This article was originally published in Russian
In an interview with
, Elmar Mammadyarov, head of Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, elaborated on Baku’s vision of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict; the possible purchases of Russian arms and aviation equipment; cooperation
along the Baku-Tehran-Moscow axis;
and negotiations over defining the status of the Caspian Sea.
I’d like to touch on one of the main topics of the past few days. It is connected with the interests of a number of governments – that is, Alexander Lapshin, who holds both Russian, Ukrainian and Israeli citizenship, and was extradited just a few days ago from Minsk to the capital of Azerbaijan at Baku’s request.
How do you think his fate will play out? Some say a pardon might be possible.
— The question of Lapshin’s fate will depend on the conclusions of the investigation. He has been charged according to a number of articles of the Criminal Code of the Azerbaijan Republic. The final decision is the court’s decision.
I am surprised and disturbed by the excess politicization of this issue. This whole time he has been called a blogger. And if he was an engineer, would they be interested in this case? He broke the law and, on a legal basis, a criminal case has been brought against him, on the basis of which a request was brought to Interpol and in accordance with which he was detained by the Belarussian authorities.
Everything was done within the bounds of the law. Speculation regarding the fact that he is a blogger does not make him untouchable before the law.
Negotiations on Karabakh have been ongoing for many years, but neither the OSCE’s Minsk Group, nor the framework that Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have tried to formulate, have brought any success. Perhaps it’s time to search for new options?
— The Minsk Group was formed back in 1992; not only Armenia and Azerbaijan were present there, but also a number of other countries including Russia, Belarus, Turkey, the Czech Republic and Sweden. Armenia and Azerbaijan were participants, while the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of Nagorno-Karabakh were interested parties at the negotiations.
In 1997, the idea of co-chairs was introduced, and Russia, the USA and France took up these positions. At that moment, there was much confidence and high hopes – three of the five members of the UN Security Council had become co-chairs of the Minsk Group. Further taking into account the fact that all of them unanimously voted in 1993 in favor of all four resolutions for resolving the Karabakh conflict, no one felt that the resolutions of the Security Council had a limited term of legitimacy.
Afterwards, we felt that the resolutions on the conflict would finally be carried out, but unfortunately, all we have is what we have – 20 years of a lack of regulation.
During my time as minister, there have been several occasions during which we felt we were close to a shift in the status quo. Everyone understands that the status quo which exists today is not to anyone’s satisfaction, other than perhaps the Armenian side. We, of course, are not satisfied with the fact that, over the course of 20 years the occupied territories can be liberated only, unfortunately, by military force.
The village of Jojug Marjanli, in the Jabrayil District of Azerbaijan, has been liberated – people are already returning there. Rather unfortunately, each territory is being liberated by military actions, though we have said since the first day that the issue ought to be resolved by peaceful means.
You asked me a question regarding the Russia-Armenia-Azerbaijan framework; this in principle is one thing we are focussing on – the peaceful resolution of the conflict. In the past month I was in Moscow and discussed this plan with Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov. Previous to this, as you know, the presidents met in Saint Petersburg. Everyone knows perfectly well what the plan is and how we must move forward in accordance with it, everything is spelled out, but there needs to be political will. In this case, the political will is not ours, but the political will of the Armenian side.
But if the existing framework, about which you spoke in such detail just now, doesn’t allow the issue to be moved forward from a deadlock, and the Armenian troops remain where they are right now, perhaps you put some sort of hope on the new American administration?
— We’ll see. So far the American administration has appointed a temporary co-chair, but he will work for six or nine months.
Secondly, the issue is still that any American administration, in principle, has institutional memory. You know how it is in politics – let’s give them 100 days in the office, and then we’ll begin making evaluations about whether or not they will be intensively engaged with this question.
I don’t want to jump the gun in this case.
Will there by a meeting in the near future at the level of the heads of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia?
— The idea was voiced when I was in Moscow. [Foreign Minister] Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov proposed holding a trilateral meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. I said, yes! please!, I’m ready.
But possible dates weren’t discussed, schedules have to be coordinated for this. So far we haven’t received any proposals regarding concrete dates, but we have agreed in principle.
You noted that, up to this point, any advances in the Karabakh issue have been because of military force. Not long ago, in Davos, President Aliyev let slip that Azerbaijan is preparing for large-scale purchases of military hardware from Russia. Can we get some specifics on what we’re talking about?
— I am the minister of foreign affairs, not defense. And it’s pretty hard for me to come up with a list or catalogue of armaments that the army needs. But as the minister of foreign affairs, I say, just imagine how this money could have been used for developing the regions. On the one hand, we are spending money on weapons, on the other hand, Russian arms shipments, though on credit, are nevertheless going to Armenia.
In 2014, President Aliyev set tasks for the development of atomic energy in Azerbaijan. What work has been done since that time? When will the first nuclear power plant appear in Azerbaijan? And is there a chance that Russian nuclear experts will take part in this?
— Possibly. Already in Soviet times the State Planning Committee planned to build a nuclear power station here, in the south, because atomic energy is likely the cheapest.
In this context, taking into account the quickly developing economy, additional electricity is always in need.
In 2014, President Ilham Aliyev specified that we should check to see what our possibilities would be in this field. But here our questions are ones of safety and profitability. And financing: how feasible it is. After all, Japanese nuclear power stations are quite advanced, but the Fukushima experience showed that not everything can be fail-safe.
In this regard we are constantly concerned about our regional partners because of the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant. It is completely outdated, of the Chernobyl variety. Fortunately, Rosatom is giving them additional money. But this is a power plant that has already outlived its time. Because if, God forbid, something were to happen, then everyone would suffer, not just Armenia. Chernobyl showed that these vapors went all the way to Sweden, and to this day nobody knows the results.
Another important regional topic which seems to also have no solution is the status of the Caspian.
— I wouldn’t completely agree with you, because in principle we met for the last time at the ministerial level in Kazakhstan, just several weeks ago there was a meeting of the deputy ministers in Baku – judging by the draft text of the agreement that I read – they managed to untangle quite a bit.
There are some key questions which require that a meeting be held once more at the ministerial level, so that we might report everything to the heads of state, with which we’ll come to the summit.
Ed. The above interview has not been translated in full.