The latest statements of the senior presidential adviser, Vafa Guluzade, concerning Azerbaijan’s relations with NATO testify to an increasingly mature approach to that crucial issue. Guluzade–with the approval of President Haidar Aliev–had earlier this year taken the lead in urging NATO, the United States and Turkey to become more actively involved in the security of the South Caucasus region and to establish a military presence in Azerbaijan. Defense Minister Safar Abiev and other Azerbaijani officials seconded Guluzade’s appeals. Those statements stressed the common interest of the Western alliance and of South Caucasus/Caspian countries in protecting the region from a Russian revanche. But the statements also suggested that Baku expected NATO countries to support Azerbaijan in the conflict with Armenia. That linkage detracted from the persuasiveness of Baku’s case in Western eyes.
On July 5, however, Guluzade proceeded to separate those two sets of issues. “We do not need any military allies. Issues in the region will be resolved not through military alliances, but through a change of atmosphere in our region.” Guluzade expressly discarded the notion that “someone will come here and win back our territories on our behalf.” He emphasized that Western-assisted economic development, state-building and regional dialogue will be decisive in solving Azerbaijan’s problems, as part of “the welcome tidal wave that began with the collapse of the Soviet Union.” This approach is consistent with Washington’s policy of avoiding polarization within the region and of encouraging an Armenian-Azerbaijani dialogue under direct or indirect Western aegis.
In the same statement, pointing to NATO’s actions in Kosovo and to Russia’s subordinate role there, Guluzade suggested that those arrangements may gradually become the model for conflict resolution in other regions, including the South Caucasus.
In related developments in Baku, Aliev publicly hailed NATO’s and the U.S. actions in the former Yugoslavia–specifically the success in reversing the Serbian-perpetrated ethnic cleansing; General Abiev confirmed the Defense Ministry’s plan to dispatch an Azerbaijani peacekeeping unit to Kosovo as part of the Turkish contingent under NATO command; and the Milli Majlis approved the measure at presidential initiative (Trend, Turan, July 5).
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