Winter 2000 (8.4)
We Forget: The UN in Iraq - Sergio Vierira de Mello - Paolo Lembo
of the Birth of a Nation: Azerbaijan - Paolo Lembo
Interview with Paolo Lembo - Interview by Betty Blair
Short (Why Are We Killing Each Other?) - Paolo Lembo
Above: From right to left:
UNDP Representative Paolo Lembo and German Ambassador Michael
Schmunk with military officers.
Paolo Lembo was the former UN Representative in Azerbaijan
(1992-97) and Michael Schmunk, the former German Ambassador
to Azerbaijan (1994-1997). Their paths have crossed again on
assignment in Kosovo, but neither one has forgotten about Azerbaijan.
It was 10 a.m. on Monday, November 27, 2000, when the telephone
rang in my office in Prishtina, Kosovo. It was Michael Schmunk,
German Diplomatic Envoy to Kosovo.
"Paolo, I can't believe this," he said. "I've
just come from Prizren, southern Kosovo, where I've discovered
that there's an Azerbaijani Battalion serving with the UN Peacekeeping
I was surprised. I was quite aware of every single Battalion
belonging to the UN Peacekeeping forces in Kosovo. I had never
heard of Azerbaijanis being here. "Let's go see," I
Three days later, Michael Schmunk, myself and a small delegation
of UN officers drove up to the small village of Dragash in the
mountains and found the Azerbaijani troops there on duty.
The region is under German command; the Azerbaijani Battalion,
comprising a staff of 34 military personnel, serves in partnership
with Turkish troops in an area of Kosovo where Turkish influence
is still visible in culture, customs and language. In fact, the
Azerbaijani troops can communicate well with the population,
an advantage that makes them very popular among the local residents.
soldiers on a UN Peacekeeping assignment
in Kosovo are visited by diplomats who previously worked together
Senior German and Turkish officers praised the troops, who work
under very difficult climatic circumstances in a fragile and
politically charged environment. The Azerbaijani troops, well-trained
and dedicated, are carrying out their function in a manner that
gains them respect from everyone. They have brought with them
their culture and customs (even cuisine!), which makes them relate
well with the people.
Escorted to the Central Command, we were taken to a large hall,
where we eventually met our Azerbaijani friends.
It was indeed a very moving moment. Ambassador Schmunk gave a
brief address, remembering the days when he was Ambassador in
Then it was my turn to speak, and I had only one statement to
make: "When I first carried the United Nations flag in a
suitcase to Azerbaijan in 1992, I was convinced that it wouldn't
be long before the people of Azerbaijan would go from being beneficiaries
of United Nations' assistance to becoming contributors themselves.
Today, I'm proud to acknowledge that this moment has come true."
After this formal moment, we chatted with the soldiers and were
surprised to discover that some of them even recognized and remembered
us! We joked and drank tea; someone played a worn-out Azerbaijani
tape and music filled the air. It made us feel like we were at
home, back in Baku. But curfew was upon us and we had to leave
As we walked
away, Michael whispered in my ear: "Those where good days,
And as we entered the car, my eye caught a glimpse of the two
flags - Azerbaijani and the United Nations - sewn on the uniform
of one of the soldiers. Emotion shook my soul. "Yes, Michael,"
I answered, "those were the good old days - very good old
Resident Director, UNDP Kosovo (since September 1999)
Note: other articles
featuring Paolo Lembo and Michael Schmunk can be found in Azerbaijan
International magazine. SEARCH at AZER.com
(8.4) Winter 2000.
© Azerbaijan International 2000. All rights reserved.
Back to Reader's
Back to Index AI 8.4 (Winter
| Magazine Choice | Topics