Ms. Karin Strenz, member of the German Christian Democrats Union (CDU) and the Christian Socialists Union (CSU) Party, member of the Sports and Defense Committee in Bundestag, Chair of the Germany–South Caucasus Parliamentary Friendship Group of the Bundestag as well as member of the German Delegation at the CoE PA gave an interview to the “TV Berlin” channel.
Such issues as German-Azerbaijan relations, close participation of Azerbaijan in ensuring the energy security of Europe, integration of our country to the European Atlantic Domain, as well as Armenian Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh had been discussed during the interview.
Karin Strenz stated in her interview that she has a special attitude towards the South Caucasus region. According to her, the South Caucasus is of great importance for Europe given its advantageous geographic location, From this prospective, she said, the South Caucasus Parliamentary Friendship Group of Bundestag works closely with all three states.
The member of the parliament noted that she has had a great respect for Azerbaijan since early last year.
According to K. Strenz, her first trip to Azerbaijan was in 2010. She said that she visited Azerbaijan for monitoring the parliamentary elections within the group of observers of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
“My love at first sight began early last year. That was my first visit and ever since then I left a piece of my heart there. This country has undergone an incredibly rapid development. It is highly interesting from a cultural and economic point of view, particularly the capital city of Baku”, - the German parliamentarian said.
Karin Strenz who talked about the role of Azerbaijan in ensuring Germany’s energy security, stated: “ An extremely close relationship with Azerbaijan is important and we want to promote this. However, the purpose of the parliamentary group is that we meet with the parliamentarians in Azerbaijan and hold talks about the developments and social trends in the country. We have no intention to point out with finger at anyting.”
While talking about our country’s into the European Atlantic Domain, the presenter mentioned that Azerbaijan sees itself as part of Europe: “It can be seen at the Eurovision contest which, as we all know, was won by Azerbaijan a few years ago. This wonderfully illuminated city of Baku was shown on television and the question is - how far is Azerbaijan from Europe? Quite far away geographically. Nevertheless, the Azerbaijanis say: We really feel like Europeans.”
Replying Karin Strenz added “the Azerbaijanis are a very proud and independent people, they are very sovereign, but they are very oriented towards Europe, thus they not only have strong contacts with Germany, but also with other European countries. Of course, the model of European economic development is an exemplary model, and if they are looking for orientation, one can only advocate it and provide support where possible”.
She touched upon the issue of peaceful settlement process of the Armenian Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh stating that this issue always comes up in all meetings and discussions: “Nagorno-Karabakh is a region which has almost been forgotten for a long time. And when you (the presenter – ed.) talk to people and you hint at this conflict, the first question is: ‘My God, where exactly is it?’ Of course, I also had this question in mind. Where is it then?
Nagorno-Karabakh is a region, which is part of Azerbaijani territory. It has been occupied by the Armenians. This has been clarified under international law. The Armenians see it quite differently. Thus, there are major communication problems between the countries and the high level representatives of these countries, and we are trying to negotiate. We must also bear in mind that Nagorno-Karabakh is a very beautiful region with an area of 4000 km2.
It is perhaps more understandable for us Germans when you consider that this region is twice the size of Saarland. In addition, it is a very beautiful region and, unfortunately, the Azerbaijanis cannot enter this territory due to the fictional border that was defined there. It makes the heart bleed and we are trying to continue negotiations, as it is not a frozen conflict like we frequently have in the South Caucasus region.
We are for conducting the negotiations on the diplomatic level. We engage in regular discussions with the diplomats of both countries. Of course, we hold discussions with the representatives in Azerbaijan. I myself have met the Azerbaijani President Aliyev three times. They have very clear ideas. It must not be forgotten that, on the basis of our own history, we have set very high standards for ourselves - particularly not to resolve conflicts with bloodshed, but rather through diplomatic channels. It becomes complicated when two conflicting parties do not want to talk to each other. We only need to think of the Munich Security Conference. In the run-up, we offered to bring the two Presidents together to discuss this issue.
I had a meeting with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev within the Munich Security Conference. He also had very clear ideas. I think that it will still take some time to resolve this conflict, maybe even years or decades.”
The German MP suggests delving a bit deeper into the subject matter of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and noted that the territory occupied by the Armenian troops is equivalent to one fifth of the state territory of Azerbaijan. Further, she pointed out that there are also surrounding areas which are occupied by Armenian troops.
In her answer to the “TV Berlin” presenter’s question she stated “I believe there are now approximately one million people who have been displaced. Needless to say, they want to return to their homeland. But why is there still no movement in this conflict after 20 years of occupation? Is that not something the Armenians want?” Karin Strenz said, “In fact, the Armenians have no need to communicate with the Azerbaijanis. I have attempted to discuss this with the Armenian embassy and I met a certain amount of resistance, which is of course very regrettable.”
The MP stated that the negotiations are ongoing and the Minsk Group has made great efforts. But, at the same time she confessed that the process is actually stagnating at the moment. The Armenians are not moving, but the Azerbaijanis remain resolute.
Karin Strenz once again stated “Armenians do not want to move. They consider the territory to be their state territory. The problem is that a large number of Armenian families are now living in this area. Of course, this intensifies the conflict further.”
The MP asks: How can the territory be returned, without the people, who live there now, feeling displaced?!
Karin Strenz could imagine that the Armenian and Azerbaijani population could live together very well, but the conflict has obviously intensified so much in the last 25 years: “I believe that this hatred for one another as a result of the conflict has been indoctrinated on both sides. This makes things a bit more complicated and calls for us all to remain resolute and to negotiate. Especially in the light of the Crimean crisis and the Ukraine crisis, calls are rightly coming from countries such as Azerbaijan, Georgia or Moldova, where we have the conflicts in Transnistria, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They are saying: We are still here. The key to resolving these conflicts lies in Russia.”
Member of the Bundestag noted that Armenian troops in Nagorno-Karabakh are equipped with the best equipment of the Russian military industry complex, said that, they are also certainly well trained and it can be assumed that they receive personnel support from the Russians.
According to Karin Strenz, in light of the current crisis, it is important that this fictional border, which should not actually exist, is not exceeded by a single centimeter.
Karin Strenz thinks that, first of all, the conflicting parties must talk to each other. They must have the will to sit down together at a table: “Each side fears losing face. This makes everything more complicated than it already is, but we are working on getting these conflicting parties around a table. We also have members of parliament who regularly fly to Armenia and speak with Armenian colleagues and high-ranking politicians or ministers”.
During the interview, Ms. Strenz also expressed her opinion on hostages from Kalbajar. In her view, every human has the right to live peacefully at his/her ancestral land. For example, we also have situations where Azerbaijanis want to enter the occupied territory. These people can no longer visit the graves of their ancestors or those who were murdered.
The MP considers this to be an unacceptable situation: “This is a human problem and these kinds of problems affect us the most. There are now many who call for the immediate withdrawal of the occupation forces. The EU, the Bundestag and the UN have all dealt with this conflict and they are all calling for the same thing.”
In response to the presenter’s question “Why is it that nothing is happening?” Karin Strenz said that, the Armenians are not withdrawing.
The MP said that: “There is the fact that we have established that we no longer want a military conflict. We will do everything we can to ensure that perhaps one of the occupied territories is returned.
There were talks to find a solution to this conflict in 1992 when the group was founded. At least it was thanks to the group’s efforts that the armed conflicts ended in 1994.
Yes, this is a great achievement, which must be celebrated. Since then, further discussions were held, but not as many and not with the success that we expected. Tension at the contact line of the Azerbaijani and Armenian troops destructs the process of regulation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. If a couple of helicopters on the Armenian side fly too far over the border, where they should not fly, and the Azerbaijani side obviously goes on the defensive. The position of the German Bundestag is that keeping the territory of Azerbaijan under Armenian occupation is contrary to international law and the status quo of the conflict is unacceptable”.
Karin Strenz valued greatly Azerbaijan’s close participation in ensuring energy security for Europe and at the end of the interview; she referred to our country as being a reliable strategic partner.
In her response to the presenter’s point “very few people know that the Nobel Prize is essentially funded by Alfred Nobel’s former business in Baku” Karin Strenz, Chair of the Germany–South Caucasus Parliamentary Friendship Group at Bundestag concluded “Most of the world’s oil was produced in Baku and Azerbaijan at that time. This alone demonstrates how important Azerbaijan is for us as an energy supplier. As there may be no more gas coming via Ukraine, this issue is becoming increasingly important”.