BAKU: Azeri Opposition Leader Says Iran Should Be Prevented From Mak


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;

Opposition unity

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 this process?

[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
way out?

[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 activities.

[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 parliamentary election].

[Yeni Azarbaycan] Has the party decided on its nominee for the
presidential election?

[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 last say.

[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.

Nagornyy Karabakh

[Yeni Azarbaycan] How do you evaluate the negotiations for the
settlement of the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict and the situation on
the ground?

[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

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 tension.

[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 own interests.

[Yeni Azarbaycan] Roughly against Iran… [ellipses as published]

[Qambar] Not against Iran, but against Iran’s nuclear weapon.