NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made a phone call to the head of the Azerbaijani state on February 15 to discuss the Ukrainian crisis, among other urgent issues of today’s agenda. According to the press service of the Azerbaijani President, Jens Stoltenberg thanked Ilham Aliyev for his visit to NATO last December and his speech at NATO’s principal political decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council.
During the phone conversation, satisfaction was expressed over the development of Azerbaijan-NATO relations, and views were exchanged on the post-conflict situation in the South Caucasus region, the processes around Ukraine and the current situation on the world energy market.
The NATO Secretary General commended Azerbaijan for being a reliable gas supplier of Europe and for increasing gas exports. President Ilham Aliyev said that Azerbaijan would continue to be a reliable partner as an important exporter of energy products.
On February 16, President Ilham Aliyev received a phone call from his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda, during which they also exchanged views on the events around Ukraine. As the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, the Polish president touched upon security issues in the Central and Eastern European region and stressed that steps taken within the OSCE would help ease tensions.
These calls are extremely interesting and meaningful, once again testifying to the place, role and prestige of Azerbaijan on the world stage.
The scope of these discussions shows how much the world centers of power and influential international organizations trust the head of the Azerbaijani state and how important Ilham Aliyev’s opinions and views on critical processes and solving serious problems both directly in our region and on a wider scale are to them.
We talked about it with former Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Tofig Zulfugarov.
Speaking specifically of the Ukrainian crisis, why do you think the NATO Secretary General and the President of Poland, as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, are consulting with the President of Azerbaijan on this issue?
First of all, I would like to say that world leaders discussing the situation in Ukraine with the President of Azerbaijan does not seem anything out of the ordinary to me. More than once, even in my personal contacts, I have heard that Ilham Aliyev is regarded by many serious politicians in the West as a political figure who has a very good grasp of the nuances of Russian politics.
In November, for example, I heard this from Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference. “Whenever I need to discuss anything concerning Russia, I try to talk to your President,” he told me.
How did this opinion come about? Look, many countries in the post-Soviet space have territorial problems. Azerbaijan had to face the Karabakh problem and, essentially, Azerbaijan is the only state that has demonstrated a successful solution. And not least because it has built a very effective policy and relationship with Russia. This, of course, commands the respect of many politicians.
This is why many believe that this very style of foreign policy towards Russia, the level of relationship that exists between Presidents Aliyev and Putin—respect, trust, mutual understanding—is, to some extent, the positive element that contributes to the building of such a successful policy. Particularly in the issue of restoring the territorial integrity of the countries. I think many in the world understand this.
And, of course, in this context, apart from discussing important aspects of bilateral relations with the President of Azerbaijan, an exchange of views on topical issues of the world agenda is also highly appreciated by Western politicians.
Ilham Aliyev is a very welcome guest at the Munich Conference, at the North Atlantic Council, in Davos, where he participates in many discussions on world problems.
Everyone acknowledges Ilham Aliyev’s ability to build very constructive relations with difficult partners. His opinion is highly valued, and I suppose that is why such an acute issue as the Ukrainian crisis is being discussed with him.
Secondly, we understand that one of the important components of the crisis around Ukraine has to do, among other things, with issues of European energy security. Many may ask: what does this have to do with NATO? The fact is that one of NATO’s areas of activity is ensuring the energy security of member states. The Alliance has a special agency that deals with pipelines, their security and so on.
Consequently, the second issue under discussion was the gas supply problem. Of course, Azerbaijan is no competition to Russia in this regard. We cannot say that European will not buy gas from Russia, but will buy it exclusively from Azerbaijan. Our volumes of supply and the export capacity are incomparable. If I am not mistaken, Russia covers 40% of the EU gas demand, i.e., some 100 billion cubic meters. Azerbaijan plans to export only 10 bcm, to the Balkan countries and Italy. So, in this respect, the scale is incomparable.
But there is an important factor here: Azerbaijan is a stable supplier, and this is a quality that is very much appreciated in the West. They know that the word of Azerbaijan and President Ilham Aliyev personally is as strong as his signature, as the head of state himself put it.
The third component is that the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey maintained contacts with Presidents Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Vladimir Putin at the most acute moments of the crisis in Ukraine. Recall President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Kiev and his subsequent conversation with President Putin. The President of Turkey has the same practice.
President Erdoğan has repeatedly offered mediation between Ukraine and Russia…
Before we talk about this, let’s go a little deeper into the heart of the problem. At the heart of the crisis around Ukraine is, after all, the issue of certain medium-range nuclear weapons with very short flight times approaching Russia’s political and economic centers, as the Russians believe.
According to Russia, there was a verbal agreement that these weapons would not be deployed on the territory of the new NATO members. Western politicians deny such an agreement. And so a crisis arises in which Russia demands that some rules be defined in this matter.
Because we do see that many of the components and agencies that guaranteed the so-called strategic stability on the European continent have ceased to function.
For example, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. In fact, today there are no restrictions on conventional weapons, so-called flank restrictions. The Treaty on Conventional Weapons and its control mechanisms are effectively no longer in force. Nor is the Treaty on Open Skies, and so on. In other words, a whole range of components that ensured transparency in military activities have ceased to function, and a certain vacuum has formed.
And here we get the impression that both the West and Russia, in principle, are interested in identifying some new tools to ensure stability and strategic security in this matter.
This process is underway, but it is taking place under rather harsh conditions, with both parties using the Ukrainian crisis to “flex their muscles” and secure some more advantageous positions for future negotiations. This is what it is actually about.
Now about Turkey’s activity in this matter. As you know, Turkey is a member of NATO, and a very special member of NATO, with certain unique elements, with its own position on security issues and interaction with non-members of the Alliance.
Turkey, for example, has special relations with Russia; it played and continues to play a very important role in regional issues, including our region, in the resolution of the Karabakh conflict.
That is, Turkey is obviously a very important component that can have a role in building the new security system I mentioned earlier.
And let’s not forget history either—the key contradictions of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As we remember, the USSR did not deploy its nuclear missiles in Cuba back then, and the United States and NATO gave up on the deployment of medium-range missiles in Turkey.
That is, Turkey has historically played a special role in these matters. So let’s be patient here and hope that everything will work out peacefully.
In this context, I would like to go back to the role of Azerbaijan. I have to say that President Ilham Aliyev—let’s not forget that—is a professional diplomat with the reputation of a very effective politician, who knows how to build relations with Russia. He is, as I have already said, well respected by Western politicians.
And here we see that, speaking of leaders who enjoy the confidence of both parties, the first ones that come to mind are, of course, President Aliyev and President Erdoğan. I would not rule out that this is also the reason why the Western leaders were interested in contacting the head of the Azerbaijani state.
How do you see the future developments around the Ukrainian crisis?
I am one of those who believe that full-scale hostilities are unlikely. This hysteria about possible military action is, by the way, fueled not so much by Ukrainian politicians as by the parties around Ukraine.
We even heard certain criticisms that President Zelenskyy made about some friendly countries who, because of this exaggerated hysteria, for some incomprehensible reasons, are evacuating their personnel, and so on.
That is, Ukrainian politicians themselves are resenting all of this. So, they understand very well in Ukraine that all parties are using the Ukrainian situation in their own interests. Well, the interests of Ukraine itself are clear: preservation of stability first and foremost, prevention of hostilities, and restoration of its territorial integrity as a strategic goal.
Azerbaijan as a state and our public stand with our Ukrainian friends, and at the same time, of course, we would not want hostilities to affect Russia, because we also have strategic interests there.
I think that the stage of this propaganda pressure is coming to an end. Everyone has roughly figured out Russia’s objectives and positions. The West, too, has somehow made its position more specific. Everyone is ready for some kind of diplomatic negotiations.
So, I believe that once this acute phase of the crisis is over, more meaningful, as they say now, substantive, negotiations will begin to address the problem, namely, creating some tools to ensure the strategic stability of the European continent.
Why are both parties interested in this? With Russia, it is obvious. As for the West, it is because China is the main adversary for it, for the United States today, and therefore solving some problems with Russia at this stage is very important in order to ensure at least the latter’s neutrality in a future confrontation with the PRC.
These are essentially the interests of the parties, and they are obvious. Now let’s wait for the negotiations.
Translated from 1news.az