Foreign Policy: Several Aspects of Azerbaijan's Example

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Baku, 2 February 2015 –

Inter-state relations in the modern era are of complex nature. Emerging conflicts in different parts of the world are forging a rather controversial environment. Conducting a successful foreign policy becomes a daunting task under such circumstances. That being said, Azerbaijan’s leadership is adeptly overcoming these challenges and the developments in the 2014 only attest to the accuracy of this assertion. Analysis of only the few of the aspects illustrates that Baku maintains an utterly reserved, strategic posture. Azerbaijan’s foreign policy can be recognized as a model for the entire region. Indeed, the logic of the processes on the ground underpins this conclusion.

Complex Situation: Contradictions of Geopolitics

World’s geopolitical environment was distinctively perplex in 2014. The number of countries have experienced tensions in their relations with other nations. New source of conflict has emerged in the Eastern Europe and the situation around Ukraine remains volatile. Military operations have intensified there and the parties appear defiant. In the meantime, ISIS terrorists wreak havoc in the Middle East. The experts are worried that this development could impact different regions of the world. According to the U.S. military, despite the elimination of ISIS’s top 50 commanders, this organization continues to be a grave threat. Some highlight the possibility of the Iran-U.S. coalition forged against this organization.

And finally, plummeting oil prices by the end of the 2014 drastically changed the situation. Some countries plunged into crisis, while importer-nations benefitted. This leads to the tipping of the scales in terms of the global balance.

Under such circumstances, implementation of a successful foreign policy requires great skills. In the 2014 official Baku took notable steps on the number of fronts. Its efforts have been widely acknowledged. Indeed, all the achievements prove that Azerbaijan’s foreign policy is based on reasonably active and efficient principles. In this regard, there are several aspects that deserve consideration.

First of all, it must be stressed that the country’s diplomacy took a proactive stance in terms of solidification of Azerbaijan’s international posture, including bolstering cooperation within the international organizations. This has been an intensive process, with two distinctive levels: deepening of bilateral and trilateral engagement and strengthening of presence within the international organizations.

Such an energetic engagement is something that modern era foreign policy demands because the mutual relations all across the globe are so profound that only the multi-vector policy can ensure successful outcome. It’s encouraging that owing to this sound method the Azerbaijani diplomacy made significant achievements. There are several examples that can be cited.

President Ilham Aliyev paid official visits to Iran and Russia last year. The Presidents of Turkey and Georgia visited Azerbaijan. These are no ordinary visits, and thanks to the adept and dynamic policy of the President Ilham Aliyev, each foreign visit secures significant agreements underpinned by the national interests.

Visits by the foreign dignitaries to Azerbaijan are also coupled with high-level engagement by the hosting party. 2014 was also interesting from the standpoint of the visits by the heads of foreign government and their ministers. Foreign Ministers from 20 different nations visited Azerbaijan that included the Netherlands, Spain, Russia, Austria, Germany and others. Such an engagement opens up additional opportunities for raising the bilateral cooperation to the next level. It is no coincidence that in 2014, Azerbaijan saw the opening of the diplomatic representations of Columbia, Malaysia, Croatia, Spain and Estonia in Baku. Moreover, President Aliyev issued a decree establishing an embassy of Azerbaijan in Algeria. And finally, Honorary Consulates of Slovenia and Macedonia were inaugurated in Baku.

This is the very backdrop against which one of the initiatives by the President Ilham Aliyev amounts to an example for the entire modern diplomacy – the trilateral cooperation format.  The heads of state of Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan met in Tbilisi in May 2014.  The remarks of the President Ilham Aliyev regarding this event are interesting and actually convey the relevance of this issue: "I can say that this trilateral format is of great interest not only in the region but also globally. In fact, it is a unique format as three independent states have built an equal relationship – a modern and cultural relationship serving the interests of our peoples and based on mutual interest and respect. I believe that this experience can be attractive for other countries''.

Trilateral Cooperation Format and International Support: Hard Work Pays Off

In this context, there are two important factors that underline the advantage of trilateral cooperation. The first one is that on the regional scale, new opportunities for effective cooperation emerge. Potential Azerbaijan-Iran-Turkey and Azerbaijan-Turkey-Turkmenistan cooperation formats must not be excluded. Geographically, this means providing substantial impetus to integration processes.

This leads to the second factor – a prospect of forging an operative security system. It is no secret that the issue of security has gained utmost relevance. None of the regions of the world are immune from the threats and the processes that are detrimental to stability. Therefore, the search for the promising security mechanism is a daunting task. That is why, the Azerbaijan-proposed bilateral and trilateral cooperation format is appealing because in fact, it envisages comprehensive development of economic, social, energy, military and political fields, as well as broadening of cooperation. One can certainly assert that today, there are robust ties between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. This makes safeguarding of stability in the South Caucasus possible.

At this point we must emphasize another fact, also crucial also for the foreign policy of Azerbaijan. Armenia is omitted from all the cooperation formats initiated by Azerbaijan. This is not an effort to artificially force the country into isolation, but an offer of peace to the country that maintains occupation of the neighboring country’s territory. Yerevan could see its brighter regional cooperation format prospects increase in the event of de-occupation of Azerbaijan’s territory. Apparently reluctance of attracting Armenians into trilateral cooperation occurs in conscious and purposeful environment, for the sake of stability in the region. Thus, just like the President Ilham Aliyev stressed, cooperation format offered by Azerbaijan can be attractive to the entire world.

Why the same approach can’t be used in the war-torn Ukraine and in the Middle East, where terrorism claims innocent lives on a daily basis? If Kiev would succeed in establishing trilateral cooperation format, the cessation of war could be more viable. Or this could be the same method that the countries in the Middle East could employ to wage a more effective struggle against the ISIS.

Azerbaijan in the meantime, through its international initiatives and engagement, has made significant achievements ensuring condemnation of Armenia as an aggressor and towards the fair resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Let us mention some of those. One of the resolutions on the Nagorno Karabakh, adopted during the Session of the Council of the Foreign Ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation was titled, "Destruction and desecration of the Islamic historical and cultural heritage and places of worship in the occupied Azerbaijani lands as a result of the aggression of the Republic of Armenia against the Republic of Azerbaijan''. This was a serious development that recognized barbarism perpetrated by the Armenians against the cultural sites, because until then the Armenians had alleged that it was the Azerbaijanis that annihilated their culture. Reality however, just as the above mentioned resolution reiterated, is totally the opposite. The Jeddah Final Declaration adopted by the OIC on the issue of Nagorno Karabakh strongly advocated the official Baku’s position.

Furthermore, Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity was reaffirmed during the NATO’s Wales Summit, and the Arab League also adopted a similar document. Azerbaijan’s chairmanship in the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers was also notable. Azerbaijan’s engagement with the PACE in general must be particularly highlighted. During his speech in PACE last year President Ilham Aliyev said, "We knew that joining the Council of Europe entailed commitments. We were ready to make those commitments. We have implemented our commitments and obligations. As Madam President said, we have joined almost 60 conventions. We have upgraded our legislation. The reforms that we have implemented have created a very positive atmosphere in our society”.

Indeed, visits by the President Ilham Aliyev to the European capitals and reciprocal visits paid to Azerbaijan by his foreign colleagues are very significant. Such interactions cover a broad scope of fields and media has reported on this extensively. Another example that deserves particular emphasis is the ground-breaking ceremony of the Southern Gas Corridor held in 2014. This was a step forward with respect to ensuring energy security.

Certainly one article cannot cover the entire foreign policy performance of the nation. Yet, some of the aspects mentioned above illustrate that as far as the statehood is concerned, Azerbaijan’s foreign policy attained great success in 2014. The architect behind all of this is the President Ilham Aliyev and it is beyond doubt that the 2015 will be remembered for the renewed success to follow on the same front.

Leyla Mammadaliyeva

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