BAKU: Official Baku altering pro-West orientation to embrace Russia

Official Baku altering pro-Western orientation to embrace Russia – Azeri
daily

Azadliq, Baku
17 Aug 04

Azerbaijani authorities are altering the country’s pro-Western
orientation to embrace Russia in order to protect themselves from
growing pressure from international organizations, the opposition
Azadliq daily reports. Azerbaijani officials’ recent statements urging
the country “to join the free economic zone of the CIS countries” and
the growing trade between Azerbaijan and Russia as compared with the
USA are to prove it, the paper says. Azerbaijan is favouring a
rapprochement with Russia to get rid of demands from the international
organizations to honour commitments to improve human rights situation
and reform the country. The following is the text of Q. Ibrahimli
report entitled “Goodbye, West!”, and subheaded “Official Baku is
again trying to embrace Russia. Russian capital is entering the
Azerbaijani market speedily” published by Azerbaijani newspaper
Azadliq on 17 August, with subheadings inserted editorially:

It is obvious that after the 2003 presidential election, official Baku
has an inclination to the Russian sphere of influence, and the
government’s mouthpiece has already kicked off a campaign to this
effect.

Immediately after the presidential election, the former foreign
minister [now the Azeri ambassador to Poland], Vilayat Quliyev, said
that “it is time to set our watches by Russian time”, hinting at a
change in the government’s foreign policy orientation. Subsequently,
specific steps have been taken in the wake of this.

The Lider TV channel was the first to kick off a campaign to this
effect. The channel specializes in anti-West and US programmes. Now
another government-controlled TV channel, which a short while ago was
disseminating Western values, has joined the anti-US campaign.

Quoting Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, the channel reported that
Azerbaijan wanted to join the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States]
free economic zone and Russia would make compromises to Azerbaijan in
the Karabakh problem. Mammadyarov said that the government was
compelled to reconcile with Russia due to failure to obtain a desired
outcome in talks with Russia.

Mammadyarov’s statement officially proves abandonment of pro-Western
orientation

Mammadyarov’s statement is actually an official recognition of the
government’s decision to abandon the pro-Western policy
course. Actually, this was expected. It is not surprising that Ilham
Aliyev’s government, corrupt from head to toe and ready to violate
human rights at any time, is trying a rapprochement with Russia, which
is close to itself in essence. For Aliyev, integration into Russia,
which pursues merely its political and business interests unlike the
West which demands reforms in line with Western standards, is better.

Incidentally, the Western media have recently published a series of
articles on Baku’s inclination to Russia.

We should also highlight that when pro-Aliyev television channels were
engaged in an anti-Western campaign, Russia’s grey eminence from
political and business elite started paying visits to Baku, namely
Yevgeniy Primakov, head of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and
Industry, former Russian prime minister and one of the co-authors of
the 20 January tragedy [in Baku, in 1990]; Viktor Chernomyrdin, former
Russian prime minister and current Russian ambassador to Ukraine;
Moscow mayor Yuriy Luzhkov; Kalmyk President [Kirsan] Ilyumzhinov; the
executive secretary of the CIS, Vladimir Rushaylo. Incidentally,
Rushaylo, who stayed in Baku during the [presidential] election, was
doing his best to ensure that the successor is elected.

Trade between Azerbaijan and Russia outstrips the USA

The said men were here to get Ilham Aliyev’s consent to major projects
in Baku and obviously they managed to get it. Mammadyarov’s statement
that “Azerbaijan is planning to join the CIS free economic zone”
proves this. Incidentally, the dynamic of foreign economic relations
between Russia and Azerbaijan shows that the Russian business is
speedily entering the Azerbaijani economy. For example, in 2002 trade
between Azerbaijan and Russia was 375m dollars, in 2003, it rose to
532m dollars, and in the first half of the 2004, it amounted to 317m
dollars.

Now let us compare it to the trade between the USA and Azerbaijan in
the same period: in 2002, it amounted to 150.5m dollars, in 2003 – to
195.4m dollars, and in the first half of this year, the figure was 74m
dollars.

Apparently, the Russian rouble is taking over the Azerbaijani market
more quickly that Western capital. Azerbaijan’s inclination to
Russia’s sphere of influence will not merely cause serious changes in
the country’s foreign policy but also in its domestic
life. Misappropriating a fantastic amount of riches, the clan is
planning to create a more oppressive regime able to guarantee their
properties in Azerbaijan. At present Ilham Aliyev and his entourage
are interested in establishing the Belarus model in Azerbaijan. That
is equal to a refusal from integration into the West and to
unambiguously sidelining oneself from the civil world, in a nutshell,
to a typical despotic regime.

The arrival of the rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe (PACE) Monitoring Committee, Andreas Gross, and
other Europeans who are poking their noses into everything in Baku,
like “unwelcome guests”, irritates official Baku. But Rushaylo’s visit
does not annoy the ruling clan. Because Rushaylo does not talk about
“irrelevant topics” like human rights but comes with specific business
projects, gets I. Aliyev’s consent and goes away.

Russia will not help Azerbaijan in resolution of Karabakh problem

As for official Baku’s hopes that Russia will make concessions to
Azerbaijan over the Karabakh settlement, it is common knowledge that
Russia “laboured” more than Armenia in the occupation of Karabakh and
the disintegration of 20 per cent of Azerbaijani land from under
control of the central authorities. Recently when the OSCE Minsk
Group co-chairs began to call on the Azerbaijani public to reconcile
themselves to a capitulatory peace, the Russian representative was
bending over backwards more than others.

What is official Baku hoping for now? Have ideologists of the
authorities lost the sense of reality and common sense?

Incidentally, at a meeting with US Deputy Secretary of State Richard
Armitage, Ilham Aliyev undertook commitments to introduce radical
changes before September. With one month to go to September, no
positive changes have taken place in the country. On the contrary,
corruption is rife everywhere and violations of human rights have
further intensified. Apparently, to protect himself against similar
“unpleasant” commitments, Ilham Aliyev is pushing the country into
Russia’s embrace again.

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