Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov caused outrage amongst Azerbaijanis with his comments on the perspectives for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on Tuesday.
Asked by an Azerbaijani journalist at a press conference in Moscow how Russia would react “in the event of a Baku [Azerbaijani] counter-terrorist operation in the occupied territories, [would] Moscow close its eyes to it, or would it interfere in the internal affairs of Azerbaijan?” Lavrov
that, “[the liberation of Karabakh] is not only an issue of the internal affairs of Azerbaijan alone.”
According to him, “the requirement of freeing the occupied territories is still a priority; however not by force, but by determining the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh”.
His declaration is starkly at odds with the official position of the Azerbaijani government which treats the occupied region as part of its internationally recognized territories, and as such, maintains its right to forcefully reinstate its control over the region.
In response to Lavrov’s statement, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, tried to avoid sharp criticism of Russian policies in the region.
“I am very sure that if Russia were to deal with the conflict in complete seriousness, the status-quo would change, regional stability would be re-established and the expulsion of Armenian troops from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan would be ensured.”
No other reaction from high-ranking Azerbaijani politicians has been made public yet.
The Azerbaijani political opposition, expert community and civil society members both slammed Russia’s Foreign Minister for disputing the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and criticized Azerbaijan’s political leadership for its rather timid response.
Political expert, Elkhan Shahinoglu,
said in a facebook post that
: “All the points raised by Lavrov at the press conference are against Azerbaijan’s interests… Lavrov’s position regarding the conflict leads to the independence of the ‘Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’… He basically affirms
the package-solution variant
which Armenia has been relentlessly trying to put forward… Lavrov refuses to recognize the right of Azerbaijan to establish control in its own territory, the right to which Russia resorted to in its military campaigns against Chechnya.”
Yadigar Sadiqov, a leader of the opposition party Musavat,
criticized the reaction of the official Baku with irony:
“In response to Lavrov’s statement, [the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister] Mammadyarov summoned the Russian ambassador. Members of Parliament Ali Hasanov and Siyavush Novruzov renounced Orders received from Russia. The Youth Organization of [the ruling party] New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) has called for a protest in front of the Russian embassy tomorrow.”
None of these happened in reality. But many Azerbaijanis expected just such a reaction from the country’s leadership.
Natiq Jafarli, a member on the governing board of the Republican Alternative Movement (ReAl),
what his party would have done in this situation had his party been in power:
“Lavrov’s position is clear. He has expressed what the Kremlin thinks. Russia has created the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in order to maintain its control over the region and today, for the same reason, prevents its settlement…”
For Jafarli, the best answer to Lavrov’s statement would have been for the Azerbaijani government to withdraw from negotiations and entrust the Ministry of Internal Affairs with the task of resolving the conflict.
“It is our internal affair and the Ministry of Internal Affairs must deal with this issue… Let Armenians negotiate with our policemen, not diplomats. Then they would come to wisdom.”