Armenian opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian’s landmark visit to Azerbaijan ended in scandal on Friday as he was reportedly barred from addressing an international forum held in Baku.
News reports from the Azerbaijani capital said the chairman of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party attempted to protest against a declaration adopted at the session of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP). The declaration upheld Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The Turan news agency said Hovannisian stepped on the podium but was not allowed by ICAPP officials presiding over the session to deliver a speech. According to another Azerbaijani news agency, Azerbaijani lawmakers participating in the two-day forum banged their fists on the table to express their anger with a rare Armenian politician visiting their country.
In Yerevan, meanwhile, Zharangutyun spokesman Hovsep Khurshudian insisted that Hovannisian’s speech had been included on the agenda of the ICAPP gathering. “The only reason why Raffi Hovannisian agreed to take part in the conference was his speech,” Khurshudian told the Regnum news agency. “But the organizers did not fulfill their obligations.”
“We are unable to reach Raffi Hovannisian by phone right now. Even if something like that did happen, the incident was certainly the result of a breach by the organizers of the ICAPP General Assembly of a promise given by them,” Khurshudian said, commenting on the Azerbaijani media reports.
According to a Zharangutyun statement issued on Wednesday, Hovannisian was initially reluctant to travel to Baku because of the recent release and glorification by the Azerbaijani government of an Azerbaijani army officer who axe-murdered an Armenian colleague in Hungary in 2004. The statement said the ICAPP leadership “agreed to offer him a secure and equal opportunity to address” the meeting.