Azerbaijani parliament stirs scandal claiming Russian FM Lavrov ‘favors return of occupied territories’
On September 23, the speaker of Azerbaijan Sahiba Qafarova met in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; the meeting almost caused a political scandal.
It all started with a message from the press service of the Azerbaijani parliament, which quoted Russian FM Lavrov as saying that: “the statements of the Prime Minister of Armenia N. Pashinyan about Nagorno-Karabakh impede the process of the conflict settlement”.
“This is the position of official Moscow. The Russian side in the settlement process advocates the return of the five occupied regions, the deployment of peacekeepers on the territory and the restoration of the transport and communication system,” Lavrov allegedly added.
This version of the message of the press service of the Azerbaijani parliament has been retained on the pages of several news outlets in Azerbaijan.
However, after the comment of the Russian Foreign Ministry, the press service had to in a hurry to edit the part that caused a stir.
During the weekly briefing, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova commented on the statement attributed to Sergei Lavrov, advising “to focus exclusively on the position of Moscow, and not other interpretations”:
“As for the correctness of the quotation of the Russian minister, I would like to draw your attention and, in principle, address these questions to the sources from which this information came.”
As a result, Lavrov’s words about Pashinyan disappeared from the press release, only mention of Russia’s support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan remained.
Reaction from Baku
In an interview with JAMnews, political observer Shahin Rzayev notes that in democratic countries the press services of state institutions are intended to inform citizens and the media, while in Azerbaijan, unfortunately, they often aim to hide official news from the media or mislead them.
“Until the last parliamentary elections, the Milli Mejlis practically did not update its news feed, it simply re-printed the information of the AzerTAj state agency. The new leadership of the parliament, apparently, decided to restart the work of the press service, however, as we see, the first pancake turned out to be lumpy.
“Perhaps the press service did not expect that the text in Azerbaijani would be promptly translated into Russian by the Sputnik agency and would catch the eye of the Russian Foreign Ministry. During the preparation of the message, diplomatic etiquette was violated, or words said ‘not for the public’ were published. We don’t know for sure. However, it is unlikely that it was some kind of pre-planned provocation against Russian policy in the South Caucasus or personally against Minister Lavrov – not at that level,” Rzayev said.
Reaction of the Armenian Foreign Ministry
Press secretary of the Armenian Foreign Ministry Anna Naghdalyan commented on the information on the website of the Azerbaijani parliament about Lavrov’s alleged statement.
“We have read the official statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry … Press releases from Baku are not a reliable source.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry website said there was no mention of either the Armenian prime minister or the “return of the occupied regions.”
The scandal after the meeting of the speaker of the Azerbaijani parliament with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov may be directed not so much against Armenia as against Lavrov, political observer Naira Ayrumyan said.
According to her, Azerbaijan has actually violated the tacit etiquette, according to which, after meetings, each side publishes a release with reference only to its statements, without quoting their counterparts:
“In the press release of the Azerbaijani side, in violation of all ethical norms, reference is made to the words of Sergei Lavrov, which were not in the message of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Presumably, the Azerbaijani side, roughly speaking, framed Sergei Lavrov, who, as they say, will soon retire. Yesterday Lavrov was presented by the Russian patriarch with a high order, which was seen as a farewell gesture for the foreign minister. Apparently, Baku has decided to send Lavrov off with a scandal.
“In 2013, I remember, during a visit to Baku by Vladimir Putin, during a solemn ceremony, the announcer, as if by chance, instead of the name of Sergei Lavrov, uttered an abusive Turkic word. The visit was overshadowed by a scandal, after which Lavrov did not visit Baku for several years. Perhaps Azerbaijan then wanted to achieve the resignation of Lavrov, whose Armenian roots are being talked about quite openly. Now Baku, apparently, has decided to play the last chord in Lavrov’s career.”