Azerbaijan Chides US Envoy's Twitter Diplomacy
Not to underestimate the power of social media, but officials in Azerbaijan believe it takes more than active tweeting to resolve an ethnic conflict; especially if it's the longest-running conflict to come out of the Soviet Union.
In a swipe at James Warlick, Washington's point-man for negotiations between Baku and Yerevan on the 26-year Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a senior Azerbaijani presidential administration official commented on May 1 that he would like to see the US mediator's tweets matched by actions.
“Sometimes it seems to me that Mr. Warlick seeks to resolve the #NagornoKarabakh conflict through his tweets,” tweeted Novruz Mammadov, deputy chief of staff to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
Twitter debates with the ambassador about certain events in the Karabakh
conflict are not possible, Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov added in an interview with APA news agency, since a tweet "must
consist of only 120 letters." Azimov went still further, charging that the US envoy is pro-Armenian, and "spreading rumors about a possible escalation of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan." Baku has "every reason" to demand his recall, he said. Ambassador Warlick, who recently attended an Azerbaijani gala dinner in Washington, has not yet responded. But he is, indeed, a prolific Twitter user.
Many of his tweets provide relatively innocuous progress reports about the Karabakh peace talks led by the US, France and Russia (the so-called Minsk Group), but one tweet in particular already has encountered Baku's ire -- an
observation that he had been "corrected" (presumably by
Armenia) that the conflict is between Azerbaijan and Karabakh; a
position the Azerbaijani government categorically rejects. As for the talks themselves, Azerbaijani officials insist there has been no progress to speak -- or tweet -- of.
Earlier on, Ali Hasanov, a longtime senior presidential aide, objected that after 20-plus years of work by the Minsk Group, a breakthrough was nowhere in sight.
“If the negotiations continue without anyone putting pressure on Armenia, we will not get anywhere,” Hasanov told APA news agency. “The [p]resident of Azerbaijan is not happy with the negotiations process and with the work of the co-chairs of the Minsk Group in general."
But in its dislike of tweeting about delicate topics, Azerbaijan does not stand alone.
Turkey, Azerbaijan's best buddy in strategic matters, recently attempted to shut Twitter down completely, albeit without success. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dropped in on Aliyev last month, but whether or not the two talked Twitter is unknown.
With or without Twitter, though, Baku already has one opening for its criticism of the Karabakh mediators -- the separatist schism in Ukraine.
Hasanov pointed out that unresolved conflicts like Karabakh continue to pose a threat to international security. Sounding a familiar refrain, he noted that the only alternative to talks is another war.
So far, Ambassador Warlick has not responded. (Neither Ali Hasanov nor Deputy Foreign Minister Azimov appear to have Twitter accounts.) But he has continued tweeting away