Today.Az » Politics » What is unique about Azerbaijan? Opinion by British expert - INTERVIEW
20 November 2013 [17:30] - Today.Az
Interview with Prof. Joseph Mifsud, Director, London Academy of Diplomacy
-What are your impressions of Azerbaijan which you recently visited regarding the International Humanitarian Forum?
My impressions of Azerbaijan, not just Baku, but also outside, as I visited Gabala were of the great changes that the President and the Government of Azerbaijan has made on behalf of the common people. The architecture, the social fabric and the atmosphere in this country are second to none. The energy that it has can definitely take it further. It also has a fantastic role as a bridge between the Caucasus and Europe, secondary to none.
-Do you think Azerbaijan was able to preserve its identity despite the influence of its big regional powers?
Absolutely yes. Azerbaijan is not Russia, it is Not Turkey and it is Not Iran, it is much more than that!
Azerbaijan has its own identity which does not rely on the three great nations mentioned. It neighbors their customs but differs in thinking and in national identity. I see Azerbaijan as bridge of peace and prosperity. I also see, as the Director of the London Academy of Diplomacy, the role that its diplomatic corps should hold in building their country as the bridge and pathway to prosperity of the region.
-How would you estimate Azerbaijan’s policy in the region?
The multi polar faces of Azerbaijan, make it a unique entity. It focuses on itself, not on being propped up by Mother Countries. It remains friendly with all, who wish to befriend it, without losing its character. Its Energy Diplomacy features help Azerbaijan reinvent a role for many small states. Putting more energy in Education and the environment (the agricultural products in Gabala are one example) will solidify such an approach.
-What do you think about future of relations between Baku and the EU?
In my opinion, the European Union should invest more heavily and more clearly in its relationship with Baku. I am very critical of the European External Action Service in terms of their engagement with Baku. In fact it does not make sense to ignore the country which is equidistant and close to all the other powers in the region. A country which is investing heavily
in its education and its infrastructure must be clearly supported by the EU.
One suggestion that I might make, is why does Baku not host an EU-MEETS CAUCASUS meeting in the near future to discuss Academic Diplomacy, i.e. the role of education in national development. It would be extremely useful as would also be a visa waiver with Azerbaijan. Free movement of people would help the EU to define its principles of freedom and democracy.
-What do you think of the Karabakh problem which harms peace and development not only in Azerbaijan but in the whole South Caucasus and entire region?
I believe that the OSCE MINSK group must kick start diplomatically direct talks on this issues. There cannot be true peace and neighbourly harmony if these talks fail. I also believe that internal issues of countries involved in the ISSUE should be resolved outside the ISSUE. Azerbaijan had its elections and moved on, other countries must do exactly the same. The use of the ISSUE for internal political wrangling must stop immediately. That is not powerful diplomacy but hiding in the shadows to maintain the same status quo. I also believe that this is not a 100 meters sprint race but a marathon. The country which has most stamina (and right) will achieve its objectives. I also believe that academics must act as guardians and custodians of a possible peace. An event to bring academics and diplomats together to discuss this issue, for example in a neutral place, London, Brussels, Paris, Moscow or Rome would be extremely beneficial.
-The US is one of the OSCE Minsk group co-chairs dealing with the Karabakh settlement. The EU also has its own interests (economical, energy, political) in the South Caucasus and the Caspian region. How can you explain the fact that the West refrain from more active engagement in the regional security issues, first of all in the Karabakh conflict settlement process?
I agree with this statement. In the EU, there are a number of institutions. I believe in the role and in the status of the European Parliament (its members are elected) unlike the Commission whose members are political appointees of the Governments of the day. More must be done by the EU Parliament. Both in Brussels and of course in the region itself. There seems to be, in my opinion, a fear from Brussels to get entangled in the dispute. However courageous actions are required, and none better can come from people inside the Parliament. This would be one of the suggestions that I would put to the President Martin Schulz or to his very respectable hardworking First Vice President, Gianni Pittella. They would be excellent people to broker a long lasting peace for the region. I would not wait for the EU Commission to take initiatives which never take off.