Leyla Tagiyeva

Dec 1 2009

Ariel Cohen News.Az interviews Ariel Cohen, a political scientist
and chief of department on Russia, Eurasia and international energy
security of The Heritage Foundation (USA).

We have recently witnessed intensification of meetings to settle
the Karabakh conflict. Can we expect progress in the settlement,
in this regard?

I hope both parties realize the need to find a mutually profitable
solution, a decision that would meet the interests of both sides and
also comply with bases of international law. Such a decision would
prove that the changes in existing state borders that emerge after
the collapse of a past state by administrative borders of this state,
can take place only on agreement of both sides. Therefore, Karabakh
should stay under Azerbaijan's jurisdiction. As far as I understand,
Azerbaijan is ready to make far-reaching concessions. And if both
sides come to such an agreement, the benefits of both sides are
obvious in the sense of developing ties, transport arteries and
improving investment climate.

Can the developing Russian-Turkish interaction promote the conflict

This is another important moment. Today Turkey and Russia are creating
the so-called "condominium" in the South Caucasus. This joint activity
is likely to reduce sovereignty of all three South Caucasus states,
including Armenia.

The interference of the regional superpowers in the region will reduce
freedom of maneuvering for Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. And the
process of pressure and separation that is going on between Russia and
Georgia and that really narrows the Georgian territory and reduces
Georgian sovereignty is just the first sign of what may happen in
the South Caucasus if the states do not search ways to cooperate and
overcome the historical hindrances accumulated since 1988.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev recently speaking before a
group of IDPs said in case the conflict is further protracted Baku
may consider possible return of occupied lands and is, therefore,
raising its military potential. Is the possibility of a new war for
Nagorno Karabakh high?

I do not consider the military actions today as a desirable
development. But in this situation it depends on who initiates
hostilities. I do not think Azerbaijan will initiate war though the
return of lands may be one of the recognized causes of that. There
is a difference between reconciliation and peace in international law.

There is no peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia but I do
not think someone in Azerbaijan wants war. The intentions of Armenians
now depend on their leadership and their elite and their ability to
overcome the desire to hold Karabakh further instead of finding a
mutually profitable solution.

Also much will depend on whether Turkey fulfills its role of a
fraternal state towards Azerbaijan or it will forget its fraternal
duty and settle its own issues ignoring the principles of Turkic
solidarity and fraternal relations with Azerbaijan.

How would you comment on the recent events connected with the signing
of the Azerbaijani-Russian agreement on gas supplies to Russia and the
recent Azerbaijani-Turkish differences about the price of Azerbaijani
gas exported via Turkey? Won't they reduce possibility of implementing
Nabucco gas project?

It depends on which strategic pipeline will be constructed. Russia
and its partners have serious achievements in building geopolitical
foundations for the South Stream. In fact, there is an agreement on
the whole line. I think Turkey is not ready to support only Nabucco.

The relations between Erdogan and Putin are improving which means
improvement of relations between Turkey and Russia.

Meanwhile, the West has a chance, if now the European Union and the
United States try pushing Nabucco. Yet the time is limited. This will
be either a pipeline based on Azerbaijani and perhaps Turkmen gas or
we will have problems because Turkey will also try to promote Iranian
gas which is undesirable at the current stage and in this conjuncture.

If Turkey allows Russia to lay the pipeline via its territorial
water, it will thus play into Russia's hands... Perhaps, it has
some interests.

Perhaps, some of its politicians have personal ambitions.

Anyway, it would be good for the United States, Europe and Turkey to
join efforts to establish Nabucco.