Azerbaijan, Baku, December 5 / Trend , E.Tariverdiyeva /
Trend interview with the director of foreign policy programs of Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy Fariz Ismailzade.
Q: You attended one of the most prestigious political forums Wilton park. What are Your impressions of the forum? What issues were on the focus of attention at this conference?
A: Wilton park conference, conducted since 1946, is one of the most prestigious forums in the world, uniting well-known experts, political scientists and representatives of the political elite at different times. The current conference was devoted to the South Caucasus. It was attended by Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Araz Azimov, the ambassador of Azerbaijan to the UK Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Deputy Prime Minister of Georgia, Minister for Reintegration Timur Yakobashvili, First Deputy Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Georgia Tamara Berchuashvili, EU Special Representative for South Caucasus Peter Semneby, Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia Karina Kazanyan, well-known experts Svante Cornell, Brenda Shaffer, Oksana Antonenko, Sabina Fraser, John Roberts. The main topics of discussion at the conference were conflicts, the main issue - the opening of Turkish-Armenian border and the consequences of the Georgian war.
I was surprised by the position of the Turkish side who claimed that the border between Turkey and Armenia should be opened. However, the Azerbaijani delegation insisted that exactly closing borders is a stimulus for Armenia to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and liberate the occupied territories. This view was supported by Brend Shaffer and Svante Cornell. The Armenian delegation insisted that the issue of opening the borders should be considered separately from the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.
Regarding the statement by the Armenian delegation that the people of Karabakh have the right to self-determination, the British expert Stephen Bolt noted that the right to self-determination belongs to the African and Asian countries, which fought for independence in 1960, and is not acceptable to the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Much attention was also paid to the Georgian war in 2008. The Georgian side presented its plan to resolve the situation. The first step to resolve the situation should be the demilitarization of the territories, the second - it is people's diplomacy, the third - to find ways of cooperation between Georgia and South Ossetia.
The last panel of the forum was devoted to questions of democratization in South Caucasus countries. My speech focused on the fact that the process of democratization in South Caucasus is a long way, which can not be performed for 18 years of independence of these countries.
During the forum, were also made recommendations for the EU for cooperation with countries of South Caucasus.
Upon completion of the conference, I made a number of conclusions. Firstly, the EU does not understand our realities and our internal problems. Secondly, in my opinion, the West is too optimistic about the opening of Turkish-Armenian border, believing that it is even useful for the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. All our arguments that the situation is only getting worse from obstinacy of Armenia have not led to results. In my opinion, the forum took place on a too optimistic note and the West does not understand how Armenia is ill with nationalism and creates problems in any negotiation process.
Q: What is the role of the West in the South Caucasus now, after the war in Georgia, where many geopolitical accents were removed?
A: After President Obama came to power, a certain lowering is felt in the U.S. interest in Georgia. Bush relied on Georgia, but now the U.S. fully focuses on the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia, giving preference to this project in the region. Both the U.S. and the EU and Russia are ready to support processes that will help Armenia in the future leave the economic isolation. With regards to the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, still the West does not insist on the liberation of Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenians, believing that this can be achieved after the opening of borders. According to the West, to solve two issues at once is more difficult than one after the other, and therefore, yet our position on the linkage of opening borders and the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is not in their understanding and support.
Such a policy of the West and Turkey can get into question the existence of such a strategically important project as Nabucco, and Azerbaijan gradually can increase the volume of gas supplies to Russia.
Q: In Your opinion, is not Turkey afraid of losing Azerbaijan?
A: According to Turkey, Azerbaijan should not be jealous for rapprochement of Ankara and Yerevan, but in my opinion, there is a potential threat for Turkey to lose Azerbaijan.
It needs to understand that Ankara's foreign policy priorities are changing and Azerbaijan is no longer the only strategic ally in the region. In my opinion, Turkey is connected with Russia by even closer partnership than with Azerbaijan.
Q: Why does the process of ratification of the protocols by the Turkish Parliament delay?
A: Turkey underestimated Azerbaijan. The Turkish government thought that it would easily pass the protocols through parliament, not expecting such an active and sharp reaction from Azerbaijan. In my opinion, this was an absolutely correct position of official Baku, because after such a reaction, the Turkish government had to reckon with the opinion of Azerbaijan.
The mistake of the ruling Turkish party was that they expected progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They did not consider that Armenia will not make compromise in the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Closer to April, pressure on Turkey will increase and eventually, Ankara can give up its positions and open borders, changing the tone of its political statements.
Q: What is the role of Russia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement and in the South Caucasus?
A: Azerbaijan's mistake is that we still believe that Russia can somehow influence on Armenia. However, Armenia plays its game, and as far as we do not count on the support of President Medvedev, Armenia is unlikely to make compromise in the issue of status of Nagorno-Karabakh in the coming months. However, in the near future, Azerbaijan can really get closer with Russia and the situation in the region can change. If earlier in the Caucasus there were clear alliance ligaments: Russia-Armenia, Turkey - Azerbaijan, West - Georgia, after the Georgian war, the accent changed. And now Azerbaijan considers Russia as a strategic ally. At the moment everything is going to ensure that Russia becomes stronger, and the West's position in the South Caucasus is weakening. Now, Turkey and Russia become major players in the Caucasus.