EurasiaNet.org received the following letter from the European External Action Service, the European Union's diplomatic corps, in response to a December 18, 2012 letter to the editor from Azerbaijani writer and dissident Emin Milli and British-Azerbaijani political activist Murad Gassanly. The letter called for the resignation of the head of the European Delegation to Baku, Roland Kobia, after making comments which the writers charge indicated support for Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's reelection in 2013.
The head of delegation in Baku answered questions from journalists about the October 2013 presidential elections in Azerbaijan in the margins of a diplomatic event. In his main message, he clearly emphasized the importance of "political pluralism in Azerbaijan," the need for an "open space for the elections" and "enabling the participation of as many candidates as possible in the elections." It is regrettable that this part of the comments, the most important, went largely unreported.
In response to a sub-question about the election prospects of the incumbent president, the ambassador mentioned that President Ilham Aliyev stood good chances (several available opinion polls confirm high support), noting that he was known to the public and had done a good job in some areas (referring to economic development, the fight against terrorism, poverty reduction, support for NATO, etc). The ambassador did not show support for any particular candidate, did not endorse any changes to the law, nor did he praise the human rights situation in the country. The EU, both at the level of the EU Delegation in Baku and headquarters in Brussels, has repeatedly raised concerns, often publicly, on these issues in recent years. We note that the ambassador's comments triggered support among independent NGO circles, activists and analysts and from some leaders of the opposition.
It is also regrettable that the authors did not contact the EU Delegation to seek clarification. As a number of public statements and interviews, including by the head of delegation, demonstrate, the EU continues to attach the utmost importance to the promotion of democracy, the rule of law and human rights in Azerbaijan. This is a permanent subject of political dialogue, both publicly and through diplomatic channels.