Coupled with Azerbaijan’s Military Power, Foreign Policy Stepped Up For Europe’s Fair Stance On Karabakh

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 12 March 2019
Coupled with Azerbaijan’s Military Power, Foreign Policy Stepped Up For Europe’s Fair Stance On Karabakh

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has received the credentials of the new U.S. ambassador to Baku, Earl Litzenberger. During the meeting, the two men discussed ways of resolving the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Ilham Aliyev brought to the attention of E. Litzenberger the position of Azerbaijan, which is based on the norms and principles of international law, and a fair settlement of the conflict. The president noted that the latest statement by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, including their position on the format of the negotiation process, is positively perceived by Azerbaijan.

E. Litzenberger, in turn, noted that the U.S. government highly appreciates the contribution of Azerbaijan to the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, including logistics and transport support. They also exchanged views on the prospects for the development of Azerbaijani-U.S. relations.

During the meeting, the sides also discussed issues of political ties, energy security, trade, democratic development, stressed the importance of developing relations. Ilham Aliyev and Earl Litzenberger expressed satisfaction with the high level and successful development of Azerbaijani-American relations.

The U.S. ambassador has filled the strategically important post in Azerbaijan at a time when the long-drawn-out Karabakh conflict remains unresolved amid controversies in the position of the Armenian prime minister, designed to distract attention from the resolution of the pivotal for Azerbaijan problem. Pashinyan is in separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region where he plans to chair a meeting of Armenia's National Security Council on12 March along with officials of the Azerbaijani exclave.

The visit comes in the wake of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen’s statement over the Karabakh conflict settlement ahead of the planned meeting between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The intermediaries urged Baku and Yerevan "to refrain from statements and actions suggesting significant changes to the situation on the ground, prejudging the outcome of or setting conditions for future talks, demanding unilateral changes to the format without agreement of the other party, or indicating readiness to renew active hostilities".

Although separatists in the Azerbaijani enclave downbeat the conduct of the security council meeting in Karabakh, pundits stick to diametrically opposite opinion. The prime minister of Armenia, who is at odds with the Karabakh clan in power, wants test water and find out to what extent they are ready for the resolution of the conflict before it is late. In the meantime, the Azerbaijani army has kicked off a large-scale military exercises along the front-line to exert pressure coupled with the political will of the nation to resolve the conflict once and for all.

As stated by the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, the large-scale military exercises will be conducted from 11 to 15 March under a plan endorsed by President Ilham Aliyev. The drills have involved about 10,000 soldiers, up to 500 tanks and armored and other vehicles and special hardware, up to 300 different rocket systems and artillery mounts, multiple rocket launchers and mortars, and up to 20 different army and front-line jets.

Now the nuances of the recent official meetings Azerbaijan has been holding provide good food for thought. Recently, President Ilham Aliyev received the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, Toivo Klaar. The European diplomat expressed the interest of the European Union in the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict.

In his turn, Ilham Aliyev expressed satisfaction with the statements of a number of European Commissioners about the need to resolve the conflict within the framework of international norms, the inadmissibility of maintaining the status quo and changing the format of negotiations. The president stressed that the conflict could be resolved on the basis of well-known UN Security Council resolutions, international principles, taking into account the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and the format of the negotiations cannot be changed.

As the Azerbaijani president especially noted, the liberation of the occupied territories has always been an important part of the peace negotiations, therefore contradictory statements by Armenia on this issue are unacceptable and inhibit the settlement process. The president also urged the international community to give a serious assessment to provocative actions of Armenia, designed to derail the negotiations process and consequently postpone the liberation of Azerbaijan’s occupied lands.

Azerbaijan and the EU obviously see eye to eye on vital for Azerbaijan Karabakh issue. Of course, such a course adjustment in the foreign policy of Azerbaijan has many reasons, and no doubt, the main role here is played by the behavior of Russia itself. Suffice it to recall Moscow’s regular weapon “gifts” to Yerevan and the role Moscow played in disrupting the implementation of Bolton’s Karabakh plan, calling for the resolution of the regional conflict within Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.

Strictly speaking, the Kremlin has provided direct support to the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan from the first days of the conflict, not to mention that Armenia, which is openly called the outpost of Russia, is no more than an instrument of Russian pressure on the "overly independent," according to the Kremlin, Azerbaijan. This, unfortunately, is not news.

The talk is about something different. First of all, Azerbaijan is stepping up its cooperation with NATO and systematically transferring its army to NATO standards. Expanding military cooperation with Turkey fits into this trend. But most importantly, the West is already correcting its position. In the fall of 2018, the Armenian and Russian political clubbish set was pretty frightened by the statements of American diplomats that the basic principles for resolving the Karabakh conflict included respect for territorial integrity and the withdrawal of troops from the seized Azerbaijani lands.

Europe also does not stand aside. And certainly it is not trying to talk about the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan in the "Azerbaijani" documents, but on the Armenian track, it pays with fine speeches. On the same days, when in Baku they designated a new trend in their policies, Nikol Pashinyan had to face public flogging in Brussels, where both the European Council President Donald Tusk and EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and enlargement talks Johannes Hahn and High Representative The EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini clearly stated: the status quo in Karabakh is unacceptable, the conflict must be resolved in accordance with international laws, and the existing format of negotiations should not be changed.

Translating this from diplomatic language into an understandable one means that Armenia should recognize the existing borders and withdraw its troops from the occupied lands, and not put forward absurd demands such as “the participation of the Karabakh Armenians in the negotiations”. After such a series of a slap in the face, they in Yerevan are trying to make the best of a bad bargain, however, it only turns out unconvincing.

Thus, Spokesman for Armenian Prime Minister Vladimir Karapetyan in a post on his Facebook page alleged that his country welcomed the statement by the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Johannes Khan that negotiations on the Karabakh conflict settlement should take place in the current format of the OSCE Minsk Group.

And then he tried to turn the meaning of this statement on its head, and continued: “As Prime Minister Pashinyan repeatedly noted, for substantive negotiations, it is necessary to ensure the involvement of representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh in the talks. For us, it is not news that Azerbaijan periodically comes up with estimates that distort the facts. We urge some analysts to refrain from manipulations.”

But who did Karapetyan try to deceive? Especially after the statement of Khan himself was published in the press, it is clear to any person more or less thinking who is trying to distort the facts? It is possible, of course, that in this way Karapetyan expects to mislead a certain segment of the audience, but it’s impossible to change the balance of power in the region with such methods. And if today Azerbaijan has managed to enlist much more substantial support in the western direction, this is really bad news for Armenia. Especially considering the fact that the global balance of power is not changing in favor of Russia, whose outpost is Armenia.