Bako Sahakian, Nagorno-Karabakh’s president, has addressed a leading British think-tank and met with members of Britain’s parliament during a visit to London that has sparked protests from Azerbaijan.
A statement by Sahakian’s office said he spoke about the Karabakh conflict and the “state-building process” in the Armenian-populated territory at the Palace of Westminster on Wednesday. He also spoke of the Karabakh Armenians’ “special attitude towards the United Kingdom” stemming from its status as an “influential state” and a “cradle of democracy.”
The statement did not name the British parliamentarians present at the meeting. It only cited Sahakian as praising “friends of Artsakh (Karabakh) in the British Parliament.”
One of them, Baroness Caroline Cox, is a longtime member of the British House of Lords who frequently visited Karabakh during and after the 1991-1994 Armenian-Azerbaijani war. Cox has been a staunch backer of international recognition of Karabakh’s de facto secession from Azerbaijan.
Later on Wednesday, Sahakian gave a talk at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, also known as Chatham House. He also answered questions from scholars, analysts and diplomats present at the meeting held behind the closed doors.
Chatham House announced late last month that it has invited the Karabakh Armenian leader to visit its London offices and “share his views on regional security and relations.” The announcement provoked angry protests from the Azerbaijani government
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry sent a “note of protest” to Britain's Foreign Office and summoned the British ambassador in Baku, Irfan Siddiq, on July 1. Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov told Siddiq that Sahakian’s scheduled visit to London is “a step directed against the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.”
Siddiq told journalists afterwards that the British government does not recognize the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and has “no contact with any of its representatives.” The British Embassy in Baku repeated this line on Thursday.
An embassy spokesperson also told the Azerbaijani APA news agency that British lawmakers are free to meet anyone in London.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev cited Karabakh Armenian leaders’ frequent trips to Europe and the United States in April 2014 when he accused the West of using double standards against his country. “Their ‘leaders’ are received in leading Western countries,” Aliyev complained. “They are issued visas, they open representations there, make trips. Why?”