Saturday, May 29, 2010

Azerbaijan: Progress needed in the ongoing peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan

UN - Progress is needed in the ongoing peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region so that internally displaced persons (IDPs) can find a durable solution to their predicament, an independent United Nations human rights expert has said.

Nagorno-Karabakh, which was an autonomous region during Soviet times, has been at the centre of a dispute between the neighbouring countries since they became independent in the early 1990s.

“Despite efforts to improve conditions, internal displacement in Azerbaijan has lasted too long,” Walter Kälin, the Secretary-General’s Representative on the Human Rights of IDPs, said in a statement issued on Tuesday in the capital, Baku. “It is necessary to come to a peace agreement to restore the human rights of internally displaced persons.

“I urge the international community to actively renew and strengthen their efforts to facilitate the speedy adoption of a peace agreement, and to ensure that in this process the human rights of internally displaced persons are addressed, in particular their right to voluntary return in safety and dignity,” he said after wrapping up an official visit to Azerbaijan – his first to the Caucasus country since 2007.

“This protracted displacement of more than 18 years that has now affected several generations – and, which despite Government efforts, is continuing to cause much human suffering – has no place in Europe,” the Secretary-General’s Representative stressed.

During his visit to Azerbaijan Mr. Kälin met with President Ilham Aliyev as well as a series of senior Government ministers, the national ombudsperson, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and representatives of the international community. He also visited locations where IDPs are living, such as Baku, Beylagan and the Lachin winter grounds in Aghjabedi.

Mr. Kälin said Azerbaijan had made important achievements in housing for IDPs, the construction of educational facilities for them and improving their access to health care in rural areas.

“I commend the authorities for their commitment and encourage them to continue and reinforce their efforts, with particular focus on improving the very difficult living conditions in urban collective centres.”

Mr. Kälin also noted that the Azerbaijani Government was moving to build new apartments in urban areas for IDPs.

However, he added that he was concerned about the risk of future evictions in urban areas, particularly as a result of privatization or public construction works.

“It is key that internally displaced persons be provided with adequate notice, housing alternatives and assistance in such situations.”

In addition, Mr. Kälin emphasized the need for appropriate assistance to vulnerable groups, such as female-headed households, the elderly and the disabled, and for greater job opportunities for IDPs.

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