In this exclusive interview with CESRAN’s Hüsrev Tabak and Özgür Tüfekçi, Dr. Elkhan Nuriyev, Director of Centre for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, discusses Azerbaijan’s role in Caucasus and the contemporary international system, and the relationships with Turkey, the US and regional states.
CESRAN: In the Post-Soviet era, the newly established Turkic states were heavily dependent on Russia, and, had Azerbaijan chosen to heavily ally with Russia, a similar position could have occurred. Bearing this in mind, how does Azerbaijan conceive itself regarding its identity? In the name of saving its independence and stability, does it bear the responsibility to cooperate with the aforementioned Turkic states in Central Asia?
Dr. Nuriyev: Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkic peoples (with the exception of the Azerbaijanis) were never organized into nation-states in the classical sense. Azerbaijan has always been the most successful Turkic state in consolidating its independence. Apart from resisting the idea of deploying Russian military bases into the country, the nationwide leader of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev succeeded in extracting oil from the Caspian shelf, which enhanced the country’s economic power base. In actual fact, the BTC and BTE pipelines, mainly built to relieve the Western world’s oil and gas dependency on the Middle East, emphasized Azerbaijan’s geopolitical importance for the European market.
Regarding its allied relations with Russia as well as Azerbaijan’s role in strengthening Central Asian stability, Moscow and Baku seek to expand their strategic partnership in the regional geopolitical context. In recent years both states have concluded a number of bilateral agreements and reached substantial progress in fostering their good neighborhood relations. The present-day interaction between two countries shows that Azerbaijan and Russia have chosen a pragmatic cooperative policy towards the Caucasus-Caspian basin. Azerbaijan has always been able to play a more independent role because of Caspian energy riches and a very experienced political leadership. Even if the threats grow from regional or big powers, Azerbaijan could easily balance it using its oil and gas leverages, its Turkish alliance, and its links with the Muslim world. Accordingly, there are public organizations that are working in the sphere of Turkic integration, and Azerbaijan strongly supports them. The Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-Speaking Countries is one of the tools to improve Azerbaijan’s relations with Central Asian Turkic-speaking countries. In general, Azerbaijani leadership pursues a multidimensional, balanced interest-based policy in foreign relations with regional and non-regional actors, and due to such a balanced diplomatic stance, Azerbaijan has been able to guarantee national security and good economic prospects.
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* Published in the Fourth Issue of Political Reflection Magazine (PR).