Azerbaijan: EU Keen To Get Involved In Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Process
By Ahto Lobjakas
May 18, 2004
On his first visit to Brussels, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev
today visited European Union headquarters for talks with the
president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi. Prodi took the
opportunity to underline the commission’s recent decision to include
the three South Caucasus countries in the EU’s European Neighborhood
Policy. However, Prodi also indicated the EU will be taking a closer
interest in resolving the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia
Brussels, 18 May 2004 (RFE/RL) — Being made a “new neighbor” by the
European Union involves both privileges and obligations.
The bloc holds out the offer of near-total economic integration and
political dialogue. In return, it asks for reforms and — above all —
stability and a readiness to peacefully defuse conflicts.
In the case of the South Caucasus, this is taking the EU into
uncharted waters. So far, the bloc has sat back and let Russia,
the United States, the United Nations, and the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) do the mediating in the
region’s so-called frozen conflicts. “Azerbaijan’s strategic policy
towards integration into European structures continues, and today’s
visit confirms that once again. We made that choice 10 years ago,
and Azerbaijan is moving very actively and quickly into the more
active integration with Europe” — President Aliyev
However, as today’s visit to Brussels by Azerbaijani President Ilham
Aliyev indicated, the greater integration with the EU also means
greater EU involvement in trying to resolve the conflicts.
European Commission President Romano Prodi made clear today that
bilateral relations between the EU and Azerbaijan — as well as
Armenia — should be seen against the backdrop of the neighborhood
program. Prodi said that what he called the EU’s “ring of friends”
cannot tolerate conflicts.
Prodi said the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has gone on too long. He
strongly hinted that greater EU involvement may be needed.
“We’re worried that the [peace process] has stopped since 10
years. [There was] an armistice 10 years ago, [but] no peace. Clearly,
[EU nations] don’t want to interfere with the Minsk Group, but we’re
urging and pushing that the Minsk Group has some result. I expressed
my will to be at the disposal of the two nations in order to help the
Minsk Group [under the aegis of the OSCE] find a solution,” Prodi said.
Prodi said there is “urgency” felt within the EU for a solution,
and that the bloc could help “speed up the solution.”
However, he acknowledged that the EU “cannot make positive proposals
at this stage,” as it has not been asked to get involved. The EU,
Prodi said, has “complete respect” for the political autonomy of
Azerbaijan and Armenia.
After meeting Prodi, Aliyev welcomed the extension of the EU’s
neighborhood program to Azerbaijan and the rest of the Southern
Caucasus. He promised continued improvement through political, social,
and economic reforms, as well as closer political dialogue with the EU.
“Azerbaijan’s strategic policy towards integration into European
structures continues, and today’s visit confirms that once again. We
made that choice 10 years ago, and Azerbaijan is moving very actively
and quickly into the more active integration with Europe,” Aliyev said.
However, Aliyev stopped short of endorsing full EU involvement
alongside the Minsk Group, which is chaired by Russia, the United
States, and France.
He stressed that the Minsk Group will continue to retain the mandate
for mediation, adding he hopes it will become “more active.” Asked
by RFE/RL what precise role Azerbaijan would like the EU to play,
Aliyev said he had simply asked the EU to more actively support
“We already asked [the EU] and during today’s meeting once again,â€
he said. â€œOf course, we all understand that [the] Minsk Group has a
mandate from the OSCE, and nobody is going to question that mandate,
and the Minsk Group is trying to do its best to find a peaceful
resolution. But at the same time, we think that European organizations,
[the] European Union, [the] Council of Europe, European public opinion
can also be involved in the process.”
Aliyev then added: “We do not mean that any country or institution
can be an alternative to the Minsk Group.”
Aliyev said Azerbaijan is seeking a peaceful resolution of the
conflict, but said such a resolution must be based on international
“Of course, the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was
one of the topics of our discussions. Azerbaijan [intends] to continue
its policy to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. But at the same
time, this resolution must be based on the recognized principles
of international law. The territorial integrity and sovereignty of
Azerbaijan must be restored,” Aliyev said.
He added that the immediate withdrawal of Armenian troops from
Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories is “one of the major
conditions for finding a peaceful resolution.”
Aliyev said dialogue with Armenia is continuing, but warned that if
no concrete issues remain on the agenda, it is “not right to continue
[and] imitate negotiations.”