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Baku not to develop relations with EU at the expense of Russia and Turkey

Donald Tusk and Ilham Aliyev. Photo: kaspiy.az

Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Mahmoud Mamedguliyev has lately called impossible signing of a new cooperation agreement with EU before November Summit of Eastern Partnership in Brussels. He highlighted the efficiency of the signed agreement for both the sides, not the period of time.

In an interview with EADaily, political analysts Ilgar Velizade and Abdul Nagiyev speak of Azerbaijan-EU further cooperation and the way it will affect Baku’s relations with its two strategic partners – Moscow and Ankara.

Azerbaijan and EU are expected to launch talks for a new framework agreement. How realistic is it? What will the talks give to the sides?

Ilgar Velizade: The talks were officially launched this February during Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s working visit to Brussels. The first round of talks is underway to sign a comprehensive agreement of cooperation in major areas.

The previous agreement was made in the middle of 90s and does not reflect the realities of the last decades. After implementation of Eastern Partnership project, specifically, after implementation of its first phase, in 2008-2013, it became evident that not all the countries are ready to sign Association Agreement on EU’s terms and follow their own line of relations.

Thus, it was important to Azerbaijan that new political and legal terms reckoned with Baku’s interests and aspiration for equal partnerships with Brussels with a focus on economic and security fields. Political cooperation implies non-interference into internal affairs and consideration of specifics of political processes inside Azerbaijan. Negotiation process aims to eliminate discrepancies of the sides and bring to common standards of long-term cooperation that could be reflected in the new document.

Abdul Nagiyev: The current round of talks will have two directions. First are political and security issues, and the second – trade and investment ones.

EU policy is set in line with geopolitical motives. Evidently, EU seeks to involve South Caucasus into its civilization structure. Azerbaijan, in turn, strives to achieve an agreement that will reflect the current level of bilateral cooperation and ensure mutual respect and equal rights of the sides.

One should not expect any surprises and much less any breakthrough. EU and Azerbaijan have established cooperation in the areas of common interests and are deepening the cooperation in the energy and transit sector. Azerbaijan does not need to assume any additional political commitments.

Does this negotiation process speak of Azerbaijan-EU rapprochement?

I.V.: You are quite right, as Azerbaijan pursues rather evident goal of ensuring balance of interests in foreign policy by creating preconditions to implement its own interests in cooperation with EU, taking into account Brussels’ interest in cooperation with Baku. These relations have a history of long years and will apparently be continued in a new format and considering all new terms.

EU is Azerbaijan’s factor partner. Azerbaijan has strategic partnership agreements with one third of EU members. Baku and Brussels need a similar strategic partnership.

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A.N.: In 2013, Azerbaijan refused from Association Agreement with EU and suggested preparing an agreement of strategic modernized cooperation.

The given negotiation process is continuation of the existing dialogue and aims to prepare a document more adequate to the level of Azerbaijan’s relations and cooperation with EU.

Preparation of a new agreement between EU and Azerbaijan looks to refresh the priorities set in previous agreement signed on April 22, 1996 in Luxembourg. Besides, EU lacks any firm position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which blocks even hypothetical opportunities of EU-Azerbaijan political integration.

How will Russia respond to development of relations between Azerbaijan and EU?

I.V.: I think Russia is well aware that relations between Baku and Brussels do run contrary to Moscow’s interests and, consequently, Azerbaijan’s northern neighbor will show respect, if not indifference, for Azerbaijan’s desire to sign the agreement with EU on the basis of equal partnership. I am speaking about equal partnership, not any hierarchy of interests.

A.N.: As I have already said no breakthrough shall be anticipated. Relations with EU will fully meet Azerbaijan’s multi-vector foreign policy doctrine. Azerbaijan is experiencing severe conflict with public and political values of the West, with EU on the one side and its national interests on the other side.

Baku is well aware that close integration with EU will finally eliminate opportunity of balance in politics and may shift the country to the West as a counter to Russia. Azerbaijan will not turn into an area of clashes or hostage to geopolitical fight of Russia and the West. Considering its geographical location in the complicated and instable region, Baku will not ignore possibilities of rapprochement with EU either.

Azerbaijan – Turkey. Will Baku look back to Ankara when establishing partnership with EU?

I.V.: Azerbaijan’s foreign policy reckons with interests of its strategic partners and friends, but it is self-sufficient and built on national interests at the same time.

The recent crisis in relations of Moscow and Ankara did not result in chill in the relations of Azerbaijan and Russia. Azerbaijan’s relations with Israel developed irrespective of the crisis between Ankara and Tel-Aviv. Hence, it is untimely to make alarmist forecasts about Azerbaijani-European relations amid strain in relation of Ankara and Brussels.

A.N.: Historically, tension in Turkey-EU relations has always been temporary. EU’s longstanding unwillingness to admit Turkey and its falling attractiveness amid euro zone crisis and BREXIT have resulted in decline of pro-European sentiments in Turkey. Conflict of interests that creates tension in relations of Turkey and EU is far from possible political impact on EU-Azerbaijan ties.

Although Turkey and Azerbaijan come out from single position at European political platforms, EU does not build its relations with Azerbaijan from the perspective of its relations with Turkey. South Caucasus region is in the zone of geopolitical influence of Russia, and Brussels considers the vector of cooperation with Azerbaijan versus expansion of Russian influence in the region. Turkey’s relations with Azerbaijan have rather a strong foundation and EU’s geopolitical activity in the region cannot affect them seriously.

Interviewed by Anar Husseinov

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