Political expert: Reports that the Azeri Parliament might adopt a law "On Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan" were just an attempt to see the reaction of the Azeri society, Armenia and the world community
Marat Terterov: Armenia’s long term security will be better served by strengthening economic security, rather than defining national security on the basis of the Tsarist Russian catch-cry “armiya i flot”
Interview of Arif Yunusov, Head of the Conflict Studies and Migration Department of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, with ArmInfo news agency
by David Stepanyan
On 1 May 2012 the non-permanent member of the UN Security Council Azerbaijan took chairmanship in this structure. The first speech of President Aliyev, in which he blamed Armenia for terrorism against Azerbaijan and directly linked terror with the Karabakh conflict, has demonstrated his intention to use the platform of the Security Council like a means for pushing his position on the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict bypassing Minsk Group co-chairmen. What are the prospects of such a position?
Today the Azeri and Armenian authorities do not trust each other and are waging an open information war. They are trying to use any tribune and opportunity for gaining the upper hand.
Therefore, Azerbaijan's non-permanent membership and now chairmanship in the UN Security Council was good news for the Azeris and bad news for the Armenians - for both sides perfectly knew that this would be used in their information war.
Had Armenia been in Azerbaijan's place, President Sargsyan would have also tried to use that tribune for accusing Azerbaijan and Turkey. So, to me Aliyev's speech is normal. The question is how effective it was and what it will give Azerbaijan. Of course, all this information war is creating new obstacles to the settlement. If the Armenian and Azeri presidents trusted each other, everything would be different, but this, alas, is not so. I am a realist and perfectly understand that Azerbaijan will use the Security Council's tribune for propaganda only and will not be able to push its resolution bypassing the OSCE MG. Should there be such an attempt, it will be cut short by the MG co-chairs.
What is today’s specifics of relations between the West and official Baku? Does Baku continue selling oil and gas on privilege prices with a hope to be supported in the matter of Nagornyy Karabakh conflict settlement?
First, Azerbaijan was conducting its oil policy thinking that in an exchange for favorable terms in delivery of energy resources, the West and first of all the USA will support to resolve the Karabakh conflict. But time showed that these illusions are still illusions. Having got its share in the energy resources, the West was not eager to help Azerbaijan in the Karabakh settlement. However, this does not hinder the authorities of Azerbaijan to believe that such a policy will give, or in other words, should give its fruits sooner or later. Today, another geo-political factor has been added to the issue of energy resources - the role of Russia with its <gas blackmail> and the problem of Iran, which undoubtedly raises the role of Azerbaijan in the region for the western countries. The countries of the European Union have recently started drawing more attention at the relations with Azerbaijan, as it is very much important for them to find alternative to the Russian gas. As for the USA, it may let itself not to be concerned much about the "gas policy" of Russia, as the role of Azerbaijan in the matter of Iran is more important for the USA. As a result, all this together has led to the situation, that on the one hand, in Azerbaijan the authorities still believe they have an opportunity for using the energy resources factor and the factor of its role in the region for the Karabakh issue settlement. And on the other hand, the western countries especially the European ones have started developing the relations with Azerbaijan more actively and showing special attention to the energy problems. However, the situation in the public opinion of Azerbaijan has changed much. In the middle of the 90s Azerbaijan had romantic views about the role and potential of the West in the matter of Karabakh returning and life improvement in Azerbaijan, including the aid for democratizing
of the country. But these illusions disappeared quickly especially during Ilham Aliyev's tenure. And the anti-American and anti-western mood has started growing quickly in Azerbaijan, especially along with growing of the islamist factor influence in the society. And representatives of the western countries, including diplomats, have started taking this moment into consideration.
I think that for this reason the western diplomats have been trying to persuade the Azerbaijani society that the countries represented by them in Azerbaijan are concerned not so much about the energy resources, as about the democracy problems. But the more they say about it, the less the society trusts in them, as there is a widely spread viewpoint in the Azerbaijani society, according to which, actually the West needed only the energy resources in Azerbaijan. Few people in Azerbaijan believe that the West will support in the matter of Nagornyy Karabakh conflict resolving.
President Obama has recently appointed ” oil expert” Richard Morningstar a new ambassador of the USA to Azerbaijan. Is such an appointment evidence of the priorities of the USA in Azerbaijan?
By appointing another oil expert Richard Morningstar as its ambassador to Azerbaijan the United States has proved the continuity of its policy in the country and the region. The problem N1 for the Obama Administration for the moment is Iran, the problems N2 and N3 being energy resources and Russia. These are the three priorities of the United States' policy in the Caucasus and Azerbaijan. The last question is not being mentioned in public, but everybody understands that despite declared partnership, the United States and Russia are strongly confronting each other in the region. Despite assurances that human rights and democracy are
also a priority, the Americans keep closing their eyes on human rights violations in Azerbaijan and are focused exclusively on their geo- political and energy ambitions.
The authorities of Azerbaijan have taken great efforts and spending big funds for creation of the Azerbaijani lobbyist organizations in the USA and Europe. They do that as a counterbalance to the Armenian lobbyist organizations functioning for many years. How successful is their activity? And is it stemming from the interests of the Azerbaijani people?
Over the last years the Azerbaijani authorities invested much for creation or enhancing of the Diaspora Azerbaijani organizations acting in the western countries. Actually, they do that as a counter to the Armenian Diaspora organizations. It could not be in another way, as the Karabakh conflict has not been settled yet. The Armenian Diaspora organizations have been doing the same, but in their activity they first of all mean Turkey and then Azerbaijan. That is to say, they have been acting against the countries, which they have got a conflict or a serious unsettled problem with. This is stemming from the interests of the Azerbaijani people as much as the activity of the Armenian Diaspora organizations is stemming from the interests of the people of Armenia. All this is a mirror reflection of the conflict. Much will change after settlement of the conflict. However, we still have what we should have in the conditions of the unsettled conflict. The same has been taking place in the sniper and sabotage war at the Armenian-Azerbaijani line of contact, as a result of which people fall every week. As a result, the feeling of hatred raises among Armenians and Azerbaijanis to those who have been regularly breaking the ceasefire regime and killing civilians for the last 18 years. For this reason, in the Azerbaijani society the facts of people's death cause negative reaction against the enemy, i.e. the Armenians. We see the same attitude in the Armenian society to the Azerbaijanis.
The mass collisions between the people and police have recently taken place in the regions of Azerbaijan populated by the Lezgins and the Talishes. What are their reasons?
I have not heard of any clashes with the police in the southern region densely populated with the Talishes. Someone outside Azerbaijan has hastily presented the situation as such.
There is a social factor in those clashes. The social factor was big also before. The situation in the provinces is deteriorating year by year, first of all, because of the bureaucratic outrage and high level of corruption. Therefore, in various regions of Azerbaijan such clashes with the police and public unrest have become quite frequent over the last years. Last year there were especially serious clashes with the police in the Sabirabad and Saatli regions, for instance. All this is not news for us. There is unrest in the north of Azerbaijan, in the town of Guba, in the current year that evoked wide response both in Azerbaijan and outside it. It was after the unrest in Guba that those fantastic versions of clashes with ethnic overtones originated. There were reports on the unrest among the Lezgin population, Jews, Tats and other national minorities. However, there was no ethnic factor in those clashes, for most of the activists were Azerbaijanis by nationality.
The residents of Guba were protesting against activity of the head of the local administration whose tyranny has led the people to the 'boiling point'. In fact, there was social outbreak. Afterwards, in other regions of Azerbaijan the population also woke up and the authorities had nothing to do but dismiss the especially odious officials to avoid repetition of the incidents in Guba.