Azerbaijan Urges Pope Francis to Address Armenian Occupation of Its Territories During Visit to Yerevan

22 Jun, 2016, 03:00 ET from Azerbaijan Monitor

BAKU, Azerbaijan, June 22, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --

Ahead of his upcoming visit to Armenia, Azerbaijan has urged Pope Francis to call upon the Armenian government to end its illegal occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azerbaijani provinces and take public responsibility for the Khojali massacre in which over 600 men, women and children were killed in 1992.

"We wish to express our profound concern regarding potential issues that might be addressed during your upcoming visit to Armenia, including misleading efforts by Armenian authorities to justify their illegal occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and other adjacent Azerbaijani territories," the President of the Association for Civil Society Development in Azerbaijan Elkhan Suleymanov noted in his letter to the pontiff.

About 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territory was occupied by Armenia during the post-Soviet power vacuum in the early 1990s. In his letter, Suleymanov stressed the resolutions by the United Nations and - earlier this year - Resolution 2085 (2016) passed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, calling for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from the territories. Most recently, the White House too issued a statement stressing the importance of "the return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan's control."

"In light of this, we wish to appeal to the spiritual and moral responsibility bestowed upon the Holy See and to call upon Your Holiness to address in Yerevan the tragedies that have taken place in Nagorno-Karabakh, and to urge Armenian authorities to comply with the conclusions drawn by the international community, in particular the return of all occupied Azerbaijani territories in accordance with United Nations and Council of Europe resolutions," Suleymanov wrote.

He also referred to the close relations enjoyed by the Vatican and Azerbaijan and statements made by the former Foreign Minister of the Holy Sea, Giovanni Lajolo, praising Azerbaijan's religious tolerance.

"We are certain Your Holiness is well aware of the deep-rooted tradition of religious and ethnic tolerance that has guided the people of Azerbaijan for many centuries, leading to the peaceful co-existence of Christians, Jews and Muslims," Suleymanov noted, adding that the people of Azerbaijan remain committed to this tolerance, "encouraging respect and solidarity between all citizen despite this ongoing injustice and terrible turmoil that has so unfortunately engulfed our country and our region for the past decades."

Pope Francis' three-day visit to Armenia is scheduled June 24-26.

SOURCE Azerbaijan Monitor