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Azerbaijan has no allergy to Eurasian integration: interview with Rasim Musabekov

Rasim Nasreddin ogli Musabekov, Member of Melli Majlis of Azerbaijan

The Caucasus Dialogue – 2016 annual international research and educational project of the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund was held in Grozny on July 26-31. In an exclusive interview with EADaily, Azerbaijani lawmaker Rasim Nasreddin ogli Musabekov speaks about the expectations from the negotiations on Karabakh, Azerbaijan’s attitude to the Eurasian integration and its military cooperation with Turkey.

Mr. Musabekov, what is the purpose of the Constitutional reform, including the introduction of the position of the vice president, in Azerbaijan? 

It is difficult for me to answer that question, since there was some political expediency in it, I think. The initiative came from the president’s administration. It was submitted to the Constitutional Court quite promptly. Frankly speaking, I have not seen the reasoning by the authors of the initiative; I am speaking about Shakhin Aliyev, the head of the department (for the legislative and legal examination at the Azerbaijani President’s Administration), so I cannot say anything so far. 

Considering that the initiative came from the presidential administration, it is very likely that there was a serious political expediency. I think the future appointments will unveil that expediency.

What do you expect from the talks on Karabakh after the St. Petersburg meeting of the presidents? Do you anticipate any breakthroughs in the talks?

Well, Azerbaijan said it is necessary to start comprehensive talks. It appears that comprehensive talks have been launched generally. However, as practice shows, such comprehensive talks have brought no results yet, unfortunately. I hope this time everything will be different.

Anyway, as far as I can see, analysts in Armenia and we in Azerbaijan observe unprecedented efforts by both the mediators and international organizations to promote the issue to make any progress in the settlement. I think it is better to talk and try to find some solutions rather than to war.

Will those efforts bring any results?

Trusting my intuition, I can say that there are little chances to make a progress, unfortunately. I know that there are no good alternatives. Maybe, the understanding of this will prompt the mediators and the sides to ensure at least any breakthrough.

Azerbaijan voices discontent at the OSCE Minsk Group’s efforts towards settlement of the conflict and urges an enlargement or a change of the format of the negotiations. What do you think about it?

No, it’s not realistic. There is no sense in it. To change the format of the OSCE Minsk Group, it is necessary to stop the talks and shift to procedural issues from the comprehensive ones. I think it is senseless to change the format.

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Yet, I think if the co-chairs are not able to promote the peace process independently, it is necessary to try to do it through involving the capacities of the European Union (after all, the Minsk Group is not just the mediators). Germany as the current OSCE chair-country can make certain initiatives. If we fail to find marginal, more precisely, framework conditions of settling this conflict, the international community represented by the Minsk Conference can declare those framework conditions.

Turkey seeks a wider involvement in the negotiation process. Azerbaijan has no objections, while Armenia opposes the idea vigorously.

This does not change the situation, since Turkey is involved in the process anyway. Turkey does not talk to Armenia about the issue. It talks to Russia and U.S.

Turkey seeks to become a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group. Is it possible?

It is impossible. To do this, Turkey needs to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia. I think it is better that Turkey supports us in the process than becomes a fourth mediator resorting to various tricks. 

Some Azerbaijani experts think that by transferring some military facilities to Turkey, Baku made a kind of gesture to Moscow.

It is exaggeration, as the building in the so-called Salyan barracks that was used by Turkish military advisors has been transferred to Turkey’s military attaché in Baku. The reason is that the building is now on the balance of the Turkish government and latter is ready to repair and re-equip it. Practically, the building is used by the Turkish military advisors as before. Essentially, nothing has changed. The Turkish military advisers have used the Nasosnaya Air Base for transit to Afghanistan for a long time. Now, they have a separate terminal for that.

Why doesn’t Russia react to it? Simply, there is nothing to react to. Without verifying the information and waiting for official explanations, Mass Media made a fuss saying there are Turkish military bases in Azerbaijan. In the meantime, nothing that could change the current state of affairs has happened. Didn’t Russia know about the Turkish military advisers in Azerbaijan? It knew, of course.

What do they in Azerbaijan think of the Eurasian integration?

Azerbaijan has no allergy to that project. It involves Belarus – our very close partner, Kazakhstan – almost our ally. Our relations with Russia are strategic partnership. We have no antagonism to the EEU, but it does not mean that Baku is ready to join any integration project thoughtlessly just because someone insistently advises or invites Azerbaijan to do it.

We’d prefer to wait and see that the EEU is a really effective format that brings specific benefits, first. Then, maybe, the issue will be studied seriously. We have not signed the Association Agreement with the EU either, unlike Armenia that was torn between the two projects. In fact, Azerbaijan has stronger and more mutually advantageous economic and political relations with the countries of the Eurasian community than Armenia does, though it is a member of the EEU.

Interviewed by Hayk Khalatyan

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