The Russian Foreign Ministry has warned citizens that ‘Azerbaijan may refuse [them] entry under the pretext of the Karabakh conflict’
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a travel warning in which Russian citizens are advised to be careful when planning a trip to Azerbaijan.
“Under the pretext of the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Azerbaijani border service continues to refuse people, regardless of citizenship and who have direct or indirect signs of being Armenian, to enter the country. This is explained as the inability to ensure the personal safety of such persons.
“The repeated appeals of the Russian side to the Azerbaijani side about the inadmissibility of discriminatory actions based on ethnicity against the citizens of the Russian Federation arriving in the Republic of Azerbaijan have been ignored.
“Given these circumstances, we strongly recommend that Russian citizens carefully account for possible risks when planning trips to Azerbaijan.”
So far there has been no reaction from Baku.
Azerbaijani website 1news called the warning of the Russian Foreign Ministry an “unfriendly step”.
An unofficial travel ban
There are no laws in Azerbaijan prohibiting entry for people of a certain nationality or citizenship – including Armenians.
However, when a person with an Armenian surname attempts to cross the border, they are in almost all cases denied entry.
Nevertheless, Baku officials say that the rules for entering the country do not depend on citizenship or nationality.
Although foreign citizens of Armenian descent do come to Azerbaijan, it is advisable to send a notification to the authorities in advance.
Given that there is an unresolved territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, there are few people with Armenian surnames trying to enter Azerbaijan.
One such recent case is that of Russian citizen Kristina Gevorkyan, who says she went to Baku to celebrate the New Year in early January 2019.
She spent 13 hours at the airport – and eventually had to fly back home. This incident created a lot of noise, to the extent that an official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, called it a gross violation of the rights of Russian citizens.
“Azerbaijan is always open for citizens of Russia, and among those who have visited are Russian citizens of Armenian origin,” the head of the press service of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, Leyla Abdullayeva, replied.
JAMnews political commentator Shahin Rzayev believes that the process of determining who can be let into the country should be formalized.
“In my opinion, the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan should have issued a clear document back in the 1990s saying that citizens with Armenian names or surnames, regardless of citizenship, are advised to contact the appropriate service in advance and ask for security measures.
“They not only cross the border, but they also stay in hotels, exchange money and pay bills. Azerbaijan is an injured party in the conflict, as there are hundreds of thousands of refugees with unpredictable reactions. It is impossible to keep track of everyone, and it is impossible to assign a policeman to an Armenian tourist. Moreover, any incident will hurt the image of the state.
“Therefore, a cautious position on the border can be understood, but I would like it to be formalized in advance [by including it -ed] in the rules on the Foreign Ministry’s website. Our tolerance will not suffer from this – on the contrary, it will benefit.”