Azerbaijani Politics 16 august — 14:31

MP Ali Huseynli: 'It would be advisable to consider Azerbaijan's participation in CSTO' (Sensational statement)

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INTERVIEWED BY ELNUR MAMMADOV

Azeri Daily initiated a public discussion on the possible entry of Azerbaijan into the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). In recent years, Azerbaijan's relations with Russia have reached a new level of military-political allied relations. A few weeks ago, well-known representatives of the Russian elite visited the village of Jojug Marjanli, liberated during the April war in Jabrayil district, occupied by Armenia, and openly admitted at the meeting with the military personnel at the front that Azerbaijan is Russia's only ally in the South Caucasus.

In this context, it was interesting to listen to the head of the Russian-Azerbaijani group of interparliamentary cooperation, Chairman of the Committee on Legal Issues and State Construction of the Milli Majlis (National Assembly) of Azerbaijan Ali Huseynli.

How do the representatives of the ruling elite of Azerbaijan treat the idea of our country joining the CSTO in terms of national and state interests of Azerbaijan? Azeri Daily's questions are answered by MP Ali Huseynli.

- A few days ago in Kazakhstan, in the city of Aktau, after years of preparatory work, the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea was signed. How would you rate this document from a legal point of view?

- Of course, for all the Caspian states it is a document of historic significance. Specifically for Azerbaijan, the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea will undoubtedly play an important role politically, economically and legally. It is no accident that in the first Constitution of independent Azerbaijan, adopted in 1995, Article 11 stipulates that 'the internal waters of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the sector of the Caspian Sea (lake), and the airspace over the Republic of Azerbaijan are parts of the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan.' And a year later Azerbaijan was represented in an ad hoc working group whose goal was to draft a convention on the legal status of the Caspian.

Signed by the heads of the five Caspian states, the Convention unequivocally and comprehensively meets the national interests of Azerbaijan. This document makes it possible to lay pipelines along the bottom of the Caspian Sea. President Ilham Aliyev in his speech in Aktau noted that Azerbaijan regards the Caspian as an important transport artery and the signing of the Convention opens up broad prospects for solving economic and transport issues.

The activity of the working group on the Caspian continued for many years, and some even began to doubt that the final decision would eventually be accepted and the convention would become a reality.

It really was a long and difficult path to a common agreement. And now, when the historic document is approved, it can be safely said that this happened primarily due to the wisdom of the presidents of the Caspian states. Mutual understanding and compromises for the common goal became the key to success. The signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea is a vivid example of the cooperation of the neighbouring states in the name of peace and security in the region, the economic well-being of the peoples inhabiting it.

Speaking at the Aktau summit, President Ilham Aliyev stressed that Azerbaijan has very close, trusting relations with all the Caspian countries, based on mutual interests, equality, respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries.

Completely sharing the statement made by the head of our state, I believe that we should further deepen our relations with neighbouring countries, both through participation in various joint projects and within the framework of international organisations of a regional nature.

- What kind of organisation do you have in mind?

- As you know, Azerbaijan has been participating in the International Army Games for the last several years. Many countries are sending their teams there, including Armenia, the aggressor country. Despite this, I am sure that participation in this project of our military was the right decision. Thanks to the army games, the states of the region, including, of course, Armenia, became convinced of the power and combat capability of the Azerbaijani Army not only in combat.

I think that in new geopolitical conditions it is possible to consider Azerbaijan's participation in the CSTO. I want to remind you that at the dawn of the formation of this structure, in the early 1990s, Azerbaijan joined the Collective Security Treaty.

- However, now, since this organisation is a military bloc under the aegis of Russia, some experts see it as a threat to the sovereignty of independent countries.

- I consider that such an assessment of today's Russia is extremely populist and erroneous. Azerbaijan and Russia have a long history of peaceful coexistence, for many years, close political, economic and humanitarian ties between the two peoples have formed, between which even the language barrier is absent. The presidents of the two countries are linked by personal, trusting, friendly relations, which contribute to an even closer rapprochement between Azerbaijan and Russia.

At the initiative of the heads of our states, major international economic projects are being implemented, such as the transport corridor North-South, cooperation in the energy and other spheres is strengthening. Cooperation relations are practiced not only at the interstate level, but also at the level of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. Economic interaction has given a powerful impetus to the development of tourism between the countries, which further brings our peoples closer.

And while relations between Azerbaijan and Russia are more of a character of strategic partnership, in many directions they are actually allied. Moreover, due to the current geopolitical situation in the South Caucasus region, Azerbaijan, in fact, remains Russia's only ally. This is so obvious a fact that it was ascertained practically by all participants of the Azerbaijani-Russian conference held recently in the village of Jojug Marjanli, which was liberated from the Armenian occupation. Considering that Russia was represented at this conference by the true patriots of that country, such a judgment is especially valuable.

- At the same time, Russia's historical allies in the South Caucasus have always been Armenia and Georgia...

- Let's not go deep into history. Everything flows, everything changes. For example, Turkey and Russia have been enemies for centuries, and today they are strategic partners. And everything has changed in the South Caucasus. During the period when Georgia was led by Mikheil Saakashvili, relations between this country and Russia acquired a complex, and at times very tense character. And after Nikol Pashinyan came to power in Armenia, this country, which even under Serzh Sargsyan was flirting with the West, openly turned its foreign policy vector 180 degrees and demonstrates anti-Russian policy. Most members of the new Armenian government once worked in various Western structures, and it is possible that some are recruited by Western special services. Many of the current major government officials were participants in various anti-Russian actions and even made insulting remarks about the Russian leadership. That is, Armenia's betrayal of Russia's interests, on which it, by the way, depends economically and whose official ally it is officially, turned into an open form.

At the same time, Azerbaijan, pursuing a multi-vector foreign policy, on the contrary, treats with great respect the interests of its great neighbour, Russia. Azerbaijan and Russia have both common economic interests and interests related to ensuring national and regional security, combating international terrorism.

- But in 1999 Azerbaijan did not sign the extension of the Collective Security Treaty. Do you think that the situation has changed so much that now we can join the CSTO?

- Undoubtedly, the situation in the 1990s and the one that we observe today differ drastically. In 2002, it was decided to transform the CST into a full-fledged international organisation. And now it is not worth considering the CSTO as an exclusively military bloc. It is rather a regional international organisation that deals with security problems, countering international terrorism, illegal migration, cybercrime, in addition to military threats...

In recent years, Azerbaijan and Russia have established effective cooperation in the military-technical sphere. Our country is a major importer of modern Russian weapons, and, unlike Armenia, pays for it with live money. This cooperation is of a long-term nature, since, along with the acquisition of new arms, it implies the purchase of spare parts, maintenance of machinery, training of domestic specialists. The possibility of concluding new multibillion-dollar contracts for the acquisition of the latest military equipment is also under consideration.

At the same time, the unresolved Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains a threat to regional security and a deterrent to the further development of both the South Caucasus region itself and inter-regional relations, including Azerbaijani-Russian relations. There is a paradoxical situation: Armenia is officially an ally of Russia in the CSTO, and these allied relations impose certain obligations on Russia. However, its 'ally' more and more openly demonstrates its pro-Western orientation and even its interest in strengthening NATO cooperation.

But Azerbaijan, being, in fact, an ally of Russia, formally does not have this status, which puts it in an unequal position with Armenia. If Azerbaijan joins the CSTO, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for Russia will turn into a conflict between the two partners in this organisation, which will give it grounds for activating its mediation efforts to resolve it. Besides, the members of this organisation are the countries that unconditionally support the principle of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and demand the de-occupation of our lands.

It is necessary to take into account one more important point. By occupying Zangilan, Jabrail, Fuzuli, the Armenian regime came to control the border with Iran, and de facto this part of the Azerbaijani-Iranian border is controlled by the anti-Russian pro-Western Armenia. Within the framework of the CSTO, there will be more opportunities to restore Azerbaijan's control over these sectors of our border with Iran.

Along with these factors, which are undoubtedly fundamental, with CSTO participation are connected such economic preferences as preferential prices for the purchase of arms of the member countries of this organisation, as well as training of military specialists in the leading specialised educational institutions of the CSTO partners. Therefore, the idea of Azerbaijan's possible entry into the Collective Security Treaty Organisation is worthwhile to be taken with full attention.

- And how do you feel about the fact that Azerbaijan can become a member of the same organisation together with the country-occupier, Armenia?

- Azerbaijan already participates in several international organisations, where Armenia is represented. In order to be able to expose the occupation position of this aggressor country on all the world stages, we just have to be where it is represented. In addition, we will be able to neutralise the popular argument of the Armenians that, if the hostilities resume, the CSTO will support them.

- And nevertheless, does the cooperation in the CSTO conceals a danger for our sovereignty?

- Are such friendly countries like Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Belarus lost their sovereignty for many years in this organisation? On the contrary, they only strengthened their independence. So this argument has no serious grounds.

That is why I believe that, given the current realities, a new geopolitical situation, the leading position of Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus and the growing military power of our country, it would be advisable to consider our participation in the CSTO.

After all, we are already working very closely with Russia in the military sphere. With other CSTO countries, except, of course, Armenia, we also have friendly relations and established cooperation in the field of security. And in this sense, the presence in this organisation will give us the opportunity not only to observe, but also to influence the processes in the CSTO. It must also be taken into account that any country at any time can leave this organisation, and decisions in it are taken by consensus. So I do not see any serious threats from our country's participation in the CSTO. In addition, it is possible to begin with the status of an observer state in this organisation.

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