TODAY.AZ / Analytics


22 April 2010 [08:50] - TODAY.AZ
Last week, Azerbaijani, even Armenian and some Russian media exaggerated the issue of crisis in U.S.-Azerbaijani relations. The media claimed that Azerbaijan is isolated as evidenced by the fact that Washington has ignored Azerbaijan not inviting it to international nuclear security conference unlike Armenia and Georgia and that Barack Obama gave a warm reception to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and that later he met with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to discuss normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations, without linking it to the settlement of the Karabakh conflict.

Amid Armenian government’s refusal to accept compromise proposals in the updated Madrid principles, resulting from a three-year negotiation process, such move by Obama administration appeared to indirectly encourage Armenians to display intransigence. Anyway, that's how it was perceived in Baku.

At a government meeting President Ilham Aliyev criticized this attitude, saying: "If our interests are cast aside, if occupation of our lands are turned a blind eye on, and if every effort is made to help occupier state to overcome difficult economic situation, how the Azerbaijani public can accept this? Why they do not put pressure on the occupier? Why Azerbaijan demonstrates much more constructive position in current negotiations but Armenia undermines negotiations? We see attempts to help Armenia to handle this difficult situation."

Somewhat later, head of the public and political department of the Presidential Administration Ali Hasanov stated (his personal point of view): "The United States does not pursue a policy towards Azerbaijan as its strategic partner, and we therefore can reconsider our policies regarding the U.S.” (Reuters).

It seems that the U.S. has completely yielded the initiative to advance settlement of the Karabakh conflict to Moscow. This became especially noticeable after Matthew Bryza was replaced by Robert Bradtke as U.S. co-chair of the Minsk Group. Azerbaijan does not feel the U.S. support in resolving the Karabakh conflict. At a time when Russia is involved in the settlement process at the level of not only foreign minister, but also at the level of the Head of State, Americans appear to be in a role of Moscow’s assistant and are limited to inappropriately advice Azerbaijan to even greater concessions towards Armenia.

Washington is pleased to speak as a judge or a strict teacher in matters of human rights, freedoms and democracy. But it does not demonstrate a similar rigor with regard to Armenia, where the ruling regime ordered assassinations of political opponents and journalists. The generous financial assistance to Armenians, who do not wish to restrain their own territorial ambitions toward neighbors, does look like encouraging the occupier to further intransigence.

Not surprisingly, all this causes bewilderment and disappointment in Azerbaijan. But it was disappointment with the United States, but not anti-Americanism, as some unscrupulous analysts and journalists claim. There are no anti-American sentiments in our country according to the social monitoring conducted by the Puls-R sociological service for many years. According to the 2010 survey, 6.5% of respondents in Azerbaijan consider the U.S. a friendly country while 3.9% consider it hostile country. For comparison, a similar survey in Turkey showed that 37.5 of the participants believe the U.S. is enemy and unfriendly nation whereas Turkey is a U.S. ally in NATO.

However, in a survey conducted by American Gallup Institute in 2006, 12% of respondents in Armenia (to which Washington granted almost $2 billion in aid for two decades), named the U.S. a hostile country.

Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia and many other post-Soviet countries, is not acting as an importunate beggar and is an important partner of the United States both in troubled spots of the world and in energy policy. We support the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most important communications and logistics for operations conducted there cross our territory. The question is do we need this? Partnership is a two-way road, implying mutual support.

Without going into details, I note that not all requests and appeals from Washington are met with a positive response from Baku. This is natural, since Azerbaijan should reckon with a reaction of its neighbors, with whom we are bound by centuries old historical, religious and cultural ties. The independence strengthening that Azerbaijan has demonstrated, irritates Washington. This is manifested in critical assessments of our country and in the fact that our country was not invited to international nuclear security summit in the U.S.

But we view criticism on human rights, violations of freedom of speech and democracy amid disregard for our national interests on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh not as a principled stand, but as a means to pressure the government in an effort to ensure agreement on issues containing severe risks for our country. The fact that we were not among the participants of the nuclear security summit should not cause emotions.

Perhaps Washington thought Baku will beg for an invitation and then we might be encouraged to accept the Turkish-Armenian normalization in isolation of the Karabakh conflict or make us take obligations regarding Iranian issue in detriment to our national interests. But the Azerbaijani leadership showed self-restraint and the Americans themselves had to quickly remove the tension. So, Washington had to urgently send a senior envoy to Baku.

The visit by Deputy Defense Secretary Michelle Flouran demonstrated that it is untimely to bury the U.S.-Azerbaijani partnership. In Baku, she held meetings with Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Defense Minister Safar Abiyev and was received by President Ilham Aliyev. Michel Flouran said after the meetings: "Azerbaijan is a leader in efforts to rebuild Afghanistan. Azerbaijan trains Afghan diplomats, doctors, demining teams, police and border guards.” She also noted that in recent years, the Azerbaijani authorities have helped prevent attacks against U.S. interests and other countries and “destroyed countless conspiracies.”

Once this is so, Azerbaijan has the right to expect reciprocity. In fact, the Minsk Group, which has also included the U.S for many years, seems intends to gradually make Azerbaijan to accept legalization of Armenia’s claims to our territory. But it will prevent the resumption of hostilities before that happens (hopefully it never happen). With such a unique approach Washington must be prepared to see that in response to its own treatment, it will receive not a support, but "advice" about benefits of dialogue and restraint in settling international conflicts and Azerbaijan’s inability to assume any obligations which are perceived as unfriendly by neighboring countries.

Obviously, not events that took place a century ago and labelled as "genocide of 1915”, but lack of progress in the Karabakh conflict resolution and Armenia’s occupation of our territories poses risks to security in South Caucasus. Powers that are co-chairs of the Minsk Group who are also major patrons and donors of Armenia, have sufficient leverage to force it to accept the updated Madrid principles developed after exhausting three-year negotiations and pave a way for peace, security and cooperation in the region.

It is unrealistic to think that one can act against interests of Azerbaijan or ignore it while extracting dividends from partnership with this country. Those who wish to address the problems in the region through Azerbaijan will be deeply disappointed. Baku demonstrated a willingness and persists even harder to defend its own interests. Not only the U.S. but also Russia, France and even the ally Turkey will have to reckon with this fact.

Rasim Musabayov
Azerbaijani political expert


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