Time for Europe to act as South Caucasus peacemaker – MEP speaks out on the Khojaly Massacre

Press Release: Exactly 21 years after a massacre in Nagorno-Karabakh left 613 civilians dead, a Liberal MEP has urged the European Union (EU) to do more to secure peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Hosting an event to commemorate the Khojaly Massacre in the European Parliament (EP), Kristiina Ojuland (ALDE, Estonia) said: “The EU has a historic opportunity to become more involved in seeking a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. For more than two decades, Azerbaijan has suffered from an illegal occupation of its territory by Armenia and has had to deal with 875,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees. The massacre in Khojaly was a terrible milestone in the conflict, which showed the kinds of atrocities to which such conflicts can lead. The EU should demonstrate that it deserves its Nobel Peace Prize by acting immediately to seek a peaceful end to this conflict.”

The roundtable in the EP was organised by the Belgian office of The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) to mark the 21st anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre. On 26 February 1992, Armenian armed forces, supported by the No. 366 Soviet Infantry Regiment, killed 613 innocent civilians, including 106 women, 83 children and 70 elderly people.

H.E. Fuad Isgandarov, Ambassador of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of Belgium and the EU stated: “The events that occurred in 1992 remain an unrecognised atrocity, and those responsible have to be brought to justice.  At the same time, after more then two decades, the EU has to fully recognise what took place.”

Bruno De Cordier, Professor of Ghent University, commented: “Khojaly is the Azerbaijani equivalent of Srebrenica. It continues to live in the memory of Azerbaijanis as no other issue does. This crime against humanity is currently the strongest civil issue, and has become an inescapable element of Azerbaijani life.“

Since then, a whole generation of young people have grown up who have never seen their homeland, after their families were forced to flee Nagorno-Karabakh. Speaking at the Brussels roundtable, one of them, Ulfat Hajiev, told MEPs, academics and fellow Azerbaijanis: “The lives of 613 people should not be forgotten. I am from Nagorno-Karabakh and belong to a generation that has since grown up, but still faces the sadness of conflict. It is very important that we never forget what happened at Khojaly, and remember why it matters.”

Philippe Cuylaerts, Public Affairs Manager, TEAS Belgium, said: “Today’s discussion reminds us of a terrible tragedy, but at the same time it can serve as a lesson. It should teach us that dreadful things can happen when conflicts remain unresolved, and should act as a catalyst for Europe to do more to seek a peaceful and sustainable settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, respecting the international legal framework.”

For more information, e-mail: brussels@teas.eu