Azerbaijan’s top Shia Muslim leader, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade, said on Wednesday that he has still not decided whether to travel to Armenia next week for a meeting of senior religious figures from the former Soviet Union.
Catholicos Garegin II, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, has officially invited him to take part in the meeting that will take place in Yerevan on November 29-30.
In a statement cited by Azerbaijani news agencies, Pashazade’s office said that before responding to the invitation he needs to examine a draft joint statement proposed by Russia’s Patriarch Kirill I to the spiritual leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church reportedly hopes that the statement, which has not been publicized yet, will be signed at the Yerevan meeting. Pashazade discussed his participation in the meeting with Kirill during a visit to Moscow last week.
Kirill, Pashazade and Garegin already issued a joint declaration in April 2010 when the Armenian pontiff paid a landmark visit to Baku to attend a summit of religious leaders from around the world. The three men voiced support for the long-running efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, welcomed confidence-building measures by the warring sides and condemned “acts of vandalism” committed in the conflict zone.
“I am confident that you too will strive to ensure that the problem does not take on a religious character,” Pashazade told Garegin during the forum.
While in Baku, Garegin also met with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and prayed in an abandoned 19th century Armenian church in the Azerbaijani capital.