Day.Az interviewed Ross Wilson, director of the Eurasia Centre at the Atlantic Council and a former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan an Turkey.
- Lately, experts voice different opinions regarding the place of the South Caucasus in the U.S. foreign policy. What is your opinion in this regard as a diplomat who worked for several years as U.S. ambassador to Baku?
-The South Caucasus is a significant priority for US policymakers, whether the issue is Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Caspian gas development and the Southern Gas Corridor that emanates from the region, or democratic and economic development in states.It will be helpful that the Administration’s nominee to serve as assistant secretary of State for European Affairs, Ambassador Victoria Nuland, was responsible for American policy in the South Caucasus for much of the second Clinton Administration, and this will be an asset for the United States in working with regional leaders and others on these and other issues. The United States remains a mediator on Nagorno-Karabakh as a member of the Minsk Group, and the importance that Washington attaches to this role is reflected in the recent appointment of Ambassador James Warlick by Secretary of State Kerry. -How would you assess the appointment of the new US co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group?
-Ambassador Warlick is a highly experienced diplomat and he will bring important assets to the position of US Minsk Group co-chair. Ambassador Warlick will bring a fresh perspective that may be helpful now. I hope that he will put early consultations on Nagorno-Karabakh with his fellow co-chairs and personally with the parties on the top of his to-do list. If and as the parties demonstrate a willingness to close the remaining, small gaps that stand in the way of agreement at least on basic principles, they will find Ambassador Warlick and others all the way up to Secretary Kerry and President Obama to be active and energetic partners.- The Karabakh conflict resolution is not unique, though, probably, the most important for Baku in the direction of the Azerbaijan-US cooperation in the field of security. How do you assess the prospects in other areas of this cooperation?
-US defense and security cooperation with Azerbaijan has developed significantly since my time as American ambassador in Baku. The fact of Defense Minister Safar Abiyev’s recent visit illustrates that. Afghanistan has been a focus, as have been concerns about the maritime and other security threats that Iran represents to Azerbaijan and many other friends and partners of the United States. As the US role in Afghanistan changes during the 2014 transition year, it is important that our countries coordinate closely.
- What do you expect from the new Iranian leadership and its attitude towards the West and the U.S. in particular?
Many in the United States and elsewhere hope that President Rowhani’s rhetoric about easing the isolation and sanctions Iran now faces will translate into a more productive negotiating posture and moves toward compliance with the country’s obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In the short-term, Rowhani will likely be cautious. Remember that the position of Supreme Leader there has not changed. But as Tehran acts more constructively regarding the nuclear issue, on which there is a high degree of international unity, I expect it will find willing partners in Washington and the other capitals of the so-called P-5+1 group that has led the UN Security Council effort on the matter.