Author: Namig MAILOV
The working meeting in Sochi of the presidents of Azerbaijan and Russia, Ilham Aliyev and Vladimir Putin, has entailed many questions about the urgency of off-schedule consultations and the content of discussions. According to scant official information from both sides, on July 21, the presidents discussed the development of bilateral relations and regional security.
"I am glad to be able to talk with you about our bilateral relations and the regional situation, which is not simple. I hope that this meeting will contribute to the solution of all the complex problems. But, of course, we will talk about the development of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Russia. We have a lot of work and joint plans for the future," the state agency AZERTAG quotes Vladimir Putin.
President Ilham Aliyev noted the diverse nature of relations between the two countries and the importance of high-level dialogue for the development of cooperation. "Of course, we need periodic consultations on important issues of regional and world politics, as well as the bilateral relations and issues of strengthening regional security," said President Aliyev.
It is interesting that a few days after the meeting, the officials did not comment on its outcomes. Experts think that the consultations were more focused on regional security issues, in particular, the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. "In the context of Russian-Azerbaijani relations, the only reason of such a classification of the content may be the practical steps after the war in Karabakh rather than idle diplomatic talks. The main and only precondition is the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan," noted the Russian political scientist Oleg Kuznetsov.
He believes that scant information about the meeting between I. Aliyev and V. Putin gives grounds to believe that it was organized as a private initiative of one of the presidents, most likely Russian, and was held without the participation of officials of foreign affairs agencies to avoid accidental information leakage.
"I have a modest but encouraging optimism about the fact that Putin and Aliev understood each other well and even reached some mutually acceptable agreements. They were very pleased and cheerful at the end of the conversation. One cannot hide such facial expressions and glitter of the eyes from professional photographers," wrote O. Kuznetsov in his article on Vesti.az.
A positive mood of both parties of the discussions is important since the quality of relations between the leaders is in many respects a determining factor for the development of relations between the two countries. Trustful and friendly relations between the heads of states are even more important in the presence of forces that try to bring discord into a strategic partnership. "Some forces try to drive a wedge between Russia and Azerbaijan. But the real strong male friendship between our presidents certainly will not allow this to happen. Our countries are linked by centuries-old friendship, which is a solid basis for resolving all emerging issues and seeking answers to the challenges that Russia and Azerbaijan are facing in our difficult time," said member of the Russian parliament (Duma) Dmitry Savelyev in his interview with Haqqin.az.
Russian political scientist Sergei Markov has specifically addressed the outcome of the meeting. He believes some forces do not like the development of relations between Moscow and Baku. In Russia, one can find them in state bodies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). "They are so inflating any minor problem between Russia and Azerbaijan, which seems as if the relations are extremely tense," said Markov.
Thus, the political scientist actually hinted at the recent unexpected and incorrect statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry, where Azerbaijan is requested to stop "outrageous discriminatory practices incompatible with friendly relations between the two countries.", where the discriminatory practices imply the refusal of entry to Azerbaijan to 25 Russian citizens with Armenian last names since the beginning of this year.
In Azerbaijan, this statement was interpreted by the foreign ministry as not fitting into the framework of diplomatic ethics and incompatible with the spirit of strategic partnership between the two countries.
In his interview with RIA Novosti, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov explained that the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry has coincided with the barbaric murder of an Azerbaijani girl and her grandmother by the Armenian military and "has become a source of serious surprise and misunderstanding."
"Some ethnic Armenians, citizens of different countries, including Armenia, have repeatedly visited Azerbaijan on various occasions. But all these visits were appropriately organized and prearranged. We did not have problems in this case. We tried to convey this message to the Russian side through diplomatic channels," said the minister.
A visit to Azerbaijan of another Armenian originally from Baku, Oksana Altunian, who joined the "Platform for Peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia" has confirmed the words of Minister Mammadyarov. She has also visited the graves of little Zakhra and her grandmother, who died during the Armenian shelling of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
Should we remind pro-Armenian circles in Russia that due to the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, people of Armenian origin are admitted to Baku only by prior permission for their own personal safety and to avoid various provocations? Apparently, President Putin himself will need to remind this to the officials of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
At the same time, periodical tensions in various directions of interaction can only overshadow but not radically damage the relations between Azerbaijan and Russia in a broad sense. The strategic partnership of both countries is dictated by historical and geographical proximity, geopolitical and economic interests and many other fundamental factors.
"Yes, there are problems between the two countries. It is natural that in the approaches to various kinds of issues the positions of the countries differ. Such minor problems as the arrest of a Russian citizen, blogger Lapshin, the ban on the entry of Russian citizens of Armenian origin to Azerbaijan, the cancellation of the registration of the All-Russian Azerbaijani Congress do not indicate that tension exists between the two countries. Because these are very small political problems. Relations between Russia and Azerbaijan should be considered in a broad aspect. The meeting of Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev in Sochi was an answer to all these questions," said Sergey Markov.
He believes that the consultations in Sochi were not in vain. "I am sure that one of the main subjects of discussions during the consultations was the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The fact is that Armenia and Azerbaijan are now on the threshold of a new conflict. Negotiations are frozen, because the status quo is profitable for Armenia. How to return to the negotiating table and what a new treaty should be in connection with the settlement of the conflict was the subject of discussions between Putin and Aliyev," said Markov.
He added that in the near future, the Russian president will meet with the Armenian president. "They will discuss either a new agreement or the military actions are inevitable. Now the question is more stringent," says Markov.
The urgency of the issue is also confirmed by a joint statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, which was made public after the meeting of the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan in Sochi.
"Unconstructive actions of Yerevan pose a serious threat to regional peace and security. The compulsory withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan is necessary to end the conflict and ensure peace and stability... We reiterate that all responsibility for the provocations and the results of the ongoing occupation of Azerbaijan falls entirely on Yerevan," says the joint statement of the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan.
The document emphasizes that the purposeful activation of provocative steps by Armenia in June and July was observed during the visit of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs to the region and holding important meetings towards the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, against the backdrop of appeals of the Karabakh peace mediators and the international community to the top Substantive negotiations.
Incidentally, the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, the leadership of NATO and the United Nations also announced the need for an urgent start of substantive negotiations.
Meanwhile, Armenia by all means avoids the beginning of substantive negotiations on the settlement of the conflict. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said that the results of the meeting in Brussels with Edward Nalbandian "do not bode well for hope that Yerevan is preparing to start substantive talks on Nagorno Karabakh."
Serzh Sargsyan actually confirmed his unwillingness to proceed to substantive negotiations, saying that the expectations from the meeting planned for the fall with the Azerbaijani president are not large. Moreover, Yerevan continues to escalate the situation in the conflict zone in order to divert attention from substantive negotiations to secondary issues.
Another manifestation of the destructive and provocative activities of the Armenian side was holding so-called the "presidential elections in Artsakh", visit of the Minister of Defense of Armenia Vigen Sargsyan to the occupied territories and the participation of Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian in the liturgy in Gandzasar monastery on the territory of Kalbajar region of Azerbaijan.
It is not even worth talking about the game of the Armenian separatists in the elections, as all countries and organizations of the world simply rejected them again. As for Nalbandian’s participation in the liturgy in Gandzasar, Yerevan tries to demonstrate the world the illegal entity in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan as an established state, to extend the status quo in the conflict zone, as well as to create an illusion of unity of Armenians.
Meanwhile, the events that took place in the military units of Armenia in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan demonstrate the realities of the "ideological cohesion" of Armenians. It became known that the recruits from Armenia Vanand Khachaturian and Erik Harutunian were taken to the hospital in grave condition after they were beat by servicemen from Karabakh.
Moreover, a military officer originally from Armenia has physically assaulted a local contractor, junior sergeant serving in one of the military units deployed in Hadrut because of disobedience.
All these events happened exactly in those days when Armenian Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan visited the positions of the Armenian Armed Forces in the occupied territory of Azerbaijan.
"Defeats on the front line will continue to aggravate the deep contradictions between the occupation forces from Armenia and the Armenians of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan," said Fuad Akhundov.
He noted that the criminal regime in Yerevan is ready for any violence, if only to continue its occupation policy, although it is time to understand that people will not be able to hold this despotic regime any longer. "Without work, without bread, without the population, but with the Iskanders" - this is the pernicious thinking of Serzh Sargsyan," said Fuad Akhundov.
As far as the Iskander missiles are concerned, according to the Global Firepower Index rating, which assesses the military power of the states of the world, the Azerbaijani army is on the 59th place, while for Armenia only 95th place in the world.
In such a situation, Armenia has nothing to do except to rely on military cooperation with its strategic ally Russia and to cherish illusions about CSTO intervention if Azerbaijan decides to return its lands by military means. In this context, Armenia is considering an agreement on a joint grouping of troops with Russia, which Vladimir Putin ratified a few days ago.
At the same time, sober heads in Yerevan are aware that attracting Moscow for a confrontation with Azerbaijan will not work, because in addition to an outpost and a burden in the face of Armenia Russia is also interested in a strong strategic partner in the person of Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus. Building its pragmatic relations with Azerbaijan, Russia does not look back at Armenia, which is also indicated by the supply of Russian weapons to Azerbaijan, despite objections from Armenia.
According to experts of the Jamestown Foundation, Yerevan cannot appeal loudly to Moscow with its dissatisfaction with the sale of weapons to Azerbaijan for several reasons. "Firstly, 60 to 80% of Armenia's energy sector is concentrated in the hands of Russian state corporations. Secondly, the presence of Russian banks in the financial sector of Armenia has significantly increased. Thirdly, Yerevan still largely depends on Moscow militarily. Armenia depends on the 102nd military base of Russia located near Gyumri. Thus, despite growing discontent with the supply of Russian weapons to Baku, Yerevan has no choice but to act as instructed by Moscow," notes the publication.
This is understood by Sargsyan himself, who called for caution, stating the urgency to review his country’s relations with Russia because of the supply of Russian weapons to Azerbaijan. "These are extremely dangerous words, they can create a very bad situation. Not just words, but actions. With whom does he want to review and improve the relations, with Turkey? Or may be they will welcome Armenia to NATO? Or should we be at enmity with everyone, declaring: you help Azerbaijan, and we are alone against the whole world? " he said.
Apparently, the situation as a whole does not bode well for Yerevan's intentions dragging out the status quo indefinitely. Given the positive assessments from the Russian and Azerbaijani expert community on the outcome of the meeting of the presidents of Azerbaijan and Russia in the context of the Karabakh settlement, this can be an encouraging signal contributing to a possible shift in the process from the deadlock.