Azhdar Kurtov, Expert of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, Chief Editor of the National Strategy Issues, speaks about a new wave of tensions in the Karabakh conflict zone, Turkey’s regional ambitions, and domestic political woes in Azerbaijan in an interview with EADaily’s correspondent.
Mr. Kurtov, what is behind the recent upsurge in tensions in Karabakh? Do you link it with the latest strain in the Russian-Turkish relations?
Well, I think this time Ankara has a hand in it. Azerbaijan was happy with Turkey’s public strong statements on Karabakh.
I cannot deny that the Turkish authorities might have decided to go for broke amid turbulence in the Middle East. Their actually naked interventions into Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria, the territory of Turkomans, appear to be links in the same chain. Besides, alarming messages come from Adjara. Will Ankara decide to repeat what it once did with the Northern Cyprus? That is, to deploy troops, create quasi-statehood under pretext of protecting its compatriots, and then create vassal-states.
In this light, Karabakh, including the southern regions around it that are controlled by Armenians, may prove part of that idea. We have no information about what is on agenda of the talks behind the closed doors in Baku. One can just suppose that Ankara will ask or demand Azerbaijan to provide it with territories – a corridor to the Caspian Sea - in exchange for its assistance in the Karabakh issue.
Ankara, in turn, needs to demonstrate Moscow that it is able to find partners and take counter measures in response to Russia’s sanctions. It should be recalled that the sides are negotiating for expansion of the designed capacity of the gas pipelines from Azerbaijan to replace the gas from Russia. Idle talk – Azerbaijan has no sufficient gas to replace Russia. Furthermore, pipelines are not built overnight. Yet, Ankara is negotiating not only with Baku, but also with Ashgabat.
What will Russia do with this new wave of destabilization?
The situation in Russia is not easy now. The economic situation is not good either. There are many problematic zones. Therefore, Russia does not want a new crisis – Karabakh – in addition to the crises in Ukraine and Syria it is involved it. Moscow will most probably try to avoid escalation through diplomatic measures so that it would not have to enter another hot conflict.
What about the domestic political situation in Azerbaijan, staff purges at the National Security Ministry, arrests of Shia leaders? Is there any danger of destabilization? Who stands to gain from possible chaos in Azerbaijan?
The domestic political situation in Azerbaijan shows that like the Middle East and Central Asian countries it has been involved in the cycle created by the behavior of the United States, Islamists and conservative regimes of the Persian Gulf. It could not have been otherwise. Did Baku or Astana hope to holdout and remain “white and fuzzy”?
They declared that they are part of the Islamic world and the Turkic project and now they have faced the consequences of that line. They have changed their mind and began convulsively fighting their foes at home. But the metastases of that disease have spread over the organism of the state. They can purge radicals from one village in Azerbaijan, but it is not unique…There are public sentiments in Azerbaijan that resemble the ones that sparked riots in Tunisia and Egypt. Consequently, maybe it is Azerbaijan’s turn?
Azerbaijan is trying to support Turkey in the conflict with Russia by helping it to transit its goods to Central Asia on the one hand, and presents itself as a certain mediator in possible reconciliation of Ankara and Moscow on the other hand… Will Baku eventually manage to have a boot in both camps?
Neither Baku nor even Astana can mediate the relations of Moscow and Ankara. They are too small actors in the global policy to undertake such a mission. Besides, Russia does not need any mediators.
Moscow’s stand is extremely clear: apologize for what you did, admit your guilt, and pay compensation for the warplane to Russia and the families of the killed. This will pave the way for solution of the conflict.
Interviewed by Ashot Safaryan