Interview with Ariel Cohen, Ph.D, Senior Research Fellow Russian & Eurasian Studies and International Energy Security at Heritage Foundation
Question: How do you estimate the elections held in Azerbaijan as an observer?
Answer: The estimation of the elections, as we heard at the news conference staged by the OSCE, differed. From one point, the OSCE gave strictly negative estimation and representatives of the organization stated that the elections fall short of necessary standards. From another part, delegation of the European Parliament noted positive milestones and regarded it as progress. So the European parliament wants to work with Azerbaijan.
What do I see in reality? According to my personal observations in some polling stations, they were exact and transparent procedures. The problem evolved while calculation of the votes. I believe that the observers were right in their notes and there were serious problems. The question is whether the problems will be resolved? If the problems are resolved successfully at the CEC, perhaps with the participation of the courts and within legal frames and the Constitution, so the elections will become a step forward.
Question: What interests does the US pursue in its policy towards Azerbaijan?
Answer: the United States has three major interests in Azerbaijan. This is geopolitical interests, development of the oil and gas sector and democratization. Every of the interests has great potential for expР°nsion and development of the relationships. I hope we will be able to solve the question set by the elections more rapidly and successfully and continue the cooperation.
Question: How does the cooperation between the two countries coincide to the real potential?
Answer: There is favorable platform for expansion of cooperation. I underscore again that the reforms were held in Azerbaijan very good. The authorities and the President should have democratic legitimacy, which is not achieved only during the elections process вЂ" both pre- and post-elections are meant and the results should be fair. So, the potential should be improved and developed so that to confide the society in Azerbaijan and out of the country in the satisfactory functioning of the democratic system in Azerbaijan. The elections once more showed that there are prospects for improvement.
Question: How do you see the ways of resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict Nagorno-Karabakh?
Answer: Washington today is optimistic in connection with the achievement of serious progress in the resolution of the conflict in 2006. I hope the optimism will justify itself. I understand that economic situation in Armenia remains to be seriously critical due to non-resolution of the conflict. Unfortunately, I am personally not optimistic in this respect. The delayed conflict for the territory, which Armenia maintains under occupation in armed way, as a rule, is not resolved easily and rapidly. Due to deep confidence of the Armenian side and KarabakhвЂ™s government Armenia does not want to resolve the conflict which could restore AzerbaijanвЂ™s sovereignty over Karabakh.
IsnвЂ™t the fact of Muslim country the key reason for the US policy of dual standards in regard to Azerbaijan? It would be enough to remind of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, the approval of the direct financial assistance to the separatist regime in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the non-inclusion of Azerbaijan in Millennium Challenge program.
As Muslim country Azerbaijan should become a model of partnership with the United States and in sense of development of democracy, as for the United States it is necessary to have such successful cases, letвЂ™s say demonstrative projects. So, it is important to have good relationships with the United States to achieve successful economic and democratic development of Azerbaijan, to make it a model for Iran, for Shiites in Iraq and entire Muslim world.
Real political processes in the Congress show that internal lobby groups in the United States, in particular, the Armenian lobby, are in condition to pass definite assistance programs via the Congress. So, it is not dealt with the dual standards, but details of the internal politics. The Congress approves the funds.