“From Washington to Brussels, Moscow to Beijing, seemingly no one wants to fall out with Azerbaijan”

    POLITICS  25 September 2023 - 15:58

    Last week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the world is “inching ever closer to a great fracture in economic and financial systems and trade relations,” Politico says, opining that “may be so, but not when it comes to Azerbaijan”.

    “Azerbaijan has faced few problems in bridging geopolitical divisions” and “has been offering a masterclass in how to exploit geography and geology to considerable advantage,” Jamie Dettmer of Politico says, emphasising Baku’s growing clout in the international domain.

    “From Washington to Brussels, Moscow to Beijing, seemingly no one wants to fall out with Azerbaijan; everyone wants to be a friend.”

    “Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Azerbaijan has been courted by all sides, becoming one of the war’s beneficiaries,” the author notes, adding that “on a visit to Baku last year, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had only warm words for President Ilham Aliyev,” saying that “she saw him as a reliable and trustworthy energy partner for the European Union”.

    Then, just a few weeks later, Alexander Lukashenko - Russian President Vladimir Putin’s satrap in Belarus - had no hesitation in describing Aliyev as “absolutely our man,” the author notes, asking if there any other national leader who can be a pal of von der Leyen and Lukashenko at the same time.

    Aliyev, Jamie Dettmer writes, is also a friend of Türkiye; Baku and Beijing count each other as strategic partners, with Azerbaijan participating in China’s Belt and Road Initiative; and the country has been working on expanding military cooperation with Israel as well.

    “In 2020 - during the last big flare-up in this intractable conflict - Israel had supplied Azerbaijan with drones, alongside Türkiye,” the author recalls, adding “that’s an impressive list of mutually exclusive friends and suitors - and location and energy explain much”.

    Going back to the period when the top EU official visited Azerbaijan, the author says that upon her arrival in Baku in 2022, von der Leyen wasn’t shy about highlighting Europe’s need to “diversify away from Russia” for its energy needs, announcing a deal with Baku to increase supplies from the southern gas corridor - the 3,500-kilometer pipeline bringing gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe.

    Back then, Leyen said Azerbaijan “has a tremendous potential in renewable energy” in offshore wind and green hydrogen, enthusing that “gradually Azerbaijan will evolve from being a fossil fuel supplier to becoming a very reliable and prominent renewable energy partner to the European Union,” the author says.

    The overall picture has further modified after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the pan-European organisation became resolute in its choice, according to the article.

    “Since Russia invaded Ukraine, however, the EU’s courting has become even more determined - and, of course, the bloc isn’t alone. Rich in oil and gas and located between Russia, Iran, Armenia, Georgia and the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan is a strategic prize, sitting “on the crossroads of former major empires, civilizations and regional and global powerhouses,” Fariz Ismayilzada of ADA University in Baku underscored.

    The author adds that the increase in the number of foreign diplomatic missions in the nation’s capital is an indication of Azerbaijan’s growing influence.

    “Azerbaijan’s growing importance in the latest great game in Central Asia is reflected in the increase in foreign diplomatic missions located in its capital - in 2005 there were just two dozen, now there are 85.”

    For Ankara, and Beijing - eager to expand their influence across Central Asia - Azerbaijan is a key player in regional energy projects, as well as the development of new regional railways and planned infrastructure and connectivity projects.

    Thanks to strong linguistic, religious and cultural ties, Türkiye has been Azerbaijan’s main regional ally since it gained independence. But Baku has been adept at making sure it keeps in with all its suitors. It realizes they all offer opportunities but could also be dangerous, should relations take a dive, the author says, adding that this holds for all the key players in the region, whether it be the EU, Türkiye, China or Russia.

    The reason Baku can get on with a highly diverse set of nations - and why there likely won’t be many serious repercussions for Baku with this latest military foray - is that no one wants to give geopolitical rivals an edge and upset the fragile equilibrium in Central Asia, the article says, adding that includes its traditional foe Iran - Baku and Tehran have in recent months been trying to build a détente after years of hostility.

    To recap, the author says, for the Armenians, so often finding themselves wronged by history, this is highly unfortunate.

    “They might have been better advised to follow Azerbaijan’s example and try to be everyone’s friend, instead of initially depending on Russia, then pivoting West - a pirouette that’s lost them any sympathy in Moscow,” the article concludes.


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