Baku-Linked Group Hosts Conference on European Colonialism at UN Headquarters

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By Arshaluys Barseghyan

An Azerbaijani government-linked initiative organized a conference against European colonialism at the UN headquarters in New York.

The Baku Initiative Group, which appears to have links to the Azerbaijani government, held its conference on June 20.

Azerbaijani state news agency Azertag reported that the conference was attended by officials and representatives from territories colonized by France and the Netherlands, including Corsica, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Saint Martin and Bonaire.

Abbas Abbasov, executive director of the Baku Initiative Group, stated that the main goal of his group’s conferences was to shed light on the effects of colonialism.

Abbasov previously worked as a foreign affairs and protocol service specialist in Azerbaijan’s State Oil Fund.

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The group, established in July 2023 during an anti-colonialism conference hosted by the Non-Aligned Movement in Baku, has held a series of conferences in Azerbaijan and other countries about colonialism, mostly focusing on France.

In May, France accused Azerbaijan of supporting rioters against French rule in New Caledonia, an overseas territory in the South Pacific, with the French Interior Minister saying that it was “indisputable” that “some of the Caledonian pro-independence leaders have made a deal with Azerbaijan.”

Indigenous people in New Caledonia seeking to break free from French rule have been critical of legislative changes that would give the vote in local elections to more recent emigres from mainland France.

Relations between Baku and Paris have become increasingly strained since the 2020 Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, with France growing increasingly critical of Azerbaijan’s handling of the conflict with Armenia and increasing its support of Armenia.

Critics of the Baku Initiative Group have linked it to the Azerbaijani government and its strained relationship with France.

Jamil Hasanli, a historian and an opposition figure, criticized the group’s anti-colonial initiatives and stated that Azerbaijan should instead address domestic concerns.

“Azerbaijan’s population lives in harder conditions than in the colonies [Azerbaijani President] Ilham Aliyev ‘liberated.’ I assure you that the minimum salary of the colonized is more than an Azerbaijani’s salary,” he said. “I don’t know who should be liberated.”

He added that the Baku Initiative Group was not transparent with its activities or funding.

“What can Azerbaijan do to France? Nothing,” he said.

“I agree colonialism is not good, but if you are against colonialism you should treat everyone equally. If you’re selective with countries it shows that you do not aim to liberate that country from colonialism, you have to aim to create confusion,” he told OC Media.

“Why should New Caledonia be liberated, but not the Falkland Islands?,” he asked.

Azerbaijan has maintained warmer relations with the UK than many Western countries, with British energy giant BP making significant investments in Azerbaijani oil and gas.

Hasanli argued that the government should be critical of Russia’s colonial policy in Azerbaijan, having been “colonised by Russia for approximately 200 years; assimilated, discriminated against.”

Hasanli suggested that criticism of French colonialism was a thinly veiled attack on the West more generally.

“When they criticized France, they were criticizing European values in the country. The challenge to France is also a challenge to European values. This means that the entire country has become a victim of Ilham Aliyev’s arrogance,” he said.

(This article originally appeared on the website OC-Media on June 25.)

 

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