Ineffective Armenian lobbyism through German MPs
Separatism, as a political practice – especially if it’s a proxy movement – heavily relies on external support for attainment of some sort of legitimacy. The heads of separatist movements strive to build bonds with lawmakers in Western countries to voice what they consider their right to be independent from the country they broke up from.
In post-Soviet and post-Warsaw Pact space, these movements are encouraged and empowered by regional powers to control what used to be their sphere of influence in the 20th century. Yugoslavia, for instance, with unwavering support from the Kremlin, in the 1990s launched and supported a number of separatist movements in the Balkans to retain control over what it considered Greater Serbia. Russia, itself, has been at the forefront of separatist movements in Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan and since 2014, in Ukraine, when it annexed Crimea in violation of international law and sponsored a Russia-backed rebel movement against Kyiv in Donbass region.
The hostilities have resumed recently and with concentration of greater Russian force at the border with Ukraine in the last two week is a testimony to bad things coming.
In 2008, Georgia unsuccessfully tried to restore its territorial integrity and end separatism in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian forces intervened and invaded Georgia proper, living Tbilisi, largely unsupported by the West on its own.
In the fall of 2020, Azerbaijan launched a rather successful offensive, reclaiming territories it lost to Armenia in the Nagorno Karabakh region in 1993. Prior to these wars, the separatist movements in these volatile parts of the world, imported “legitimacy” to their existence by employing lawmakers from Europe who appeared in those quasi-capitals during elections and other occasions.
Armenia used their PR machine extensively to publicize these trips and statements from European MPs, to substitute the vacuum of international unrecognition. Up until fall of 2020, Germany was one of the main countries where Armenian lobbying organizations phished for corrupt legislators.
For instance, several members of radical right wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party notoriously supported the illegitimate regime in occupied Nagorno Karabakh, installed by Armenia after 1992. Since 2017, the Landtags from the German federal states of Baden-Württemberg, Thuringia, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and Brandenburg and AfD members of the Bundestag and the European Parliament have made several illegal visits to occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Representatives of the AfD faction of the Bundestag received members of the unrecognized Nagorno Karabakh parliament, who visited Germany in 2018 and invited them to the elections to the Landtag of Brandenburg on September 1, 2019.
The Armenian media reported it as though representatives of the so-called Artsakh Republic participated as observers in those elections (although foreign observers are generally not invited to the Landtag elections).
AfD is an Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, racist, anti-democratic and anti-European political force and is watched by German special services for its extremist tendencies. All other political parties in Germany refuse to enter into a coalition with the AfD in the process of establishing both the federal government and the governments of federal lands and any form of cooperation with this party. AfD members closely cooperate with Armenia and separatist regimes formed in other territorial conflicts in the post-Soviet space and frequently visit separatist regions and Crimea (especially as “election observers”). The German press has covered many facts about the cooperation of the AfD with the Russian authorities.
Among members of AfD serving Armenia’s national cause are:
1. Bundestag member Stefan Keuter, who illegally made visits to Azerbaijan’s occupied territories in 2019 and during the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh War, is known in German society for his enthusiastic use of Nazi and anti-Semitic slogans.
2. Andreas Kalbitz, a member of the Brandenburg Landtag who illegally visited Nagorno Karabakh in 2019 and during the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh War, represented the right-wing of the AfD extremist Flugel. He was expelled from the party in May 2020 for his neo-Nazi past. However, he remained a member of the AfD faction of the Brandenburg Landtag. Kalbitz called the Karabakh War “the struggle of Christian culture against Islamic expansion.”
3. Bundestag Member, Deputy Chairman of the German-South Caucasus Parliamentary Group Steffen Kotré, who illegally visited occupied lands in 2019 and during the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh War, is campaigning for the benefit of Armenians within the parliamentary group. The rightist is an extremist, and he voiced statements against migrants.
4. Andreas Galau, a right-wing extremist, vice-president of the Brandenburg Landtag, paid illegal visits to occupied lands in 2019 and during the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh War. He supports Andreas Kalbitz, who was expelled from the AfD party.
5. Lars Patrick Berg, who illegally visited Azerbaijan’s occupied territories as a member of the Baden-Württemberg Landtag in 2017 and was later elected to the European Parliament. He’s known for his continuous propaganda in favor of Armenia and for his Islamophobic, anti-Turkish and anti-Azerbaijani statements.
6. Enrico Komning illegally visited Azerbaijan’s occupied territories in 2016 as a member of the Landtag of the federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and was later elected to the Bundestag. In 2016, the media circulated a scandalous audio recording of his conversation with party members: “We do not want a parliamentary state, or as this democracy is called. We want to abolish it.”
7. Holger Arppe, a member of the Landtag of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, who illegally visited Azerbaijan’s occupied territories in 2016, left the AfD faction in Landtag in 2017 after his racist, pedophilic and violent crackdown was exposed in the press. In 2018, he was expelled from the AfD party. During the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh War, he actively campaigned for the Armenian side, emphasizing the “threat of Islamization” in Europe, citing Turkey’s “participation” in the war.
8. Thomas Rudy, a member of the Landtag of the federal state of Thuringia, who illegally visited Azerbaijan’s occupied territories in 2016, is a member of the far-right extremist wing of the AfD. He was known for his Nazi, racist, and homophobic slogans and statements. During the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh War, he carried out propaganda activities in favor of the Armenian side.
9. Manuel Ochsenreiter, a radical right-wing journalist who accompanied AfD Landtag deputies on an illegal visit to Azerbaijan’s occupied territories in 2016, worked as the editor-in-chief at “Deutsche Militärzeitrschrift” in 2004-2011 and “Zuerst!” in 2011 (both magazines are considered right-wing extremists). He spoke at an anti-Semitic conference on the “Jewish lobby in Germany” in Tehran in 2014. In 2018-2019, Markus Frohnmaier, a member of the Bundestag, was fired from his job in the Bundestag, connected with an investigation into his involvement in a terrorist attack on the Hungarian minority in the Ukrainian city of Uzhgorod. The German press has stated that Markus Frohnmaier received instructions from Russian officials. Besides, there are reports that Ochsenreiter and Frohnmaier were coordinators of a series of illegal visits to separatist areas in the post-Soviet space in cooperation with Russian special services. Another key figure in the network, Mateusz Piskorski, has been arrested in Poland on charges of spying for Russia.
The expenses of AfD members’ visits to the occupied Nagorno Karabakh region were covered by the illegitimate parliament of the illegal regime in Nagorno Karabakh. The visitors tried to conceal this fact by making various contradictory statements on this issue.
The head of the illegal regime, Arayik Harutyunyan, said that he had been cooperating closely with the AfD for five years during the illicit visit of the AfD throughout the Second Nagorno Karabakh War.
Armenian lobbying groups and most certainly, the embassy in Berlin, also successfully engaged the radical leftist faction of the German Parliament. Among the infamous corrupt officials are these members of the radical leftist faction of the Bundestag:
Sevim Dağdelen, a member of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee, is of Turkish descent (semi-Kurdish) and has a radical anti-Turkish stance. She chaired the German-Turkish parliamentary group in the current convocation of the Bundestag, completely paralyzing the group’s activities. Her anti-Azerbaijani activity began after the clashes over Tovuz district of Azerbaijan in July 2020, and the MP turned Turkey’s political support for Azerbaijan into a new topic of her anti-Turkish campaign using the strong anti-Turkish sentiment that prevailed in Germany at the time. Since then, she has been making populist, baseless, and absurd accusations against Azerbaijan.
The faction’s foreign policy spokesman, Dr. Gregor Gysi, was the faction’s co-chair for foreign policy until 2017. At that time he was distinguished for his consistent position on the conflict. He responded to citizen inquiries from the Azerbaijani Diaspora supporting Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. The Leftist faction has always taken an objective position on the conflict with the documents adopted under his leadership. After the 2017 elections, he began to lead the faction’s foreign policy group. During a meeting at the Azerbaijani embassy, he offered lobbying services for a just settlement of the conflict.
After the last Karabakh war broke out, his position changed completely. Since then, he has been making purely pro-Armenian speeches and statements. When criticizing his country’s policy on Turkey, Gysi emphasized that Azerbaijan ‘attacked’ the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh with the “military assistance” from Turkey.
Ulla Jelpke, the rapporteur of the Left-wing faction in the Bundestag’s Committee on Internal Affairs, is the only member of the faction who has visited Azerbaijan’s occupied territories. After the Tovuz battles, she sent a small inquiry to the German government entitled “Attacks on Armenians in Germany” and made baseless accusations against the Azerbaijani and Turkish special services based on information from Armenian diaspora organizations. Both the government’s refusal to confirm any of the MPs’ charges and exposure of her pro-Armenian activities by the Azerbaijani diaspora have forced Jelpke to take a back seat, and she has moved from active propaganda to behind-the-scenes lobbying.
The list is supplemented by members of the ruling Christian Democratic/Christian Socialist Union (CDU/CSU) faction of the Bundestag:
Albert Weiler, Deputy Chairman of the German-South Caucasus Forum, is the prominent political lobbyist for Armenians in Germany, co-founder, and chairman of the German-Armenian Forum. The legal address of the German-Armenian Forum is the Bundestag office. Alla Serobyan, who works in his office, is also a member of the Forum’s board. Weiler was elected from the federal state of Thuringia. In 2018-2019, there were reports in Germany, especially in the federal territory of Thuringia, about the existence of an organized Armenian mafia and the Forum’s connections with it. Arthur Abraham and Karo Murat, professional boxers of Armenian origin who belong to the Mafia, are members of the Forum. Weiler has been a member of the Bundestag since 2013. Prior to that, he was involved in politics at the local level. It can be assumed that his appearance in federal politics was encouraged by the Armenian mafia. In 2014, he paid his first illegal visit to Azerbaijan’s occupied territories and then established the German-Armenian Forum.
After being re-elected to the Bundestag, he also became the deputy chairman of the Germany-South Caucasus Forum, tried to create a political scandal by having himself included in the delegation of the German Chancellor during her visit to Azerbaijan. While CDU/CSU rejected cooperation with AfD in all fields, the deputy chairmen of the parliamentary group Albert Weiler (CDU/CSU) and Steffen Kotré (AfD) were still cooperating. They held a meeting with the Azerbaijani ambassador in the Bundestag. The meeting was organized by Weiler’s employee Alla Serobyan.
Manfred Grund, Member of the Bundestag’s Committee on Foreign Affairs – Grund, who had good relations with Azerbaijan, began lobbying for Armenia in 2014 after an illegal visit to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan together with Albert Weiler. He is the most active member of the Bundestag who campaigned for the Armenian side during the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh War. Moreover, since he was elected from Thuringia, it can be assumed that his cooperation with Armenia was established through the Armenian mafia. Andranik Aslanyan, who is from Nagorno Karabakh, works in his office (according to unconfirmed reports). Aslanyan is a Director General of “ELASE Real Estate GmbH“, and engaged in laundering money of the elements of the separatist regime in Germany.
Till Mansmann, Member of Bundestag’s Free Democratic Party (FDP), who has been a Member of Bundestag since 2017, is a deputy chairman of the Germany-South Caucasus Parliamentary Group. He is also a deputy chairman of the Germany-Armenia Forum and an Armenian lobbyist. It is possible that Mansman’s joining the Armenian lobby was arranged by Albert Weiler. In addition, the Bergstrasse constituency, from where he was elected, has had ties with the so-called regime since 2013.
Cem Ozdemir, Member of Bundestag’s Greens Party Faction, Chairman of Transport and Digital Infrastructure Committee Cem Ozdemir was co-chair of the Green Party in 2008-2018. He started lobbying in 2015 for recognition of the so-called “Armenian genocide”. Ozdemir is one of the authors of the resolution adopted by the Bundestag in 2016.
Martin Sonneborn is the chairman of Die PARTEI, which is a satirical, populist party and includes clowns. Being married to a spouse of Armenian descent, he’s been active in his support for Armenian cause. He illegally visited the occupied territories of Azerbaijan in 2018 and 2019. On his second visit, he was accompanied by his employees and party comrades. While not taking politics seriously and creating a show in the European Parliament (voting once in favor and once against), Sonneborn is seriously engaged in Armenian propaganda. In January 2021, he posted a “joke” related to China on social networks, which was seen as racism against Asians. After a wave of sharp criticism, he had to apologize for it. As a protest against Sonneborn’s post, Nico Semsrott, the second member of the Die PARTEI (the party has only two representatives in the European parliament) in the Parliament resigned.
Among other lobbyists for Armenia are: six honorary consuls, Haypress.de news website, Sascha Düerkop, Otto Luchterhandt Tessa Hoffman, and others. It is likely that honored consuls, who are businessmen, finance other Armenian lobbyists, and their tools.
1. Günter Pilarsky – President of Cronimet Corporation in Karlsruhe town – has been the honorary consul of Armenia in Baden-Württemberg since 2006. He is also a vice-president and sponsor of Karlsruhe SC football club. The club’s president was Ingo Wellenreuther, a member of the CDU/CSU faction, until 2020. Pilarsky supposedly uses Wellenreuther’s political contacts.
2. Dr. Steven Brian Fera – the owner of “Wicom Germany GmbH” and honorary consul of Armenia in Hessen. He organized the visit of the head of Bergstrasse municipality to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan in 2013. He is probably in cooperation with Till Mansmann, deputy chairman of the Germany-South Caucasus Parliamentary Group and a deputy chairman of the Germany-Armenia Forum.
3. Sascha Düerkop – worked as “general secretary” of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA), the international governing body for association football teams that are not affiliated with FIFA, until 2020. He is currently engaged in propaganda of Armenians in the social networks and putting pressure on German politicians who have contacts with Azerbaijan. He intensively cooperates with the Armenian diaspora.
4. Prof. Dr. Otto Luchterhandt is a retired professor in international law and the main figure in the promotion of Armenia through science. In his articles, he tries to prove that Nagorno Karabakh has a right to separate from Azerbaijan. He intensively cooperates with Armenian diaspora.
5. Tessa Hofmann is a publicist and is engaged in the promotion of fake Armenian history in her research works. She intensively cooperates with the Armenian diaspora.
It is noteworthy that all these individuals have started losing their connection to the Armenian cause since the defeat of the Armenian army during the Second Nagorno Karabakh War.
The November 9 trilateral agreement between Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia which sealed the fate of the unrecognized Artsakh Republic have become a turning point in the relationship between Armenian narrow interest groups and corrupt European lawmakers.
With the dissolution of Armenian annexationist policies in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, these lawmakers are becoming useless, as their only purpose served was to speak up for Armenia’s nationalist designs in European capitals. However, where the source of funds from one place ends, the other begins.
If Armenia-supported illegitimate regime ceased to exist, others still remain, and these disposed – for the lack of a better word – lawmakers will begin working for other separatist and annexationist movements such as Ukraine.
The fact of the matter is that some European members of parliament, obviously, continue to take positions in their respective governments to serve interests of other countries. This seems to be a rather lucrative way of life. In Europe, being a civil servant and serving national interests of another country, is largely unregulated.
Perhaps, stricter laws and regulations on these actions are warranted to fight corruption, neo-Nazism and treason.
This article originally appeared in The USA Tribune on 03 April 2021.