Belsat spoke with former Chairman of the Azerbaijani opposition party “Musavat” (1992-2014) Isa Gambar about people who benefit from the deterioration of relations in the Nagorno-Karabakh and under what conditions the conflict will end.
Isa Yunis oglu Qambar is an Azerbaijani politician, former interim President of Azerbaijan, Chairman of the National Assembly of Azerbaijan (1992-1993), leader of the opposition party “Musavat” (1992-2014).
Who had which goals in this short standoff, which began and ended unexpectedly? Who reached what?
Isa Gambar: I need to start by saying that the war has never ended. Interrupted in May 1994 by signing a cease-fire agreement, it is theoretically and legally not over, since there is no peace treaty. The cease-fire is constantly violated in varying degrees.
We believe that it is broken by the Armenian side. Armenians, in turn, accuse us. Sometimes the violation of the cease-fire turns into some serious standoff, as it happened this time. I must admit that this is the most serious clash since the signing of the agreement.
There are different explanations of the parties’ objectives. The official position of Azerbaijan is that the armed forces of Armenia have once again violated the ceasefire, and we had to respond to these attacks. Armenia claims that Azerbaijan launched the offensive, and they had to answer.
There is an opinion that this stage of military confrontation is beneficial to Moscow, which, in principle, created this conflict and has always supported it on some level for it not to solve — in order to have an excuse to interfere in the internal affairs of the Caucasian states. I believe, this opinion is plausible.
Today I watched one of the Armenian generals, who argues that with its recent developments, Azerbaijan conducted a military reconnaissance, clarified the location of the Armenian forces in Karabakh and highlighted the main points of fire. He believes that we have achieved these goals.
There are many opinions, but due to the fact that there is very little official information and it is very well-polished, it is difficult to say who needs the clash. For over twenty years, a large part of the Azerbaijani terrritory has been under the occupation of Armenia, supported by Moscow. All these years, the negotiations have been conducted, but they have not lead to any, even minimal results. Naturally, in this situation, Azerbaijan can no longer accept the status quo.
I think that at least these clashes, which led to significant losses from the Armenian and the Azerbaijani side, will be a warning to the international community and organizations – first and foremost, to the OSCE Minsk Group, which, in principle, should do a more targeted job for a fair and peaceful settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Why would Moscow foment the conflict now?
Some believe that Moscow is concerned over Azerbaijan’s rapprochement with the West and the United States, which has been observed in recent years, and this conflict is a warning.
There are opinions that Putin’s authoritarian regime has already entered into the taste and finds it hard to maintain the 90% support of the rating without any military conflicts or participation in their solution, so they needed the conflict. The fact that the current cease-fire agreement was reached in Moscow gives Russia certain pleasure: behold, we have reached a cease-fire. This is the message for the West: the Karabakh conflict, as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan, remain under our control.
How would you comment on the theory that Azerbaijan has decided to return to Karabakh in order to distract attention from domestic problems in the country – primarily financial ones?
I do not think that this theory is worthy of serious discussion. Of course, a few days, people on social networks only spoke about the clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh, the victims and liberated territories. Naturally, social and economic problems were put on the back burner, but they have not been resolved. Hoping that through military skirmishes people will forget the economic problems is not serious. These issues, as well as political freedoms problems – are serious, they remain, and we, the democratic community of Azerbaijan, are working in this direction.
In 2011, in the live interview on the “Echo of Moscow” radio station you said that the Karabakh problem will be solved only if democratic changes will take place in Yerevan and Baku. Do you still believe it?
I do, but I would now added one more point, which I then did not want to emphasize: this will also happen after the regime change in Moscow. The Karabakh conflict and the conflict in Georgia – South Ossetia, as well as the problem of Transnistria and Crimea, Donbass problems – they were all created by Moscow in order to maintain control of the post-Soviet space, to be able to interfere in the affairs of the newly independent states, to influence the situation and political decisions of these countries. All these conflicts will be resolved after Russia’s major changes, when it gives up its expansionary policies and deals with its problems.
I’m not saying that will solve our problems easily, but I think in this case they will be resolved fairly. Everyone knows that Karabakh is Azerbaijani territory, historically and legally. Everyone knows that Crimea is Ukrainian territory. The same could be told about Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are related to Georgia. And of Transnistria – which is the territory of Moldova.
Of course, in all these cases it is necessary to take into account local peculiarities of the conflict. All minorities should have the same rights, on the same level as in European countries with respect to national minorities.
This debate is not only ethnic, but also historical. Armenians refer to written sources and say …
Are you serious? Referring to the history, the geography of the whole world must be changed and borders reestablished. There is the principle of inviolability of borders and territorial integrity of states. These principles should be implemented. And the rights of the various parts of the population should be resolved on the basis of the rules and conventions that exist in the world today. National minorities should be given the opportunity to preserve their culture and language, their identity. This issue has long been settled in Europe. I think that coming up with some new tips for Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine is not serious.
And how would the Karabakh conflict be resolved in practice?
Very simply: the territorial integrity of states is restored, minorities are given rights at the modern level, which exists in Europe. There are no other options. People who are looking for some adventure, just create problems for us and themselves.
Interviewed by Denis Dziuba and Siarhiej Pieliasa