Pope Francis urges international assistance in achieving Karabakh peace and recognises Azerbaijani religious tolerance

Press Release: During his visit to Baku on 2 October, Pope Francis called for a “stable peace”. The Pontiff met in private with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on the last leg of a Caucasus tour that also took him to Georgia. He reiterated the calls for peace he made three months ago in Yerevan regarding the ongoing Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

He said: “There is no alternative to patiently and assiduously searching for shared solutions by means of committed and sustained negotiations.” Pope Francis called for “a new phase aimed at achieving stable peace in the region.” He commented: “In order to effectively oppose these dangerous deviations, we need to promote a culture of peace, which is fostered by an untiring willingness for dialogue and by the awareness that there is no reasonable alternative to patiently and assiduously searching for shared solutions by means of committed and sustained negotiations.”

He went on to add that, just as within national borders it is necessary to promote harmony between various sectors of the population, between states it is also necessary to follow the trajectory that leads to authentic progress and the freedom of peoples, opening up new avenues that lead to lasting agreements and peace.

The Pontiff also recognised the plight of the just under one million Azerbaijani internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees who are the ongoing victims of the conflict, saying: “Mindful also of this country, I wish to express my heartfelt closeness to those who have had to leave their land, and to the many people who suffer the effects of bloody conflicts. I hope that the international community may be able to offer its unfailing indispensable help.”

“I am confident that, with the help of God, and the goodwill of those involved, the Caucasus will be a place where, through dialogue and negotiation, disputes and differences will be resolved and overcome.”

He also recalled the visit of Pope John Paul II in 2002, who described Azerbaijan as: “a gateway between East and West”, stating that the country should also become “a gateway open to peace, and an example to which we can look to solve old and new conflicts.”

Pope Francis went on to recognise the inherent multi-confessional tolerance of Azerbaijan, commenting: “I am moreover particularly pleased with the cordial relations enjoyed by the Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox and Jewish communities. These good relations assume great significance for peaceful coexistence and for peace in the world, and they demonstrate that, amongst the followers of different religious confessions, it is possible to achieve cordial relations, respect and co-operation for the good of all. This is not a monoethnic country with a single religion. You speak here in English, Spanish, Russian, and Azerbaijani.”