A Northern Neighbor Growls, and Azerbaijan Reassesses Its Options - 2008

A Northern Neighbor Growls, and Azerbaijan Reassesses Its Options

This country has always had tricky geography. To its north is Russia. To its south is Iran. And ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union it has looked west, inviting American companies to develop its oil reserves and embracing NATO. But since Russia and Georgia fought a short war this summer, its path has narrowed. Azerbaijan, a small, oil-rich country on the Caspian Sea, has balanced the interests of Russia and the United States since it won its independence from the Soviet Union. It accepts NATO training but does not openly state an intention to join. American planes can refuel on its territory, but American soldiers cannot be based here. “Azerbaijan is doing a dance between the West and Russia,” said Isa Gambar, an Azeri opposition figure. “Until now, there was an unspoken consensus. Georgia was with the West, Armenia was an outpost of Russia, and Azerbaijan was in the middle.” But with the war in Georgia, Russia burst back into the region, humiliating Tbilisi and its sponsor, the United States, which issued angry statements but was powerless to stop Russia’s advance. It was a sobering sight for former Soviet states, and one that is likely to cause countries like Azerbaijan to recalibrate their policies. “The chess board has been tilted, and the pieces are shifting into different places,” said Paul Goble, an American expert on the region, who teaches at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy in Baku, the capital. “What looked balanced before does not look balanced now.” A Western official said, referring to Azerbaijan: “Georgia was very much a wake-up call. This is what the Russians can do and are prepared to do. Georgia events underscored their vulnerability.”

Azerbaijan will be under more pressure from Russia when undertaking energy contracts and pipeline routes that Russia opposes, said one Azeri official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter. Officials from Russia’s gas monopoly, Gazprom, on a trip here this spring, offered to buy Azerbaijan gas at European prices, rather than at the former reduced rate. That offer, if the Azeris chose to accept it, could sabotage a Western-backed gas pipeline project called Nabucco. Rasim Musabayov, a political commentator in Baku, said that under the new conditions, many Azeris think that selling gas to Russia is not such a bad idea. New projects carry political risks, he said, and if Russia “will pay us a price we agree on for our gas, why build something new?” “You can’t have a foreign policy that goes against your geography,” he added. “We have to get along with the Russians and the Iranians.” After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia was weak, with a collapsed economy and a scattered, inconsistent foreign policy. Azerbaijan used that to its advantage. Now Russia is stronger and speaks in one voice, and Azerbaijan has to be more careful in its relations with its big neighbor. Georgia is now so hostile to Russia that working with it as a partner in the region is increasingly difficult, said Borut Grgic, chairman of the Institute for Strategic Studies in Ljubljana, Slovenia, an expert on Caspian energy infrastructure. “Azerbaijan will never seek E.U.-NATO integration at the expense of functional and working relations with Russia,” he said. The Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, he said, “is making this balance difficult to sustain.”

At no point in the crisis did Azerbaijan take a position that would have made Moscow bristle. When the fighting began, Azerbaijan appealed to Russia, asking it to preserve its infrastructure in Georgia — a port, an oil terminal and a pipeline. Moscow agreed, according to Azerbaijan’s foreign minister, Elmar Mammadyarov. Azerbaijan helped European diplomats enter Georgia while it was under attack, but when the leaders of Ukraine, the Baltics and Poland traveled to Tbilisi to express solidarity with the Georgians, the Azeri president, Ilham Aliyev, did not make the trip. And after Vice President Dick Cheney visited Baku in September, Mr. Aliyev flew immediately to Moscow for talks with the Russians. But the issue closest to this country’s heart is that of Nagorno-Karabakh, an area in its southwest where Armenian separatists formed an independent enclave in the 1990s. For years, Azerbaijan has tried, through international mediation, to reclaim the territory and allow Azeri refugees who fled to return. Since the war this summer, the Russians seem to have grabbed the initiative. President Dmitri A. Medvedev, on a trip to Yerevan, Armenia, this week, said Russia was pushing for a meeting between the Azeri and Armenian presidents. “I hope such a meeting will take place in Russia,” he said, Reuters reported. Russia has traditionally backed the Armenians, but times are changing. “One of the positive effects of the Georgian crisis is that the Kremlin will try to show that they are not crazy guys,” an Azeri official said. “That they can be good neighbors, too.” The Russian attitude toward Azerbaijan, one Azeri official said, was that “the U.S. has come to your country and is plundering your natural resources, but not giving you any support. Why not go with us instead?” Mr. Cheney, on his visit to Baku, also pledged to redouble efforts, causing some Azeris to remark ruefully that it took him eight years to make the trip. Ali Hasanov, an official in Azerbaijan’s presidential administration, said concrete progress would win many points in Baku. “If a big country takes a position, stands on the side of unbroken territory, we will follow its interests,” he said.

Caucasian knot may be untied in Moscow

Caucasian knot may be untied in Moscow (video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiPrS26dzL0

The presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia are meeting in Moscow to discuss ways of resolving the ongoing dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. Also known as the Artsakh Republic, the region, which is inhabited mainly by Armenians unilaterally declared independence from Azerbaijan in 1991. An armed conflict broke out, which ended with an unofficial ceasefire three years later, but the region is still in limbo. Seven hundred couples getting married at the same time - that's what you can truly call a mass celebration. Such a large-scale wedding is an unusual event for any place, but especially for Nagorno-Karabakh, a land with a grim past and uncertain future. As the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia meet in Moscow to find a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, the main question is how effective will the talks be. Aleksandr Karavayev from the Centre for CIS Studies at Moscow State University doesn't expect much from these talks. He does admit, however, that they could serve as a conduit to further meetings. “We shouldn't expect any breakthroughs, but perhaps this new format of talks could help Armenia and Azerbaijan create a new base for further negotiations,” Karavayev says. So far, attempts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute have been mediated by the twelve-member Minsk Group of the OSCE, co-chaired by the United States, Russia and France. The idea of a separate, three-way meeting between the two sides and Russia was proposed by President Dmitry Medvedev during his recent visit to Armenia. “France and the U.S. are not regional players in this dispute and can only monitor from outside, but Russia is. The new format doesn't replace the Minsk Group and Washington has already said it's not against this idea,” says Karavayev. Nagorno-Karabakh is mostly populated by Armenians and used to be part of the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan in the USSR. In 1991 the region unilaterally declared independence, which resulted in several years of violence and tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the area. Since the ceasefire in 1994, most of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as a number of regions of Azerbaijan in close proximity, remain under joint Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh military control. Armenia remains committed to the region’s independence, while Azerbaijan says its territorial integrity must be respected.

Source: http://www.russiatoday.com/news/news/32772

Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan agree to work for Caucasus stability

The leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on Sunday to work together for improving the situation in the Caucasus and instructed their foreign ministers to intensify efforts to settle the Nagorny Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan met in the presence of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to discuss a settlement to the conflict. Following the meeting, the three presidents signed a declaration on the Nagorny Karabakh dispute. The declaration calls for a peaceful settlement of the conflict on the basis of international law and decisions and documents adopted within this framework to create favorable conditions for economic development and comprehensive cooperation in the region. Nagorny Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan with a largely Armenian population, declared its independence from Azerbaijan to join Armenia in 1988 and has been a source of conflict ever since.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20081102/118101761.html

Nagorno-Karabakh agreement signed

Armenia and Azerbaijan have signed a joint agreement aimed at resolving their dispute over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh at talks near Moscow. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, agreed to intensify their efforts to find a political settlement. It is the first time in nearly 15 years that such a deal has been reached. Sporadic clashes have continued over Nagorno-Karabakh, despite the signing of a ceasefire agreement in 1994. It is internationally recognised as being part of Azerbaijan, but controlled by ethnic Armenians. Correspondents say Russia's brief war with Georgia in August has given impetus to international efforts to resolve disputes in the Caucasus, a region where Moscow is seeking greater influence.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7705067.stm

In related news:

Moscow declaration to remain on paper without Karabakh participation

A 5-item declaration was signed by the Presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia on November 2. “It’s not accidental that the declaration was sealed on the threshold of presidential election in the U.S., whose interest to the Caucasus has waned recently,” Andrey Areshev, head of Moscow-based Strategic Culture Fund, commented to a PanARMENIAN.Net reporter. The declaration is rather vague, what is quite natural in case of complicated conflicts, according to him “The norms of the international law will be interpreted by the sides in compliance with their diametrically opposite approaches to the problem, as it was before. But actually, the agreement to continue peaceful talks is worthy of praise,” Areshev said. “Mention of the OSCE Minsk Group role in the process is, to all appearance, a sedative measure for the U.S. and EU, which always suspect Russia of “imperial ambitions” and whose activity in the Caucasus is conditioned by the wish to secure their economic and strategic interests in the region,” he added. At that, the expert made special mention of item 3 of the declaration, which says that “the sides (including Russia) agree that peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict should be achieved through international guarantees.” “Neither the degree of these guarantees nor their parameters have been outlined yet. With the status of Karabakh undetermined, deployment of peacekeeping force in the security zone might ‘unfreeze’ the conflict. Resolution is impossible without engaging Stepanakert as a full-fledged party in talks, in compliance with the 1994 Budapest summit agreement and other fundamental documents. The Declaration will remain on paper without NKR’s participation in the process,” he said. “Declaration is an interim step meant to assert Russia’s positions in resolution of Caucasus conflicts. However, attempts to neglect the future status of Karabakh and guarantees of its security are doomed to failure,” Andrey Areshev concluded.

Source: http://www.panarmenian.net/news/eng/?nid=27549

Mammadyarov: observing international law norms, Baku recognizes right to self-determination

On October 31, Foreign Ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia met in Moscow to discuss the Karabakh process. “We base on the OSCE record saying that Azerbaijan and Armenia are parties to Karabakh conflict. As to the Azeri and Armenian communities of Nagorno Karabakh, they participated in talks until then-President Robert Kocharian declared that Armenia will continue negotiations on behalf of the Armenian community,” Azerbaijani acting Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said when commenting on Karabakh leadership’s statement that NKR’s non-participation in talks will slow down the settlement process. “There is no need to change the format because we negotiate with Armenia,” he said, 1news.az reports. Touching on RA President Serzh Sarsgyan’s statement that the problem can’t be resolved unless Azerbaijan recognizes the right of Karabakh people to self-determination, Mammadryarov said, “A signatory of the Helsinki Final Act and observer of the international law norms, Azerbaijan recognizes the right of nations to self-determination. However, it doesn’t mean that territorial integrity can be violated by armed intrusion. Moreover, the principle of territorial integrity prevails over that of self-determination in international legal documents.”

Source: http://www.panarmenian.net/news/eng/?nid=27542

New “Russia” in Armenia: President Medvedev accentuates friendship with ally during visit

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sought to deepen ties with a Caucasus ally on the second day of his first official visit to Armenia Tuesday. Together with his host Serzh Sargsyan he participated in a ceremonial opening of Russia Square in central Yerevan attended by thousands of city residents before heading for talks with the Armenian leader. (The square is situated near Yerevan municipality, the Moscow House and the statue of Myasnikyan – the area that saw the March 1-2 post-election riots). Speaking at the event, Medvedev praised relations between the two states, saying that naming a square in Yerevan after Russia “confirms the absolute sincerity and genuineness of our fraternal feelings and testifies to the openness and depth of the two states’ relations.” In his remarks, Sargsyan said that for the first time the Russian flag was raised in Armenia in 1827 on top of the fortress that used to stand near that square. It was also the place where prominent 19th century Russian diplomat and writer Alexander Griboyedov’s famous “Woe from Wit” play was for the first time staged. Both presidents called the square a symbol of friendship between the two nations. Russia is Armenia’s main strategic partner on which the Caucasus republic relies for its security and energy. Russia, which is home to a large Armenian community, is also a major trade partner for Armenia. Bilateral trade between the two reached $800 million in 2007 and grew in the first eight months of 2008 by 13 percent, compared to the same period last year. Since 1991, Russia’s aggregate investments into Armenia’s economy made $1.6 billion, with about $428 million invested only in the first half of 2008. Russia’s leading companies in the energy, telecommunications, transportation and other spheres have a sizable share on the Armenian market. Russia is also one of the three co-chairs, along with the United States and France, of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an international format advancing a peaceful settlement of the protracted Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Medvedev’s visit came only days after a trip by a top US diplomat to Yerevan. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried’s visit against the background of a shifting geopolitical balance in the region was viewed by many observers as a sign of growing US-Armenian cooperation.

Source: http://www.armenianow.com/?action=vi...D=1205&lng=eng

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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

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