'EU trying to turn Azerbaijan into Libya'
A senior Azerbaijani MP has accused the European Parliament of political "subversion" after the EU assembly said Azerbaijan's recent election was rigged.
Elkhan Suleymanov - a deputy who is close to President Ilham Aliyev and who heads the country's delegation to Euronest, an EU body for building closer relations with former Soviet states - voiced his anger in a letter to EU parliament chief Martin Schulz on Thursday (24 October).
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He accused MEPs of fomenting "unrest" and of trying "to turn Azerbaijan into Libya and Syria."
He said they are "seriously damaging the reputation" of the EU and that he is "forced to suspend the activities of the Azerbaijani delegation in the Euronest PA [parliamentary assembly]."
He also accused ODIHR - the Warsaw-based election monitoring wing of the OSCE, a pan-European democracy watchdog - of serving the interests of unnamed "power states" by creating "a negative image of Azerbaijan … slander and calumny."
The letter comes after the EU parliament on Wednesday endorsed a report which said Aliyev rigged his own re-election on 9 October.
The report, drafted by Polish centre-right MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, went through by a sizeable majority.
It supported the verdict of the ODIHR, which said the regime "intimidated" opposition groups, "stuffed" ballot boxes and fiddled the vote count in "an unprecedented 58 percent of stations observed."
It also directly contradicted a previous statement by a group of seven MEPs attached to Pace, a branch of the Strasbourg-based rights watchdog, the Council of Europe.
The MEPs and Pace said the elections were "free, fair … professional and peaceful."
The group-of-seven's statement has sparked a row in the EU assembly.
"This EP/Pace report would be laughable if its implications were not so serious … It is crucial to come down hard on those who disregard internationally-agreed norms," Graham Watson, a senior British Liberal MEP, said earlier this week.
"The EP/Pace statement lends legitimacy to a blatantly fraudulent process," Holly Ruthrauff, an analyst at Electoral Reform International Services, a London-based NGO, told EUobserver.
For their part, the EU foreign service and the European Commission have also endorsed the ODIHR verdict.
But their statement on Alyiev's fake re-election was notably meek amid EU efforts to tap Azerbaijan's oil and gas riches.
Foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele said Aliyev should address "serious shortcomings."
But they added that they "look forward to continuing our close co-operation with Azerbaijan" and praised the vote's "strong turnout."