Author: Namig HASANOV
Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and restoration of territorial integrity is still the number one priority for Azerbaijani diplomacy. It is an extremely complex yet important goal, which official Baku has never ceased to achieve.
Eleven years ago, when Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called on local diplomats to switch from defence to offensive tactics, it was clear that the president would go ahead of the offensive diplomacy. His recent speech at the Valdai International Discussion Club was another diplomatic strike to the shaky positions of Armenia, which continues to occupy 20% of the Azerbaijani territory.
President Aliyev clearly explained that the issue of Karabakh was a question of occupation, not of self-determination of the local population. "I must say that there is a fairly wide range of opinions on Karabakh, which often do not reflect the realities. Just to be clear, I must say that in 1921 the Caucasian Bureau decided to "leave Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan," and not transfer it to Armenia, as Armenians often interpret the wording. Before the conflict, the Azerbaijani and Armenian populations living in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region of the Azerbaijan SSR reached 25 and 75 percent, respectively. As a result of the conflict, the entire Azerbaijani population was expelled from Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as from seven other regions of Azerbaijan. In other words, it was an ethnic cleansing of the Azerbaijani population of Karabakh," Ilham Aliyev said.
President Aliyev revealed the absurdity of the concept of "the people of Nagorno-Karabakh", which the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian is trying to promote, albeit in vain. "I must say that there is no such thing as "the people of Nagorno-Karabakh". There is a population of Nagorno-Karabakh, which before the conflict consisted of the Azerbaijani and Armenian people, who have equal rights," President Aliyev emphasized.
And the key message of the Azerbaijani president was a statement excluding any alternative interpretation of Karabakh's affiliation with Azerbaijan. "I would like to say a few words about the statement of the Armenian Prime Minister, which has caused surprise not only in Azerbaijan. The Russian Federation has already reacted to the statement in the course of the Valdai Forum. So, the statement was the following, almost word by word: "Karabakh is part of Armenia, and full point." Well, firstly, it is a lie. The world community recognises both the plain and mountainous Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan. Even Armenia does not recognise the illegal entity [called Nagorno Karabakh Republic]. Karabakh has belonged to Azerbaijan historically, originally. So, Karabakh is Azerbaijan, and an exclamation mark!" Ilham Aliyev said.
In principle, such a response from Aliyev to Pashinian was quite expected. At the same time, it caused a great resonance among the representatives of the forum, as well as in Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Politicians and international analysts from many countries of the world have quickly pointed out the categorical tone of the President of Azerbaijan. Pashinian's political mistake, who announced two months ago that Karabakh belonged to Armenia, was noted by many participants involved in the settlement process. For example, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the following statement at the Valdai Forum: "The parties [to the conflict] make quite serious statements, including "Karabakh is Armenia". The Albanian Prime Minister had made a similar statement about Kosovo's belonging to Albania. This, of course, does not help create an atmosphere for the resumption of the political process."
In his speech, President Aliyev also referred to the words of the key negotiator S. Lavrov. Such things simply cannot be ignored at the forum, which had an entire community of intellectuals from all over the world.
Venues such as the Valdai Forum are quite appropriate to voice the truth. President of Azerbaijan will implement this policy consciously and steadily. In each of his speeches from high international tribunes, Mr. Aliyev gives a brief historical reference supplementing it with full-fledged arguments, references to international treaties and resolutions of international organisations.
According to many experts, the president’s speech at the Valdai Forum can be called an example of "classical" diplomacy and the art of rhetoric.
Strength of strike
Ilham Aliyev’s speech in Sochi has seriously shaken the political space of Armenia. Painful reaction in the neighbouring state was expected but a certain confusion voiced in the statements of Armenian officials manifested the full potential of Aliyev's diplomatic strike.
The emotional statement of the Armenian Foreign Ministry official Anna Naghdalian has eventually boiled down to usual accusations of Azerbaijan of insincerity of motives.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian tried to recoup declaring the theoretical nature of his statement: "Karabakh is Armenia and the point" may be a response to the uncompromising position of Azerbaijan in the future. However, even his imaginary allies in the West no longer believe in the sincerity of the "revolutionary" prime minister confused in his own sayings. It is not surprising that international mediators directly hint at the need to negotiate with Azerbaijan.
They make statements about diplomatic defeat in Armenia, and not only in the opposition camp. There are thoughts that Pashinian’s provocative and frankly populist statements are 'serve for the benefit of other parties'. Armenian experts say that people are already tired of fairy tales about the "terrible Aliyev" and they want to hear something more substantial.
Moreover, the economic situation in Armenia over the past year has not improved at all. We continue to hear disappointing news from the line of contact of the troops. A few days after the Valdai Forum, an Armenian sniper shot and killed a civilian in the Gazakh region who was laying a road near the state border line. The response of the Azerbaijani army was not long in coming: two Armenians killed.
Thus, Pashinian’s populist statement aimed at appeasing the Karabakh clan played a trick on him and in the medium term can seriously affect the rating of the Armenian leader.
Pashinian’s position on the internal front can be rectified only by the tension on the contact line, which is the reason for the increased provocations of Armenian troops. But Baku perfectly understands the intentions of the Armenian leader and is not going to play in his hand.
On the contrary, Azerbaijan has maximised the benefit from the current situation. The expert community and public organizations around the world immediately supported the president’s statement.
Azerbaijan has launched an international youth campaign "Karabakh is Azerbaijan and Exclamation Mark!". Under the campaign, official documents adopted by international organizations exposing Armenian lies and provocations will be posted on social networks under hashtags #Karabakh, #AllForKarabakh and #KarabakhIsAzerbaijan. Diaspora organisations are also actively involved in the campaign.
No doubt, Azerbaijan will make even more efforts to improve international public opinion. It is no secret that in the leading countries of the world, politicians and their decisions strongly depend on the public opinion. A shift in this plane is already noticeable, including in the countries co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group.
The Russian official position has already been mentioned. In late September, the administrative court of Lyon, France ruled to annul the illegal "twinning agreements" between the 'sister' cities of France and Karabakh.
Also, the number of American diplomats supporting the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in accordance with the internationally recognised principle of territorial integrity and demanding the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied Azerbaijani lands is growing.
In short, the offensive diplomacy of Azerbaijan is already yielding results. Certainly, the diplomatic path is thorny and long but the safest and most appropriate one. Especially when one is committed to the establishment of truth and the developing military-economic potential.