Canadian MPs Tony Clement and Rachael Harder have been banned from Azerbaijan for visiting Nagorno Karabakh, the Globe and Mail reports.
Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry has accused the MPs of falling for the “propaganda of the Armenian side” and ignoring four resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.
The Conservative MPs are visiting the region on a trip paid for by One Free World International, a Toronto non-profit group headed by a Muslim-turned-Christian that advocates for persecuted minorities.
Azerbaijan has lodged a protest with the Canadian government about the MPs’ trip and placed them on its list of undesirable persons.
In a telephone interview from Armenia’s capital of Yerevan on Friday, Mr. Clement said he was taking part in a documentary that is being produced by One Free World.
“I am not here endorsing anyone. I want both sides to have a negotiated settlement of the situation but I am here on a fact-finding and humanitarian mission along with Rachael Harder,” Mr. Clement said.
However, he conceded that he accepts Armenia’s assertions that Azerbaijani forces have committed atrocities, citing beheadings and cutting off of the ears of Armenian soldiers.
“What I saw with my own eyes is very disturbing in terms of the atrocities that were committed by Azerbaijani forces. In terms of the political situation, I am sure I echo Global Affairs Canada when I say it is better to have a negotiated solution than a continuing war,” Mr. Clement said.
A spokesperson for the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland did not directly criticize the two MPs, but made clear that the Canadian government does not wish to take sides in the territorial dispute.
“It should be noted that Canada recommends against all travel to the Nagorno-Karabakh region. We fully support the [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s] efforts to forge a peaceful and comprehensive settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the region,” press secretary Adam Austen said. “A military solution is not the answer. This is a position we have communicated to the governments of both Armenia and Azerbaijan.”