Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec.6 / Trend, E.Tariverdiyeva /
Baku hopes real progress can be achieved on resolving some of the outstanding issues facing the region-in particular, achieving lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan at the annual ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Dublin, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov's article on The Wall Street Journal says.
"Peace in the Caucasus would open up new avenues for cooperation and regional integration. With peace, we could all progress more quickly in our efforts to catch up with the rest of Europe. Dublin is our peace opportunity. I urge our Armenian counterparts to seize it, together with us," the article says.
According to Mammadyarov, Azerbaijan is economically prosperous due to an oil and gas boom, but its efforts to build a modern country are handicapped by security issues.
"The broader Caspian region is plagued with tension, which could quickly escalate from political problems between neighbors to open conflict. The most irritating and damaging issue for my country is with neighboring Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh province of Azerbaijan," the article says.
This province belongs to Azerbaijan, Mammadyarov writes.
"Armenian forces have occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent Azerbaijani districts since the 1993 cease-fire that was negotiated by the OSCE. The occupation has displaced nearly one million Azeri citizens from their place of origin," the article says.
As a result, our relations with Armenia are practically nonexistent. There is also a distinct lack of economic cooperation and trade between our two counties, the minister says.
"Azerbaijan wants peace so that we can continue to grow our economy, develop our energy resources and advance our relations with Europe and our neighbors. But Armenia also has a stake in peace with Azerbaijan. The country is isolated in the region largely because of this conflict. It is excluded from all regional infrastructure and energy projects, such as the oil and gas pipelines passing from the Caspian Sea to Turkey and Europe via Georgia, as well as a new railroad line between Azerbaijan and Turkey through Georgia, to be inaugurated this year. When we can agree on lasting peace, Armenia could become a stakeholder in these regional projects," the article says.
According to Mammadyarov, settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would benefit Europe as well.
"Azerbaijan is becoming a major energy exporter to Europe, and with the new pipeline agreement signed with Turkey, Europe will soon receive 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Azerbaijan. That volume could eventually rise to more than 20 billion cubic meters," the article says.
Mammadyarov underlined that European economic interests in Azerbaijan and the region extend beyond energy. Stability in the Caucasus is now part of Europe's internal security. It is no longer a matter of the EU engaging with its periphery, he writes.
"One thing should be clear: We will not accept a territorial division of Azerbaijan. Our territorial integrity must be respected, as this is international law. In 1993, the U.N. Security Council approved four relevant resolutions calling for an immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from our territory. The Armenian military withdrawal must be comprehensive, and it needs to take place now," Mammadyarov's article says.
He said beyond these two conditions, Baku is flexible and willing to support any peace process.
"We will back it up with a real economic development plan for Nagorno-Karabakh, including serious investments," he writes.
According to Mammadyarov, one can resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh problem only if there is political will on all sides.
"Azerbaijan is the biggest proponent of an immediate settlement of the conflict, and we stand committed to building a stable economic and security environment in our region. I suggest we move forward in Dublin and achieve progress on this issue beyond what has already been agreed with Armenia and the three OSCE co-chairs: France, the U.S. and Russia," the article says.
Mammadyarov underlined that after drafting a comprehensive peace agreement within a fixed time frame, the OSCE should agree on a new Minsk Group meeting to be attended by all parties.