Azerbaijan fundamentally modern, secular country oriented towards West

Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict Materials 11 February 2016 14:24 (UTC +04:00)

Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 11

By Elmira Tariverdiyeva - Trend:

The EU has recently re-vamped its Eastern Partnership policy, taking into account the individual features of partner-countries, Dirk Schuebel, Head of Division for bilateral relations with the Eastern Partnership countries of the European External Action Service, said, EuroActive reported Feb. 11.

Schuebel was speaking at a conference organised by the EPC, the European Policy Centre.

"EU still tries to find a magic formula on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," Schuebel said.

Schuebel spoke in reply to comments by Svante Cornell, Director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Programme of the John Hopkins University, who criticised the Commission's and the West's dealings with Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Cornell argued that since the development of the Azerbaijani nation in the late 19th century, Azerbaijan had constantly made the choice of being part of what could be called the modern world.

"Importantly, this is a vision shared by the country's leaders, and by the overwhelming majority of the country's society," he said.

"Today, Azerbaijan was a fundamentally modern, secular country that is oriented towards the West, though it was unsure at what speed it wants to adopt all principles of the Western states, and was "increasingly suspicious of Western double standards"," he said.

Cornell pointed out that modern Azerbaijan was born after 1991, out of the trauma of the Armenian occupation of 20 percent of the country's territory and the ethnic cleansing.
Cornell said that the country recovered from this defeat and began to build a functioning state.

Another factor in Cornell's words was the West's decision to put Nagorno-Karabakh on the backburner and seek instead a normalisation of Turkey-Armenia relations.

"That inevitably undermined the prospects for a solution of this conflict, because if the main cost incurred by Armenia for its occupation of Azerbaijan territory, which is the closure of the border with Turkey, if that was lifted, what would be the Armenian interest in resolving the conflict," Cornell said.

"After the events in Georgia in 2008, the West practically reneged on its role in maintenance of sovereignty, security and conflict resolution, which are the most important issues for the government of Azerbaijan," Cornell said.

He further argued that Western rhetoric vis-à-vis Azerbaijan came to be entirely dominated by the issues of human rights and democracy.

"But I notice that the Washington Post has published nine editorials on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan in the past two years," he said. "I haven't seen that about Saudi Arabia, about Vietnam, about Turkmenistan, about many other countries Azerbaijan looks pretty good in comparison to."

"The more we focus only on human rights, the less we will achieve," he said.

"Azerbaijan is important for the EU in the context of fight against anti-radicalisation and counter-terrorism," Schuebel said.

Schuebel acknowledged that the efforts to get closer were not just done on the EU side.
"It was Azerbaijan who came forward with a proposal for a new Strategic Agreement, at the 2015 Riga summit," he said.