not forget to mention that after a really warm dialogue, returning to Armenia, I tried to contact Mrs. Ismailova in social networks, but she did not reply. One of the indirect indicators of Azerbaijanis' (un)willingness to engage in a dialogue with the people of Artsakh is this circumstance and not the Ganjaliyev’s fabrications.
Question: In a "REAL TV" TV program, Azerbaijani MFA Spokesperson Leyla Abdullayeva stated that no matter how you present yourself, you are an Azerbaijani citizen from a legal point of view.
Answer: That's her job. She couldn't say anything else. I am sure that even without seeing my passport, Mrs. Abdullayeva knows very well a citizen of which country I am.
Question: Can such programs be continued, and in which circumstances?
Answer: Of course, such programs can be continued. It is important, however, that the other side refrains from politicized comments and deliberate distortion of facts as much as possible. I understand very well all the limitations under which the Azerbaijani state apparatus operates, however, I am sure that professionalism must be at the forefront.