Armenia indicated on Tuesday that it hopes to help prevent the extradition to Azerbaijan of an Israeli travel blogger who was arrested in Belarus last week because of his past visits to Nagorno-Karabakh.
Alexander Lapshin, who reportedly also holds Russian and Ukrainian passports, travelled to Karabakh in 2011 and 2012 and gave detailed accounts of the trips on his Russian-language blog.
The Azerbaijani authorities say that by visiting “occupied territories of Azerbaijan” without Baku’s permission Lapshin violated the country’s territorial integrity. They also accuse him of promoting Karabakh as an independent state.
Israel on Sunday asked Belarus not to hand over the 40-year-old to Baku. According to the Israeli daily “Haaretz,” the Azerbaijani government told Israeli diplomats on Monday that it will not withdraw the arrest warrant issued for Lapshin.
The situation is also being closely monitored in Armenia and Karabakh. Authorities there have long denounced Azerbaijan for blacklisting hundreds of foreign lawmakers, other dignitaries and even journalists visiting the Armenian-populated territory.
“We are dealing with this issue,” the Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Tigran Balayan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “For obvious reasons, we cannot give details of our actions for the time being.”
Both Armenia and Belarus are members of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union and Collective Security Treaty Organization.
Davit Babayan, a senior Karabakh Armenian official, condemned Lapshin’s arrest as a “disgrace,” saying that it has dealt a further blow to Belarus’s international reputation. “Granted, there are Azerbaijani-Belarusian interests and maybe even personal interests of their leaders involved,” he said. “But there is also the law and human rights.”
Belarus’s longtime President Aleksandr Lukashenko maintains a warm rapport with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev. The Israeli blogger was detained in Minsk about two weeks after Lukashenko’s official visit to Baku during which he received Azerbaijan’s highest state award, the Order of Heydar Aliyev. The Belarusian strongman publicly assured Ilham Aliyev that he will “work hard” to show that the award was justified.