The head of "South Caucasus" political scientists club (Baku) Ilgar Velizadeh in his interview with ArmInfo discusses the latest trends in the Karabakh talks, comments on Baku's position on the centrifugal sentiments in Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia. He shares the vision of the Azerbaijani-Israeli relations, justifies the scandal around the "Azerbaijani laundry."
Not so long ago, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan stated that during the last stages of the talks on Karabakh, the issues of a final settlement of the conflict are not being discussed. Is the last meeting of the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan a part of the above-mentioned negotiating logic, or do you have other considerations?
I believe that at this stage it would be more expedient to withdraw the final status of Nagorny Karabakh beyond the negotiating process and concentrate on resolving those issues that create conditions for normalizing the situation around the settlement process. Simply put, it is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the negotiation process in order to minimize the risks of a new war in the region. In this context, the form of substantive negotiations, which involves the discussion of topics in a sequential order and depending on the degree of their importance and mutual consistency, is appropriate. And if we take into account that both the moderators of the negotiation process and its immediate participants are increasingly talking about substantive negotiations, it is not difficult to imagine that the final settlement of the conflict is considered just as one of the subsequent stages of negotiations.
Moscow has repeatedly offered the West, through the American and French co-chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group, "to find a common denominator" by permission. Karabakh problem. What, in your opinion, could such a common denominator be based on and what are the prospects for developing a common position of the mediators on Karabakh?
I think that the "common denominator" in the understanding of Moscow is the so-called "Kazan formula", proposed by the Russian side. We are talking about the return of areas around Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan, the deployment of peacekeeping forces in the conflict zone. Perhaps, under the condition of parity participation of peacekeepers from Russia and NATO countries, and possibly with the participation of peacekeepers from those countries that have no direct relationship to the negotiation process, this is the subject of subsequent agreements, the deblokade of the conflict region and provision of temporary status to Nagorno-Karabakh. In general, there were no objections from Western mediators to this proposal, but we also did not see any clear agreement. In my opinion, Western countries prefer to adhere to the Madrid principles, which have a common resemblance to the Kazan formula and differ only in details.
Comment on Baku's reaction to centrifugal processes in Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia. Is Karabakh the only motivation or are there new, more relevant reasons for Azerbaijan?
Things happening in Spain and Iraq is attentively monitored in Baku and the appropriate conclusions are being drawn. In both cases, we are talking about destructive processes that have the consequence of disintegration inside important political players on the map of Europe and the Middle East, respectively, and the emergence of a new political reality, new hotbeds of open conflicts. Of course, analogies are being made with Karabakh, but there is another motivation in the interest displayed. For example, Iraq, in a sense, is a neighboring state with Azerbaijan. The two countries have close historical and humanitarian ties. Suffice it to say that it is commonly believed that the tomb of one of the well-known Azerbaijani thinkers and poets Fizuli in the East is in Iraq. A lot of Iraqi students were trained in Baku at the time, and now businessmen of the two countries are actively interacting, mutual trade is developing, Azerbaijani pilgrims often make visits to holy places in Najaf and Karbella, all these are connected by our countries. And the disintegration of this state in connection with the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, fraught with a serious aggravation of the military and political situation in the region, can lead to negative humanitarian consequences, lead to the growth of refugees from Iraq and this wave threatens to cover the entire region. I am not talking about the prospects of the disintegration of Iraq into several states. Of course, Azerbaijan can not remain indifferent to what is happening, and Turkey, Iran, other regional and extra-regional states support the neighboring countries, after all, the Iraqi government itself in their desire to keep Iraq a single state. The state, viewed not as a hotbed for the subsequent destabilization of the entire region, but as an example of the coexistence of various ethnic and confessional groups within a single country. The further fragmentation of Iraq, and indeed of the entire Middle East, carries risks for all countries, both within this region and the regions bordering on it. The same applies to Spain. Catalans have the right to determine their own destiny - this is fair, but it is also fair that the interests of other nations should not suffer. His happiness at the expense of the misfortune of another cannot be built. The history of the Karabakh conflict, the history of many other conflicts like ours shows this more than eloquent.
Kurdistan and Catalonia became regular examples of the realization of the international principle - the right of peoples to self-determination. And, given the rapid growth of UN member states during the past and the beginning of the 21st century, it seems very likely that in the future the trend will only gain momentum. In your opinion, does this process have a common ground that fits into global politics, justification, or should we only have in mind the local features of each situation?
Any referendum on the fate of a self-governing autonomy can only be considered legitimate if it is the result of an encompassing political compromise and is recognized by all parties involved in the agreement. Just like it took place in Scotland, for example. That referendum was the result of a large political agreement between the central authorities in London and the regional ones in Edinburgh. At the same time, both of its participants agreed to recognize the results of the vote, whatever it showed. What happened in Catalonia and in the north of Iraq is not any compromise, no consensus, it goes beyond the legal field and, in fact, is illegitimate. However, the main international organizations and states have already expressed their attitude to these plebiscites, calling them inconsistent with the norms of the constitution of Spain and Iraq. At the same time, objectively assessing the situation, we must admit that, figuratively speaking, the specter of separatism has long been moving around the world, creating a new political reality everywhere, which cannot be ignored. This circumstance is already willingly used for a pretty long time for realization of the purposes of various political players that leads to rather pitiable consequences. That is why there is a need to make all these facts, in general, and individually, a coherent political and legal assessment and the definition of more precise instruments on this issue at the supranational level, at the level of the United Nations. Moreover, I'm talking not so much about punitive measures as about preventive measures that would prevent the emergence of new foci of separatism and prevent current people from accepting the form of open conflicts, with all the ensuing consequences. We must try to prevent the erosion of the current world order by developing clearer and more articulated rules of the game. It is not a secret that the question concerning the fact that the "territorial integrity of states" or "the right of nations to self-determination" has long been the subject of endless disputes not only in the political field, but also in scientific discussions and debates of jurists. Naturally, international law as a whole prioritizes the principle of "territorial integrity" and puts it in the first positions, but how then to interpret the concept of "the right of nations to self-determination", does that mean that the realization of this right implies only and only the creation of their own state? There is no unequivocal attitude to these issues. But in a number of cases there are clear answers. So, according to the EU Global Strategy, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of states, inviolability of borders and peaceful settlement of conflicts are key elements of the European concept of security. Does this approach take into account local features, or is it still about generalizations found in the world practice, everyone is free to judge in his own way.
The journalistic investigation "Azerbaijan laundry" is just one of numerous Western initiatives to pacify Baku. "Official" reasons - corruption, anti-democratic authorities of the country. Let's talk about the informal and unofficial?
The foreign policy of Azerbaijan is to ensure the greatest possible equidistance from the world's policy centers, which is not always satisfied with influential political circles in these same centers. Various means of direct and indirect pressure are used to integrate Azerbaijan into the orbit of their plans. The example you mentioned is more suitable for indirect pressure methods. Exactly one year later presidential elections will be held in Azerbaijan. It seems that someone decided to prepare in advance for this event. It is something like playing ahead.
The arrest and imprisonment of an Israeli citizen in the Baku prison showed the presence of certain underwater reefs in Israel-Azerbaijan relations. Describe the state of these relations, in your opinion, for today?
In my opinion, there are no significant underwater reefs in the Israeli-Azerbaijani relations. At least, the so-called "Lapshin case" did not affect their condition in any way. Suffice it to recall that the visit of Israeli Prime Minister B. Netanyahu to Azerbaijan in December last year, I must say a successful visit, fell precisely at the time when the flywheel of this case was actively spinning. I believe that if the Lapshin factor played any significant role in the relations between the two countries, this visit might not be at all. Today, it can be said without exaggeration that relations between the two countries are an important factor in regional politics, a unique experience of the productive cooperation of the Muslim country with the Jewish state. Both Israel and Azerbaijan value the long-standing experience of cooperation. A large number of Mountain Jews still live in Azerbaijan, and tens of thousands of immigrants from Azerbaijan live in Israel, it is a resource that serves as a bridge for maintaining humanitarian ties between the two countries. I do not specifically dwell on the known facts of military-technical cooperation to demonstrate a significant part of other factors, often falling out of sight. In addition, Israel is one of the buyers of Azerbaijani oil in significant volumes and an important supplier of new technologies to the Azerbaijani market in a wide variety of areas.