The outburst of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh on Apr 2 has revealed many-year contradictions which concern not only Armenia, unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan but also big centers of force, who are being drawn into the realities of the South Caucasus.
Israel is one of them. Though not directly involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks, Israel is a close partner to Azerbaijan. For many years it was one of the key buyers of Azerbaijani oil. Only recently have the Israelis cut their oil imports from Azerbaijan due to growing flows of illegal oil from Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria.
There are lots of pro-Azerbaijani NGOs in Israel. Many Israeli politicians were born in Azerbaijan.
In its turn, Azerbaijan is one of the key buyers of Israeli weapons. Since 2007 Israel has supplied Azerbaijan with multiple artillery rocket systems, drones, signals, rifles, air defense systems. In Azerbaijan there are a number of Israeli-Azerbaijani joint ventures producing unmanned aerial vehicles and electronic warfare systems.
Just a few days ago, right before Azerbaijan’s military campaign against Nagorno-Karabakh, Israel supplied it with anti-tank missiles. During the campaign the Azerbaijanis used drones.
As a result, a number of Israeli politicians have appeared with calls to stop arms supplies to Azerbaijan.
In his turn, Ambassador of Armenia in Egypt and Israel Armen Melkonyan has sent a note of protest to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. In this note the Armenians urge the Israelis to stop supplying arms to the Azerbaijanis as they are later used in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Melkonyan specified that during the last campaign the Azerbaijanis used Harop drones made by Israeli IAI company. According to Israeli mass media, Melkonyan has refused to make public his talks with the Israeli authorities.
Spokesman of Israel’s Foreign Ministry Emmanuel Nahshon said that they in Israel are attentively following the developments in Nagorno-Karabakh but are not yet inclined to comment on them.
Haaretz’s analyst Herb Keinon says that the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh was discussed in the lobby of the Davos Economic Forum, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
Keinon quotes reliable sources as saying that during the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington Aliyev met with the chiefs of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who said that such meetings foster Azerbaijani-US and Azerbaijani-Israeli relations.
Even though Israel is trying to be neutral on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a highly ranked Azerbaijani official told The Jerusalem Post that Azerbaijan wants Israel to express its position on the issue. Particularly, Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Ali Gasanov said that Israel should express its attitude to the events. “As an OSCE member, Israel can urge Armenia to cease fire and to start talks and can force it to respect the international law,” Gasanov said.
Azerbaijan’s position is that as its strategic partner, Israel is obliged to express its position on the developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.
While they in Tel Aviv are formulating their position, former chief of Nativ Special Service Yakov Kedmi has given an interview to EADaily.
There are several opinions why the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh resumed. Who might be interested in this, in your opinion?
Nobody was interested except Turkey.
Has this changed the balance of forces in the region?
No. Only Turkey has grown weaker because of its conflict with Russia.
Is there any consensus among global geopolitical forces concerning how to settle this conflict?
Yes, there is. It can be settled only through peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan. War is not a solution.
Has the recent escalation resulted in prevalence of any of the conflicting parties?
No, neither of the parties has managed to gain political prevalence because of military stalemate.
Can we expect the OSCE co-chair states to pressure Armenia and Azerbaijan into adopting a settlement plan?
I am not sure. They can influence the parties but they will hardly pressure them. Azerbaijan is strong politically due to oil, gas and geographical closeness to Iran. Armenia is strong due to its Diaspora in Europe and the United States. Russia cannot let Armenia to lose because of its position in the Caucasus and on the border with Turkey.
Was this the end or just the beginning of a new war between Armenia and Azerbaijan?
There won’t be a big war. It will make no sense. Only Turkey may support it, while the United States, Europe and Russia will stop it.
How have they in Israel reacted to Armenia’s protests concerning the sale of arms to Azerbaijan?
Officially, they haven’t. They just found some excuses.
Mass media keep reporting that some Israeli instructors are training Azerbaijani soldiers. Is this true?
This is just a rumor. Israelis have never instructed Azerbaijani soldiers, except for how to use the arms supplied to Azerbaijan under existing contracts. But this was done by experts from supplier companies.
By Arman Abovyan, specially for EADaily