President Aliyev is a statesman of the “sui generis” type. As with any other politician or, in fact, any other human being who ever trod the earth, he is a man of his age, inevitably shaped by its circumstances. However, what is profoundly different about him is that he belongs to the cast of illustrious personages who are not merely good at recalibrating in a pragmatic manner, but also in inducing those changes and putting in place those patterns necessary to influence historic processes.
The issues that have been touched upon during the course of the President’s recent meeting with certain members of his government, dedicated to the first quarter of the year, were pervasive and all-embracing, and it is not the object of the author of this piece to reflect upon them in their full entirety. Instead, my focus is going to be centred upon some of the central elements in relation to foreign policy and related matters.
Polite death warrant
As a paragon of moderation, President Aliyev has refrained from delivering a final coup de grâce to the beleaguered and misbegotten OSCE Minsk Group in any formal way. But what he said was no less forceful than an open death warrant. Aliyev confirmed that the OSCE Minsk Group’s mandate to resolve the Karabakh conflict is “de jure in force”, but “invalid de facto”, and that the entity in question and its co-chairs are “virtually non-functional”. Indeed, the word “virtually” is a manifest understatement.
The President continued, stating that he had only one meeting with the co-chairs after the war. One could surmise that there was no need for him to clearly state that he did not have any appetite to meet any of them again. His disinclination in that regard was obvious enough not to be in need of a verbal manifestation.
The President has made a fine distinction between the OSCE Minsk Group and the OSCE itself. The cumulative effect of his views was that the former is irrelevant, yet the latter, the organisation itself at large, could potentially play a role in the post-conflict normalisation, albeit in another guise.
Nuances were not lost on a discerning observer. Aliyev’s verdict was clear and frank, and one does not need to read between the lines to see the gist. One can infer that, from what has been said, it is not for Baku to officially disband the OSCE Minsk Group. It is already a carbuncle on the face of humanity which should be lanced like a boil – but that should be undertaken by the OSCE, in recognition of this failure.
Conflict over, post-conflict normalisation underway
Yet again, for the benefit of those who have not yet adapted to the post-war realities and for the sake of additional reiteration, attention has been drawn to the fact that the conflict is over and what we are dealing with now is a post-conflict process.
This vital terminological standard set out by Baku has received a due approbation in the latest Brussels summit and everyone was able to ascertain that the final communiqué did not contain the expression “Nagorno-Karabakh”, as a result of Azerbaijan’s indefatigable determination to utilise the correct nomenclature.
The March exchange between Baku and Yerevan, which entailed Baku’s five-point proposal and Yerevan’s reluctant acquiescence, which later received another official sounding in Brussels, has also received a Presidential ascent. The crux of the matter is that Armenia has de facto agreed to conduct further normalisation on the basis suggested by Baku.
Ilham Aliyev’s “no-nonsense” approach was clear in the remark to the effect of the importance of not wasting time. Any format or construct proposed on the way forward must have a practical value. Enough precious time has been lost during the past years to fall into the trap of procrastination. The President’s dictum has gone home unmistakably.
Whilst reinstating his own terminological tenets as to the now former conflict, the President was also critical of the lack of uniform application of the notions of justice abroad. Indeed, if it is not a sign of hypocrisy that Turkish “Bayraktar” drones are described as “deadly weapons” in the context of the Second Karabakh War and in Ukraine they are transformed into “angels”, then what is it? The President was rightly indignant, and so must be all those imbued with a sense of fairness.
Magnanimity within limits
It is one thing to live in the past and continuously dwell on misfortunes, imagined or real, of a bygone age, yet completely another to remember and act upon what should not be forgotten. One element is very clear: Armenia should not be allowed to have access to military capabilities to engage in any act of aggression, and if any measure to this effect is taken, Baku, as the President said, would consider this as “unfriendly” behaviour.
Indeed, revenge is a consuming feeling and hatred is counter-productive, particularly when a vast proportion of one’s emotional resources is spent on it. Yet justice must be served, and legal cases enacted against those Baku strongly believes to be war criminals. Nothing is forgotten. Neither the malicious deeds of Serzh Sargsyan, a crime-soaked product of the darkest vomitorium of Hell, nor anyone else for that matter.
“April hath (has) put a spirit of youth in everything,“ said Shakespeare whilst addressing the unmistakable tenets defining a fair youth. Our world is not young, and Azerbaijan’s once intractable problems are not new either. But optimism and elation, however reserved, always have some freshness in them, elucidating the world in a different light.
For all the ongoing turmoil entrapping humanity at present, and despite Azerbaijan’s own specific challenges, this April makes one feel rejuvenated and hopeful. The tentative assumptions as to the effect of Armenia finally orienting itself towards the right course and the results of the recent Brussels summit form the basis of something akin to unbridled optimism. And the President’s latest deliberations… They have added a reassuring approbation. And now that we are here, the nation dares to hope for even better.
By Orkhan Amashov