At the outset, I would like to wholeheartedly congratulate my distinguished colleague, Minister Didier Reynders and his team for able and successful Belgian Chairmanship and for excellent organization of the 125th Session of Committee of Ministers in Brussels. I also warmly welcome Mr. Igor Crnadak, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina to this post and extend him my candid wishes for success in performing the functions he is about to assume.
It was with interest that we got acquainted with the Secretary-General’s second report on "State of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe" which presents a comprehensive overview of the existing situation with a special focus on concrete recommendations as to the ways of addressing the outstanding issues.
We also believe that democratic security is the ability of democratic societies to avoid conflict and instability by fostering tolerance based on shared values. Given the rising intolerance in Europe, the fight against violent extremism and radicalization leading to terrorism deserves to be high on the agenda of many European countries.
Azerbaijan, being one of the thirty two member states having signed and ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, supported the adoption of the declaration on combating extremism and radicalization leading to terrorism at our Ministerial.
In the meanwhile, the fight against terrorism and extremism should not be used to target any particular religion or culture. Today, we are living at a time of heightened religious awareness, which is maliciously exploited in certain instances to fuel conflicts on ethnic, religious or cultural grounds. In recent years, alarming rise of “Islamophobia” in some European countries confirms the vital necessity of our joint efforts to counter this phenomenon.
Terrorism in many instances is inseparably linked to aggressive separatism. Areas affected by armed conflicts provide favorable conditions conducive to expansion of this evil. The international community should, therefore, facilitate the resolution of conflicts on the basis of the generally accepted norms and principles of international law, particularly those relating to respect for territorial integrity and inviolability of the internationally recognized borders of States, and help countries restore sovereignty and security over their own territories. The Council of Europe also has an important role to play in this respect.
One of the oldest unresolved or protracted conflict is Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with notorious 20 percent occupation of Azerbaijani lands and one million refugees and IDPs.
The Government of Armenia must realize that reliance on the status-quo achieved as a result of military aggression by the use of force is a grave miscalculation. Occupation of the territory of Azerbaijan and ethnic cleansing of local population from homes of their origin does not represent a solution and will never produce a political outcome desired by Armenia. Withdrawal of Armenia’s troops as clearly required by relevant UN Security Council Resolutions of 1993, can be a significant confidence building measure and will completely change the dynamic of the ongoing peace process and open up immense opportunities for comprehensive and sustainable development of the entire South Caucasus region.