West should become more active in region - Azerbaijani MP

Wed 09 Mar 2011 08:12 GMT | 12:12 Local Time

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News.Az interviews Zahid Oruj of the Azerbaijani parliament's defence and security committee and deputy leader of the Motherland (Ana Vatan) Party.

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian says that Yerevan has accepted the renewed proposals for a settlement of the Karabakh conflict put forward in St Petersburg, Astrakhan and Moscow as a basis for negotiations. Does this mean that Baku can hope for definite action from Yerevan that will lead to progress in the negotiations?

Since Armenia has not yet declared its position on the updated version of the Madrid principles, this mostly complicates the issue and protracts the process. The absence of an even minimum position, the failure of the Armenian side to express its opinion, cannot be perceived as tactics. It seems that when listing the names of those cities, Nalbandian was referring to thoughts expressed during the meetings of the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia. But I do not think that the proposals of the Minsk Group should be viewed as the central issues for discussion. I think the co-chairs have serious documents, which do not envisage just the basic principles.

For example, a document proposed by the UN as a model to settle the Cyprus problem, was 2,000 pages long. I don't think the co-chairs of the Minsk Group have that many pages, but it is not difficult to suppose that numerous proposals have been collected there throughout the period of negotiations on Karabakh. 

Is it possible to say, based on Nalbandian’s statement to the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna that Armenia has accepted the updated version of the Madrid principles?

I don’t think so. Earlier, Armenia said it did not accept the updated version for conflict settlement. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani side, for example the Foreign Ministry, expects Armenia to present its position on the issue to the mediators. The vagueness in Armenian policy dominates Yerevan’s foreign policy. A fool always prefers to keep silent in order to hide that he is a fool. These features can be attributed to states, as well as people: Armenia has not been expressing its opinion on the updated version of the Madrid principles for a year now.

And a statement by Nalbandian at any meeting that Armenia accepts the proposals does not mean that Yerevan has accepted the updated version of the Madrid principles.

How may events in North Africa and the Arab world change the domestic political situation in Azerbaijan and Armenia? May they have an effect on the Karabakh settlement?

The causes of the events in the Arab world exist in Armenia too, which even the political elite of the country admit. If Armenia grows weaker and internal tensions in the country increase, this will ultimately be in Azerbaijan’s favour. Certainly, this does not mean that Armenia will make concessions on a Karabakh settlement, because people mired in socioeconomic problems can be used by other states as a tool to achieve their goals. In other words, as Armenia grows weaker, Russia takes on itself the job of expressing Armenia’s position.

Do you agree with the view of some think-tanks that the West has entrusted to Russia the role of sole mediator on the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict?

Since 2008 Russia has stepped up its activity on a Karabakh settlement. It means the Kremlin has the initiative on a Karabakh settlement. It means that the short war in the Caucasus in August 2008 ended not only by strengthening Russia's position in the region in the military sense, but also helped to broaden Moscow's political and economic influence. Certainly, Russia would want to complete this process in a military sense and thus fully restore its presence in Azerbaijan and Georgia.

It is not a matter of Armenia in this case, as the country has already become Russia’s periphery.

Is the West justified in giving carte blanche to Russia on the Karabakh settlement?

The West should look for options to become more active in the region. No one can persuade me that the meetings on a Karabakh settlement, held in Russia, took place on the basis of US-initiated mechanisms. For this reason I believe that, if the Russia-initiated negotiations are ineffective, Azerbaijan should refuse to participate in the negotiating process with Armenia.

Azerbaijan should, nevertheless, recognize Russia as the main party in negotiations on the Karabakh conflict. Anyway, everyone knows that Russia took a direct military and political part in the Karabakh processes. The negotiations in Sochi between the presidents of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia on a Karabakh settlement are, for me, the last round held in this format.

Azerbaijan needs to declare that the Karabakh settlement will continue as part of its relations with Russia.

Does Azerbaijan have the potential to start the negotiating process with Russia on equal terms and to do political deals?

I think the execution of this idea in the 1990s could have entailed serious consequences for Azerbaijan. At that time too, Russia was dictating its terms for a conflict settlement. This dictatorship included joining the Collective Security Treaty Organization, joining the air defence union, coordinating foreign economic activity with Moscow, settlement of the Caspian problem and so on.

Political and economic horsetrading with Moscow on these issues is no longer so profitable to Azerbaijan. Currently, Azerbaijan is quite strong - the political future of this region mostly depends on the decisions taken by Azerbaijan. The West and Russia know that the destiny of the Caucasus cannot be decided without Azerbaijan. For this reason, I do not think that Russia will be chosen as a negotiating party to settle the Karabakh conflict at the expense of Azerbaijan's independence. Though some people mistakenly think that Russia would settle the Karabakh conflict if Azerbaijan agreed to become its outpost. These terms could have been proposed in the 1990s.

However, desirable results for Azerbaijan can now be attained through meeting some of Russia's political and economic interests.

Lala B.



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