News.Az interviews Azerbaijani political expert Rovshan Ibrahimov.
The participants in the Sochi meetings on Karabakh say that they have “made progress in reaching agreement” on the principles for resolving the conflict. Do you think this is really so, or are the sides simply using a diplomatic ploy to justify another failure?
This process can be regarded as a fresh start. Yes, on the one hand this meeting is the 10th in this format, i.e. with the mediation of the Russian president. After the collapse of all the positive hopes for a breakthrough at the meeting in Kazan, we can assume that the process has begun anew. And in this case, any breakthrough, amy agreements and even the meeting itself can be regarded as a positive fact.
Overall, it wasn’t worth expecting any breakthrough from the Sochi meeting. Don’t forget that nine similar meetings had been held before this meeting, which didn’t make progress either. So, I assess the situation as a continuing and steadfast process within which the presidents will probably continue to meet even after the election of Vladimir Putin as president of Russia (I think this outcome of the Russian presidential elections is no secret) and the process will continue to exist in this format.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov told journalists after the Sochi meeting that the participants in the negotiations had recognized the need to pull back from extreme positions. Don’t you think this is remarkable?
Azerbaijan in all cases is ready for compromise. What is our extreme position? It’s the position that Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity anyway. But we still believe that we can offer the highest status of autonomy to the Armenians and Azerbaijanis of Nagorno-Karabakh i.e. our citizens. In other words, we ensure the right to self-determination of the Karabakh Armenians in Azerbaijan. And this is a very serious compromise.
But the Armenians state that there is no compromise here, since they lived in a Karabakh autonomy in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAO).
Even if it was so, the Karabakh Armenians think that in the NKAO they didn’t have the rights that they expected. Today Azerbaijan is an independent country and the situation is quite different. And we can talk about the guarantee of these rights but not status. And what Armenia’s compromise can be isn’t clear at all, since they don’t wish to back off from the idea of independence for Nagorno-Karabakh outside Azerbaijan.
Does this mean that independent Azerbaijan can give the Karabakh Armenians more than Soviet Azerbaijan could?
Exactly. Today Azerbaijan is economically more progressive than it was during the Soviet period. We can also discuss what Soviet Azerbaijan didn’t give to Nagorno-Karabakh, considering that, at that time, economic development was higher in Nagorno-Karabakh than in Azerbaijan.
Even assuming that there was discrimination against Nagorno-Karabakh as the Armenians claim, then I don’t understand what the Armenians will get if Nagorno-Karabakh gains independence or joins Armenia. In this case, they will certainly not get the level of human rights and economic opportunities that Azerbaijan can offer. This is because Azerbaijan will strongly oppose any development – political, economic, social and any other – of either side.
Coming back to the issue of the extremist Armenian position, what concessions may come from Armenia?
On this, the Armenians always mention the possibility of withdrawal from the occupied regions around Karabakh. This is a compromise according to them. They express willingness to give back these regions that they call “the security zone” and, in return, they want the removal of economic sanctions against Armenia and the opening of the corridor between Azerbaijan and Armenia, as well as Turkey. For now, Armenians see this as a compromise.
On the other hand, today’s reality is that it isn’t worth expecting more than that from the Armenian establishment, because the current leadership of Armenia came to power under the motto “For the independence of Karabakh”. If this motto changes today, these people will probably not be able to remain in power. Besides, we shouldn’t forget that Armenia is an outpost of Russia and it is Russia that determines the country’s behaviour in the region and not Yerevan, as the country’s interests require. And what are the national interests of Armenia?
They are improving relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan in order to survive. In the modern world, a full state is an economically developed country which cooperates with its neighbours to the maximum. And a country which doesn’t have an outlet to the sea, doesn’t have resources – how can it survive a situation where it has hostile relations with two neighbours, the third neighbour is under international sanctions and the fourth neighbour (Georgia) has limited access to the world (Russia), since Georgia has very complicated relations with Russia and Tbilisi views Armenia as a continuation of Russia because the Armenian economy is totally dependent on Russian capital.