Baku resolute in resisting those trying to shatter its balanced policy
    Don't be a menace to South (c)

    ANALYTICS  29 November 2023 - 18:00

    Murad Abiyev

    Less than two weeks after the memorable speech of Assistant Secretary of State James O'Brien, his boss Anthony Blinken called Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. It is worth remembering that during the hearings of the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, O'Brien made statements that were too harsh and violated the principles of respecting the sovereignty of states. Specifically, he threatened to take action if a road were to be built from mainland Azerbaijan to Nakhchivan through Iranian territory. Furthermore, he declared the suspension of official contacts between the two countries, military aid to our country, and a general statement that "things will not be the same as before".

    In a tit-for-tat move, Baku cancelled visits of US officials and refused the forthcoming negotiations on the Washington platform. The attempt to attack Azerbaijan failed, as the country values its independence and will not allow it to be undermined. The White House appears to have understood this, as Blinken has reached out to Aliyev to arrange a visit by O'Brien in December to restore relations between Baku and Washington.

    That is, it turns out that "everything will not be the same as before, but if it is very necessary, it will be." The question of who requires this is rhetorical. However, for a variety of reasons, it is the responsibility of the States to regain Baku's trust in the Washington negotiating platform. Moreover, it is essential for America to have Azerbaijan's support to promote its interests in Central Asia. This does not mean that Baku does not value good relations with the US. To say so would be to ignore the fact that the United States is still the most powerful country in the world. Nonetheless, our country's leadership has made it clear that cooperation with America cannot come at the expense of Azerbaijan's national interests.

    It is well-known that Ilham Aliyev had agreed to the visit of O'Brien proposed by the Secretary of State with the condition that the unjustified ban on visits of high-ranking Azerbaijani officials to the United States be lifted after this visit. The Secretary of State gave his consent. It is evident that the White House had initially planned to act aggressively, hoping to intimidate Baku and make it lose its nerve. By doing so, Washington attempted to gain maximum benefits with minimal effort.

    The United States has multiple reasons for putting pressure on Azerbaijan. Firstly, it aims to isolate Russia and Iran from regional communication projects. Secondly, it seeks to maximize benefits for Armenia in accordance with Wilson's policy of guardianship of Armenians. According to their logic, Baku, which has regained control over Karabakh, should be grateful to fate and follow Washington's instructions unconditionally in all remaining issues. Specifically, Azerbaijan, intending to build a corridor through Armenia without Russian control, should serve as a means to push Russia out of the region. In summary, the United States wants Azerbaijan to do their dirty work. They are willing to risk quarrelling with the rest of the neighbours to achieve peace with Armenia on their terms.

    Azerbaijan follows a balanced policy to achieve its own interests. We do not have any territorial claims against Iran or Russia, as long as they respect our sovereignty. In fact, our policy has led these countries to recognize our authority over the Karabakh region. Although we have had moments of tension with Moscow and Tehran, we do not let our emotions get in the way of our decision-making. Azerbaijan has worked to balance the interests of all regional forces and has not sought to escalate tensions with its neighbours. Additionally, we will not allow third parties to influence our relationships with our neighbours.

    It is worth noting that leaders of both Iran and Russia have publicly acknowledged that Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan. However, the United States has never recognized this fact, neither before nor after the 44-day war. Given this, it is natural that Azerbaijan rejected the Washington format of negotiations.

    It appears that relations between the United States and Azerbaijan have hit a roadblock, and the White House needs to steer the negotiations back to the Washington track. This recent setback in the United States' position is a temporary situation, and it does not imply that it will ease pressure on Azerbaijan. Rather, the pressure may manifest in different ways, possibly in a slow and incremental manner. In such challenging circumstances, Baku will uphold its national interests and may counter creeping pressure with creeping resistance. Additionally, the American presidential elections are not too far off, and it is anticipated that Biden may not seek a second term, which could lead to a reshuffle of foreign relations. The current administration and its prospective successors have learned that imposing threats and sanctions against Baku is not the most effective option. Despite the uncertainties and challenges, Azerbaijan has demonstrated remarkable resilience in resisting external pressure over the last three decades, and it will continue to do so.


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