Author: Natig NAZIMOGLU
The fifth meeting of the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran was held in Baku. The outcome of negotiations between Elmar Mammadyarov, Mevlut Cavusoglu and Mohammad Javad Zarif demonstrates the consolidation of the trilateral cooperation format between Baku, Ankara, and Tehran.
Common historical background
The Baku meeting demonstrated once again the exceptional attractiveness of the Azerbaijani capital city as the center for regional integration. Baku's initiatives have largely contributed to the creation and consolidation of interstate cooperation in various formats between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Russia, Turkey, and Turkmenistan. Each of these formats has a serious impact on political and economic integration in the South Caucasus and surrounding regions. As an indispensable participant of these formats, Azerbaijan plays a key role in ensuring their success.
No doubt that without the participation of Azerbaijan, it is impossible to implement any strategic initiatives or large-scale projects at the Eurasian crossroads. This is true to the format of Azerbaijan-Turkey-Iran cooperation, since Baku is carrying out projects with Ankara on the geostrategic East-West direction, and with Iran on the North-South direction.
During the meeting in Baku, the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran discussed various issues of regional and global scale. In purely procedural terms, the ministerial minister confirmed the decisions taken earlier at the level of the heads of the three states. The document reflecting the results of the talks was a joint declaration in which Elmar Mammadyarov, Mevlut Cavusoglu and Mohammad Javad Zarif reaffirmed their countries' commitment to further strengthening solidarity and cooperation, and sustainable development in the region. Moreover, this unity and solidarity between the participating states is based, as stated in the declaration, "on vast areas of cultural, religious and historical commonality."
Baku, Ankara and Tehran reaffirmed their commitments to protect and ensure human rights at national and international levels. The declaration specifically emphasizes that the protection and ensuring the rights of the entire population of the planet are possible only through cooperation and dialogue.
In accordance with this approach, Baku, Ankara and Tehran noted the importance of strengthening cooperation in combating various forms and manifestations of terrorism, separatism and violent extremism, transnational organized crime, illicit arms trafficking, human trafficking, crimes against cultural and historical heritage, cybercrime and illegal migration .
The fact that all three countries place an utmost importance on the need to strengthen cooperation in combating extremism given the growing threats from various terrorist organizations, the threats, which have no borders.
Against terrorism and separatism
All three countries of the trilateral format play an important role in the fight against international terrorism. Azerbaijan's contribution to this fight is widely recognized, particularly in the course of anti-terrorist operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, together with other littoral countries (primarily with Russia) Azerbaijan suppresses terrorist threats in the Caspian Sea region. Similar to Russia, Iran and Turkey are making serious efforts to eradicate the hotbeds of terrorism in Syria. Thanks to military strikes carried out by these countries the so-called Islamic State, which until recently controlled the significant territories of Syria and Iraq, was on the verge of total destruction.
It is worth mentioning separately about the joint antiterrorist efforts of Ankara and Tehran. In addition to the fight against ISIS, these efforts are manifested in coordinating their actions in the fight against Kurdish terrorist groups mainly in northern Iraq, threatening the security and territorial integrity of Turkey and Iran.
In general, anti-terrorist activities in many ways contribute to political rapprochement between Turkey and Iran although these countries often support multidirectional interests in the regions of their traditional influence, especially the Middle East. Recently, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani paid an official visit to Turkey. Earlier, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Iran. According to experts, the foreign ministers of both countries consolidated the results of the recent meetings of their leaders in Baku. Apparently, the decision of the U.S. administration to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which caused a huge wave of protests all over the world, especially in the Islamic community, will also contribute to the further rapprochement between Ankara and Tehran.
The participants of the trilateral summit in Baku made it clear that they disagreed with the decision of the U.S. President Donald Trump about Jerusalem and the transfer of the American embassy to this city, which is a sacred city of all the three monotheistic religions - Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran announced their common position in the resolution adopted on December 21 at the UN General Assembly condemning the unilateral actions of Washington.
In terms of effective fight against terrorism and violent extremism, the Baku declaration classifies separatism as terrorism. In particular, the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran stated that they will prevent the use of the territories of their countries for threating security of each other and strongly condemned the support of separatism by certain world powers.
This kind of wording in the text of the Baku declaration is especially important for Azerbaijan, which has been suffering military aggression by Armenia for a quarter of a century.
Armenia is out… again
Certainly, trilateral formats including Azerbaijan are significant in terms of providing international support for Baku's position, which rightly requires the aggressor to stop the occupation of Azerbaijani territories immediately.
The position of Turkey is of special importance in this case. During the meeting in Baku, the Turkish foreign minister Cavusoglu pointed out again that it was impossible to normalize relations with Armenia and open the borders until Yerevan stops the occupation of Azerbaijani territories. He said at the press conference following the trilateral meeting in Baku: "Armenia occupied twenty percent of Azerbaijani lands, committed Khojaly genocide. We will support any formula of Azerbaijan on the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We have set one condition for the normalization of relations with Armenia, which is the liberation of the territories of Azerbaijan. "
Obviously, Baku expects the expression of such a consistent and principled position also from Iran, which has the necessary economic and transport-communication resources to exert effective pressure on aggressive Armenia. Since the mere verbal expression of support for the territorial integrity of our country is clearly not enough to condemn the Armenian occupiers. Another issue is that the successful implementation of the formats of tripartite cooperation, such as Azerbaijan-Turkey-Iran, aggravates the situation of Armenia, unable to break out of isolation and deep social and economic crisis, to join the regional integration processes until it stops the occupation of internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan.
Support for regional integration was the main topic of Azerbaijani-Turkish-Iranian discussions held in Baku. Three neighboring countries confirmed their commitment in the implementation of large-scale international transport projects, which are strategically important for Eurasian integration as a whole. It is, in particular, the increase in the quantity and quality of competitive transit traffic between Asia and Europe.
The foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran welcomed the commissioning of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, which creates favorable opportunities for using the transit potential of the three countries on the East-West, South-West and North-South routes, and underlined the importance of taking the necessary measures for the speedy completion of the construction of the railway section between Resht and Astara in Iran. In this regard, Iran’s interest in BTK project is particularly attractive. Iranians intend to use the potential of this railway to transport their products to Europe, since the implementation of this undertaking is extremely important for the Iranian economy under the existing international anti-Iran sanctions, which significantly undermine the ruling regime in the country.
Overall, mutual interest in expanding trilateral cooperation between Baku, Ankara and Teheran, as an important component of regional and even inter-continental integration, in many respects determines the further strengthening of the Azerbaijan-Turkey-Iran format. This format is undoubtedly one of the most successful in the context of multilateral cooperation in the Caucasus-Caspian region. Possessing significant potential and opportunities to contribute to the development and prosperity of the region, the "three" Azerbaijan-Turkey-Iran represents at the same time one of the key levers for ensuring its security.
In other words, all the participating countries have all the necessary set of factors including historical, cultural, civilizational, political, economic, and humanitarian ones, which justify and strengthen the relevance of the trilateral format of cooperation between Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Iran.