Azerbaijan Accession to NATO Long-Term Project

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Azerbaijan and Georgian presidents

News.Az interviews Alexandros Petersen, senior fellow at the Eurasia Centre at US think-tank the Atlantic Council.

Do you view Azerbaijan as a NATO member in the nearest perspective?

In the short-term, Azerbaijan will not be a NATO member for two reasons: the Alliance is wary of extending full membership to the South Caucasus countries due to concerns over conflicts in the region and Russia’s reaction, and two, because it is not explicit Azerbaijani policy to become a full NATO member. It would be a great accomplishment for NATO and Azerbaijan if Azerbaijan eventually became a member, but this will be down the road.  In the meantime, Azerbaijan should continue its NATO-related military and governance reforms.

The tensions on the front line of the Azerbaijani and Armenian armed forces have grown. Does it show that the parties have exhausted the negotiation potential and are currently prepared for war?

This is a particularly tense period, but we must not forget that the Line of Contact is always simmering.  There are frequent violent incidents, because there are very few monitors and absolutely no peacekeepers of any kind. This has been the situation for a decade and a half, so I don’t think we can say that the potential for negotiations has been exhausted.  That said, we cannot become complacent.  Negotiations must make more progress towards conflict resolution, or one of these violent incidents could explode into large-scale conflict.

How do you assess US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent Baku visit in terms of possible progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution?

Secretary Clinton’s visit was important in that it highlighted the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the US and in the West more broadly.  It hopefully signals the beginning of more intense US engagement in conflict resolution.  We are in a difficult spot in terms of the negotiations, so a diplomatic push from the US would be very welcome.  That said, it is Baku and Yerevan that have to work out conflict resolution, with the support of the three Minsk Group co-chairs.

Is there a difference in the approaches between US and Russia on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict resolution?

The difference in approaches could not be more stark.  The US as a foreign policy actor takes its role very seriously and tries to be as impartial as possible, despite unhelpful interference from the US Congress.  Russia has hosted a number of high-level meetings as a co-chair, but simultaneously arms and supports Armenian diplomatically.  Moscow’s role in the resolution process has so far hindered progress, but the better bilateral relationship between the US and Russia may well lead to a more productive attitude from the Russian leadership.

Alexandros Petersen is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center. This interview was published by news.az. Photo credit: Reuters Pictures.