Russian expert comments on geopolitical situation in South Caucasus, Ukraine and Iran

Russian expert comments on geopolitical situation in South Caucasus, Ukraine and Iran

Baku, Azerbaijan, March 5

By Elmira Tariverdiyeva- Trend:

The format OSCE Minsk Group does not work and can not work, and maybe the group does not want to break the deadlock into the peace process over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Director of the Russian Center for Public Policy Research Vladimir Yevseyev told Trend on March 4.

"Understanding it, Russia is disappointed in Minsk Group format. Two Minsk Group co-chairs - France and the U.S. have a very influential Armenian diaspora, which exert a powerful pressure on these countries, which is not good for the work of the structure," he said.

It is important today to create a new format of security in the region among Russia, Turkey and Iran, according to the expert. These states may agree, and furthermore, each of these countries can influence the allies and partners from the countries of the region, he said.

These states are interested on the one hand that there be no war in the region, and on the other in the weakening of the United States and strengthening the role of regional players, according to Yevseyev.

"I think that it is necessary to rise above the Nagorno-Karabakh problem and to take the necessary steps in the beginning, such as withdrawal of snipers from the frontline. It would be logical to liberate occupied territories around Nagorno-Karabakh, but I have no idea how to achieve it," he said.

It is necessary to work out common rules of the game in the region, according to Yevseyev . "It is not an easy way, but perhaps there is simply no other way."

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 per cent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts.

Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia, France and the U.S. are currently holding peace negotiations.

Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council's four resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.

The situation in Ukraine

The expert believes it is possible today to exactly predict that there will not be a war in Ukraine.

"Today, the most effective way to influence Russia and Ukraine is to extend the 'Magnitsky List', so it may include officials from both countries and, which according to West, will have a surgical impact on certain individuals," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to create an international group of experts to investigate the situation in Crimea. Furthermore the chancellor advocated establishment of a contact group, probably led by the OSCE, which will have the purpose of starting a political dialogue. Putin agreed with Merkel's proposal.

Yevseyev said if the group, agreed upon by Moscow and Berlin, starts operating, this can keep Europe from the actions regarding sanctions against Russia.

Yevseyev said Russia will send troops to Ukraine in case of complete hopelessness.

"But there is no civil war in Ukraine, the flow of refugees is small, so there is no need in sending troops there," the expert said.

And the Crimea is moving towards a full independence, according to the expert.

"At the same time Russia will not interfere in this process, however this will be a severe irritant in relations between Moscow and the West," Yevseyev said.

Armenia's joining the Customs Union

Touching upon Armenia's accession to the Customs Union, the expert expressed doubts about the successful work of this cooperation format in Armenia. There are bigger problems inside Armenia, for example, a horrendously corrupt system that will not allow the Customs Union to operate in the country, Yevseyev said.

The expert believes that the events in Ukraine will hinder any integration process, as Russia simply will not be up to the Eurasian space, and integration processes will require resources.

Artificial economic problems will be created for Russia by the West, and it is not clear what the situation will be in a year. And in these conditions Armenia will be able to get out of the disabled Customs Union format, according to Yevseyev.

"We will hope that the Customs Union will remain in the format of three countries, namely, Russia , Kazakhstan and Belarus," he added. "Armenia's participation in it will be nominal."

Relations between Russia and Azerbaijan

"A huge infrastructure project is required to prevent the emerging differences between Russia and Azerbaijan," Yevseyev said. "It would be useful to start a transportation project like the North-South highway through Iran for convergence of the countries. The cargo would pass through it and this would positively affect the economic situation in all three countries."

"It would be one of those commissures that strengthen the relations between the two countries," he added. "However, the sanctions against Iran hinder the realization of the project."

Iran's nuclear program and relations with the West

"Lifting of sanctions against Iran was very ephemeral," he said. "The West made minor concessions, unfroze Iran's small assets. It did not lift the banking sanctions and even sanctions on sea freight shipping insurance."

"It is impossible to come to a final agreement during the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program," he said. "However, both sides can take minor actions by making minor temporary concessions that might work. Iran could observe an IAEA additional protocol within six months. It entitles the inspectors to inspect any facility in the country in case of the development of Iran's nuclear program.

"In case of a temporary action, an additional protocol will tie up Iran if it wants to build a nuclear weapon," he added. "Moreover, it is necessary to extend such measures in the future as the West would be confident that Iran does not develop nuclear potential within the additional protocol."

"This postponement relieves tension on the Iranian issue as on the one hand, the pressure on Iran is slackened, and on the other side, restrains Israel's from the blow," he said.

"The West could lift the sanctions on marine cargo insurance and soften the bank sanctions," he said.

"Germany could be one of the initiators of the rapprochement process between the West and Iran," he said. "Germany could benefit from its business restoration in Iran. But Iran was less independent than was required for such a step."

Together with other permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, the U.S. continue the negotiations with Iran aimed at working out the final agreement on nuclear program of this country which must be signed by summer.

Relations between Iran and Russia

Russia and Iran have complex relations, a so-called 'cautious partnership'. The countries still have not reached the normal cooperation level, the expert said.

"The relations between Russia and Iran mainly depend on who is in power in both of the countries," Yevseyev said.

Today, Russia and Iran can cooperate by implementing the oil contract, that's to say the agreement in accordance to which Iran and Russia will carry out the barter of the Iranian oil for Russian products, according to the expert.

Nevertheless, this contract has purport only under the conditions of existence of sanctions against Iran, according to Yevseyev.

"In this case, Russia would be better not to go for it now, but in August, when the talks on Iran start slipping, as it will be clear to everybody that probably it is impossible to reach a final agreement," Yevseyev said.

Additionally, after the elections in Ukraine in May, under the circumstances of the heightened confrontation with the West, Russia will be able to begin the implementation of this contract which will take Iran out of the sanctions," the expert said.

In this case we are talking about a lot of oil from Iran that Russia will not be able to refine and use in the country due to the technical characteristics of Iranian hydrocarbons and problems in transporting such volumes of oil, the expert said.

Yevseyev thinks that one can start with smaller volumes, but the sides are technically not ready for this yet.

The non-delivery of Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran is also a stumbling block between the two countries, the expert said, adding that Iran persists in this issue, keeping a lever of pressure on Russia.

Nevertheless, Yevseyev believes that there can't be talks about establishing normal relations unless the two countries eliminate this problem.

Translated by S.I, E.A., N.H., L.Z.

Edited by C.N.

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