Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has described the worldwide “Armenian lobby” as his nation’s number one enemy and seemingly blamed it for international criticism of Baku’s human rights record.
“The Armenian lobby is the driving force of negative information about us,” he said during a cabinet meeting held on Monday and reported by Azerbaijani news agencies the following day.
“An information war is waged against us … The Armenian lobby is especially active in that information war. Attempts to badmouth Azerbaijan, to deny Azerbaijan’s realities, to present Azerbaijan to the outside world as a backward and undemocratic country primarily result from dirty deeds of the Armenian lobby,” Aliyev said in remarks cited by the official Azertag news agency.
“The scope of their influence is quite broad. They [Armenians] are represented in the leading print media outlets of various countries. Sometimes they go under different names and hide their ethnic origin,” added Aliyev.
The Azerbaijani government’s human rights record is under growing international scrutiny ahead of the Eurovision song contest that will he held in Baku next month. In recent reports cited by Western media, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch strongly criticized the government for breaking up opposition protests, jailing their participants and suppressing broader dissent. There have even been calls in the European Parliament and from human rights activists and Azerbaijani bloggers for an international boycott of the contest.
Armenia withdrew from the annual show last month. It attributed the boycott to Aliyev’s March 1 remark that “Armenians of the world” are Azerbaijan’s main enemy.
The Azerbaijani leader made a similar, albeit more carefully worded, statement on Monday. “For us, the number one enemy is the Armenian lobby,” he said. “We must be prepared to fight against it.”