The Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) refused to ratify the credentials of the Azerbaijani delegation this year, citing the country's poor human rights and democracy record.
Anticipating the result of the vote, Azerbaijan's delegation itself withdrew from PACE a few hours earlier, citing what it called "racism, Azerbaijanophobia, and Islamophobia."
In its January 24 session, PACE resolved not to ratify the credentials of Azerbaijan's parliamentary delegation by a vote of 76 to 10, with four abstentions. The body concluded that the country has "not fulfilled major commitments" stemming from its joining the Council of Europe in 2001.
Each year the parliaments of PACE member countries present the credentials of their delegations, and the assembly votes on their ratification.
"Very serious concerns remain as to [Azerbaijan's] ability to conduct free and fair elections, the separation of powers, the weakness of its legislature vis-à-vis the executive, the independence of the judiciary and respect for human rights, as illustrated by numerous judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and opinions of the Venice Commission," the Assembly said in a resolution.
The Assembly also touched on the humanitarian crisis last year in the then-Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh region, which started with Azerbaijan's blockade of the region, culminated with its military offensive in September, and ended with the mass exodus of Armenians.
"Azerbaijan's leadership 'did not acknowledge the very serious humanitarian and human rights consequences' stemming from the lack of free and safe access through the Lachin Corridor, and [the Assembly recalled] its condemnation of the September 2023 military operation 'which led to the flight of the entire Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia and to allegations of 'ethnic cleansing,'" the statement read, citing the resolution.
The resolution also accused Azerbaijan of refusing to cooperate with PACE, noting that the organization's monitoring rapporteurs were not allowed to meet political prisoners and not invited to observe the snap presidential election scheduled for next month.
The statement added that the decision only concerns Azerbaijan's parliamentary delegation and that the country remains a member of the Council of Europe.
The Azerbaijani delegation's credentials were challenged on January 22 at the opening of the PACE session by German MP Frank Schwabe, who was supported by thirty members of the Assembly. A day later, PACE's Monitoring Committee issued a report recommending that the credentials not be approved.
Azerbaijan's pro-government media machine then went into action, publishing a series of articles attacking the Council of Europe.
"For Azerbaijan, PACE is of no importance, to say nothing of the silencing of its voice there. Our country has secured its territorial integrity and has become one of the main partner states in supplying Europe with energy. Most importantly, it has always been known for its balanced policy," the prominent news agency Report.az wrote in an editorial.
The Azerbaijani delegation's statement announcing its intent to leave the organization for "an indefinite time period" reflected the same talking points.
Reading the statement to reporters in Strasbourg, head of the delegation Samad Seyidov claimed that the initiative to eject the Azerbaijani delegation was "part of the prejudiced campaign carried out" against Azerbaijan by PACE.
"After the historic victory of Azerbaijan and the restoration of territorial integrity, we are facing a smear campaign organized to tarnish Azerbaijan and cast a shadow on the country's achievements towards restoring the justice that had been denied to the people of Azerbaijan," Seyidov said.
"Some biased groups are abusing the basic principles of PACE for their narrow interests. Political corruption, discrimination, ethnic and religious hatred, double standards, arrogance, and chauvinism have become a prevailing practice in PACE."