Expert Expects Russia to Get Tough With Azerbaijan
During an October 23 meeting, both Georgian Parliament chairman Zurab Zhvania and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Murtuz Alasgarov, harshly criticized Russian policy in the South Caucasus. Both men said Russia was playing an unconstructive role in attempts to promote regional stability. They complained that Moscow was applying inconsistent standards in the search for political settlements to the Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts. Georgian-Russian relations have been strained of late, due mainly to the renewed fighting in Abkhazia. EurasiaNet spoke to Vafa Gulazadeh, a long-time advisor to Azerbaijani president Heydar Aliyev, about his expectations for Russian-Azerbaijani relations. The text of his comments follows:
EurasiaNet: Do you think that Russia will become more aggressive in the Caucasus?
Gulazadeh: Yes. The events in Abkhazia increased the basis for aggression. Russia is becoming competitive with Turkey over [influence] in Georgia, and Russian pressure on Georgia is increasingly evident. I [also] expect Azerbaijan to come under Russian pressure in the near future. Russia's Interior Minister, Boris Grizlov, visited Baku [October 23]. It seems he will ask for support from Azerbaijan of Russia's campaign against Chechnya. I think the visit is a mark of Russia's Caucasus policy becoming tougher. At the same time, Russia decided to increase its budget for the Chechnya war.
EurasiaNet: How does the Abkhazia crisis affect prospects for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline?
Gulazadeh: It is known that Russia is against the realization of Baku-Ceyhan. And I think
Russia will apply pressure in this regard to both Georgia and Azerbaijan. But there wouldn't necessarily be serious results of this pressure, because both states clearly want to pursue independent policies and have succeeded so far.
EurasiaNet: Do current crises make it easier or more difficult to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh issue?
Gulazadeh: The world is preoccupied with anti-terror operations now, so I think the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will remain unresolved for some period. If Azerbaijan is to be a partner with the United States in the war on terrorism, and the US has a big need for Azerbaijan's help, this will result in our receiving strong support from the US. So America will support the position of Azerbaijan [on the Nagorno-Karabakh question]. At the same time, the reason the conflict will remain unresolved is that Russia provides big support to Armenia. Russia considers Armenia to be her very loyal soldier in the Caucasus