Baku hails U.N. vote, Armenia not worried

Oct. 27, 2011 at 6:25 AM
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Azerbaijan hailed its election to the U.N. Security Council this week while an Armenian leader said the vote won't much affect the countries' strained relations.

After 17 rounds of voting Monday, the U.N. General Assembly selected Azerbaijan as the Security Council's non-permanent representative for Eastern Europe, prevailing over fellow finalist Slovenia.

Azerbaijan received 155 votes from U.N. member countries -- 26 more than the 129 votes necessary for accession to the two-year Security Council position.

Slovenia, which polled 77 votes to Baku's 116 in the 16th round, dropped out of the running after that, opening the way to what Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called a historic event for his nation.

"This is a great victory indeed," Aliyev told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. "The U.N. Security Council is the most authoritative structure in the world and Azerbaijan as an independent state is now a member of this structure."

He thanked "all countries that put their trust in us, rely on us and have shown great respect for us," adding, "The number of our friends around the world is growing."

Baku's status in 2012-13 will give it a chance to bring some of its issues to the fore -- including its troubles with Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

Azerbaijan two years ago shepherded a non-binding resolution through the General Assembly referring to Armenian-occupied Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan and demanding an "immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces" from occupied Azerbaijani lands, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The resolution had strong support among Muslim nations.

Aliyev didn't say Monday whether Baku would use its new perch to press the Nagorno-Karabakh issue but Azeri Member of Parliament Ganira Pashayeva told the Azeri-Press Agency the development "gives Azerbaijan the right to immediately include the issue on the violation of territorial integrity in the agenda of the U.N. Security Council."

The seat, she said, will allow Baku a chance "to submit the issue of non-fulfillment of the resolutions adopted by the U.N. Security Council directly to the council's agenda. Thus, the council will pay more attention to this issue."

Armenia didn't issue an official statement on Azerbaijan's accession to the Security Council. But some members of President Serzh Sargsyan's Republican Party of Armenia did indicate they believe development is unlikely to affect the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations, RFE/RL said.

Lawmaker and Republican Party leader Eduard Sharmazanov said that while Azerbaijan won its U.N. post thanks to support from "Muslim and Third World countries," the vote "cannot have any serious influence on the resolution" of the dispute.

Rather, he said, the ongoing talks conducted by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe remain the decisive forum to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh argument, since its co-chairs -- the United States, Russia and France -- are permanent members of the Security Council.

Those three countries wrapped up the latest round of the Minsk Group talks Monday in Yerevan, saying Armenia and Azerbaijan have tentatively agreed to jointly investigate ceasefire violations along their main "line of contact," RFL/RE reported.

The co-chairs said the most recent rounds of talks focused on persuading the two sides to seek a way to tamp down recent incidences of violence along the still-simmering Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

"The co-chairs offered several proposals for measures to enhance confidence in different fields," they said in a joint statement. "The sides agreed in principle on (a) draft mechanism to investigate incidents along the front lines that the co-chairs proposed in April, and which Presidents Aliyev, Sargsyan and (Dmitry) Medvedev (of Russia) agreed to pursue in their March joint statement in Sochi."

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