A trilateral meeting between President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and President of the European Council Charles Michel took place in Brussels on May 22. This was a third meeting of the three officials in the past four months. Summing up the agreements reached, we can once again emphasize that it is Baku who dictates the agenda for the normalization of relations with Yerevan today, steadily advancing the implementation of its items. What is crucial is that international actors support this agenda. The most important thing now is to ensure the implementation of the agreements reached. In this regard, great responsibility falls on the international partners, who now act as mediators in the normalization of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Their job is to prevent Yerevan from avoiding the implementation of the agreements, which we have seen happen more than once with past agreements.
Member of the Milli Majlis Erkin Gadirli shared his thoughts on the “Brussels breakthrough” and more.
Do you agree that there was a breakthrough at the trilateral meeting in Brussels?
From the very beginning, the moment the EU showed initiative, I said that even if there was no result, the very fact of the meeting was already an important result, because we could not leave this process to Russia’s monopoly, because Russia is not interested in solving the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia: if it is interested, it should withdraw the peacekeepers from our territory. But Russia is not structurally interested in this, and this is why the pro-Russian opposition in Armenia right now is doing its best to stop Pashinyan. So, I would not call the Brussels meeting a breakthrough, but it is already an achievement, a quite tangible one at that. The main thing now is for Pashinyan to retain power.
This is the greatest risk and challenge because, on the one hand, he is the one who signed the November agreement in 2020, and let’s not forget that the Armenian opposition has been saying from the first days that it does not and will not recognize this or any other agreement with Azerbaijan signed by Pashinyan. It means there are no guarantees, moreover, by its structure and formulation this agreement is not even a state treaty, as it has not been ratified by the parliaments of the signatory countries. It is nothing more than a commitment made by the three leaders. That is why not only we but the entire region, in particular Armenia, understand that Pashinyan must stay in power so that what has been started could be continued.
What is Brussels’ interest in becoming a platform for Azerbaijan and Armenia? What is the reason behind this active engagement? After all, we did not see much eagerness on the part of the European Union to solve the conflict for 30 years.
Brussels has been showing interest in our affairs for a long time.
But we haven’t seen any progress in all this time.
But what could they do? After all, the EU had no obvious and effective leverage over Armenia. And Brussels is showing interest because we have solved the problem with the territories. If in the past we expected assistance, pressure and influence from international organizations to get Armenia to withdraw troops, now this is no longer an issue, so, the process has been much smoother. Now the European Union and other organizations are very interested, because a number of economic and geopolitical opportunities are opening up. Besides, it is very important to create a security belt around Russia, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea. If we look at the situation from a global point of view, the European Union, as a facilitator and mediator, is very positive, especially if we consider the fact that it has a very good reputation. The UN has a poor reputation, so does the OSCE, and the Council of Europe is better than the UN and the OSCE, but it is the European Union that has never given us a reason to be unhappy with it. Now the EU is using its reputation rating, and we benefit from that, because we, and even Armenia, by the way, do not want Russia to be able to act as a mediator in the Azerbaijan-Armenia issue.
Moscow is clearly nervous. For now, this nervousness manifests itself only in statements, but how much further can Moscow go in its intentions to block talks between Baku and Yerevan in Brussels?
I think that Moscow will not be able to block negotiations. It would not stop us physically, would it? Admittedly, Moscow has some leverage: there are Russian soldiers in the territory that Azerbaijan does not yet control, besides, Russia has not been fulfilling its obligations, it has not removed the Armenian troops, it has not disarmed them, it has not ensured the return of Azerbaijani refugees, Russia has done nothing to establish contact between the residents of Khankendi and the Azerbaijani authorities. This is why Russia’s inaction is a destructive factor, with the underlying principle being “whatever Pashinyan and Aliyev may agree upon, we have a military presence there anyway”. But I should say that today it is no longer quite obvious and effective, because of what is happening today in Ukraine and in general because of the sanctions imposed on Russia. All in all, Russia has not been a constructive force for a long time.
Do you think Moscow will retain leverage over Baku, or can we safely say that it has been lost forever after the 44-day war?
There is always leverage, especially considering the geography. After all, we are neighbors, so we influence and depend on each other.
And what remains Russia’s strongest leverage?
Russia’s strongest leverage is Armenia. Just as Abkhazia and South Ossetia are in Georgia’s case. As you can see, in geopolitics, this kind of leverage is present at all times.
What do you think of the war in Ukraine, with no end of it in sight yet? There are various predictions about when it will end, but the question I would like to ask you is: What will the world be like when the war is over? Then again, it has already changed.
One thing I can say for sure: you are right, there is no end in sight for this war yet, because guerrilla warfare will unfold along with full-scale military operations.
The Ukrainian army is now rearming, accumulating new military-technical potential, and it has resources, because it is a very large country with quite a lot of population. That affects the duration of the war: if the country were smaller in size, it would have been over long ago, as it was with Georgia. Once again, the country has enormous resources, and so Ukraine will fight, it will resist, and it will never put up with the Russian occupation. Therefore, it is too early to talk about peace.
What do you think of the policy of the West, in particular the EU, with regard to the war? We see serious disagreements. Only the United States and the United Kingdom have shown integrity so far.
There is such a category in international law as commitment, and when a crime against international law is perpetrated, and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is one, then any country has the right to come to the aid of the victim of aggression, even if there are no formal treaty obligations between the countries. For example, Turkey helped us in the 44-day war.
What can you say about Henry Kissinger’s scandalous comment that Ukraine should compromise with Russia?
I have read several articles of similar nature, saying quite openly that Ukraine must compromise. But Ukraine will not compromise. This is a protracted war, such wars do not end immediately. Azerbaijan’s war took 30 years, and we, like Ukraine today, had 20% of our territory occupied, but in absolute numbers, that is a massive difference. The percentage ratio, however, is the same. And Kissinger wasn’t the first to talk about concessions in Russia’s favor. Let me explain why: everybody is waiting for the ceasefire in order to start bargaining.
You may recall that we were told the same things: retreat, you are a larger country, you have large territories, and you have a large population, right? They were suggesting that we should step back because we are stronger economically, because “we would be able to entice Armenia to our side if we start trading”, giving us the same old long song and dance throughout those 30 years. And now certain forces are feeding the same nonsense to Ukraine. It was because of our country’s experience, because of our own war, that our president rightly said to that Ukrainian journalist: DO NOT GIVE UP! Do not listen to international organizations and foreign advisers, build up your strength, prepare your forces, and keep resisting. You see what this is about? Not only Russia loses from the sanctions imposed on Russia, but the EU as well, and that is why they are not particularly willing to step in to fight for Ukraine, it is more economically and politically beneficial to them if Ukraine surrenders as soon as possible. But I am more than sure that Ukraine will not settle for this.
There is a large-scale information war going on between the two sides to the conflict, and the Internet is full of contradictory reports. Obviously, both sides have their advocates. But how do we tell the truth from the lies?
I can tell you right away: the Russian side is lying. Remember the lies that were spun about Khojaly: “The Azerbaijanis did it themselves, and then they filmed everything and made themselves look like victims in order to discredit Armenia in the eyes of the whole world”. What is the Russian side saying today? The genocide in Bucha was “committed by the Ukrainians themselves, they filmed it and now show it around in order to discredit Russia”. Déjà vu! What else? Russian ideologists and propagandists constantly justify the aggression, the occupation, and with what—with some people’s alleged right to self-determination.
This right does not legally exist! There is no right for a part of the population to secede from the state. There is the right of peoples to self-determination, not some part of a people. And an ethnic minority is not a people. Therefore, neither Crimea nor the “LDPR” have a legal status. It is the same legal mishap as Catalans’ desire to secede from Spain or the desire of some residents of Northern Italy to secede from Italy itself. They even have their own party. The reason they want to separate from Italy is that they think that the south is inhabited by lazy slackers and mafiosi. Whether they are right or wrong is another question, but these reasons do not give them the legal right to self-determination.
Interview by Yana Madatova
Translated from Minval.az