Last week, the analytical and information program "Week" of the Azerbaijani State Television (AzTV) claimed that France had developed a plan for a lightning war against Azerbaijan. The broadcast indicated the direction of the alleged attack, which was being prepared by France and Armenia: "The attack should have been sudden and was planned from the Jermuk direction."
By the way, on February 2, the U.S. Embassy in Armenia addressed the citizens of its country. The Embassy urged them not to visit the cities on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
In particular, American diplomats and their family members should not be in the cities of Kafan and Goris of the Syunik region, the city of Vardenis of the Gegharkunik region, as well as passing through the village of Yeraskh of the Ararat region.
Armenian MP Tagui Tovmasyan appealed to the Ministry of Internal Affairs with a request to clarify the fact of evacuation of the population from the border territories, as well as state institutions from Basarkechar and Chembarak.
Are these statements reliable? Are provocations really possible on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border?
Former diplomat Emin Shaig Ibrahimov comments on this topic in an interview with ASTNA.
* * *
Question: The analytical and information program "Week" of the Azerbaijani State Television (AzTV) claimed that France had developed a plan for a lightning war against Azerbaijan. The broadcast indicated the direction of the alleged attack, which was being prepared by France and Armenia: "The attack had to be sudden and was planned from the Jermuk direction." Can Armenia actually take such a step?
Answer: There have been many similar reports over the past 2-3 years. Most of all, we have heard reports about the preparation of military provocations against Azerbaijan from the territory of Armenia by France and Iran. As a rule, countries with a negative image in Azerbaijani society are chosen. Thus, it also becomes easy to manipulate society. And everyone knows well how, in the end, such news ends.
It is clear that Armenia is not in a position to launch an offensive. It is obvious that any attack will turn into a disaster for Armenia. Therefore, I consider such statements to be propaganda of the authorities. I consider senseless nationalist approaches and bias in such matters inappropriate and even harmful. Because I believe that this strategy, carried out in clear collusion with Russia, contradicts our national interests, hinders the progress of the country, deprives the people of their rights. All these issues are interrelated. The authorities are simply exploiting people's national feelings. I am sure that all these topics ultimately serve the self-defense of the authoritarian regime, while our country is in thrall to deep systemic problems.
Some believe that even these reports are false, the main thing is that we are using the historical opportunity to liberate the lands, moving forward as far as possible. I strongly disagree with this approach as well. Because I see that this whole process is dragging the country even further into the quagmire and darkness. Of course, all this is great for a small privileged stratum that receives dividends from this situation. It is beneficial for them. Although it is obvious that this strategy makes people even more disenfranchised and blocks the progress of the country. In no case should you give up a single inch of land. But at the same time, it is necessary to do it correctly, in accordance with a strategy that meets our national interests.
Question: On February 2, the U.S. Embassy in Armenia addressed the citizens of its country. The Embassy urged them not to visit the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Practice shows that such warnings are usually based on serious information and are made in the presence of serious danger. Are there really clashes on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border?
Answer: Unfortunately, it is impossible to exclude military clashes on the border. The logic of the development of processes increases the likelihood of such military tension. In this context, Russia's pressure on the Azerbaijani authorities to repay its "debt" is also obvious. Undoubtedly, the joint game with Russia has created a serious dependence of Baku on Moscow. In my opinion, Aliyev will try to postpone military clashes with Armenia as much as possible. But Putin can also be expected to increase the pressure. While one of the main national interests of Azerbaijan is to get out of dependence on Russia, which held us in slavery for 2 centuries, Aliyev's policy is rapidly increasing this dependence. All this is covered by Karabakh. Here, Russian imperialism and authoritarianism in Azerbaijan benefit the most.
Question: The West and Armenia have long called on Azerbaijan to refrain from any steps aimed at violating the territorial integrity of Armenia. And now state television is accusing Armenia of provocations on the border. What is the basis of such statements?
Answer: As we have always said, the geopolitical clash between the West and Russia is at the heart of the processes. The interests of the Azerbaijani authorities in preserving their regime determined their participation in this conflict on the side of Russia. In particular, after the September 2023 operation, the West does not really believe Aliyev. It is also obvious that the authorities are evading the world under various pretexts. Many have already realized that Putin, with the help of Aliyev, wants to overthrow Pashinyan and return Armenia to Russia's orbit. There may also be some intelligence in the West. Most importantly, the lack of certainty in the geopolitical competition in the region increases the likelihood of a collision. Therefore, I do not consider statements about any military actions to be so unfounded.
Question: Can Azerbaijan, irritated by its relations with the West, take such a step?
Answer: As already mentioned, the Azerbaijani authorities may resort to another military clash. But this is not based on irritation with the West. The point is that the Azerbaijani authorities are doing the job assigned to the authoritarian coalition.
Question: Can the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia even break out again?
Answer: The probability of short-term operations is higher than long-term war. After the 44-day war, all the clashes, whether on the border with Karabakh or Armenia, were very short-lived. I think that in the future, possible collisions will be just as short-lived.
Unfortunately, today we, as a society, are unable to prevent this tension. Rigid authoritarianism reigns in the country. They do what they want. So far, this is the case. But it is necessary to constantly tell the truth to the Azerbaijani public. People need to hear alternative approaches. There is also no need to be shy about the unpopularity of these ideas. Because sooner or later this policy is bound to come to a dead end. Then it will be possible to get the country out of the situation only by real alternative approaches. The germs of these alternatives must also be laid now.
Question: What needs to be done to normalize relations between the two countries?
Answer: I believe that in order to establish lasting peace between the two countries, Russia's position in the region must weaken and a process of democratization must take place in both countries. The main obstacle to democratization and peace in the region is Russia. In turn, peace and democracy are also highly dependent on each other. It also means that the main factors holding Russia back in the region are the lack of peace and democracy. In such a situation, it is not surprising that the forces wishing to preserve authoritarianism are on the same front as Russia. I know people who hate Russian imperialism. But as supporters and beneficiaries of this regime, they recognize that Russia must remain in the region. That is, it's not about the emotional attitude, but about the interest.
Therefore, a policy that strengthens Russia in the region does not lead to real peace. This, at best, can lead to an authoritarian world under the wing of Russia. Then, with the full establishment of authoritarianism in both countries, Russian troops will be stationed on the border between them. And this is not the real world. It will be possible to inflame the situation at any moment. At the same time, those who are reaping the benefits of this conflict in both countries will continue their work and maintain hostility. And our vision is to make the South Caucasus a space of peace, democracy and progress. All these three definitions are interdependent. The geopolitical clash in the region, especially the outcome of the war in Ukraine, will largely determine which direction our region will go in.