News.Az interviews Azerbaijani political expert Rasim Musabayov, an independent member of the Milli Majlis.
The foreign and defence ministers of Russia and France met recently and discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict among other issues. This meeting and French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to the South Caucasus in early October have led many observers to comment that France is taking over the role of the leading mediator in the OSCE Minsk Group. Can France achieve progress in resolution of the conflict?
The mediation of France cannot be more effective and “successful” than Russia’s mediation in settling the Karabakh conflict. After all, Russia shares a common past with Azerbaijan and Armenia and, therefore, it is more familiar with the problems in these countries. In addition, Russia, unlike France, has real levers of influence on Armenia and Azerbaijan and, therefore, would be able to make progress in resolving the conflict if necessary or when possible. All these factors suggest that the mediation of France, which is quite distant from us in many senses, cannot be substantial.
May Nicolas Sarkozy’s personal characteristics play a role in achieving compromise between Armenia and Azerbaijan?
I do not think Sarkozy has more effective mechanisms of influence on the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders than President Medvedev. It should be recalled that former French President Jacques Chirac twice held meetings between the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents, but these meetings were fruitless, too. Jacques Chirac once even managed to bring the positions of the parties so close that they were about to sign an accord. However, all these attempts failed. Therefore, I do not think that Sarkozy can achieve more significant results.
The leaders of some of the states involved in the Eastern Partnership with the EU expect the EU to take a stance on their countries’ problems at the Partnership summit on 29-30 September in Warsaw. What are Azerbaijan’s expectations of the Karabakh conflict from this summit?
As you know, the Karabakh conflict resolution will not be discussed at this summit. This program is aimed primarily at bringing the participating countries closer to EU standards. The EU is not fulfilling any mediation mission, and the EU’s role in this is limited to action plans that have been signed with Azerbaijan and Armenia. The plans have clauses relating to commitments on a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The European Union has put forward an initiative that they are willing to provide financial assistance for the rehabilitation of affected areas in the event of progress on the conflict settlement.
You said that Russia is closer to Azerbaijan and other Eastern Partnership participants in many respects than is the EU. What can Brussels offer the post-Soviet countries that Russia cannot?
It is quite clear why CIS countries are seeking to expand direct contacts with the EU through the Eastern Partnership. Russia cannot offer any alternative to this European program, because it is not able to implement programs like the one proposed by the EU, either technically or financially or economically.
Given that it is very important for the EU to develop relations with the CIS countries, the Eastern Partnership will be actively pursued, and Russia is concerned that Europe is switching from bilateral projects to general large-scale programs with the CIS countries.