Bbabo NET


Russia, France and Iran make Azerbaijan nervous

Caucasus (, - On November 25, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev took part in the international conference "Along the Middle Corridor: Geopolitics, Security and Economics", held in Baku at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. At the same time, the President of Azerbaijan answered the questions of the conference participants. Answers to some questions make it possible to determine the future of Azerbaijan's foreign policy.

Let's start by answering a question from Khalid Taimoor Akram, executive director of the Pakistan Research Center for a Community with a Shared Future, who is worried that Armenia and Iran might create some problems for the countries of the region. Ilham Aliyev said on this occasion:

“You asked if Iran or Armenia could hinder this process. I do not think so. First, Armenia has neither geographic nor other opportunities or advantages in the region. This country is actually in a dead end, not a single transport route passes through Armenia. Their transport network is outdated and does not belong to them. Their railways are owned by the Russian Railways company. In fact, we are negotiating the Zangezur corridor not with Armenia, but with Russia. Because Armenia is a dependent country. Her independence is very symbolic. Therefore, we do not want to waste time negotiating with them and are negotiating with Russia. By the way, we discussed the Zangezur corridor during my last contacts with Russian officials. I do not think that Armenia is capable of blocking this corridor. As for Iran, I think that it will not do this either, given its interest in regional communication projects, because these projects are not directed against anyone, but, on the contrary, only benefit everyone.”

Here it is worth noting one important detail: Aliyev focused on the transport and economic dependence of Armenia on Russia, and in his words there is a reproach to Armenia, which is supposedly not an independent country. In fact, the President of Azerbaijan reproduced the discourse of Armenian Euro-Atlanticists accusing Russians of colonization and enslavement of Armenia and all the troubles of Armenians. It turns out that Aliyev provided informational support to the anti-Russian forces in Armenia, who dream of reorienting themselves towards the United States and France.

Even more interesting is part of the response of the President of Azerbaijan to the questions of Ahmet Uysal, director of the Center for Middle East Studies in Turkey:

“During the year, Turkey and I conducted more than 10 joint military exercises. They were organized both in Turkey and in Azerbaijan. This is an important factor of regional stability and our security. Everyone who hatches hostile plans against Azerbaijan or Turkey should know that the Turkish army is not only the Turkish army, but also our army, and our army is not only our army, but also the Turkish army. Those who are planning provocations on our border, those who are trying to intimidate us, must never forget this.”

That is, according to Aliyev, it turns out that if the Turkish army = the Azerbaijani army and vice versa, then Turkey and Azerbaijan are a confederation. It is clear that if Armenia, which is in conflict with Azerbaijan, is, according to Aliyev, a country dependent on Russia, then the President of Azerbaijan threatens not only Yerevan, but also Moscow with the Turkish army.

However, Azerbaijan has serious claims not only to Russia. So, answering questions from Amanda Paul, chief analyst at the Center for European Policy, Aliyev said:“And the format of the meeting in Prague was somewhat different, because French President Macron joined our group, and with that I would end my comment. But, I repeat, the results of the Prague meeting were successful for us, because Armenia recognized the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. I can tell you one more information that has not yet been made public, but probably will be. Very soon, on December 7, a meeting was supposed to take place in Brussels, since at the last meeting we agreed to meet in November, but then we had a meeting in Sochi, organized by President Putin at the end of October. However, Hikmet Hajiyev told me yesterday that he had been contacted by President Charles Michel's office. They said that Prime Minister Pashinyan agreed to the meeting on one condition that President Macron should also participate in it. Of course, this means that this meeting will not take place due to what happened after Prague. The Prague meeting took place on 6 October. And less than a week later, President Macron, in an interview, attacked Azerbaijan, accusing us of something we didn't do. Following this, a completely unacceptable and insulting well-known resolution of the French Senate was adopted. It is expected that the French National Assembly will adopt another anti-Azerbaijani resolution. After that, France tried to attack us at the Francophonie Summit. This is absolutely unacceptable because the Francophonie is a humanitarian organization and has never dealt with such issues. We have the original text of this document of the French-Armenian tandem, full of insinuations, accusations and insults. But we have friends not only in the Non-Aligned Movement - some of them, by the way, are members of the Francophonie - but also in Europe. Thus, this anti-Azerbaijani resolution has actually been cancelled. I mean, they adopted something very formal. In view of all this, it becomes clear that under such conditions, France cannot participate in the peace negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. And it was not we who removed them from this format, but they themselves, because neither Russia, nor America, nor other co-chairs of the former Minsk Group have ever officially, that is, in the post-war period, taken sides, only France.”

Without going into the statements and declarations of France, we note the following: to date, France in the European Union has turned out to be almost hostile country for Azerbaijan. This is due to the fact that France is trying to be an independent player. The oldest enemy of France, Great Britain, which left the EU, has been an ally of Baku since the days of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Besides, BP is traditionally active in Azerbaijan. In addition to all this, an ally of Great Britain and Azerbaijan is Turkey, which is trying to squeeze France out of its former African colonies. Consequently, in the Transcaucasus, France wants to inflict damage not only on Russia, squeezing it out of Armenia, but also on Great Britain, trying to somehow harm Azerbaijan. At the same time, so far France has not entered into a serious confrontation with Azerbaijan, although relations between Paris and Baku are already at a low level.

However, the attacks on France are nothing compared to part of the answer to questions from Michael Doran, director of the US Hudson Institute's Center for Peace and Security in the Middle East:

“During the period of occupation, the Iranian military never conducted military exercises on the territory bordering the occupied territory of Azerbaijan. They could do it. A 132-kilometer section of the Azerbaijani border was under occupation, and this is the border between Azerbaijan and Iran. Why didn't they conduct military exercises on this border? Iranian officials, including very high-ranking ones, have stated that the territorial integrity of Armenia is a red line for Iran. Why didn't any of them say the same about us? Our territories have been under occupation for 30 years. Has anyone heard from Iranian officials that the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is a red line? No… We also had to organize military exercises on the Iranian border to demonstrate that we are not afraid of them. We tell them that we are not afraid of them. We will do everything to protect our way of life, the secular development of Azerbaijan, to protect the Azerbaijanis, including the Azerbaijanis of Iran. They are part of our people."

Consequently, Aliyev made it clear that in Azerbaijan they would fight against the followers of Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Azerbaijani army, if necessary, would enter into an armed confrontation with Iran. However, further, the President of Azerbaijan, in fact, began to threaten the territorial integrity of Iran:“There are schools in Iran where teaching is in Armenian, but there are no schools where lessons are taught in Azerbaijani. How can this be? If someone says that this is interference in internal affairs, then we categorically deny such statements. This does not mean interference in internal affairs. The foreign policy of Azerbaijan is crystal clear - we have never interfered and do not interfere in the internal affairs of any state. But this is a part of society that has the same ethnic origin, the same language and the same values ​​as we do. How can we be indifferent to this? Why can't they learn their language in schools? You know, they are losing their native language, that's the problem. We raise this issue because the Azerbaijani language, spoken by Azerbaijanis in Iran, is losing its literary component, becoming the everyday language. This issue must be resolved. And I'm raising this issue also because it worries us."

And then he began to accuse Iran of escalating the conflict:

“I hope that the pro-Armenian actions of the Iranian government will not harm the too fragile peace. I think that there will be more understanding of the need to take into account the feelings of Azerbaijanis and our interests. I would also like to touch on a recent situation so that you know that we did not create it. I have worked with three previous presidents of Iran - President Khatami, President Ahmadinejad and President Rouhani. In all these years, there has never been anything like what is happening now. Words of hatred and threats have never been used against Azerbaijan, no military exercises have been held on our border, but two military exercises have been held in a few months. This means that we are not creating this situation. We want this situation to be resolved as soon as possible. We want peace and friendly relations with all our neighbors.”

Aliyev is frankly cunning, because even at the height of the First Karabakh War, the President of Azerbaijan, Abulfaz Elchibey, called for the rejection of the so-called South Azerbaijan from Iran. And this despite the fact that then Azerbaijan was defeated by the Armenians.

However, Aliyev really lost all propriety when he answered the questions of Dr. Hakan Yavuz, professor at the University of Utah (USA):

“And those voices that we hear about peace and the normalization of relations with Azerbaijan, we did not hear these voices during the occupation. At that time, the former president of Armenia, war criminal Serzhik Sargsyan, was asked about the "historical territories" of Armenia at one of his meetings with young people. He replied: “We have liberated Karabakh, and you will liberate this part of Turkey.” See how inadequate you have to be - I'm trying to find a word. Put forward territorial claims to a country that has a second army in NATO, pursues an independent foreign policy, a country whose position is considered by everyone in the world. Even Finland and Sweden must reckon with Turkey's legitimate demands to stop providing asylum to terrorists. This small, poor satellite of Russia, or even a slave of Russia, declares that the day will come when they will occupy the territory of Turkey.”

Once again, the President of Azerbaijan is using Turkey as a scarecrow against those who are not going to bow to Baku and Ankara. But is he really right? If, according to Aliyev, Turkey is so powerful, then why have Turkish hotels recently begun using the Mir card only by connecting to Russian payment systems? As for Sweden and Finland, they are ready to sacrifice Kurdish activists for the sake of joining NATO and confronting Russia, because it is Russia, and not China, and certainly not Turkey, that is considered the main enemy by both the United States and Western Europe.

Here Aliyev seems to have decided once again to inflict an information blow on Moscow, calling Armenia a "slave of Russia." With this statement, the President of Azerbaijan killed two birds with one stone. Firstly, knowing the hot mentality of the inhabitants of the neighboring country, he played on the feelings of the Armenian Euro-Atlanticists, thereby inciting their anti-Russian activities. Secondly, he made it clear that Azerbaijan considers the failures and defeats of Armenia to be the failures and defeats of Russia.

True, we must pay tribute to Aliyev: he actually avoided answering the question of Kurt Deboeuf, a senior researcher at the Institute for European Studies at the University of Brussels, who asked aboutcome of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict:“I don't think anyone knows what's going to happen. We are not directly involved and receive information mainly from open sources. However, as far as we can see, it is absolutely impossible to predict the international processes connected with this war. I think the most important question is when and how will it end? Much of the world will depend on this. So it would be irresponsible for me to comment on what happens next. It depends on a number of factors - the policy of the Russian government, the policy of the Ukrainian government and the collective West, which supports the Ukrainian army. Thus, it must be understood that the war must be ended. I think this is the number one issue, and, of course, Azerbaijan has always spoken at all international forums as a supporter of the territorial integrity of all countries, and we adhere to this position.”

Azerbaijan really supports territorial integrity on international platforms, which does not prevent the same Aliyev from holding negotiations with the President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Ersin Tatar (see Effect of the Second Karabakh War: Azerbaijan has become closer to the Turkish Cypriots).

Finally, Aliyev made a series of high-profile statements in response to questions from Brenda Schafer, a professor at the US Naval Academy:

“We don't understand when someone talks about political Islam. This is not what is common in Azerbaijan. I think that one of our advantages and achievements as an independent country in this geography is that we have managed to strengthen the secular nature of our society, while at the same time fully respecting the religious feelings of all our citizens. And what we are doing now in Karabakh, along with the airports you mentioned, is the restoration of mosques, including the mosque in Shusha, which was illegally “restored”, but in fact damaged by an Iranian company. It was a big scandal. Then we even invited the Iranian ambassador to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pointing out that they have no right to do this, to touch her. First of all, you have no right to visit Shusha, which is part of Azerbaijan, without our consent… The mosque in Shusha was allegedly reconstructed to demonstrate the false tolerance of the Armenians, and they called it a Persian mosque. First, mosques have no nationality. You cannot call it Persian or anything else. It's part of our history and none of us have ever forgotten it."

Let's deal with this passage. The President of Azerbaijan had in mind the restoration in Shusha in 2019 of the Govkhar Agha Upper Mosque, a madrasah and a park. The restoration work was carried out by Iranian specialists, but as we see, Azerbaijan did not appreciate their efforts. As for the construction of the mosque itself, it was erected by the Turks. Another thing is that before the appearance in the late XIX-early XX centuries. Jadidism with its idea of ​​the development of national languages ​​(previously Arabic and Persian dominated the education system), the national identity of the Turks was not so strongly developed.

Aliyev, in his answer, Shafer also touched upon the national-confessional aspect:

“In Azerbaijan, there is complete unity among Muslims, regardless of which sect they belong to – whether they are Shiites or Sunnis. We have a unique experience of worshiping together in the mosque, when Sunnis and Shiites pray together. How can we separate them if they are all Azerbaijanis. One blood, one ethnicity."

In Azerbaijan, for at least several years, they have been talking about the common prayers of Sunnis and Shiites. True, skeptics always have arguments that allow them to question the colorful and idyllic picture that the Azerbaijani authorities paint. Thus, one of the important partners of Azerbaijan is Saudi Arabia - a pronounced Sunni country, in which, at least earlier, Wahhabis, followers of one of the extreme directions of Sunnism, hating Shiites, prevailed. At the same time, in Saudi Arabia itself, the Shiite minority is considered as agents of Iran's influence. Considering that the promotion of Islam is characteristic of Saudi Arabia, it would be strange if Riyadh did not try to spread Sunnism in Azerbaijan. There is one more example. In early October 2020, at the height of the second Karabakh war, the Ministry of Defense of Pakistan used the slogan “Three countries - one nation” in relation to Turkey, Pakistan and Azerbaijan, which was joyfully reported by the Azerbaijani media. It is known that nationally most of the population of Pakistan does not belong to the Turkic peoples. But the majority of Pakistanis profess Sunni Islam. Therefore, the slogan of the Ministry of Defense of Pakistan means that Islamabad supports the transition of the population of Azerbaijan to Sunnism. Against this background, it is even somehow inconvenient to remind that Sunni Islam also dominates in Turkey.But what Aliyev said about the same blood and ethnicity suggests that the national for Baku is more important than the religious. In other words, it is not the confession itself that is important for the Azerbaijani authorities, but its combination with Azerbaijani nationalism. Therefore, since Azerbaijan decided to go for a long-term confrontation with Iran, including using real or imaginary oppression of Iranian Azerbaijanis, then Aliyev, at best, needs Shiism, hostile to Iranian ayatollahs, or Sunnism in general.

However, their northern neighbor in Baku is not very friendly either. The point is not even that the Azerbaijani media are broadcasting Western and Ukrainian propaganda with might and main, but that Azerbaijan has systematically begun to criticize Russian peacekeepers for using the Armenian names of the settlements of Nagorno-Karabakh. In other words, Baku wants to force Russia to abandon its objectivity and simply hand over the Karabakh Armenians and Armenia itself. However, counting on the fact that Russia will lose Armenia, Azerbaijan itself is not going to be an ally of Russia. In a word, today Russia has found itself in the same campaign with Armenia, Iran and France - countries that Azerbaijan, for one reason or another, sharpens its teeth.

Russia, France and Iran make Azerbaijan nervous