BAKU: WikiLeaks: Ilham Aliyev "Can Wait" In Solving Karabakh Problem

WIKILEAKS: ILHAM ALIYEV “CAN WAIT” IN SOLVING KARABAKH PROBLEM

AzeriReport

Sept 6 2011

WASHINGTON DC. September 6, 2011: The new WikiLeaks report discloses
the diplomatic cable from the US Embassy in Brussels to the US
State Department dated February 23, 2004. The diplomatic cable
reports about the meetings of the EU envoy Talvitie in Georgia,
Armenia and Azerbaijan. The portion of the report reflecting the EU
representative’s impressions about the president Ilham Aliyev has
interesting colors to it: “Boe noted that Ilham Aliev told EUSR
Talvitie during a recent visit (January 20 to February 5) to the
region that he (Aliev) could wait for a solution to NK. He was young
and not in a hurry like his father had been, Ilham reportedly said.

Boe said that it was unclear whether Ilham’s remarks signaled a shift
in policy or a sign of his weakness as he tries to consolidate power
in Baku. Boe also remarked that he and Talvitie had been hearing
conflicting stories about Ilham’s personal interest in power. “Some
say he wants power, and some say he only wants to play,” Boe said.

In either case, the Azeris seem to playing up the image of Ilham as
a professional by boasting to Talvitie that Ilham now shows up for
work at 9:00 every day.” Below is the full text of the cable:

“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BRUSSELS 000758

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/ERA, EUR/SNEC, EUR/CACEN, EUR/ACE E.O. 12958: DECL:
02/20/2009

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, AM, AJ, GG, RS, EUN, USEU BRUSSELS

SUBJECT: US-EU COEST CONSULTATIONS PART 2: SOUTH CAUCASUS

REF: BRUSSELS 666

Classified By: USEU Poloff Van Reidhead for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: On February 9 in Brussels, EUR DAS Lynn Pascoe —
accompanied by EUR/ACE Deputy Dan Rosenblum and EUR/ERA Director
Kathy Allegrone — discussed US-EU cooperation in Central Asia and the
South Caucasus with the EU’s COEST Troika. This cable covers the South
Caucasus portion of the consultations. The discussion of Central Asia
is reported ref. A. — Wider Europe Initiative (WEI): Decision will
be made by end of June on whether to include South Caucasus in WEI;
Irish FM Cowen, EUSR Talvitie and Enlargement Commissioner Verheugen
all support South Caucasus inclusion, and are pushing others to
do so; EU remains concerned about Russian reaction and overly high
expectations of South Caucasus governments. — Georgia: EU remains
confident in Saakashvili’s efforts to reform public institutions;
EU has 30 million euros budgeted for assistance in 2004; US and EU
to enhance on-the-ground coordination even further. — Armenia:
Kocharian making positive strides toward meeting conditions of
Council of Europe membership; EU agrees that progress should be
made toward opening the Turkish-Armenian border, but doubts whether
this can happen without progress on Nagorno-Karabakh. — Azerbaijan:
Ilham Aliev tells EU he “can wait” on resolving Nagorno-Karabakh; EU
agrees that recent positive attention on Georgia creates an opening
for increasing pressure on Azerbaijan, which worries about being
forgotten after Georgia’s dramatic turnaround. END SUMMARY.

Wider Europe Initiative: Momentum Growing to Include South Caucasus

2. (C) COEST Troika members told Pascoe that moves to include the
three South Caucasus states in the EU’s Wider Europe Initiative (WEI)
were gaining ground. Commission rep Reinhold Brender said that a
decision would have to be taken by the end of June, and noted that
Armenian President Kocharian made a direct plea for WEI inclusion
during a visit to Brussels in December (at which time he also invited
Enlargement Commissioner Verheugen to visit Yerevan). The EU had
two serious concerns about expanding WEI into the South Caucasus,
he said: first, how would Russia react? And second, how could the EU
gently deflate the unrealistic expectations of the three countries
regarding benefits of WEI membership? The Council Secretariat’s Michael
Swann echoed this concern by explaining that the EU is nervous about
comments by Georgian President Saakashvili and Azeri President Ilham
Aliev that EU membership is an ultimate policy objective of their
countries. Wouldn’t inclusion in the WEI reinforce this unrealistic
objective? Pascoe replied that the EU should tell Russia that the
South Caucasus states are independent, and free to choose their own
sovereign policies. The benefit of expanding WEI into the region would
be too great to abandon just because the Russians might get upset. Of
the second concern, Pascoe said that the high expectations of regional
leaders was to be expected and provided a powerful impetus to reform.

There would be time to deal with these issues after WEI expansion
and as reforms proceed.

3. (SBU) Irish Presidency rep Barbara Jones said that maximizing
the WEI’s value as a point of leverage over included countries was
an issue of great concern to the EU. Council Policy Planning advisor
William Boe illustrated the concern by pointed out that Syria has been
in the WEI for over a year now, yet has made little progress. In that
context, he asked, why should the EU expect more of Armenia after WEI
inclusion? Jones noted that Commissioner Verheugen is briefing other
Commissioners on the issue this month. She said that while some FMs
remain wary — arguing that the EU “doesn’t need a policy driven by
enlargement” — many others are increasingly supportive of inclusion
of the South Caucasus in the WEI. Among the notable supporters of
inclusion were Irish FM Cowen (who “will manage the Council debate,”
she said), Enlargement Commissioner Verheugen, and EU Special Rep
Heikki Talvitie.

4. (C) COMMENT: The EU clearly has serious issues to resolve —
notably about scope, precedence, and managing expectations — before
signaling any decision to the region’s leaders. Yet based on signals
we have been receiving since December from Council, Commission and
member state officials, it seems clear that the EU’s momentum has
shifted from debates about whether to include the Caucasus in WEI,
to discussions about when, how, and to what end. Skeptics remain but
are rapidly being outpaced by advocates of WEI expansion. END COMMENT.

Georgia: A Success for US-EU Cooperation

5. (SBU) Jones said the EU remains optimistic about the new Georgian
administration and anticipates positive outcomes from the new reform
initiatives and the upcoming parliamentary elections. She said it
was important to maintain the momentum and to continue cooperating on
difficult issues like Abkhazia, Adjara and IMF restructuring. Pascoe
agreed, observing that Georgia represented a stunning success for
US-EU cooperation. On Russia, Jones said the EU was maintaining a
strong line with Moscow on the need to cooperate; Irish FM Cowen
told FM Ivanov in a recent meeting that Russia must take Georgia’s
territorial integrity more seriously. Pascoe agreed that Russia must
learn to deal with Georgia as a normal, sovereign country. Solutions
to difficult issues like Abkhazia would not be found without serious
Georgian progress and some Russian help. Quoting a statement by
NATO SYG de Hoop Scheffer that the South Caucasus were as much a
part of Europe’s near abroad as Russia’s, Pascoe urged the EU not to
acquiesce to Russia’s effort to treat Georgia as a privileged sphere
of influence. While recent public statements by Russian officials
seemed positive, it was important to maintain the pressure to keep
Moscow moving forward. Boe said that compromise would be the key to
resolving the Russian basing issues. The Russians know the proposed
payment of USD 500 million is a nonstarter, he said, and will probably
seek to use the presence of US forces (conducting Georgia’s train
and equip program) to their advantage during negotiations.

6. (SBU) Boe said that HiRep Solana and EUSR Talvitie are focused on
the development of basic state structures as the primary priority in
Georgia. He noted that the EU budgeted 30 million euros for assistance
to Georgia in 2004. Commission rep Brender said the EU currently
has 5 million euros available now for food security, and said the
2004 budget would provide for 12 million euros for the EU’s TACIS
(Technical Assistance to the CIS) program in Georgia, 12 million euros
for food security, 4 million euros for rehabilitation projects in South
Ossetia and Abkhazia, and 2.5 million euros for an EU initiative on
democracy and human rights. EUR/ACE Deputy Rosenblum noted that the
US FY2005 budget request for assistance to Georgia was higher than
the amount requested for any other FSU state. The US is prioritizing
revenue collection, anti-corruption, and job creation. He also noted
that the US is considering supporting projects we have never before
done in Georgia, such as helping mitigate the employment impact of
public sector reform, adding that in this area the US will follow
the World Bank lead. Rosenblum noted that the US contribution for
upcoming parliamentary elections will amount to about one quarter
of Georgia’s self-assessed need of USD 3.4 million. The US was also
looking for help from others to fund a USD 500,000 computerized voter
registration system, he said.

7. (SBU) Pascoe urged the EU to maintain the pressure on Georgia
to reform. We should not be any softer on Saakashvili than we were
on the last group, he said. Saakashvili’s positive start needed to
be bolstered, and outside pressure should be maintained to keep the
new government on track. Jones agreed, and said she would carry the
message to EU member states to “keep the spotlight on” Saakashvili
and his new administration. Pascoe said that US-EU cooperation on the
ground should be increased even further. We should build on our success
during the run up to the January election and carry our coordination
into additional aspects of regional assistance, he said.

Jones said the EU welcomed the enhanced coordination and would direct
its Missions to continue these efforts.

Armenia

8. (SBU) Pascoe noted that while the US continues to press Turkey
on the need to make progress with Armenia, Azeri President Ilham
Aliev continues to plead with Turkey not to abandon its defense of
Azeri interests in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK). Turkish PM Erdogan seems
interested in beginning discussions on opening the Turkish-Armenian
border, but is caught between Turkey’s commitments to Azerbaijan
and its partnerships with the West. Pascoe estimated that Armenian
President Kocharian will eventually compromise with the Azeris over
NK, but perhaps Ilham Aliev is not yet a strong enough Azeri partner.

Boe voiced skepticism that the that NK could be delinked from the
issue of Turkish-Armenian relations, and asked rhetorically how it
would be possible to open the Turkish-Armenian border without first
resolving NK. Pascoe said that the US and EU needed to set out a
series of arguments to push home resolution of NK as soon as possible,
rather than just letting it simmer on indefinitely.

9. (SBU) Jones assessed as positive Kocharian’s recent progress toward
meeting the conditions of Council of Europe (CoE) membership. Pascoe
agreed, underscoring that CoE membership remained a useful point of
leverage over Armenia.

Azerbaijan

10. (C) Boe noted that Ilham Aliev told EUSR Talvitie during a recent
visit (January 20 to February 5) to the region that he (Aliev) could
wait for a solution to NK. He was young and not in a hurry like his
father had been, Ilham reportedly said. Boe said that it was unclear
whether Ilham’s remarks signaled a shift in policy or a sign of his
weakness as he tries to consolidate power in Baku. Boe also remarked
that he and Talvitie had been hearing conflicting stories about
Ilham’s personal interest in power. “Some say he wants power, and
some say he only wants to play,” Boe said. In either case, the Azeris
seem to playing up the image of Ilham as a professional by boasting
to Talvitie that Ilham now shows up for work at 9:00 every day.

11. (C) Pascoe said the US was trying to strengthen Ilham and assist
him with reform efforts because, while far from perfect, he is
the most progressive figure available from a pool of unimpressive
candidates. Boe asked how we intended to do that. Pascoe responded
that the US was exploring ideas with Ilham and would want to discuss
these issues during Talvitie’s March 1-2 visit to Washington. Boe
pointed out that Georgia’s recent and dramatic progress — which
has the Azeris complaining that the Georgians are getting all the
attention lately — provided a useful point of leverage over Ilham.

Pascoe agreed that Georgia’s about-face had had a profound impact on
Azerbaijan, and said the US and EU should use this new leverage for
maximum benefit. Schnabel”

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