Joseph Muscat with Azerbaijan’s leader Ilham Aliyev at a NGIC conference in Baku in 2015
A major Azeri political think tank composed of former world leaders has listed former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi as one of its members… without even informing him.
Gonzi’s name appears on the members’ list of the Nizami Ganjawi International Centre, alongside several other former presidents and prime ministers from around the world. This ties in with the Centre’s role, which is to assemble former heads of state or government together to discuss and make recommendations on pressing world issues. It holds regular discussion meetings across Europe and is now planning a conference in Valletta.
However, Gonzi said he is not a member of the NGIC and was never even invited to join the organisation, and will write to the NGIC to clarify this.
“I received email invitations to attend their annual conference in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 but I declined each time,” he said. “I have a record of one meeting with a Mr Muradov who gave me an invitation to attend the 2014 conference. I have no record of ever being asked to join the organisation as a member and I will be writing to them to clarify this.”
The Centre got back to Gonzi to tell him its website will be updated and his name removed; it has not yet replied to a request for comment by Lovin Malta.
Gonzi’s constant rebuffs of the Nizami Ganjawi International Centre are in sharp contrast with the approach taken by his successor Joseph Muscat. In 2015, Muscat was one of only four sitting leaders – along with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov and then Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev – to address the Third Baku Global Forum, organised by the NGIC.
Joseph Muscat (right) with Ilham Aliyev and former Bulgarian PM Rosen Plevneliev at a NGIC conference
During that trip, Muscat also held a private meeting with Aliyev in which they announced plans for educational cooperation between Malta and Azerbaijan that never came to fruition.
Back then, late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had reported that Muscat had invited the Department of Information and TVM to cover his meeting with Aliyev but intentionally left them stranded in Baku.
Muscat met with delegations from the NGIC at least two more times – in Castille in July 2016 and in New York two months afterwards on the fringes of the UN General Assembly. During this second visit, which wasn’t reported in the Maltese press but was picked up by an Azeri news portal, Muscat announced that Malta will host a high-level meeting of the NGIC in 2017. This meeting never took place and has now been rescheduled to later on this year.
Joseph Muscat with NGIC’s secretary general and deputy Secretary General in Castille. Photo: Pictagram
“We planned to hold one of the High-Level Meetings of the NGIC in Valletta in 2017, but due to the overload of activities of both parties we postponed it to the term of 2018,” a NGIC spokesperson told Lovin Malta. “Now we are under discussion with the office of Prime Minister to reschedule the timing.”
The NGIC seems to have a very close relationship with Ilham Aliyev, who meets up with the think tank at least once a year and participates in its annual Baku forum. In November, Aliyev had gushing praise for the NGIC, saying that “most people have not yet realised the big role it would play worldwide”.