BAKU: Azeri opposition MP lauds Russia’s new “realistic policy”

Azeri opposition MP lauds Russia’s new “realistic policy”

ANS TV, Baku
10 May 04

In an interview with the Azerbaijani commercial channel ANS TV,
MP Asim Mollazada has commented on geopolitical changes in the
South Caucasus in the wake of the resolution of the Ajaria crisis in
Georgia. Mollazada blamed the military-industrial complex remaining
from the USSR for triggering conflicts in the region. He lauded the
US State Department’s “unequivolal stance” and Putin’s “realistic
policy” for their contribution in resolving regional conflicts. The
following is the text of report by Azerbaijani TV station ANS on 10
May; subheadings inserted editorially:

South Caucasus’ Euro-Atlantic integration

[Presenter] We have invited to the studio Asim Mollazada, an MP [from
the opposition People’s Front of Azerbaijan Party] and a member of
parliament’s commission on international affairs, to discuss the
geopolitical consequences of the Ajaria crisis.

What has changed in the Caucasus?

[Mollazada] In fact, the situation in the Caucasus changed
a long time ago. Simply, the decisions taken then are being
implemented now. Azerbaijan and Georgia must head for Europe. This
is unquestionable. Azerbaijan and Georgia must act in concert for
Euro-Atlantic integration of the South Caucasus. There must be
stability in the region because these two countries are involved in
large international projects. These two countries will form a corridor
joining the West and the East, and the North and the South and every
obstacle to this corridor will be removed.

I reckon that behind this stand not only the desires of the foreign
powers, but also the will of the peoples of Azerbaijan and Georgia. The
developments in Ajaria showed that [Georgian President Mikheil]
Saakashvili, who was elected by the will of the people, determinedly
and literally erased the person [presumably referring to Ajaria’s
former leader Aslan Abashidze] who was implicated in corruption,
and supporting banditry and mafia.

Stances of the US State Department and Russian military

[Presenter] So you mean that Abashidze’s factor was a serious hindrance
for the South Caucasus’ Euro-Atlantic integration?

[Mollazada] It was a significant obstacle. Look at his last actions,
when he felt that his rule was under threat, he planted explosives
in the oil terminal and blew up the bridges. The very essence of his
rule was against the people’s will. He was an obstacle to them and
to the processes under way in the world.

Other obstacles remain in the South Caucasus. There are unresolved
conflicts and potential ones (including the one in the predominantly
Armenian-populated Samtskhe-Javakheti province of Georgia). Naturally,
behind each conflict stand the interests of certain circles. If we
refer to the background of the conflicts in the South Caucasus, we
will see that there was a military unit involved in each of them. At
the time, Russia’s regiment in Xankandi [Stepanakert, now the centre
of breakaway Karabakh] played a role in the Azerbaijani-Armenian
conflict, as well as Russia’s military bases in Akhalkalaki [in
Samtskhe-Javakheti] and Batumi did. We see that the force which
triggered those processes and then played an active role in them is
the military-industrial complex which Russia has inherited from the
Soviet Union. Its interest is to make the South Caucasus unstable in
order to render necessary their own presence in the region. But that
time is over. The world’s superpower will now [he changes tack].

I believe that the Ajarian people and Saakashvili played an important
part in the peaceful resolution of the crisis. However, the unequivocal
position of the US State Department facilitated such a speedy course
of the events. The recent desire on the part of the USA and Russia to
resolve their mutual problems also had a role in this, I think. The
regime in Ajaria might have dragged on and caused a major bloodshed.

Predicting post-Ajaria developments

[Presenter] Why do the most of us in Azerbaijan, as well as in Georgia,
believe that this economic-political separatism in Ajaria has any
bearing on the ethnic separatism elsewhere in the Caucasus? These
are different phenomena, are not they? It was Georgians on the both
sides in Ajaria, whereas the situation in other conflict zones is
somewhat different. Why such optimism that this event will lead to
the resolution of other conflicts?

[Mollazada] Although you said that there was no ethnic difference
in Ajaria, there are some religious differences. Those differences
and those autonomies were created under the Soviet rule in the South
Caucasus as a land mine of sorts. Later, those autonomies were used
to create problems.

I believe that appropriate means will be used when other conflicts
are resolved. Clearly, there are changes under way in the world. Even
the criminal circles which rule Armenia are beginning to realize
that. During the debates in the Council of Europe bodies on the
situation in Armenia, the nature of that regime started to become
clear to everyone. For years we have talked about the crimes those
people had committed in Azerbaijan, but the Council of Europe did not
believe that we were unbiased. However, today it is the members of the
Armenian delegation who talk about the crimes committed by [Armenian
President] Robert Kocharyan’s regime within the country. The nature
of the regime and of those forces is dawning on the world.

I reckon that appropriate steps will be taken to resolve the remaining
conflicts within Georgia and first of all this will be done in
Ossetia because forces interested in retaining that conflict have
become weaker in Russia. In future, this will be done in Abkhazia.

As for the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict, although the stances of other
countries are important, I want to focus on one aspect. Azerbaijan
itself must become more active, more powerful and better able to
defend its interests on the international level. The strong army
of Azerbaijan will turn into the most important and most necessary
factor at any talks.

Russia’s new policy in South Caucasus

[Presenter] What about the forces interested in maintaining the
Nagornyy Karabakh conflict? Are they as strong as in 1990, or have
they become weaker, as is the case in South Ossetia?

[Mollazada] For sure, they are weaker now and they have to consider
this seriously. I want to recall the words Russian President Vladimir
Putin has said at State Duma. He said that in order not to lose
everything in the South Caucasus, Russia had to take an active part
in economic projects in the region and thus retain its positions.

I believe that this is a manifestation of Putin’s current realistic
policy. Should this realistic policy continue, Russia may obtain
more benefit from the South Caucasus through defending its economic
interests. I believe that forces which advocate instability will
become weaker.

Kadyrov’s assasination in Groznyy

Today’s [9 May] explosion in Groznyy [which killed pro-Russian Chechen
leader Akhmat Kadyrov] showed that a policy based on violence leads
nowhere and cannot yield a positive result. You see that the system
built on the long-term use of violence in Chechnya was destroyed in
a single day.

[Presenter] Thank you for coming to our studio.