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Azerbaijan’s Block of Armenia

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 PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2004 11:35 am    Post subject: Azerbaijan’s Block of Armenia Reply with quote Back to top

Azerbaijan’s Block of Armenia
Moorad Mooradian, Ph.D.

The initial planning conference for NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) Cooperative Best Effort (CBE) 2004 took place in Baku on January 13-15, without Armenia’s participation. Each year the PfP program for the year has a theme, and this year it is CBE.

Obviously, Azerbaijan has no idea of what cooperation to gain peace means. Armenia wanted to participate but Azerbaijan ignored NATO rules and prevented the Armenian representatives from crossing its borders by plane from Turkey.

The PfP is an effort to strengthen defense cooperation, enhance stability and reduce the risk of conflict degenerating into violence. This contrary stand by Azerbaijan has ratcheted up the antagonisms between the states. The flaunting of NATO rules came after months of posturing by Azeri officials that they did not want Armenia’s officers on its territory regardless of Armenia’s membership in the PfP Program.

It is absolutely plain that Azerbaijan’s hawks currently have enough clout in Azerbaijan to keep the government from making even the slightest gesture that they want to come to terms with Armenia without a full Armenian retreat. This course and defiant attitude solidified even as Armenia invited Azerbaijan and Turkey to participate in the NATO conference held last year in Armenia. Turkey sent its military but Azerbaijan refused to participate, which is their right.

However, volunteering not to participate and being excluded by the host nation are two different issues. The host nation is designated by NATO to provide the meeting places and the administrative needs, as is common for most major conferences. To my knowledge, this responsibility does not include the right of the host nation to bar any constituted nation from participating. When Azerbaijan began its propaganda campaign to exclude Armenia some months ago, NATO official Gen. Rifki Durusoy publicly stated that NATO partner states cannot legally prevent another state in good standing from participating.

This rule was reconfirmed by none other than the NATO Director of the Partnership Coordination, Turkish Major General Durusoy. On December 4, 2003 Armenia received its official invitation from NATO.

Following Azerbaijan’s continual bombastic talk about excluding Armenia, NATO officials assured Armenia that its representatives would be able to attend the meetings in Baku. Armenia accepted the assurances because Azerbaijan did not block its participation in Baku in the past. But that was when Heidar Aliyev, the strongman, was alive and no one dared to flaunt his decisions with any hope of success. But his appointed heir to the Azeri throne, Ilham, obviously does not have the same decision-making powers—not yet.

As of this writing Ilham Aliyev apparently has not garnered enough political and military support to control his own Ministry of National Security. It is public knowledge in Azerbaijan that the nationalist hawks in the country have direct links to the organs of the country’s Ministry of National Security. The hawks threatened physical violence against the Armenian officials if they entered the country.

Ilham Aliyev’s muted response to these flagrant threats and his bowing to their wishes raises serious questions about his ability to discuss peace with Pres. Robert Kocharian with any degree of legitimacy. For the sake of peace, Armenia must stay patient but vigilant and provide Aliyev the Second with an opportunity to consolidate his power, when he should be able to show exactly what his intentions are. This does not suggest that Armenia should allow this flagrant violation of NATO’s rules to pass without strong protests to NATO.

Not only has Azerbaijan insulted Armenia (this is not a new occurrence), but more seriously, it has challenged NATO’s viability. If NATO is unable to demand with success th
at member nations live up to their commitments for a program as simple as being a host nation, what will be the result if more serious decisions that may be disagreeable to a nation are made?

I do not argue that Azerbaijan has no right to object to Armenia’s participation in an established manner and through NATO channels. But once the decision is made it must be obeyed or Azerbaijan should be punished in some manner.

This obdurate move by Azerbaijan is a hint that it is not a reliable partner unless it gets its demands honored, regardless of established rules. Either NATO acts as a body when decisions are made and Azerbaijan is sanctioned in some manner, or Baku will be allowed to set a precedent that the PfP Program is no more than a nice sounding theme for individually acting countries to suit their own selfish perceived interests or biases.

There is time to prevent Azerbaijan from making the PfP a mockery. This meeting was the first planning meeting. A second meeting is scheduled for March and exercises are set for September, all in Azerbaijan. One would expect that as a minimum NATO demand an apology, because Azerbaijan has insulted its decision by ignoring it.

Secondly, NATO must insist that the government of Azerbaijan publicly announce that henceforth Armenia would be allowed to send its representatives to participate and that Baku will be held responsible for the safety of all participants.

If Azerbaijan is unwilling to live up to its obligations as a host nation, Armenia should initiate steps to have that nation expelled from the program and NATO. This may be hard for Turkey to swallow, but in order to prevent further complications, it should take its Azeri brethren in tow.
One key to correcting these unfortunate but needless circumstances is for the US to do more than bleat an expression of “disappointment.” PfP was a US innovation and Baku’s digression from expected behavior also challenges US policy.

The US expects and demands cooperation from the belligerent states, but cooperation can not come from only one source. It does not have to be publicly announced, but at least behind closed doors the US should make an offer to Baku that it cannot refuse. US equivocation about the $10 million military grant to Azerbaijan might serve as a powerful incentive for Baku to cooperate.

Since Baku has had difficulties understanding what cooperation to gain peace means when it comes to anything having to do with Armenia, the US might spell out the English understanding of the word. Should Azerbaijan raise the barriers to Armenia’s participation, then one could assume that the US had acted, in this instance, as an honest broker.
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