BAKU: Georgian crisis to negatively impact Azerbaijan – politicians

Georgian crisis to negatively impact Azerbaijan, politicians say

Zerkalo, Baku
18 Mar 04

Azerbaijani opposition politicians have said that the latest events in
Georgia will have a negative impact on the geopolitical situation in
the region and on Azerbaijan’s economic interests. In an interview
with Zerkalo newspaper, the leaders of the main opposition parties
called on Azerbaijan to maintain neutrality on the issue. The
following is an excerpt from F.Teymurxanli, X. Safaroglu report by
Azerbaijani newspaper Zerkalo on 18 March headlined “Tension in
Georgian not in Azerbaijan’s interests”, subheaded “Local politicians
think so”; subheadings have been inserted editorially:

For obvious reasons, the Azerbaijani public cannot be indifferent to
the recent developments in Georgia. Baku expressed its stance in this

[Passage omitted: reported details]

What does the [Azerbaijani] opposition think of the situation?

In an interview with a Zerkalo correspondent, the AMIP [Azarbaycan
Milli Istiqlal Party] chairman, Etibar Mammadov, described the
Georgian events as a crisis, which might have a negative impact on the
whole region. He said that the events may get out of control if they
are not tackled. Touching upon the Ajarian authorities’ attempts to
prevent the Georgian president from entering the area, Mammadov said
that “the head of state has the right to move freely within his
country”. The AMIP chairman said that relations between Tbilisi and
Batumi were rather strained from the very start and therefore, the
attempts to enter Ajaria had just aggravated the crisis.

“The military solution to the issue means a civil war. Two flash
points of conflict already exist in Georgia, that is South Ossetia and
Abkhazia. No sensible president would aim at creating a third seat of
tension,” Mammadov said.

The AMIP leader said one should not draw parallels between Ajaria and
Nagornyy Karabakh, as “the first case is the country’s internal
affair, while the second one is the occupation of Azerbaijani
territory by another state”.

He said that the Georgian events would affect Azerbaijan’s strategic
projects and the geopolitical situation in the region. Mammadov said
that under the circumstances Baku should take a neutral position and
support Georgia’s territorial integrity.

Ali Karimli

The PFAP [People’s Front of Azerbaijan Party] chairman, Ali Karimli,
also said that Azerbaijan should support Georgia’s territorial
integrity. “Of course, we want the conflict between Tbilisi and Batumi
to be resolved peacefully. We hope that the issue will be resolved
through international mediators and efforts of the Georgian and
Ajarian authorities,” he said. He said that any attempts to prevent
President Mikheil Saakashvili from moving freely in his own country
are not logical.

The PFAP leader said that the status of Nagornyy Karabakh should not
be compared to that of Ajaria but of Abkhazia or South Ossetia with
their ongoing military conflicts. He said that unlike the
aforementioned regions, Ajaria supports the territorial integrity of
its country and “it is not talking about ethnic separatism”. He said
that in the worst case scenario the developments in Georgia will make
a negative impact on Azerbaijan’s interests.

“However, the development of communication lines in the region is in
the interests of the international community, of Georgia and Ajaria. I
think the subsequent developments will not have a negative impact on
Azerbaijan’s strategic interests,” Ali Karimli said.

[Passage omitted: other two politicians also do not see parallels
between Ajaria and Karabakh and stress the negative impact of the
situation on Azerbaijan.]

Araz Alizada

The co-chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, Araz
Alizada, was more resolute in his assessment of the situation in
Georgia. He said that a pro-western “sick nationalist” had come to
power in Georgia and he would do no good for his people and first of
all for the Azeris living in that country. Alizada said that nobody
would have tried to ban Saakashvili from entering Ajaria had it not
been with armed people, APCs and tanks. The social democrat thinks
that Saakashvili’s attempt to enter Ajaria with the armed people and
the power-wielding ministers was a coup d’etat.

He joined other politicians in saying that Nagornyy Karabakh and
Ajaria should not be compared, since the latter recognizes Georgia’s
territorial integrity.

He said that the aggravation of the situation in Georgia would
negatively affect Azerbaijan’s strategic interests. As for the
position of the Azerbaijani authorities, Alizada said that Baku should
maintain neutrality.