Exclusive interview with German Bundestag deputy Karl-Georg Wellmann of Angela Merkel’s CDU by Azertaj
Mr Wellmann, you are considered to have a deep knowledge of the South Caucasus, including Azerbaijan. You are also a member of the ruling Christian Democratic Union. How do you assess the current state of Azerbaijani-German relations?
German-Azerbaijani relations are very good. We are working closely not only in the narrow economic and energy sector but we also support Azerbaijan’s interests in further rapprochement with Euro-Atlantic structures. We are united by common interests and values. Germany and Azerbaijan are members of the OSCE and the Council of Europe. We see ourselves as countries with “a common heritage of political traditions, ideals, freedom and the rule of law”. This is reflected in the preamble to the European Convention on Human Rights. Based on this, and inspired by it, we are able to engage in an open dialogue on human rights and guarantees of a law-governed state.
The German government has repeatedly stated that it recognizes the territorial integrity of our country. The Bundestag, of which you are a member, passed a resolution on the South Caucasus in 2009. In this resolution, the principle of the territorial integrity of states and inviolability of borders without the consent of states to a change are fixed as principles of international law in the solution of conflicts. What is your attitude to these principles?
I also worked on this resolution in 2009 and fully support it. The Bundestag demands of all parties the unconditional execution of the resolutions of the United Nations, Council of Europe and OSCE on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In its resolution the Bundestag urges the German government to build its policy in line with these principles. Is the federal government doing anything to implement this resolution?
The policy of the federal government complies with this resolution. We support all efforts aimed at the peaceful solution of conflicts in the region, as well as in all three countries of the South Caucasus.
How would you describe the policy of the German government on the South Caucasus conflicts, and specifically the Karabakh conflict?
We work for peace and stability in the South Caucasus. The Minsk Group represents an appropriate format for this. We support its work, therefore, we believe there is no sense in changing the format of negotiations at the current stage. We support the demand for the return of illegally occupied lands.
The Armenian press recently reported that the head of the separatist regime in Nagorno-Karabakh, Bako Sahakyan, “met” deputies and experts of the Bundestag during his visit to Germany and “discussed bilateral issues” with them. According to our information, you also met him. In what capacity and with what status was he received by you? What was your reason for the meeting?
The Armenian reports are false! There have been meetings with neither a “deputies’ group” nor “experts”. No “bilateral relations” were discussed. The members of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee sometimes meet the representatives of entities that are not recognized internationally. The aim of these meetings is to present our position and expectations to the opposite side and inform them about steps to be taken to solve conflicts. The aforementioned meeting was held at the initiative and with the presence of the Armenian ambassador. This meeting can be described as a brief informative talk. I said openly that bilateral relations with the Federal Republic of Germany and the recognition of any status are out of the question.
The work of the OSCE Minsk Group on a peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict has not produced the desired effect yet. Twenty per cent of Azerbaijani lands remain under occupation and the rights of people deported from these lands are still violated. What steps do you think should be taken to overcome this state and achieve the resolution of the Karabakh conflict in the foreseeable future?
It was openly stated at the meeting that the return of the occupied lands of Azerbaijan is a provision for the peaceful resolution of the conflict. We view the expulsion of people and annexation of occupied lands as illegal and do not accept it. The future can be based only on non-aggression and the defence of civilians. We, in line with the Minsk Group proposals, consider it expedient to step up the efforts of the international community.
Thank you for the interview. And, finally, in what spheres should we step up our work in order to further develop German-Azerbaijani relations?
Germany and Azerbaijan have huge potential for cooperation in modernization. Our technologically progressive enterprises can play an appropriate role in the development of a strong Azerbaijani economy. They are ready for this. The same goes for cooperation in energy and other spheres, for example, cooperation in public health. I have links to some German enterprises and I encourage them to be more engaged in Azerbaijan. We must address criticism too, since it creates trust between parties and overcomes misunderstandings. I do believe that we will be able to do even more for the rapid development of your country in cooperation with the very active Azerbaijani embassy in Germany and other organizations.