Baku Sun
July 2, 2004

View of the nation's biggest problem

Zulfugar Agayev (Sun Correspondent)

Dr. Andrew C. Hess shares his insight
into the Nagorno (Daghlig)-Karabakh conflict.
(Sun photo by Jeyhun Abdulla)font>


Andrew C. Hess, a professor of diplomacy at The Fletcher School, - a
professional school for graduate students at Tufts University in the
United States, - is in Baku. What may seem particularly interesting to
both the Azerbaijani and as well as the expatriates readers is that
Professor Hess has taught the Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Vardan Oskanian.

Baku Sun's Zulfugar Agayev spoke with Dr. Hess and asked him to share
his views on Azerbaijan's most troubling problem, the Nagorno
(DaghLig)-Karabakh conflict.

Question: How would you predict the future of the Armenian-Azerbaijani
conflict? How long can this conflict over Nagorno (Daghlig)-Karabakh
and the occupation of Azerbaijan's territories last?

Answer: It's difficult to predict the length of the Armenian occupation
of Azeri territories and also of the dispute over Nagorno
(Daghlig)-Karabakh. Because it is not just a local problem. It is
rather a regional and international affair.

Neither the U.S. nor Russia wants, on the international level, further
instability in the center of Eurasia. There is already enough trouble
in Afghanistan and Iraq that is occupying the full abilities of the
United States.

And on the Russian side, the continuing conflict in Chechnya drains
Russia's resources at a time when it needs to improve its economic
situation.

There is no interest in keeping the situation unstable in this region.
So, I think that the great powers would like to have some kind of
solution and that is reinforced by an increasing need of Europe for the
oil and gas of this region.

Diplomats are looking at this issue and trying constantly to solve it.
It is a step-by-step affair. So, I would say that we will not see a
quick solution to this conflict.

It will be a matter of conferences and resistance to any flare-up that
would make the conflict more violent.

As Europe becomes more and more dependent on oil and gas here, tensions
probably will go down.

Question: Recently, Armenia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vardan
Oskanian, stated that Azerbaijan will not be able to decide
single-handedly to resume the war to fight back the occupied
territories after the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline
is over. What would you say on that?

Answer: I think what he means is that once the oil starts flowing, that
will connect Azerbaijan not only with the European economy, but also
with the world economy. The U.S. and European countries would not like
to see any kind of dramatic decision by Azerbaijan that could affect
the world economy.

So, as a regional, I mean, national state connected to the world
economy, Azerbaijan would have to consider what the reaction of the
world would be.

I think there is truth in what Osanian has said. But correspondingly,
of course. If Armenia takes actions, the same will work.

Question: If the great powers are interested in seeing a stable
Caucasus, as you have said, then why do they not take concrete measure
to resolve the conflicts here?

Answer: The first issue is that there are a lot of other issues, like
the Middle East problem, that is diverting attention of the great
powers.

The second factor is that the oil situation in the world right now is
not that difficult. The price of oil has started to turn down. So,
there is no crisis in terms of oil economics.

Question: What kind of role can Russia have in the resolution of the
Karabakh conflict?

Answer: The judgement of many observers is that Russia could play what
we call a spoiler role in settlement of the Karabakh conflict.

Russia has military units in Armenia. The foreign affairs relationship
and foreign policy of Russia is close to Armenia.

So, all of this means that Russia has an ability to exert some leverage
on the Armenian affairs.

But again, it seems to me that... Russia is preoccupied with the
Chechen problem and with the whole question about what to do with its
southern frontier.

Political leadership of Russia is being very careful about not getting
itself over extended in this area. But it is being pushed by internal
politics in Russia.

Question: Is the continuation of the conflict and the occupation of
Azerbaijan's territories in the interests of Armenia?

Answer: I don't think so. I have told this straightly to Vardan and the
leaders of the Armenian community as well.

The reason is that the linkages between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Europe
and development of a new economy in this region is a result of oil. And
other considerations are going to advance the economic, commercial and
political strength of Azerbaijan rapidly as you can see here.

If you compare activities in Baku with those in Yerevan, it is a world
of difference.

So, the increasing economic and political strength of Azerbaijan is
going to place it in a position where it can bargain more effectively
with everybody, the Russians, Americans, Europeans and others.

It would produce more power for Azerbaijan in negotiations directed to
solving the Karabakh problem.

And it will isolate Armenia and put it in a situation where major
support will come only from external Diaspora, which is not that big
and which is not a state.

Russia has so many issues on its southern frontier that it cannot let
its foreign policy be determined only with Armenian policies.

Question: We know that Vardan Oskanian has been a student of yours. By
the way, how successful of a student was he?

Answer: Yes, he was my student in mid the 1980s. He was a very good
student. I had no idea that he would become a foreign minister of
Armenia.