Do you expect the state policy against the internationally funded NGOs in Azerbaijan to be toughened even more?
Everything that can be done for destroying the civil society network in Azerbaijan has already been done. The civil society of Azerbaijan lags behind the civil societies in the other South Caucasus countries. The dissidents are paralyzed. Some of them are outside the country, while others are imprisoned or cannot act due to the shortage of financing. It is almost impossible to receive financial assistance from the West, because the relevant procedure has not been adopted so far and the donors have suspended their activities in Azerbaijan. The authorities promise to gradually normalize the legislation related to western grants. No one knows how long it will take or whether the US donors involved in "color revolutions" will be able to return to Azerbaijan. It is a big question.
How do you think the parliamentary election results will affect Azerbaijan’s relations with the European Union countries and the United States?
Naturally, the elections in Azerbaijan were held with many shortcomings that are unlikely to please the international institutions in the United States and Europe, given that all these structures have certain standards for elections in the countries they cooperate with. Therefore, their attitude to the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan is far from being unambiguous. But I would not say that the elections are of big importance to establishment of relations with the country, especially as we have heard rather weak criticism from some important institutions: US Department of State, European Union, Council of Europe, etc. Only a few international organizations - for instance, the Human Rights House Network - have criticized the election results, calling them 'illegitimate'. I think the election results in Azerbaijan are paling into insignificance amid the tense geopolitical situation in the region. It is very important for Europe and the United States that Azerbaijan - as a link in the South Caucasus - should not fall into the trap of Russia and should perform its role, helping the Iranian economy integrate with the European market.
The deterioration of relations with the West has to a certain extent turned Baku’s foreign policy towards the north. What do you think of such trends?
Moscow keeps a wary eye on the developments in Azerbaijan. Moreover, Russian politicians and analysts emerge in our media outlets even more often than our own analysts. The Russian politicians do not even hide their joy over the fact that the Azerbaijan-West relations are deteriorating with every passing day and they even contribute to that process in every possible way. At the same time, they demonstrate loyalty to the domestic political processes in Azerbaijan. Unlike western countries, they do not criticize the leadership's actions against the opposition and the civil society. Nevertheless, possible accession of Azerbaijan to the Eurasian Economic Union does not meet Azerbaijan's interests and causes many people's concern. I think hardly anyone likes the idea of Azerbaijan’s turn towards Russia. More preference is given to the neutrality of the country. Time will show how Baku will manage to do it.
What can you say about the statement of Chief of the Turkish Armed Forces General Staff Hulusi Akar about Turkey’s willingness “to liberate the territories of Azerbaijan from occupation”?
Turkey has made quite interesting steps amid the tension on the border. In particular, many analysts have qualified the joint air force exercises with Azerbaijan as promotion of bilateral military cooperation. The hope that Turkey is able to provide military support to Azerbaijan if Baku has to resolve the Karabakh conflict in the military way is growing. Turkey always expresses willingness to render political support to Azerbaijan in the Karabakh peace process, but any opinion about military support is expressed carefully. In this light, I think that the statement of the Turkish Armed Forces General Staff Chief Hulusi Akar about the support to Azerbaijan is most likely of political nature. It does not mean that Turkey is ready to take the side of Azerbaijan in the war against Armenia.
Can the parliamentary election results in Turkey affect the relations with Azerbaijan?
The parliamentary election results in Turkey can affect the relations with Azerbaijan only in case the Turkish government is changed. To achieve constitutional changes, Recep Erdogan should have stable partners. Azerbaijan and some countries of Central Asia can perform this role very well. Therefore, having won the elections and having received the right to form the Cabinet, Erdogan's party seeks to deepen the bilateral relations with Azerbaijan. Thus, given Azerbaijan's significance for Turkey, Davutoglu's government is likely to retain the previous political course in relations with Azerbaijan.
How do you assess the prospects of Iranian-Azerbaijani relations given that Tehran’s role and capacities are growing following the Iranian nuclear deal?
In case the sanctions against Iran are lifted, Tehran will have a wide field for maneuvering in economic and political areas. New economic channels with the western countries will open and the foreign trade turnover will grow, giving a fresh impetus to the trade relations between Iran and Azerbaijan. Iran, in turn, will get additional bonuses in the fight against the Islamic State and will intensify the control over terrorism in neighboring Syria. This means that Azerbaijan - as a Shiite country - finds an ally in the anti-ISIS fight. Given Iran's return to the active global politics, such alliance will bring quite many benefits to Azerbaijan.