BAKU: Azerbaijan Shifts Foreign Policy to Settle Karabakh Problem


ANS TV, Baku
15 Aug 04

Azerbaijan has recently found itself in the focus of a “fierce clash”
of US, Russian and Iranian interests and it is steering between them
to settle the long-standing Nagornyy Karabakh conflict with
neighbouring Armenia. The following is an excerpt from report by
Azerbaijani TV station ANS on 15 August:

(Presenter) The Nagornyy Karabakh problem will be a subject of
discussions during Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov’s
first official visit to Moscow next week. Diplomatic and political
activities in the South Caucasus region have considerably intensified
with Azerbaijan being in the centre of them.

Representatives of totally different and even contradictory interests,
on the one hand, the Iranian president, on the other hand, the US
defence minister, have visited Baku. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister
Elmar Mammadyarov is due in Moscow after visits to Washington and
Tehran. Obviously, at the crossroads of fierce clashes of varied
interests, Azerbaijan is carrying out diplomatic manoeuvres to gain
dividends to settle the Karabakh problem. Ibrahim Mammadov comments:

(Mammadov over footage of Washington) The US president will soon
announce plans to pull 100,000 troops out of Europe and Asia. Part of
the troops to be pulled out of Germany, Japan and South Korea will be
sent home. The remaining part is expected to be redeployed in new NATO
member countries.

Unlike last year, Azerbaijan is not being mentioned amongst these
countries. On the other hand, the law on national security of the
Azerbaijani Republic, which came into effect two weeks ago, bans
deployment of foreign countries’ military bases on the territory of
the country. Incidentally, the approval of this law meets the
interests of Russia and Iran, which want to keep the South Caucasus
clear of foreign military bases.

A communique adopted during the Azerbaijani president’s Moscow visit
contains provisions on not taking military steps running against the
other country’s interests. Azerbaijan has honoured them all the way
through. At NATO’s Istanbul Summit, Azerbaijan did not file an
official application for membership. Later, a law banning deployment
of foreign military bases in Azerbaijan was adopted. Finally,
Azerbaijan has not given a positive answer to the US address to
dispatch extra forces to Iraq.

(Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, shown speaking to journalist) We
have not put forward our stance yet. We agreed in talks with (US
Secretary of Defence Donald) Rumsfeld here to continue the
negotiations and see what the outcome will be.

(Correspondent over video of Rumsfeld and Safar Abiyev at the airport)
Azerbaijani Defence Minister Safar Abiyev drew attention to the fact
that sending troops to Iraq was a political issue.

True, although the minister did not shed light on what was the
political matter, his replies to other questions highlighted that
Azerbaijan’s only wish was that the USA helped Baku in the resolution
of the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict.

Apparently, although Azerbaijan wanted a hand with the resolution of
the Nagornyy Karabakh problem in exchange for committing extra troops
to Iraq and military cooperation, the USA deems it necessary to keep
the status quo referring to the OSCE Minsk Group.

Azerbaijan requested a hand with the Karabakh issue in exchange for
supporting the USA and said that otherwise, the conflict would remain
unresolved for a long time. A reaction came immediately.

US State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez reacted to the replacement
of the imam at (Baku’s) Cuma mosque two months ago only now and
condemned the incident calling on the Azerbaijani government to
respect religious freedom.

(Passage omitted: quotes from The New York Times)

The Russian stage in Azerbaijani diplomacy is starting now. Foreign
Minister Elmar Mammadyarov will pay a visit to Moscow on 17-18
August. In the run-up to Elmar Mammadyarov’s visit, he commented
positively on (Russian President) Vladimir Putin’s favourite Single
Economic Space, which shows that Azerbaijan is ready to do a serious
economic favour for Russia.

Most likely, the USA will not treat this step positively
either. Because Ukrainian President Vladimir Kuchma’s decision to
create a single economic space with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan was
opposed by Ukraine’s pro-American opposition forces which called for
Kuchma’s resignation. The formation of a single economic space with
Russia was even interpreted by the Ukrainian pro-Western opposition
forces as a loss of sovereignty. However, Kuchma managed to do this.
The Ukrainian president agreed to it purely because of economic

Together with economic benefits, Azerbaijan puts an emphasis on the
resolution of the Karabakh conflict. In other words, it is supposed
that Azerbaijan might review its position on the Single Economic Space
if Russia changes its position on the Karabakh problem. On the other
side, this is neither pro-Russian nor anti-American policy. The
government of Azerbaijan is trying to change regional countries’
position on the Karabakh issue in Azerbaijan’s favour as much as

After Iranian President Khatami’s Baku visit, Iranian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Hamid Reza Asafi explained the president’s Karabakh policy
this way. Iran wants Azerbaijan to restore its control over this
enclave. Up to now, Tehran has not issued an unambiguous statement
like this and simply limited itself to stating that it recognizes our
territorial integrity.

The US defence secretary did not say anything unambiguous or different
from what had been said so far and mentioned (US Co-Chairman of the
OSCE Minsk Group) Steven Mann’s name, pointing at the fact that the
State Department is dealing with the issue, not the Pentagon. However,
the Pentagon has more influence in the South Caucasus than the State
Department. The outcome of Elmar Mammadyarov’s visit will show whether
Russia will make any changes or not.

Ibrahim Mammadov for ANS.