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Alexis Chahtahtinsky: OSCE supports Azerbaijan’s efforts to promote good governance

08 October 2014 [15:59] - TODAY.AZ

Exclusive interview of Trend with Ambassador Alexis Chahtahtinsky, OSCE Project Coordinator in Baku

How would you assess the cooperation between Azerbaijan and OSCE?

OSCE and Azerbaijan have 22-year long co-operation history, which started on 30 January 1992. This is the date when Azerbaijan became a participating state of CSCE, which turned into OSCE since 1 January 1995. The OSCE presence in Azerbaijan dates back to 1999. During this period, we have implemented many projects in all of OSCE’s dimensions: politico-military, economic and environmental and human dimension. Following the decision of OSCE Permanent Council, which was adopted on 26 July 2013, our presence was transformed into the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Baku. According to the new mandate, we support co-operation between the government of Azerbaijan and the OSCE and its institutions, plan and implement the projects taking into account the needs and priorities of the Azerbaijani government, as well as maintain contacts with the government, civil society, local authorities and academia. Under the new name and mandate, we are trying to build a new quality of co-operation based on mutual trust and support. On 25 September, in the margins of the UN General Assembly’s Plenary Session in New-York, the OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the activities of the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Baku. It is, in my view, another sign of willingness and readiness to co-operate demonstrated by OSCE and Azerbaijan. I very much hope for speedy ratification of this agreement by the Milli Mejlis, although the document actually foresees its provisional application from the day of its signature.

In which spheres do Azerbaijan and OSCE implement projects?

Currently, we are implementing a number of projects, which reflect Azerbaijan’s needs and priorities. One of our projects is dedicated to combatting trafficking in human beings. We work with the law-enforcement agencies, the judiciary and civil society organizations to strengthen the national response to combat human trafficking, a serious crime often referred to as “modern slavery.” As part of this project, we organize training activities to develop further inter-agency co-operation in identifying and prosecuting human trafficking and protecting victims. In addition, we will support civil society-run shelters to improve the array of assistance for male, female and child victims of trafficking.

Another field of activity is good governance. Our mission supports the efforts of the Azerbaijani government to promote good governance and the full elimination of petty corruption in the provision of public services. We are helping Azerbaijan to strengthen the capacity of the State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations in ensuring that the public services provided at ASAN Service Centres are of satisfactory quality standards and are delivered in a safe, transparent and efficient manner. Very soon, we will also support ASAN Centres in offering free legal aid to low-income citizens, such as disabled people, IDPs, elderly people and so on.

We also support the efforts of Azerbaijan in fighting against domestic violence. The Project Co-ordinator in Baku works with Azerbaijan’s authorities and civil society to improve legislation on domestic violence and to promote its effective implementation. Our mission works with the State Committee on Family, Women and Children’s Affairs to analyse domestic legislation, establish a domestic violence databank, increase the capacity and skills of legal professionals, police and social workers to adequately respond to cases, as well as to raise public awareness on gender equality and domestic violence. We will also support local civil society organizations in maintaining a centre for victims of domestic violence, running a hotline service, and providing legal and psychological consultations for victims. I’ve had several meetings with Professor Hijran Huseynova and I look forward to our fruitful co-operation in this field. Azerbaijan has a long tradition of promoting equality between men and women and fighting violence against women, such as early marriages and domestic violence. In this country we have a very good basis that can be built upon to make progress in addressing a negative phenomenon, which unfortunately exists everywhere in the world. The good news here is that both government and society are willing to do something about it to achieve progress.

We have another project that will focus on promoting religious tolerance. Azerbaijan is a country that has historical traditions of religious tolerance and has been home for representatives of different religions, who didn’t experience any record of intolerance and discrimination over the last millennia or so. Unfortunately, many countries in the world can’t say the same. Together with Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade, we are planning to host an international conference in mid-November, which will bring together representatives of the relevant state agencies in Azerbaijan, Parliament, international organizations, different religious communities and international experts. This conference will be a good opportunity and platform to discuss good historical traditions of religious tolerance in Azerbaijan, challenges to religious tolerance in the OSCE area and beyond - the current situation in Syria and Iraq is a matter of concern for all of us - as well as ways to prevent religious radicalization trends in a more and more globalized world.

How do you assess the results of projects on improving the activity of law enforcement agencies and the functioning of the judicial system in Azerbaijan? What projects do you plan to implement in this sphere in the future?

Recently, I met with the Minister of Internal Affairs Ramil Usubov, who was very positive about past co-operation between this Ministry and OSCE and expressed his willingness to expand co-operation with my office in the future. We are currently co-operating with this Ministry as part of two projects: the one on combatting human trafficking and another one on prevention of domestic violence. I’m also planning to meet soon with the Minister of Justice Fikret Mammadov to discuss our co-operation plans. Following these meetings, we will draft new projects, which will take into account the needs and priorities of the government of Azerbaijan, in order to implement them in the future, thus helping Azerbaijan better meet its OSCE commitments.

So far the OSCE Minsk Group has failed to reach a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Do you think it is high time to take new approach to the conflict resolution?

As you know the OSCE Minsk Group is mediating in the negotiation process between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in order to facilitate a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This issue is out of the mandate of OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Baku. Therefore, all questions related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have to be addressed to the OSCE Co-chairs and/or to the Personal Representative of the Chairperson-in-Office on the conflict dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference.

Do OSCE officials plan to visit Azerbaijan in the near future? When can we expect OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and OSCE Secretary General’s visit to Azerbaijan?

The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Swiss President and Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter visited Azerbaijan on 2 June and had very fruitful discussions with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and other officials. It is a well-established tradition that each Chairperson-in-Office visits Azerbaijan every year, as a part of their official trip to South Caucasus, and I trust that this tradition will continue in the future also with upcoming Chairmanship (Serbia will take over the Chairmanship from Switzerland as of 1 January 2015). Just few days ago, a very senior OSCE official Dr. Halil Yurdakul Yigitgüden, who serves in Vienna as the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, visited Azerbaijan and participated at the conference on public service delivery in the context of human rights and good governance, which was organized by the State Agency for Public Services and Innovations and the Council of Europe. About the upcoming visits of other OSCE officials, we will inform mass media in Azerbaijan in a timely manner, but our goal of course is to keep this relationship active and growing in a co-operative spirit.


/Trend/

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