Azeri opposition leader says Iran should be prevented from making nuke
Yeni Azarbaycan, Baku
14 Jun 07 p 6
The leader of Azerbaijan’s major opposition party Musavat has said that
Iran should be prevented from building a nuclear bomb, as this
country’s acquiring a nuke is contrary to Azerbaijan’s state interests.
"As the Musavat Party, our position is that Iran’s acquiring a nuclear
weapon is fundamentally contradictory to the state interests of
Azerbaijan. In my opinion, this may lead to such grave consequences as
a restriction of the Azerbaijani state’a sovereignty," Isa Qambar said
in an interview with Yeni Azarbaycan, a mouthpiece of the ruling New
Azerbaijan Party. Qambar believes that that a confrontation between
Iran and the West is inevitable given Tehran’s reluctance to give up
its nuclear enrichment programme. However, the Musavat leader says that
the standoff between Tehran and the West should be resolved by
diplomatic means, as the lives of millions of ethnic Azerbaijanis in
Iran would be under threat in case of military action. He suggested
that Azerbaijan should pursue its own interests if the tension
escalates. The following is the text of an interview with Musavat
leader Isa Qambar in Yeni Azarbaycan newspaper headlined "We have not
burnt our bridges with the NAP" and subheaded "Isa Qambar: Opposition
parties should not be engaged in assessing each other". Subheadings
have been inserted editorially;
Although there was a sort of activity in the opposition in the run-up
to the [2008 presidential] election, the failure of the discussions
created some stagnation. Since not all members of the opposition camp
unanimously support the proposals concerning consolidation, the format
of a new union failed before coming into life. This is what we started
out conversation with the leader of the Musavat party, Isa Qambar, with.
[Yeni Azarbaycan] Isa bay [form of address], discussions about the
integration of the opposition, which were once on the agenda, have now
been in the second place. What is the reason for the interruption of
[Qambar] Integration and disintegration are an eternal process in both
nature and society. That is why there is no need for taking too much
interest in this process, being alarmed when integration is under way
and worrying when disintegration takes place.
[Yeni Azarbaycan] Did integration or cooperation fail because of
strategic differences of views?
[Qambar] It is naive to wish that a great number of opposition parties
operating in Azerbaijan could come together. This is because it is
impossible for about 80 political organizations to move or think in the
same way. This has never happened in any part of the world, never
happens or will never happen.
[Yeni Azarbaycan] Does it mean that it is illogical for the opposition
elite to consider integration or strategic cooperation to be the only
[Qambar] There are three reasons for such considerations. Firstly,
society itself likes simplicity and prefers two parties contesting
elections to make a choice between them. This is why I think that the
messages from society are sincere. Secondly, it is a heavy burden in
countries like Azerbaijan to be in the opposition. The part of the
opposition that feels this responsibility calls other like-minded
forces for unity from time to time. This is a normal and natural
approach. However, the ruling spin doctors know that the unity of the
opposition is difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, they keep such
subjects on the agenda at times, trying to manage the public opinion.
"Burnt out bridges"
[Yeni Azarbaycan] But the opposition has showed unity for common goals
sometimes. Will we see a similar alliance this time or have the bridges
been completely burnt out?
[Qambar] The Musavat Party has not burnt its bridges with any of the
sides. These bridges have not been burnt even with the ruling New
Azerbaijan Party [NAP]. The burnt bridges are not the result of our
[Yeni Azarbaycan] There have recently been some positive changes in the
attitude of the opposition towards the authorities. In other words, the
once radical and hostile attitudes have now become more civilized. How
can you explain it?
[Qambar] I do not know on which basis you are saying that the
opposition has changed. There is a liberal approach to the notion
"radical" in Azerbaijan. The radical opposition represents the forces
which take arms to fight against the government and use clandestine
methods of struggle for some reason. There is no such opposition in
Azerbaijan. We have democratic forces. They are in favour of the
replacement of the government in a peaceful way through elections and
wage their struggle in accordance with law and the constitution. I do
not agree with the views that the opposition is radical. The Musavat
Party has always acted within the framework of the law and the
constitution throughout 14 years in opposition. Our means of struggle
have not changed even now.
[Yeni Azarbaycan] May the reason for failing to achieve any success
during the 14 years be the fact that you have not changed? Because any
change also means development.
[Qambar] I can not say that nothing has changed. Some changes are
always made in accordance with the order of the time.
Next presidential election
[Yeni Azarbaycan] Has your party started preparing for the presidential
election due in 2008?
[Qambar] As a force which views elections as the only way of changing
government, the Musavat Party has started preparations since the
previous election. In this sense you can assume that we have braced
ourselves for the 2008 elections since the end of 2005 [last
[Yeni Azarbaycan] Has the party decided on its nominee for the
[Qambar] The decision about it can be made either at the Majlis [the
party assembly] or at a party congress. There has not been an official
decision so far. But I do not see a different approach.
[Yeni Azarbaycan] Let us be specific. Will you again be the party’s
[Qambar] It depends on my decision as well. But the party will have the
[Yeni Azarbaycan] Can we learn your decision?
[Qambar] There is a long time left to the election. I have not taken my
final decision yet.
[Yeni Azarbaycan] Are you holding any negotiations with other
opposition parties to enlist support for your candidacy?
[Qambar] There are no negotiations in this regard. I do not think that
it is useful to turn the idea of unity of the opposition into a target.
The Musavat Party has told the public about what it wants and proceeds
with its way. We will think about cooperation with any force that has
close ways with us.
[Yeni Azarbaycan] We did not ask this question by accident. Some
political forces are issuing different statements. For example, the
Azadliq [Freedom] bloc, in which you were once an ally, has said that
the bloc is the only opposition.
[Qambar] I would like to wish them success. It is not the parties, but
the public that defines if any of the forces is the actual or only
opposition. The opposition parties should not be engaged in assessing
one another. Every party should act in accordance with its manifesto
and values. It is the people who will decide.
[Yeni Azarbaycan] [MP] Panah Huseyn, who is considered to be a spin
doctor of the opposition, has said that it is appropriate for the
opposition to contest the forthcoming presidential election from one
headquarters. Do you think that this proposal is realistic?
[Qambar] If there is a second round of the election, the defeated
members of the democratic forces should support the one who continues
to run. It is clear.
[Yeni Azarbaycan] How do you evaluate the negotiations for the
settlement of the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict and the situation on the
[Qambar] I must say with regret that a solution to the Nagornyy
Karabakh problem does not seem likely today. It is beyond any doubt
that Azerbaijan will never give up its fair position and none of the
Azerbaijani politicians will agree to Nagornyy Karabakh’s secession
from our country. Under these circumstances the settlement of the
problem depends on Armenia’s refraining from the policy of occupation
and agreeing to at least a stage-by-stage solution to the conflict or
on the international community’s recognizing the aggressor and taking a
principled position. A solution to this problem is possible only under
these conditions. From this viewpoint positive changes towards the
settlement of the conflict are not expected at the current stage.
[Yeni Azarbaycan] Can the statements made by the Russian co-chairman of
the OSCE Minsk Group [set up to resolve the Nagornyy Karabakh
conflict], Yuriy Merzlyakov, and his colleague from the USA, Matthew
Bryza, in Yerevan be viewed as a logical sequel to the proposal on
joint use of the Qabala radar station?
[Qambar] No, because the Russian president’s proposal concerning the
Qabala radar station mainly has a nature of making effects. The
likelihood of its coming true is equal to zero. As for the statements
made by the co-chairmen, the OSCE mediators have been making numerous
contradictory statements of late. From this viewpoint it is difficult
to seriously analyse the statements. For example, these people say one
thing in Baku, but another in Yerevan. This is why I am not in favour
of seriously analysing their statements. The OSCE Minsk Group is doing
an imitation since it knows that no progress is expected in the
resolution of the problem.
[Yeni Azarbaycan] The co-chairmen told a news conference in Baku that
they were not magicians. They even drew parallels between the Karabakh
conflict and the Gibraltar issue, which has been outstanding for 300
years. Has a solution to the Karabakh conflict really become a game for
both the West and Russia?
[Qambar] The global confrontation between the West and Russia drew to a
close with the end of the cold war. But the regional struggle has not
ended yet. Unfortunately, the Nagornyy Karabakh issue is only one of
the elements in this context. A solution to the problem will only
depend on how the struggle between Russia and the West will end at a
time when the conflict has been elevated to the international level. If
any of the sides ensures its supremacy in the region, Azerbaijan will
have to take into consideration the views of the dominant side besides
materializing its own rights and interests. Russia and the West need to
reach global understanding on the region so that the Karabakh conflict
could be viewed not as a battleground, but as a solvable problem. But
this cannot be seen at the moment.
[Yeni Azarbaycan] Many media outlets, as well as representatives of
foreign embassies and international organizations have said that
[Azerbaijani] President Ilham Aliyev will hold discussions on the
Nagornyy Karabakh conflict with the leaders of the country’s
opposition. Will you take part in these discussions?
[Qambar] I have not received either an official or an unofficial
invitation. The format of the discussions is important. For example, it
is one thing if this meeting is going to be like a forum in which one
of the government officials will be making a speech about the Karabakh
issue and we will be listening. It is another thing if open discussions
to the media or closed-door discussions are held. In any case, the
Karabakh issue is such a point that we are always ready to exchange
views with the authorities on it.
Iran’s nuclear programme
[Yeni Azarbaycan] How would you assess the standoff between the USA and
Iran? Are the military hostilities expected soon?
[Qambar] As can be seen, Iran does not want to give up plans to achieve
a nuclear weapon, while the West does not wish to be reconciled to
this. From this viewpoint a confrontation or a conflict seems to be
inevitable. For the time being the developments are unfolding with
[Yeni Azarbaycan] What do you think Azerbaijan’s position should be
regarding this issue?
[Qambar] As the Musavat Party our position is that Iran’s acquiring a
nuclear weapon is fundamentally contradictory to the state interests of
Azerbaijan. In my opinion this may lead to such grave consequences as
the limitation of Azerbaijan’s state sovereignty. That is why our main
interest is to make sure that Iran does not have weapons of mass
destruction. Our second interest is that the standoff is resolved in a
diplomatic manner because the fates of tens of thousands of ethnic
Azerbaijanis in the south [northwestern Iran] are at stake. However,
there are some realities in addition to our interests. These realities
show that the conflict between the West and Iran will be aggravated. If
this is the case, Azerbaijan must take a position on the basis of its
[Yeni Azarbaycan] Roughly against Iran… [ellipses as published]
[Qambar] Not against Iran, but against Iran’s nuclear weapon.