Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov. 27
Trend Agency conducted a Q&A with Sidqi Shevket, Ph.D. in Law, head of the Azeri Daily website, to discuss such topics as West's attitude towards Azerbaijan, Iran's nuclear program of Iran, oil prices and more.
Q: How do you assess the international response to the incident with the Armenian helicopter? How in fact is Azerbaijan's position currently being estimated in the West - as of an ally? Why is it possible to observe the so-called 'witch-hunt' against Azerbaijan in the Western media, given that Azerbaijan has already proved to be a genuine ally of the West? Can we then talk about the impact of certain influential groups on the western politicians?
A: In general, the international response to the incident with the downed Armenian helicopter was quite predictable. We have heard before those time after time repeated statements about the inadmissibility of escalation of the conflict, the need to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by peaceful means, etc. Probably, it would be naive on our part to expect that a violation of the airspace of Azerbaijan by Armenian military aviation could somehow impel the international community to act more forcefully against Armenia as an aggressor.
At the same time, the Armenian side too should not expect any condemnation of Azerbaijan for the downed helicopter. Perhaps now more than ever, the international community, at least in words, has estimated the incident, well, not quite objectively yet, but at any rate without a clear bias towards one side. As for the West's attitude towards Azerbaijan, it is worth noting that this attitude is not only determined by the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, but also by many other factors of a geopolitical nature.
As you know, Azerbaijan is situated in an extremely important geostrategic position at the junction of transport corridors North-South and East-West. Therefore, the foreign policy of our country interests not only our immediate neighbours, but also many other global players. And no matter how balanced is our foreign policy, there will always be centers of power, which will be dissatisfied with one or another of our initiatives in the international arena.
At the same time Azerbaijan indeed proved itself a reliable ally of the West, at least in matters of energy security and the fight against terrorism, which today is so important for the West and the European Union in particular. However, if in the past Baku's relatively neutral position suited the powers competing at the geopolitical field, today, these key actors crossed the Rubicon, and there is a strong likelihood that the world is once again entering an era of a new Cold War. In this case, it will be extremely difficult to remain neutral. Apparently, the era of balanced foreign policy is nearing its end.
With regard to certain groups, which could influence the Western governments, then, first of all, it would be worth noting a rather strong and cohesive Armenian diaspora, which, in particular, has a special weight in such key countries as the United States and France. The fact that the OSCE Minsk Group consists of these two countries, plus Russia, whose preferences are well known, leads us to question the impartiality of this structure. If the co-chairs do come out with balanced and diplomatically consistent statements, including about the latest incident, it does not mean that they, or rather the countries they represent, act in the same manner. Unfortunately, here as well we are faced with the notorious policy of double standards, well, even triple ones, I would say. Of course, we need to work more closely with these countries, especially in the sphere of information policy, which today is not at the proper level.
Q: How do you think will the talks between Iran and '5+1' go, given that at the last meeting an agreement has been postponed once more?
A: Indeed, despite all efforts to reach a comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program by the November 24 deadline, the sides failed to do so. And the extension of the deadline obviously raises many questions about what direction will the sides now move in, and, in general, whether such an agreement is possible at all. However, there are no reasons yet to talk about the failure of the negotiations. And that is a plus.
The parties have agreed on a new seven-month extension of the negotiation process; and they do speak quite optimistically about the prospects of reaching the final agreement. Both Iran and the United States expressed confidence that such an agreement would still be concluded. Apparently, the parties today genuinely benefit from such an extension of the negotiation process, as the only alternative would be their complete failure. And the latter is fraught with major shocks for quite an unstable region of the Greater Middle East.
One way or another, but even during the last round of negotiations, the parties apparently managed to get closer on a number of positions, which gives hope to reach the long waited comprehensive agreement in the new year. Especially, since the Republican control of the US Congress gained at this year's midterm elections is also, oddly enough, of some help to the American delegation at the talks.
Any problems with the tightening of sanctions against Iran can now be attributed to political opponents, whereas any breakthroughs can be presented to the Iranian side as a manifestation of the White House's good will. Kind of a carrot and stick tactics. And given Iran's current somewhat uneasy economic situation, Tehran will still have to compromise in order to finally get rid of the suffocating sanctions imposed by the West. In any case, the parties are clearly aware of their responsibility in this explosive geopolitical situation.
Q: The trend of falling oil prices continues at the world oil market; the price has fallen to the lowest level in four years. What in your opinion is the optimal oil price today? And to what extent could non-OPEC oil-producing countries, such as Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan affect the situation at the market; and is it possible in the future to increase their role in the management of price trends?
A: First, I would like to note that the drop in oil prices is not solely the result of objective tendencies of the world economy. Although the market is still the basic factor. The market determines the demand and supply, on basis of which the price of oil or any other commodity is formed. At the same time, geopolitical factors, certainly, play a very important role here. The largest oil fields are known to be highly concentrated in volatile regions; and any political crisis in one or another oil-producing country or a group of them immediately echoes at the world markets.
As for the impact on global markets, probably in the near future it will be very difficult to undermine the leading position of the OPEC oil cartel, which actually has been created to coordinate the actions of the largest oil producing nations to build their competitive prices.
It is worth noting that according to the available official data, the OPEC countries together produce about 33 million barrels of crude oil per day, accounting for nearly 40 percent of world production. In addition, the OPEC member-countries account for almost 81 percent of all proven reserves of crude oil in the world.
The combined share of Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan in world oil production is only just over 18 percent. That is not taking into account the fact that recently Russian production rates declined slightly. In order to have an impact on pricing in the oil sector it would be necessary to create a new cartel at least equal to the OPEC, and to do so will be even more difficult in the future, given the mentioned figure of proven global oil reserves. And we should bear in mind that interests of the oil-producing countries, which are outside the OPEC, are too different for them to manage reducing to a common denominator. Thus, today, the last word remains with the OPEC.
Edited by SI