Azerbaijan Caucasus Geopolitics

Azerbaijan and Spain, a new stage after victory

Francisco Javier Medina Ortiz, 

Member of the Bar Association of the Barcelona Bar Association

January 7, 2021

Irina Tsukerman interview

Note for cultural context: Spain celebrates Christmas from December 24 to January 6. The guest is referring to this extended Christian holiday season in Spain when he says “Merry Christmas from Barcelona.” Read more about the Christian holiday of Christmas here. 

How do you rate the relations between Azerbaijan and Spain?

First of all, I want to thank you for the opportunity you give me to address the Azerbaijani readers, to whom I offer my sincere greetings, and I wish you a Merry Christmas from Barcelona.

It is also an honor for me to be able to congratulate the people of Azerbaijan, its Armed Forces and its leader, President Ilham Alyev, for their undeniable victory in Nagorno Karabakh. At the same time, I add myself to the pain of all those who have suffered some misfortune derived from both the war and the Covid 19, which has also affected and affects Spain.

Answering your question, I think there are different aspects to differentiate.

Diplomatic and governmental relations between Azerbaijan and Spain are very good. Azerbaijan is a friendly country, with a level of governmental and legal reliability comparable to European standards, and therefore at that level, there is no problem.

However, I do believe that more mutual efforts can and should be made so that these good relations can crystallize in economic, sports and cultural cooperation projects. For example, I proposed to bring to Baku the celebration of the World Roller Games, which had been held in Barcelona in 2019, for which we even presented a project at the Azerbaijani Embassy in Baku, which would qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games …. Although the Covid19 has taken everything ahead.

In this sense, I believe that greater activity in this type of promotion would, for example, make the opening of an Embassy in Baku essential for Spain, a deficiency that is a debt of my country, and which I believe should be corrected. And that can be done.

Where I think there is a lot to do, it is in the sense of creating a link with the Spanish and Catalan population, so that when conflicts such as Nagorno Karabakh occur, there are Spaniards who raise their voices in favor of the Azerbaijani cause. That I know, and if I’m wrong, excuse me, only I have done it.

 Do the Spanish know Azerbaijan enough? 

In this question I can be clear.

The answer is no.

It is a complex issue.

The average Spaniard does not usually have a great interest in what happens outside of Spain. As in all countries, we already have enough problems and worries here to know about others.

In this sense, I have to say that personally, in the year 2017, in February, I opened in one of my offices, without any help, the Azerbaijani House, hosting the Azerbaijani Society in Barcelona, ​​which already existed but lacked own facilities. A report on this was published in Azertag, and both the Facebook website of the Azerbaijan Embassy and the Society itself were echoed.

At the same time, I put all my effort, precisely, in making Azerbaijan better known in Barcelona and Catalonia.Thus, through my friends and contacts, I made the news of the opening of the Casa Azerbaijan published in the first newspaper of Catalonia, the region where Barcelona is located, La Vanguardia.

But also, I had articles published on young Azerbaijanis who come to study in Barcelona, ​​in El Periódico de Catalunya, the second most read in Catalonia, I organized and promoted in the Sant Pau Modernist Campus, a week later I used the same venue Seat to make its annual presentation in Spain, the commemoration of the Jodyali massacre on the 25th anniversary; a free delivery of roses and a book, tradition on Sant Jordi’s Day, the feast of Catalonia, at the Casa Azerbaijan, etc.

I even invited members of the Azerbaijani European Congress, on their visit to Barcelona. And in my case, being a lawyer, having taught at the University, at the School of the Barcelona Bar Association, etc. (my grandfather was already a lawyer, like my father and my brothers), I have as friends the main positions the Judiciary, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Bar Association, the directors of the two football teams in Barcelona, ​​the Spanish and the Barça, journalists, athletes (I got Arda Turam to dedicate a few words to us in the commemoration of Jodyali, already that he couldn’t come because Barça played the Champions League that day), etc.

In addition, as a lawyer I have worked and work for several Consulates in Barcelona, ​​political leaders…. And they all came to the events that I organized from Azerbaijan. I even organized an official visit from Mr. Fuad Muradov to FC Barcelona, ​​which for me is a challenge… .. because I am a great fan of Spanish! Just kidding. It was an honor to organize the visit, which was also attended by the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Spain. Of all this, there are photos on the facebook websites of both the Embassy and the Society, as well as reports in Azertag.

However, the problem is that as a Spaniard, I always found myself alone, without support,

And here I want to make an important point. There is a serious problem for Azerbaijan to be better known by Spanish and Catalan society. And I will explain myself.

Azerbaijan is a rich country. Immigration comes to Spain from all over the world; but it is an immigration many times from poor countries, of people who come to look for work, a better future, who come to stay….

But this is not the case for the Azerbaijanis; The vast majority of those who come here are young people who come to study a degree, a master’s degree, to perfect their studies…. But with the idea of ​​returning to Azerbaijan. To be here for one, two, three years, and then return to Azerbaijan.

They do not usually speak Spanish, almost no Catalan, they tend to relate to the large colony of young students from all over the world who are in Barcelona or Madrid and they do it in English, and they are hardly interested in our political life, nor do they know who he is. who of our society, complex as in all countries. In Catalonia, we must also add the problem of Catalan secessionism, about which I will possibly have the opportunity to speak later. Without going further, Why does the Azerbaijani Society in Barcelona have its name in English? Why don’t you have it in Spanish or Catalan? These details do not help to integrate into Spanish society.

What is clear is that it is complicated, if one remains in that situation, to be able to influence Spanish society.

It must also be taken into account that the number of Azerbaijanis residing in Catalonia. For example, and according to the official census, 192 Azerbaijanis throughout Catalonia. It is a very small number. And also, mostly young people; and also, as I have said, they tend to have difficulties with Spanish, and much more with Catalan, which is commonly used in Catalonia, and which many Azerbaijanis find surprisingly when they arrive here; and furthermore, they are unaware of internal politics, society, culture and customs.

It is evident that it is not comparable with other countries. On the one hand, those who have extensive colonies of residents here, who have even been living or residing for generations, with properties, even with common traditions and customs, such as French neighbors, the English, the Germans, the Italians, the Dutch…. They are usually colonies that are perfectly integrated, that have been present here for a long time, and that have a lot of presence in Spanish society.

On the other hand, there are and are very many immigrants from poor countries who come to seek a better future, mainly from South and Central America, who have the advantage of sharing the language, religion and many customs, or from North Africa, as well. like Pakistanis and Chinese. Although they present more problems, there are already second generations, born and educated here in public schools, education in Spain is free and compulsory, and in a short term, it is already beginning to happen, they are being increasingly taken into account.

And besides, there is another minority that makes itself heard a lot, the Armenian. Large, organized, and with second and even third generations already born here, who speak perfectly Catalan as well as Spanish, many of them, lawyers, architects, journalists, and who for artificial and malicious political reasons, in recent years, have been identified with the Catalan independence nationalism. This, together with their eternal victimhood, has unfortunately made them very popular in Catalonia. Not so much in Spain. On this point I would like to explain myself later, if possible.

In any case, let’s focus on Azerbaijan. In my opinion, much remains to be done. Who should do it?

The Embassy of Azerbaijan is entrusted with the diplomatic representation of the country. Although, in some moments its work may be in this sense of making Azerbaijan known to Spanish society as a country, strictly speaking, it is not its function. In addition, the Embassy is in Madrid, from where it is difficult to know the Catalan reality. They cannot be blamed. It even happens to Spaniards who live in Madrid with respect to Catalonia. I am sure that this complaint must also exist between regions of Azerbaijan. It happens in all countries.

Neither does the Diaspora Committee; Its role is to keep Azerbaijanis living outside the country united, and not so much, to seek to influence society in each country where it carries out its work.

How do the rest of the countries do it in the same circumstances? Well, with the figure of the Honorary Consul. National person and resident of the country, integrated into the autochthonous society, with contacts, with knowledge of local politics, etc.

Barcelona is the third city in the world with the most Honorary Consuls. For something, right? Well, curiously, a great country like Azerbaijan, neither has it nor has it ever had it. For me it is difficult to understand. And more, when, as has happened now with the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh, not a single Spanish voice has spoken in favor of Azerbaijan. I think it is a regrettable situation.

Azerbaijan liberated its lands from occupation by conducting counter-offensive operations for 44 days. How do you rate this?

I will state my opinion first.

Azerbaijan did what it had to do.

Remember that I am a lawyer. Well, Azerbaijan, from the outset, is supported by the legal reason expressed in the UN resolutions. That it is the body designated by the States to resolve these conflicts. Furthermore, Azerbaijan has had enough patience with the inoperative and useless OSCE Minsk Group, which at least, seen from the outside, appears to have been nothing more than a gathering of international politicians, in order to collect their salaries, allowances, etc., and earn a huge amount of money personally.

And if not, someone answer me

What has this made it decisive for almost thirty years? How have they advanced? Personally, I don’t know.

And finally, and it is known and accepted by universal natural law, that the States, in accordance with current legislation, have a monopoly on the use of force to impose the Law. I will give you an example.

When Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1936, the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie went to the League of Nations, forerunner of the UN to ask for help…. And nobody did anything. This case has traditionally been presented as an embarrassment to the rest of the world, which did not support the legal reason with force. What did Azerbaijan have to do, become a new 1936 Ethiopia?

It is clear that war is never desirable…. But thirty years of inoperation, either. And an addition. What better right did Armenia have in invading not only Nagorno Karabakh and the rest of the territories by force? It should not be much, because the UN decided against him…. Was your violence minor? Ask him in Jodyalí…. In short, I will not elaborate on something so obvious.

However. One thing is clear. The Armenians have managed to impose, at least in Spain, and especially in Catalonia, a story of eternal victimhood that has permeated opinion, if not public opinion, then published….

I want to know if you have enough information on the subject.

Look, personally, although you never have all the information that I would like, I think you do. Remember that I have been supporting Azerbaijanis in Catalonia for years, collaborating with the Embassy, ​​managing the publication of articles, organizing events… .. with which I try to be informed about it.

In addition, I have daily and concrete information on the activities of Armenians in Catalonia. Look, I’m going to explain three anecdotes about it.

When I organized the commemoration of the 25 years of the Jodyalí massacre at the Sant Pau Modernist Campus, a few days after opening the Casa Azerbaiyán on Paseo San Juan in Barcelona, ​​a central avenue in Barcelona, ​​right next to the Subdelegación of the Government of Spain in Barcelona, ​​with which we had continuous police surveillance, was published in La Vanguardia, the first newspaper in readers of Catalonia, and oldest, in 1881, and fourth in Spain in readers, very influential, the inauguration of the House and that said commemoration was going to be held.

Since I know how Armenians act here, I warned my friend and Chief of Police in Catalonia, Eduard Sallent, who attended the event, of the possibility that, having been published in La Vanguardia, Armenians could come to blow up the event. (They periodically demonstrate at the Turkish Consulate in Barcelona, ​​for example). As I had also invited the Delegate of the Ministry of Defense for Catalonia, and the Delegate of the Government, they all came, I told them that it was better to prevent problems.

Outcome; My friend, the Chief of Police, informed me that some officers in uniform had indeed deployed at the door, but others camouflaged around. And that they detected a “suspicious” car on the street. So they approached them and said “Good morning, we assume that you are invited to the event?” Obviously, they disappeared….

A few days later, and when in Catalonia we lived the unfortunate days promoted by the Catalan secessionists of September 6 and 7, 2017, and which led to the attempted referendum of self-determination in Catalonia on October 1, 2017, with unconditional support and mutual of the secessionists with the Armenians, I had a notice that the then Ambassador of Armenia, in his capacity as Ambassador, was going to come to Barcelona, ​​to give a conference invited by CIEMEN, an obscure Catalan and pro-Armenian secessionist body, and by Vilaweb, the main secessionist newspaper.

I found it outrageous, and not only because of my support for Azerbaijan, but as a Spaniard. It seemed to me an inconceivable scandal that an Ambassador to Spain was to give a conference against Spain. So I notified the Delegation of the Government of Spain in Catalonia, whose members had attended the Jodyali commemoration.

Outcome; the Ambassador was reprimanded and his release was requested at the end of his term, as it happened.

And finally, as a result of the whole problem of Catalan secessionism, and their mutual and unconditional support with the Armenians on the issue of Nagorno Karabakh, I wrote an article denouncing the issue, called “The strange and illegal parallel between Catalonia and Armenia”, and that was published in various newspapers.

Result: Vilaweb, as I have said, the main Catalan secessionist newspaper, echoed and published in connection with my face and name as a detestable Spanish unionist and pro-Azerbaijani.

That is, for my part, I am informed. Now, as I have said, I think that two aspects should be highlighted.

The first, due to that connection between the Catalan secessionists and the Armenians, and that some of them are journalists, and that without a doubt, they have invested huge amounts of money in Catalonia, has penetrated that strange identification, and has created what is called a published opinion. What has led to almost all the media and public opinion in Catalonia, have turned in favor of the Armenian cause. Reports on public television, TV3, talking about the Republic of Artsakh, the newspapers, countless populations in Catalonia, condemning Azerbaijan as an aggressor, Catalan political parties …… A shame !.

So I did what was in my power, and spoke with several journalist friends.

Result: La Vanguardia has published two very interesting articles, on December 12 and 20, 2020, which present a different vision of what has always been published until now, and showing the reality and the role of Azerbaijan in reality.

And that’s the way. Coincidence? I think your intelligent readers will know how to draw their own consequence. In the end, the work and dedication pay off. But of course, the path cannot be the individual effort of a Spaniard without almost support….

What measures are being taken and should be taken to promote the truth of Azerbaijan in Spain.

I will try to synthesize.

As I have said, I believe that the Diaspora Committee fulfills its role of keeping Azerbaijanis living here together. And that the Embassy fulfills its own, as diplomatic representation of Azerbaijan at the official level. But the Embassy is in Madrid, and in any case, both institutions focus too much, it is not a criticism, on caring for Azerbaijanis… .. but they cannot penetrate Spanish society.

As for the Azerbaijanis who live here, and it is not critical either, but the verification of a fact, too young, too little time here, unaware of our politics, hardly related to our society…. On the contrary, the Armenians are many, organized, with several generations, connected with society, with active journalists… ..

How to fight? Well, as I pointed out before. I believe it is essential to have an Honorary Consul in Catalonia, and some more in Spain. People integrated into society, who have contacts, who know who to talk to, who have contacts….

But be careful, to do that job well, you have to have a position that enables you. It is very simple. Let’s do it the other way around. Imagine that in Baku, an Azerbaijani appeared who went to ask for favors, negotiations, support, in favor of Spain. The first thing the Azerbaijani authorities would do, and rightly so, would be to ask. “And you on whose behalf are you speaking? What position or standing do you have to speak for Spain? ”

Unfortunately, that happens to me many times. Without a qualifying position, I think that more is difficult to do. But I do firmly believe that a Consul can lobby effectively. How do I know? Because as a lawyer I advise several General Consulates of various countries in Catalonia. I mean, they trust me. Because I know what I’m talking about.

For example; I think it must be explained that the Armenians have demonstrated against their current government…. Because they wanted to continue the war in a territory forcibly occupied by them thirty years ago, and they felt betrayed! How is it possible, then, that it is presented here as pacifists, and Azerbaijan as an aggressor?

Why is it not explained that the US Armenians themselves have denounced the managers of their own solidarity funds, for the diversion of said funds to shady destinations? Why is the surprise of the Azerbaijanis who have returned to their old houses in Karabakh, expelled at the time by force and have found that in 30 years nothing new had been built, is not made more known here? Why is it hardly advertised here that there are 30,000 Armenians living in Azerbaijan, And that in Karabakh no one has now been expelled, while there are no Azerbaijanis living in Armenia, according to official data from Armenia itself? And so, many more questions that should be asked here, and enhance the truth.

What do you consider to be the deficiencies in relations between our countries and what should be done to strengthen ties? 

I think more or less, it is already answered.

Obviously, there is a more institutional part, which is run from the Embassy, ​​which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs already takes care of, and on which I can say little, since I do not have enough information. But there is one more part on an emotional, popular level, which I do think can be influenced. I repeat, I am, and if I am wrong, that they correct me, the only Spaniard who has published, who has made efforts, who has organized that has financed, in favor of Azerbaijan. I even opened and maintained the Casa Azerbaiyán in Barcelona.

I think we have to go talk to our politicians. I know leaders of all the parties, and what is more, I even think that the ones who need to talk the most are the secessionists, to explain to them that the version that the Armenians have explained to them is not true. You have to talk to journalists, as I have done countless times, about the powerful media. It is necessary to speak with the Spanish multinationals, offer them the investment possibilities that exist in Azerbaijan, and more with the needs that will now exist in Nagorno Karabakh.

Look, an example. Some time ago, the Armenian Embassy had to send an official protest note to the Spanish newspapers, because they said that whenever they spoke of Armenians in the Spanish newspapers, they spoke of the “Armenian mafia”. Well, unfortunately, the published opinion has turned the situation around, now that Armenians always appear as victims.

Now, I also think that a serious mistake would be to fall only in reacting to what the Armenians do, because that is little less than making Azerbaijan a victim. And Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia, does not need to present itself as a victim of anything, because it neither is, nor does it need to. Azerbaijan by itself has the potential to get where it wants to go.

The proof?

We just saw it. The determination of the Azerbaijani people, the sacrifice of its youth, the courage of its Armed Forces, and the leadership of President Alyev, have made it clear when it has now had to prove the worth of Azerbaijan for itself.

This reality must be shown in Spain and Catalonia.

Thank you very much for the opportunity you have given me. It has been and is an honor to be able to address your readers from Azerbaijan.

Infinite thanks