BAKU: Iran To Distract Attention From Nuclear Program By Karabakh Me

April 9 2010

Rauf Rajabov News.Az interviews Rauf Rajabov, Azerbaijani political

Iranian FM Manuchohr Mottaki said his country has made its proposals
to Azerbaijan and Armenia regarding the resolution of the Karabakh
conflict. How would you comment on this?

It is not the first time that Iran is trying to undertake the function
of a mediator on the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. In early
90s, if exactly, in April-May 1992 Iran fulfilled the function of
the mediator but everyone knows how it all ended. Therefore, I think
Tehran’s intention to intensify efforts in the processes in the South
Caucasus is nothing but an attempt to distract attention of the world
community from the Iranian nuclear program. I do not think that in
this case Iran’s mediation mission can be successful, because this
country is not influential enough among all conflict parties.

Certainly, Iran maintains good relations with Armenia and improving
relations with Azerbaijan in the recent year (I mean the gas contract,
cancellation of visa regime for the Azerbaijani citizens). But
the main problem is the absence of predictability, consistence,
pragmatism of the ruling Iranian regime and the presence of such an
unresolved issue as its nuclear program. This means that the country
should first settle all problems with the world community after which
it can intensify its peacekeeping efforts because the dialogue Iran
wants to participate in, primarily, demands influence and trust.

The Iranian ambassador has said earlier that his country has reached
Azerbaijan’s agreement for mediation in the Karabakh issue. Which
proposals can Iran offer to the conflict parties? And can it be more
successful that the Minsk Group co-chairs?

Naturally, the conflict parties have never rejected any mediation. In
this case Azerbaijan has not rejected the offered assistance of
the Iranian side. The thing is that Iran has had quite warm mutual
relations with Armenia, which cannot be said about Azerbaijan. The
relations between Azerbaijan and Iran started to restore only in the
past year when a pragmatic dialogue is held from both sides. At the
same time Iran is unable to offer definite services on influencing
Armenia because in this case Armenia will simply not accept any
initiatives of the Iranian side if they have a nature of pressure. I
think there can be some proposals that may raise Azerbaijan’s interest
and Iran is planning to conduct mediation in the socioeconomic sense.

But Iran will never be able to replace the OSCE Minsk Group.

Therefore, there is a risk that Iran’s mediation role may have a
negative impact on results of regulation within the framework of the
Minsk process and on the basis of Madrid principles. There is such
a threat. But I am sure that neither Azerbaijan nor Armenia will
allow Iran breaking this balance because the most important today is
to promote the resolution process, without spoiling the balance in
the region.

Meanwhile, the Iranian ambassador has said that the real peace in
the region can be established only under mediation of the regional
states, rather than the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs that follow only
their interests…

Dear ambassador is deeply mistaken. It seems that he is misinformed
by his advisers or either he is merely not competent in this
issue. The thing is that one of the Minsk Group co-chairs is the
regional superpower-Russia. On the other hand, when they say that the
activity of the Minsk Group has not been effective, this is not merely
a deep mistake but misleading the world community and primarily the
Azerbaijani and Armenian people. There are basic Madrid principles,
there is a Moscow declaration and there is a ceasefire regime. These
all are achievements. And when someone says that there is no result,
he is mistaken. There are results. In addition, there is a process
on institutionalization of basic Madrid principles and definition of
technical elements. On the other hand, the Turkish-Armenian dialogue
is proceeding though with some difficulties. Turkey is thus trying to
be neutral in the South Caucasus which cannot be applied to Iran. Iran
is not an unbiased party and we should understand it. I do not want
to hink that Iran has decided to remind about itself due to the
clear intensification of Turkey because the game for counterbalance
is harmful.

You have mentioned that in an attempt to get the parties’ agreement
for mediation, Iran wants to distract the world attention from its
nuclear problem. But Iran’s nuclear problem has intensified just
recently, and Tehran has always had an intention to mediate the
Karabakh settlement. What is them behind this intention?

This intention is also backed by the willingness to intensify
positions in Azerbaijan. The cancellation of visa regime for the
Azerbaijani citizens has been the first stage in the program of
raising its positions in Azerbaijan and influencing its foreign
policy. Undoubtedly, Iran is striving to raise its positions
in Azerbaijan. If previously it did so by its military ships and
airplanes that flied over Azerbaijan, now they have understood that it
is impossible to speak to Azerbaijan in a language of force. Today
Azerbaijan is quite a different country with quite different
opportunities. Therefore, today Iran is trying to strengthen its
positions via Karabakh. But this striving does not meet the national
and regional interests of Azerbaijan, because Iran is building its
intentions not on the interests of the region, but only for its
narrow interests. At the same time, Iran is trying not to lag behind
Turkey in attempt to strengthen its positions in the South Caucasus,
as it understands that Ankara’s positions are strong in Azerbaijan
and Georgia and are currently strengthening in Armenia. Meanwhile,
Iran has been a permanent player on the Armenian field, where there
have not been either Americans or Europeans (except for humanitarian
programs), or Turkey or Russia. Though Russia holds the control
share in the most profitable Armenian enterprises, it has no common
borders with Armenia. In this conditions it is clear that Iran wants
to strengthen its positions here so that they were inviolable. But the
other matter is the extent the Iranian intentions meet the national
and regional issues of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russia. That
is the main point.

Why did the Azerbaijani leadership approve the Iranian mediation if
nothing good can be expected from Iran?

I think Azerbaijan acts pragmatically in this issue. It does not
say "no". Never say never. If Tehran wants to influence the process
positively, let it act, but by doing so Iran is undertaking commitments
that cannot stay unexecuted. In this case, Iran rather than Azerbaijan
will be caught in a political trap. This is Iran that is caught in
stiff diplomatic conditions. If it undertakes the commitments to
mediate, it should fulfill them. In addition, it should do it not
like it did in 1992, when during the negotiations on the conflict in
Tehran, the Armenian side attacked and invaded Shusha.

There cannot be a return to the past, no one is going to repeat the
same mistake once again. Thus, Iran will have to show any definite
result in the short term perspective. But if there is no positive
result that will be appreciated by both parties, the Iranian policy
will merely be doomed to failure.

Therefore, in this case Azerbaijan was also pragmatic and it allowed
Iran to mediate. But naturally Azerbaijan will never do any step
contradicting to its national, regional and global interests.

Azerbaijan is a secular state which is striving for European
integration. Azerbaijan is preparing to sign an associative agreement
with the EU. Western countries have invested $32 bn to Azerbaijan and
Azerbaijan will never step past this. Therefore, I think we must make
a definite conclusion at least by the end of this year or the Iranian
mediation will be as ineffective as in 1992 or this mediation of Iran
may give any impulse to intensification of bilateral contacts between
Azerbaijan and Armenia.

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