Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov: UN Security Council tenure broadens Azerbaijan’s experience

Guest Commentary

Shortly after Azerbaijan’s election to the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member, President Ilham Aliyev declared that his nation’s priorities would be to promote the ideals of justice and supremacy of international law enshrined in the U.N. Charter. 

Guided by this vision, Azerbaijan worked hard over its U.N. Security Council tenure to share its experiences and help bring about global peace and security. Having true conviction in goodwill diplomacy, Azerbaijan started to build constructive dialogue within the Security Council. 

Azerbaijan understands that in the international fora, where divergent interests meet, everything does not necessarily go smoothly. There have been unfortunate instances when the principle of shared responsibility has not worked.

The debate over Syria obviously contributed to perceptions about the council’s ability to address crisis. The unanimous position by the council last fall marked important progress toward addressing Syria’s chemical weapons file. In addition, under Azerbaijan’s presidency, the statement adopted by the council provided the solid basis and support for addressing the humanitarian consequences of the conflict.

The spirit of consensus has prevailed on most issues before the Security Council over the past two years and members have demonstrated an ability to work together. Last year was a very successful year in which, apart from Syria, progress was made on a number of other tough issues, in particular on Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of Sudan-South Sudan relations.

It is clear that unity among the five permanent members is absolutely necessary. Meanwhile, it is also important to remember that both permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council bear collective responsibility for international peace and security. 

The 10 non-permanent members can make a difference, affect outcomes and contribute constructively to consensus building. They bring diverse and unique perspectives based on their regional knowledge and experiences. It is especially apparent when a non-permanent member holds the presidency. 

During Azerbaijan’s first Security Council presidency in May 2012, it coordinated a high-level meeting chaired by Aliyev on strengthening international cooperation against terrorism. During its second presidency, in October of 2013, it convened the first-ever meeting between the U.N. Security Council and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, creating an unprecedented opportunity to promote greater cooperation between the two organizations and work toward global peace.

Azerbaijan’s presidency at the Security Council also featured intensive discussions on African issues, including consultations with the African Union, the visit of the Security Council official mission to Africa and the adoption of a number of resolutions and presidential statements.  

During its two years on the Security Council, Azerbaijan continued to stress that the effectiveness of the council rests with its member states and their willingness to adhere to their obligations under the U.N. Charter. It remains a concern, however, that in some cases U.N. Security Council resolutions have been ignored.

As a nation suffering from the occupation of its territories and forcible displacement of almost one million people by Armenia, Azerbaijan still witnesses grave and systematic violations of fundamental norms and principles of international law. 

Twenty years ago, in 1993, the U.N. Security Council adopted four resolutions demanding the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. These resolutions also reaffirmed respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and its internationally recognized borders. Unfortunately, all four resolutions remain unfulfilled by Armenia.  

Despite divisions on some complicated issues, the U.N. Security Council has served and will continue to play an important role on the international stage. But, in light of radical changes since the end of WWII and in particular after the geopolitical changes of the 1990s in the 20th century, the Security Council must continue to grow and evolve in terms of its composition, geographical representation, working methods and mandate to reflect ever-changing realities. 

Azerbaijan’s U.N. Security Council membership opened a new page in our nation’s foreign policy. This experience will undoubtedly contribute to Azerbaijan’s unwavering determination to further support international peace and security, cross-cultural dialogue and humanitarian assistance and aid programs. 

Mammadyarov is the foreign minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan.