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22nd Feb 2024

Azerbaijan-EU envoy's death-threat tweet still online

  • Azerbaijan's EU ambassador Vaqif Sadiqov (l) with EU Council president Charles Michel (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)
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Azerbaijan's EU ambassador is standing by his death-threat tweet against MEPs, even though Brussels says he crossed the line.

The ambassador, Vaqif Sadıqov, declined to reply when asked by EUobserver this week if he regretted it in hindsight.

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  • The "guys" was addressed to French MEP Nathalie Loiseau's delegation to Armenia

But his offensive post about a sniper rifle and MEPs visiting Armenia was still online on Friday (7 July) — 16 days after he first posted it, and having been viewed 330,500 times — in its own sign that he was happy with the content.

"Another fake complaint is rejected. Thank you, Twitter!", he also said on 28 June, when the platform let him keep his tweet up.

And all that made the victims of his threat, such as French MEP Nathalie Loiseau, feel uneasy about his relish of success.

"The Azeri ambassador prides himself on his 'victory'," she told EUobserver.

"It comes as a surprise to me that direct threats are considered to be in line with Twitter rules. I doubt they would be in the near future, when the DSA [Digital Services Act] enters into force," she said, referring to incoming EU laws against hate crimes on social media.

And if Sadıqov felt like a winner, then Loiseau saw his tweet as a low point in Azeri-EU diplomacy.

"I don't know how Azeri officials believe such offensive words can serve the cause they claim to be defending," she said.

The French MEP has written to European Parliament president Roberta Metsola and EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell about the scandal.

"Any threats toward members of the European Parliament are unacceptable. We're looking into the matter," Metsola's spokesman said.

Borrell's EU external-action service (EEAS) also described Sadıqov's actions as a diplomatic fail.

"The EEAS in Brussels has summoned the Azeri ambassador to the EU about this tweet," a spokesman said.

"He [Sadıqov] was told in very clear terms that we expect this to be the last time such unacceptable lack of respect for EU institutions and their representatives by Azerbaijani diplomacy has happened," the spokesman added.

Sadıqov's gaffe comes at a delicate time in EU-Baku relations, with Europe negotiating to buy more gas from Azerbaijan president Ilham Alyiev to reduce dependence on Russia.

"Deliveries of pipeline gas from Azerbaijan via the Southern Gas Corridor to the EU ramped up from 8.1 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2021 to 11.3 bcm in 2022. In 2023, we had imported 2.8 bcm by the end of the first quarter (end-March)," the European Commission said.

The EU also sent some 100 monitors to Armenia in January to improve relations with Azerbaijan, in the wake of major hostilities just three years ago.

Meanwhile, the 66-year old Sadıqov came to Brussels in the summer of 2021.

He has a PhD in linguistics, was deputy foreign minister, and Azerbaijan's envoy to Austria, Italy, and at the UN before arriving in Belgium.

But despite his CV, he has form in being nasty on social media.

"Authors you quote are famous crooks on ARM [Armenian] payroll," Sadıqov tweeted against German MEP Viola von Cramon-Taubadel in January, for instance.

"It [the sniper threat] is not an isolated incident, unfortunately. There were other offensive comments issued by Azeri officials, describing MEPs going on official EP [European Parliament] missions to Armenia as corrupt," Loiseau said.

"The president of Azerbaijan himself used this rhetoric in a public statement issued on 23 June," Loiseau added, indicating where the chauvinistic attitude trickled down from.

Other Azeri diplomats and trolls have also tried to make journalists' lives a misery, in what looks like a concerted online strategy.

Making friends

Part of Sadıqov's job in Brussels has been to help MEPs make unofficial visits to lands recently reconquered from Armenians by Azerbaijan.

But if that was meant to make friends in the EU capital, it also made enemies amid a clean-up campaign in the wake of the Qatar lobbying scandal, which shocked Brussels last year.

"Trust has been broken that we built up among years," German MEP Niklas Nienaß told EUobserver in January — after resigning from an official group in protest over MEPs' Azerbaijan visits.

And when asked if MEPs were OK to keep going on freewheeling diplomatic trips, Loiseau, who chairs an EU Parliament committee against "foreign interference" in European affairs, said steps were being taken to create a more tightly regulated system.

Her report on "transparency, integrity and the fight against corruption in the European Parliament" sailed through committee and is being voted in plenary in Strasbourg next week.

"We ask for clearer rules about friendship groups, EU delegations going on missions, full transparency on missions abroad paid by third states or third states' entities and more substantial sanctions when MEPs don't clarify in their public statements whether they are on official missions or personal trips," Loiseau said.

"We want to protect the integrity of the European Parliament from undue malicious foreign interferences wherever they come from," she added.

This story was updated on 8 July, adding the EU Commission quote.

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