Interview with former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, political analyst Tofig Zulfugarov.
A little while ago, Russia’s representative to the UN accused Azerbaijan of creating a biological warfare lab. However, the State Security Service responded to this accusation and refuted this information. What is your opinion on this issue? What interests are behind this accusation of Russia’s representative to the UN?
Russia is pursuing this campaign in all CIS countries. Similar accusations have been made against Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, but the allegations have not been confirmed. They usually say that these labs are run by the United States and that the products of these labs will be used for military purposes in the future. Why has Azerbaijan been added to the list now? Obviously, certain groups in Russia do not accept the independent foreign policy pursued by Azerbaijan. In particular, someone in Russia does not like that Azerbaijan supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine and provides humanitarian aid to that country. This is why they somehow started making accusations against us. Both Azerbaijan and the US responded to these accusations of Russia. The issue is closed for us.
Speaking at the international conference at ADA University, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev once again brought up the issue of Russia supplying weapons to Armenia during the war. The President said that he had discussed the matter of the Iskander M missile with his Russian counterpart Putin but had not received an answer.
The President’s speech demonstrated that we determine our own foreign policy, that we are indeed independent. The alliance agreement with Russia does not mean that we support Moscow’s policy in everything. Just as Russia’s representative to the UN accused Azerbaijan of developing biological weapons with the US, Azerbaijan has a right to get answers to some serious questions from the Kremlin. The questions about the Iskander M missile launched at Azerbaijan during the war remain open. How did Armenia get hold of this weapon? Russia must answer this question. Azerbaijan will not put up with this, will not keep quiet about this kind of issues. Russia arming Armenia is not consistent with our allied relations. Azerbaijan’s position towards Russia is objective and fair.
In his speech at the same conference Ilham Aliyev gave Ukraine some advice. Him saying “never put up with the occupation” and “rely on your own capabilities and resources” was seen as a rather bold statement in the context of Russia-Azerbaijan relations. What do you make of the President’s advice to Ukraine?
Earlier, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a statement about Azerbaijan in disregard of diplomatic etiquette. He almost said that Ukraine expects more assistance from Azerbaijan, etc. But I am struggling to recall what kind of assistance Ukraine provided to Azerbaijan during the 44-day war. And President Ilham Aliyev rightly urged Ukraine not to rely on us, on international organizations. Secure your own territorial integrity, if you can. Like Azerbaijan was able to do. We did not plead with any state or international organization. On the contrary, they were the ones begging us to stop the war. The Ukrainian government would very much like to see new fronts opened against Russia in CIS countries like Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, so that the Russian military strength would crumble, weaken, and so on. This is not realistic. I never justified Russia’s attack on Ukraine. But Zelenskyy should have found common ground with a neighbor like Russia, a state with a large territory and military capacity. At the very least, they should have had discussions to that end. But what did he do? He turned to NATO. He raised the issue of amending the Constitution and joining the North Atlantic Alliance and gave Russia an excuse to attack his country. Yet NATO did not send troops to Ukraine. A politician should be able to correctly assess the circumstances, the political situation.
Opposition rallies in Armenia have escalated in recent days. Political experts say that the protests in Yerevan were ordered by Russia. The goal is to prevent Armenia from concluding a peace treaty with Turkey and Azerbaijan. What do you think about that?
Naturally, Armenia is a state dependent on Russia. What is happening in Armenia today is their internal matter. I would also say that the radical forces coming to power in Armenia would only give more ammunition to Azerbaijan. The radicals will drag Armenia into a disaster. They have no potential to oppose Azerbaijan. It is impossible for Armenia to withstand a Turkish-Azerbaijani alliance. If the radicals come to power in Armenia and allow any provocation against Azerbaijan, we will hit them so hard that they will not be able to raise their heads again. Now Armenia has made a 6-point peace proposal to counter Azerbaijan’s 5-point proposal. Most of these points overlap. However, Armenia has also raised the issue of the security of Armenians in Karabakh. If armed Armenians in Karabakh are disarmed and Armenian citizens leave Karabakh, there will be no problem to speak of. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan must carry out the disarmament of armed Armenians. We must secure control over the Lachin corridor, put a customs and border checkpoint there. Then Armenia will be forced to sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan.
Interview by Nurlan
Translated from Gundem.az