Alexei Fenenko: "It is important for Russia to maintain positive relations with Azerbaijan"
Yesterday, Baku held the round table entitled 'Russia-Azerbaijan: 25 Years of Diplomatic Relations: Partnership Strategy,' organized by the Political Center 'North-South' on development of information and scientific relations with foreign countries and its representation in Baku. Vestnik Kavkaza spoke with the expert of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Alexei Fenenko, about the result of the joint 25-year journey of Russia and Azerbaijan.
- In your estimation, what are the main results of the 25th anniversary of Russian-Azerbaijani diplomatic relations?
- First of all, I think that the very preservation of positive relations with Azerbaijan is important. Suffice it to recall the early 1990s, when many in the West, Russia and even Azerbaijan spoke of the dangers of the Russian-Azerbaijani conflict. It seemed that both the Chechen war, the Nagorno-Karabakh war and the creation of GUAM would lead us along the road of the Russian-Georgian and the Russian-Ukrainian relations. Fortunately, this did not happen, we managed to normalize the relations and build not just a constructive dialogue, but a strategic partnership. Now we say that Azerbaijan can become a priority partner of the Eurasian Union at first, and then, perhaps, its member. Neither with Ukraine, nor with Moldova, nor with Georgia, we can talk about this yet. The formation of a vector of partnership relations between our countries sharply weakened the creation of an anti-Russian bloc on the territory of the former USSR.
It is also important that Russia's position on the Karabakh settlement became more balanced than in the mid-1990s. Note that last April, Russia clearly did not support the Armenian side and took a balanced position, being one of the first who called on both sides for a ceasefire. Moscow achieved not only a ceasefire, but also negotiations in St. Petersburg, where a plan for the demilitarization of the districts under the '5 + 2' formula was developed, and at the CSTO summit in Yerevan Russia said very clearly that security guarantees do not apply to Karabakh - only to Armenia. Such a balanced Russian position greatly contributes to the settlement of the conflict, although, of course, opponents of Russia in Yerevan will play on the growth of anti-Russian sentiments.
I would also mention the reduction of tension in the Caspian issue. Today there are no former frictions between Russia and Azerbaijan on the division of the shelf, Azerbaijan has controversial issues only with Turkmenistan and Iran. And the reduction of the degree of dispute between the Caspian states contributes to the final determination of the status of the Caspian Sea.
- In your estimation, what remains to be done for Russia and Azerbaijan in the future?
"We are to create a full-fledged strategic partnership system at the level that both sides would like to see. The Karabakh issue is only one of a number. It is important for our partnership to normalize the complicated Russian-Turkish relations, which only benefits it, stable military-technical cooperation, Russia's interaction with Western countries and reaching agreements on the export of Caspian energy. If we maintain the current level of relations, we will have the potential to turn Azerbaijan into Russia's strategic partner.
- How do you assess the Russian-Azerbaijani energy cooperation?
- In my opinion, it will be a continuation of the Russian-Turkish gas cooperation. When the South Stream project on the bottom of the Black Sea to the Balkans failed in 2014 and Bulgaria took a clear pro-Western line, Russia and Turkey reoriented towards each other. If Russia and Turkey continue to follow the path of gas partnership and the creation of a transit center, then the status of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline will change, as well as the idea of Russia's competition with other countries for energy exports - because we will export them through a common hub in Turkey. It will promote greater cooperation, not tensions.
- In your opinion, are any improvements in the current format of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement possible?
- When the first significant complication occurred on the line of fire in Karabakh in the autumn of 2010, the presidents of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia met in Kazan, and consultations were held at the Foreign Ministry level on whether it is possible to involve Turkey in the settlement. The Russian-Turkish partnership was very serious then. They also talked about the possibility of involving Iran in the settlement. In 2011, it was just talk, and in 2012, the talk stopped. But I think the fact that it was discussed, that such a path was possible, is indicative. Of course, we can say that the Kazan format did not take place or failed, but it can be said otherwise: that the idea appeared back then, which we gradually draw up under the main content.
- Is there any chance of resuming active military operations in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict a year after the April battles for Karabakh?
- I think there will not be a full-scale war in the coming months. The parties still hope to reach a compromise in the negotiations. But it can resume if the parties are completely disappointed in the negotiation process.