Azerbaijan should not be used against Iran – analyst

Azerbaijan should not be used against Iran – analyst

Ekspress, Baku
25 Jan 05

An Azerbaijani political analyst has said that Azerbaijan should not
be used as an instrument against Iran. In remarks to Ekspress
newspaper, Baku State University history professor Musa Qasimli said
that Azerbaijan could play a role in improving relations between Iran
and the USA. The following is an excerpt from Jala Sabirqizi and Abbas
Ali report by Azerbaijani newspaper Ekspress on 25 January headlined
“New war in the region is a threat” and subheaded “Musa Qasimli:
‘Azerbaijan may play a role in easing the tension in US-Iranian
relations'”. Subheadings inserted editorially

“President [Ilham] Aliyev’s visit to Iran is undoubtedly very
important from the viewpoint of bilateral and regional relations.
First of all, the visit lays the foundation for a new stage in the
development of Azerbaijani-Iranian relations,” said PhD in history
Musa Qasimli, professor of the department for new and modern history
of European and American countries of Baku State University, in
comments to Ekspress on the president’s official visit to the
neighbouring country.

“Bound together”

[Qasimli] Iran and Azerbaijan are bound together by religion, history,
literature, geography and a common fate for many centuries. No matter
which regime rules in that country, it needs good relations with
Azerbaijan. Our country should maintain good relations with all
countries, including Iran, at a time when a fifth of our territories
have been occupied following Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan.

[Interviewer] But there have been quite chilly relations between Iran
and Azerbaijan until recently. Can we expect any changes after this

[Qasimli] I think there have been both objective and subjective
reasons for these cold relations from time to time. Both sides have
created conditions for it. Nevertheless, I believe that it is
necessary to have much better relations. This visit will help resolve
some problems in bilateral relations and gradually eliminate the
chill. Opening a consulate in Tabriz [in northern Iran predominantly
populated by ethnic Azeris] was a foreign policy success after the
2003 presidential elections. Railway construction between the two
countries is also in the interests of both countries. We should not
view Iran as our enemy, and neither should Iran view us as a threat.

[Passage omitted: possible impact of visit on resolving problems of
ethnic Azeris in Iran]

Iranian-Armenian ties

[Interviewer] Can Iran’s broad economic and political relations with
Armenia be identified as an obstacle to the development of
Iranian-Azerbaijani relations?

[Qasimli] Some issues should be openly declared. One million
Azerbaijani Muslims have become refugees after Armenia occupied a
fifth of Azerbaijani territories. It is not good for Iran, which has
undertaken to defend the rights of world Muslims in its foreign policy
and declared itself to be an Islamic republic, to cooperate with
occupying Armenia. It deals a blow to our bilateral relations. If Iran
were faithful to the principles it has declared, it would never
establish relations with and help Armenia. Iran is like a small window
for Armenia today. If they did not have close cooperation and Iran did
not help Armenia economically, Armenia would probably not reach its
current level and continue the occupation of Azerbaijani lands.

Security issues

[Interviewer] Iran and Azerbaijan have recently signed a security
treaty. What do you think motivated it? Was it because of the
appearance of new nuances in bilateral relations or the threat of US
attacks on Iran?

[Qasimli] To begin with, if Azerbaijan and Iran border on each other,
they should have common security issues. Therefore, security treaties
are important. As for US-Iranian relations, Azerbaijan’s foreign
policy priority is to integrate into the Euroatlantic space. The USA
is our strategic partner, while Iran should be our kind neighbour. I
think Azerbaijan may play a role in easing the tension in US-Iranian
relations. The president’s visit to Iran may lead to a thaw in
US-Iranian relations.

I believe that a new war in the region is a threat, especially one
with such a big country as Iran. Most of those who will suffer in
Iran, where 30 million ethnic Azerbaijanis live, may be Azerbaijanis.
I do not believe that the press reports about the possibility of the
USA’s hitting Iran will come true under the current circumstances,
because this is against US interests. Washington is competing with the
EU, while Europe’s economic centres are closely cooperating with
Iran. I think they will also have some influence in the improvement of
US-Iranian relations. Iran, for its part, should firmly reject
supporting terrorism and stop its nuclear programmes.

[Interviewer] If this threat against Iran is realized, what position
should Azerbaijan take?

[Qasimli] As an independent state Azerbaijan should not become an
instrument for any country or group of countries in relation to
Iran. Our foreign policy should be balanced and each country should
have its place there. At the same time, Azerbaijan should continue to
be in the antiterrorism coalition as a country that has suffered from
terrorism and aggression. It would not be reasonable to predict how
developments will unfold in the future. I think the USA and Iran will
try to resolve these issue by peaceful means. If the USA is our
strategic partner, Iran is our neighbour. In any case, peoples should
live in a kind neighbourhood and should not use their territory
against each other.