Does Azerbaijan want to return to PACE…

Azerbaijan's quest to reclaim its place in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) encapsulates a complex interplay of geopolitical maneuvering, domestic policy reform, and international human rights advocacy. At the heart of this discourse lies the country's tenuous relationship with the principles espoused by the Council of Europe, particularly concerning human rights and political freedoms.

Norwegian MP Liz Kristoffersen, co-rapporteur of PACE on Azerbaijan, recently highlighted the ongoing discussions within the Committee of Ministers aimed at reintegrating Azerbaijan into the organization. Kristoffersen's comments suggest that Azerbaijan's return is conditional upon the fulfillment of specific requirements, signaling a clear expectation for tangible reforms.

The suspension of Azerbaijan's delegation earlier this year underscores the Council's concerns regarding human rights within the country. Human rights advocate Bashir Suleymanli voiced apprehensions that restoring the delegation's mandate without substantial changes would appear as a backpedal on the Council's commitment to uphold its values.

Conversely, Alimammad Nuriyev, from the Constitution Research Foundation, presented a defense of Azerbaijan's readiness to collaborate, framing the country’s previous exclusion as a response to biased assessments by the Council. In an interview with Azadlig Radio, Nuriyev critiqued the Council's alleged double standards, especially in light of the geopolitical and security challenges faced by Azerbaijan, notably its actions in reclaiming territories and the subsequent international reactions.

The backdrop to this diplomatic tussle is Azerbaijan's broader regional and internal politics. The country regained control of its territories in a series of military operations, which, while bolstering national sovereignty, drew international criticism over alleged human rights abuses. These operations and their aftermath have significantly influenced Azerbaijan's international standing and its relationship with organizations like PACE.

Domestically, the situation is equally fraught. The incarceration and subsequent house arrest of Gubad Ibadoglu, chairman of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party, highlights ongoing concerns about political repression. Moves such as these could be seen both as an attempt to appease international observers ahead of significant events like the UN Climate Change Conference (COP29) and the forthcoming parliamentary elections, and as strategic steps to mitigate criticism.

The dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan and potential advancements towards a peace treaty also play a crucial role. Positive developments in this arena could improve Azerbaijan's standing in PACE, as peaceful resolutions are likely to align with the Council’s principles.

Nuriyev’s reflections on the selective outrage over cultural heritage destruction in conflict zones and the biased application of liberal values point to a broader disillusionment with international bodies perceived as Western-centric. This sentiment complicates the discourse around human rights and democratization, suggesting that while Azerbaijan might be ready to make concessions, it also expects a more balanced approach from international entities like the Council of Europe.

In essence, Azerbaijan's potential reinstatement into PACE is not merely about fulfilling a checklist of reforms but also about navigating the intricate dynamics of international diplomacy, regional security, and internal political reform. The coming months will be critical in determining whether Azerbaijan can align its domestic policies with international expectations without sacrificing its sovereignty or security priorities.

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