In an interview with EADaily, political analysts Zardusht Alizadeh and Igor Pankratenko share their views concerning the outcome Russia-Turkey-Iran high-level meeting, Baku-Tbilisi-Ankara military cooperation and Russia’s response to that format, as well as possible resumption of military actions in Karabakh after April 2016 flare-up.
Presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran have met in Ankara lately. What impact will that cooperation have on the South Caucasus region?
Z.A. I don’t think that cooperation of these three countries will influence the region and the Karabakh conflict anyhow. This is a different issue. At their private meeting, Putin and Erdogan did not raise the Karabakh issue. Turkey understands Karabakh conflict is Russia’s “domain” and does not interfere in it.
They discussed the situation in the Middle East, namely Syria, and probably, the Kurdish issue, to some extent, though they have different views of the Kurdish issue. Russia tries not to overlook Kurds, whereas Turkey and Iran do not want the Kurdish card to be played by third countries.
As regards the situation in Syria, the positions of Russia and Iran fully coincide in what refers Syria’s statehood and the Syrian people’s right to decide on their government. Later, when it comes to restoration of Syria, it will require huge money and I think Turkish business will not miss the chance to grasp a share in it. These countries have much to talk about. Turkey’s security issue is closely connected with the situation in Syria.
Rapprochement of these three states will not influence Azerbaijan and South Caucasus at large. Karabakh conflict mostly depends on Russia, whereas Turkey and Iran have little influence on it. Russia will not let a third country to interfere in the conflict and has even minimized the role of France and U.S. in that issue. All the Karabakh-related issues depend on Russia, as its influence on governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia is very high.
I.P. There is no direct dependence on it. Ankara-Moscow-Tehran axis has emerged along with the Syria issue and will hardly spill over into the region. Although the sides and experts speak behind-the-scenes about possibilities “to work together on other issues as well,” these talks do not go beyond wishes because of two obvious and simple reasons.
First, yesterday’s meeting showed that even in the Syrian issue, these states still fail to achieve any serious mutually-acceptable concessions. Therefore, it is untimely speaking of their rapprochement. Second, South Caucasus is an area of growing competition for them. So, even efforts to talk will take too much time, not to mention real division of areas of influence.
Recently, the defense ministers of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia have met as well. How far do you think these countries may go in their military cooperation efforts?
Z.A. The meeting should be assessed from viewpoint of pipeline security, possibility of military and technical cooperation, exchange of intelligence data and coordination of common issues. The given meeting is not aimed against Russia.
I.P. I think they will go as far as it meets their national interests. Ankara evidently seeks deeper military and political integration with Baku and Tbilisi, including cooperation in the military and technical sector.
It appears to me that Azerbaijan and Georgia are also interested in such cooperation, but they are facing certain external obstacles, specifically, Russia’s painful response to such cooperation.
Two years have passed since the April War of 2016. What is your assessment of the situation in the conflict zone and the possibility of new escalation? Do multilateral formats of cooperation in the region increase or reduce escalation risks?
Z.A. The April War happened not without Russia’s consent. Let’s look at the outcomes. Leaving the casualties aside, Azerbaijan liberated about 60ha of land. What happened in the political area? Zero effect in the Karabakh settlement, but Azerbaijan and Armenia have changed their stances certainly and stopped opposing possible deployment of Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone so radically. In addition, pro-Western sentiments were very high in Armenia before April clashes. Afterwards, Armenian people made sure that Russia is the only security guarantor for Armenia.
I.P. I will reiterate my stance. I have repeatedly said earlier that regular, as you subtly worded, escalations are a matter of time as long as Azerbaijan’s territory is occupied and some states use the situation in Karabakh as an instrument for political games and manipulations in the region. Every time we will have to guess how far all this will go and how many lives it will claim again.
Here is the answer to the question about “multilateral formats of cooperation.” They neither reduce nor increase the possibility of new clashes. They simply conserve the conflict at a certain level under the passive eye of the world community. Unfortunately, this situation is not unique. There is a series of smoldering conflicts on the Earth. In our case, such “smoldering regime” will take decades and will be transferred from generation to generation as a heavy burden.
Interviewed by Anar Huseynov