BAKU: Azeri politicians ambivalent on recognition of Turkish Cyprus

Azeri politicians ambivalent on recognition of Turkish Cypriots

Zerkalo, Baku
17 Apr 04

Azerbaijani politicians are divided on possible consequences of
recognition of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
for the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict. The issue came onto the agenda
following the Azerbaijani president’s remarks in Ankara. The
Azerbaijani opposition used to call for this recognition, but is now
criticizing the president’s stance, the executive secretary of the
ruling party said. The following is an excerpt from Teymurxanli’s
report by Azerbaijani newspaper Zerkalo on 17 April headlined “In the
wake of the statement” and subheaded “Azerbaijani politicians comment
on Ilham Aliyev’s remarks”; subheadings inserted editorially:

It probably will not be an exaggeration to say that the Azerbaijani
public’s attitude to President Ilham Aliyev’s recent statement was

During the official visit to Turkey, Aliyev said [on 15 October] that
“in the event the Turkish Cypriots accept and the Greek community
rejects the reunification at the forthcoming referendum, Azerbaijan
may recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.

Zerkalo newspaper contacted Azerbaijani politicians in order to learn
their stance on these remarks. Predictably, their views
diverged. Moreover, for reasons difficult to understand some
politicians simply refused to comment on Aliyev’s statement.

Misleading media coverage

Political analyst [and ex-Foreign Minister] Tofiq Zulfuqarov told
Zerkalo that journalists’ interpretation of the remarks was somewhat
misleading. He talked about two aspects of the statement. First, it is
about supporting the referendum, “i.e. supporting in effect the UN
plan”. Second, “Azerbaijan is ready to back the Turkish population of
the Northern Cyprus if they vote for the reunification of the two
parts of Cyprus”.

“If this is about supporting the idea of the referendum, it means
support for the UN plan which does not envisage creation of two
separate states,” Zulfuqarov said.

In turn, the leader of the Azarbaycan Milli Istiqlal Party, Etibar
Mammadov, said that such a statement could create a precedent for
recognition of Nagornyy Karabakh as an independent state. Should the
Greek community vote “no”, it will in fact reject Northern Cyprus,
Mammadov said. “By contrast, Azerbaijan has not conducted such a
referendum. Therefore, the situations are different and should not be
viewed as similar,” he said.

Hasty remark

Aydin Quliyev, the secretary for ideology of the Democratic Party of
Azerbaijan, described Aliyev’s remarks as hasty. This issue has to be
treated carefully since Armenia is actively conducting a policy to
make the international community recognize Nagornyy Karabakh as an
independent state, he said.

This statement has done tangible damage to Azerbaijan’s interests and
can be viewed as suiting the interests of Turkey’s official
circles. “Albeit Turkey is our strategic partner, their interests must
not be realized at the expense of ours,” Quliyev said.

He also reckons that Aliyev’s remarks will negatively affect relations
with Greece, “because Greece will not be delighted by these words”. It
can be expected that the Armenian lobby will start an intensive
campaign regarding the Greek community’s stance on the referendum. In
the event the independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
is recognized, this may create a dangerous precedent for recognition
of Nagornyy Karabakh as an independent state.

Ex-prisoner welcomes president’s statement

Isgandar Hamidov, ex-interior minister and chairman of the National
Democratic Party (Grey Wolves) who was recently released from jail,
said that “if there is an intention to recognize the independence of
Northern Cyprus, then I completely welcome it”. He does not believe
either that recognition of Northern Cyprus may result in recognition
of Nagornyy Karabakh’s independence. “There is a UN plan on Cyprus,
and it says that if one of the sides does not vote in the referendum,
then the other one will be recognized by international organizations,”
Hamidov said.

The situations around Northern Cyprus and Nagornyy Karabakh cannot be
compared, he said. “We are anyway unable to step on Karabakh soil,
regardless of whether the international community recognizes Nagornyy
Karabakh or not. And we have the legal right to liberate that

Greek-Azerbaijani relations not to be affected

One should not expect any perceptible changes in Greek-Azerbaijani
relations, “since they were not especially friendly anyway”, Hamidov
said. “The Greeks have always sold weapons to Armenians,” he
said. “True, Greece says it supports Azerbaijan’s territorial
integrity, but Greek-Armenian companies are active in Armenia and
Nagornyy Karabakh.”

He ruled out the possibility of Greece recognizing Nagornyy Karabakh’s
independence in the event of such a statement. “Even if there is such
a threat, we still should recognize Northern Cyprus’ independence.”

Biased stance

In turn, the executive secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party,
Ali Ahmadov, said that a biased stance should not be taken on this
issue. “At one time, opposition newspapers frequently carried calls
for Azerbaijan to recognize the independence of the Turkish Republic
of Northern Cyprus. And now they say that this was a mistaken
statement. I believe that everybody should do their best to resolve
this issue,” Ahmadov said. Should the UN plan fail, Azerbaijan will
not agree with violation of Turkish Cypriots’ rights, he said.

[Passage omitted: Minor details]