Avaz Hasanov: To solve Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with consensus is only possible by excluding Russia

In your opinion, what are the non-regional events, which could serve as a catalyst for the April war?

The April War was made possible as a result of the irresponsibility shown by the mediators of the OSCE Minsk Group. Since August 2014, the OSCE MG practically did nothing to prevent the numerous violations of the ceasefire by the parties of the conflict. Serious discussions towards avoiding similar violations also did not take place and this led to another violation of the regime in April in a hitherto unprecedented scale. I can also say that the April escalation has been used by the states-intermediaries for their own purposes. Any major changes in the negotiation process after the April war were not expected in Azerbaijan, no one expected the scale of human losses, which were incurred by the parties, as well. And I would not say that anyone now in Azerbaijan is carrying out a serious analysis of the April war. Meanwhile, even the Azerbaijani authorities did not expect the euphoria that was observed in the society during the first days of April. In my opinion, this was the reason why it was over as quickly as it had begun.

What, in your opinion, were the interests of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia during the meeting on April 5 in Moscow for an agreement on the resumption of the ceasefire of 1994?

Naturally, any changes at the line of contact are unprofitable for Armenia. Changes at the line of contact and in the negotiation process, of course, are beneficial for Azerbaijan. And in April, Azerbaijan again declared the status quo around Nagorno-Karabakh inadmissible for itself. In turn, Russia, that has powerful influence on Armenia and Azerbaijan, has clearly demonstrated both, that they are not allowed to take independent steps without taking into account its special opinion.In the same time, Russia’s intermediary and political role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is really huge, which in fact isrecognized by the other co-chair countries. In this sense, Moscow was interested in demonstrating a distinct dependence of Armenia andthe change of the foreign policy vector in Azerbaijan, its closer relations with the EEU (Eurasian Economic Union). And in April, Moscow has received an excellent opportunity to let the both sides, so to speak, to think about it.

Is Azerbaijan ready to move in the direction of integration with the EEU?

I’m not sure if Azerbaijan will ever become a member of the EEU. However, cooperation with the Customs and even the Eurasian Union, following the example of cooperation with the European Union is inevitable. In my opinion, there are serious reflections on the need to establish economic ties with the EEU today in Azerbaijan; in any case, it clearly feels that Baku is considering that it is certainly not worth it to ignore the EEU.

We can state the activation of the negotiation process and the scrap of the status quo around Nagorno-Karabakh in the post-April period, in fact, has long pushed by Baku. In the same time, it is also a fact that in the same periodwe observed the radicalization of moods in the Armenian society on the settlement based on the prospects of bilateral compromises. The result was a paradoxical situation where the optimism of the mediators and Moscow meets with an uncompromising pessimism of the Armenian society. And all of itwas the result of April with its hundreds of victims on both sides, cut off ears and heads. In other words, the April events not only did not become a catalyst for the negotiations, but also led to the opposite results. Was thisnot counted in Azerbaijan or on the contrary it was the result of deliberate policy?

If until April events Azerbaijan really had a chance to influence the Armenian society in order to obtain its consent to mutual concessions, after the April war, there are noopportunities like that and probably none will be expected any further. In Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, we are witnessing the radicalization of society today. Therefore, to talk about the readiness of Armenians to go for any concessions for the sake of achieving the settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is simply not serious. In the same time, we do have some progress in the negotiation process. We do, because Russia is interested in it and is seeking to prove both sides of its indispensability and impact.

You think that only to the two?

In reality, the message of Moscow was really addressed to the European institutions, and the West in general. It is important for Russia to show the world their ability to administer peace and war in the region through the sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at any time. In particular, it is very important for Moscow to show the world their own ability to moderate the conflict not onlyby selling arms to its sides, but also with its peacekeeping potential. Therefore, today there are serious discussions in Azerbaijan and in Armenia whether Russia will ever want to solve this conflict. Russia today is an intermediary with its distinct interests. Unlike the United States and France, the Caucasus for Moscow is vitally important region, which it is really not going to abandon. It the same time, Russia is a country, which is a part of the region. That is why parties to the conflict, so to speak, understand each other better with Moscow mediation than with the OSCE mediation. Therefore, whichever dubious role Russia is playing in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it will be present in it for a very long time.

Do you think that the main goal of Russia is to place its peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh in order to obtain absolute control over the conflict? And what is the relation to such terms in Azerbaijan?

Despite its influence, Russia’s capabilities are not limitless, given that Moscow – is not the only mediator in this conflict. In the same time, Moscow is not interested in the rapid resolution of the conflict, even in case of compliance to its interests. If Moscow could gain what it needs from mutual concessions in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it would have already sat them at the negotiating table and start the peace process. But Russia and Putin personally do not have such plans yet, but there is the goal to achieve the consent of the parties on the deployment of peacekeepers, and even not only Russian ones. Moscow benefitsfrom any peacemakers, because their placement would mean maintaining the status quo for years.

Is it the main goal?

This is the main goal, because Russia does not have a clear action plan for Nagorno-Karabakh. The sole purpose and accordingly all the plans are aimed at keeping the status quo, which the other mediators are opposing. The US and France are seeking a resolution to the conflict that would be acceptable for both Armenians and Azerbaijanis. There is one way to solve it with general agreement and it is to exclude Russia from it. That is why Moscow continues to artificially protract the status quo. I can say that based on the bitter experience of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Azerbaijan understands that the deployment of peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh over time could well lead to the transformation of the peacekeepers into occupiers. That is why we are very negative towards this idea. There is also Srebrenitsa and other examples. Any normal country should trust only to its own army. Therefore, in my opinion, in the current negotiation format deployment of peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh is impossible. OSCE is just not a structure that can do it. Of course, if the European Union will seriously begin to engage with the conflict, then the formation of a mixed contingent will be possible in the future. Now it’s impossible.

Assess the impact of Turkey to Azerbaijan. And how can the latest political events in Turkey affect the relations with Azerbaijan?

Large illusion according to which Azerbaijan is under a strong Turkish influence, do exist. There is no influence as such. Ilham Aliyev, adheres the only possible foreign policy towards Turkey, which is really a strong partner of Azerbaijan in foreign policy. However, this does not mean that the relations between the two countries are as excellent as they may seem. I can only say that during the discussion of the Zurich protocols between Armenia and Turkey, Baku was influencing Ankara.

The tail twirls the dog?

Baku influences Turkish politics more, than Ankara influences policy in Azerbaijan. In this case, it is indisputable that for Turkey, Azerbaijan is a quite beneficial trade and economic partner; it is a kind of source for transit projects with participation of Turkey. Herewith, Turkey, of course, does not consider Azerbaijan as a supporter of its global policy and does not take into account its interests. Therefore, I can say that the recent events, internal political tensions in Turkey, will not affect its relations with Azerbaijan. Our relations just do not depend on the leaders, Azerbaijani and Turkish politicians can coordinate their actions absolutely in any format.

David Stepanyan
28 July

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