World Bulletin/News Desk
The Azerbaijani government has stated that if Baku chooses to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict via wide-scale military operations, it will face Russian soldiers rather than Armenian, its neighboring country which currently controls occupied Azerbaijani territories.
“President Ilham Aliyev has always promised a military solution to the [Nagorno-Karabakh] conflict and he still has the issue on the agenda. The option of a military solution is always on the table, but the most important thing is how this kind of operation will be carried out. We need to become much stronger so that if we become involved in combat in Nagorno-Karabakh we can stand up to Russian troops, because that is who we will have to face. Did Armenia occupy our territories? Do you think Armenia's power is sufficient for that?” asked Ali Hasanov, Azerbaijan's deputy prime minister, in a press conference held with a group of Turkish reporters in the capital city of Baku.
Recalling his home city, which is also in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, Hasanov said the occupation was accomplished with the military support of Russia. “I saw Russian soldiers get out of tanks and celebrate their victory with champagne.”
Russia is considered the dominant power in the region, seeking to preserve its influence over its former republics and, in particular, the South Caucasus. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has attempted to manipulate the region through protracted conflicts, including Nagorno-Karabakh, a territorial conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia that still remains unsettled.
Azerbaijan lost 20 percent of its territories as a result of the bloody war over Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s, prompting Turkey to close its border with neighboring Armenia in a sign of solidarity with its ally Azerbaijan. Turkey's isolation of Armenia has subsequently pushed Armenia toward Russia.
Moscow and Yerevan signed a mutual security agreement and Russia is known to be backing Armenia militarily, as its only ally in the region.
While Azerbaijan is developing in economic terms and translating its economic might into military muscle, Russia continues to pursue its policy of domination over Armenia through its notorious economic leverage.
According to diplomatic sources, following the government change in Georgia, a neighboring country that also acts as a buffer zone between Armenia and Russia and as a transit country to deliver Caspian energy resources to Europe, Baku became concerned, as newly elected Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili is reported to be closer to Russia rather than the Western powers President Mikhail Saakashvili is known to be close to.
Moreover, Baku is very concerned about Iran's position in the region, as Tehran is easing the blockade of Armenia by lending a helping hand to Yerevan. Azerbaijan keeps Armenia out of regional projects as part of its policy to keep Yerevan under economic blockade in a bid to push its adversary abandon its intransigent position over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“If Tehran breaks its ties with Armenia, Yerevan will die of hunger,” Hasanov said to Today's Zaman.
Commenting on the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement process that is currently deadlocked, Hasanov expressed Baku's pleasure with the Turkish position in the region. Noting Turkish support for Azerbaijan, especially in the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Hasanov recalled the speech of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in which he said Turkey will never open its borders with Armenia until the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is settled.
According to Ferhad Memmedov, chief of Baku-based Center for Strategic Research (SAM) under the office of the Azerbaijani president, Turkey is not expected put the idea of opening its borders with Armenia into play in a bid to defuse the pressure of Armenians across the world as they plan to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1915 mass killings in two years.
Memmedov argues that opening the borders with Armenia will not push the strong Armenian lobby to abandon their cause seeking recognition of the so-called genocide and instead will bury the chance for Armenians to make any concessions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
While Baku is not optimistic for the peace talks held under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group between Armenia and Azerbaijan for nearly two decades, neither does it want to abandon the negotiations.
Hasanov complained about the structure of the Minsk Group, which he said has not functioned properly for 20 years. According to Hasanov, a change in the format used by the mediators could keep the conflicting sides busy for another 20 years, similar to the Palestinian and Kashmir problems.
Hasanov said it is impossible to include any of the Turkic republics among the three co-chairs of the 15-member Minsk Group since decisions in the mediating group are taken based on consensus. He also criticized the fact that no Muslim nation is co-chairing the group and that all of them are Christian nations. “On the one hand, we are criticizing the Minsk Group, but on the other hand, we don't leave it,” Hasanov added.
Hasanov believes the US holds the key to the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh: “If the US wants to find the solution to this problem, it should sit down with Russia and solve it. If it cannot do it, then it should take Armenia out of Russia's orbit.”
Hasanov claimed that Washington does not want to damage ties with Russia and won't do what it has done in Georgia. He was referring to steadfast US support for Georgia during the 2008 war with Russia.
Criticizing the international community for remaining silent on Armenia, Hasanov said Armenia, occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory, also has territorial claims in Georgia and Turkey.
Hasanov claimed that Armenians are training terror groups and dispatching them to conflict zones in occupied territories, adding that they are also growing and selling drugs. “The entire international community is aware of this fact.”Last Mod: 02 Mart 2013, 16:41