AZERBAIJAN'S SURVIVAL DIRECTLY LINKED TO KARABAKH SETTLEMENT - AZERI ANALYST
Azerbaijani opposition analyst Elxan Mehdiyev has said that the country should mobilize its forces to destroy the Armenian military presence in and around Nagornyy Karabakh, as this is the main requirement for the establishment of peace in the South Caucasus. Mehdiyev, who is Musavat Party Chairman Isa Qambar's adviser, said that the survival of the Azerbaijani state depended on the resolution of the Karabakh conflict and that Baku should hurry up with this because procrastination was in the Armenians' interest. Following is the text of Zahid Safaroglu report by Azerbaijani newspaper Yeni Musavat on 3 January entitled "War should be fought on Armenian territory":
Elxan Mehdiyev believes the occupying state will not appreciate peace until it directly tastes the bitterness of war
As we reported, research work prepared by the director of centre for peace and conflict studies and adviser to the Musavat Party chairman, Elxan Mehdiyev, on the subject "Azerbaijan's security policy" has been approved by NATO. We met the author and received detailed information about the document. We also talked about the present situation in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and its prospects.
Correspondent What are the most important aspects of the document you worked out? Mehdiyev This research work predominantly reflects the security policy pursued by Azerbaijan after restoring its independence. It also speaks about the work carried out in building the army, secret shades of the Armenian occupation, which are not visible, as well as armaments in the region, including the structure of military forces and number of military hardware on our occupied territories.
Correspondent What are the conclusions of your investigation? What is Azerbaijan's security policy like?
Mehdiyev We cannot speak about Azerbaijan's security right now. Not only the country's security, but also its survival as a state is under serious threat. This is the main conclusion I reached.
Correspondent Where does the most serious threat to our state come from, inside or outside?
Mehdiyev Inside. First of all, I mean our occupied lands. The amount of military hardware and ammunition there exceeds what the Azerbaijani army has in many respects.
Correspondent What kind of arms are you talking about?
Mehdiyev Let us take tanks. There are 259 of them (T-72 and T-55) in Azerbaijan, yet there are 316 in Nagornyy Karabakh. (On the other hand Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev says that we have not received any tanks in seven-eight years.) Moreover, 324 armoured personnel carriers (against 244 in Azerbaijan), more than 330 artillery installations (against 303) are deployed on Azerbaijan's occupied territories. Russian arms from Georgia, including 20 tanks, 60 infantry fighting vehicles, 25 armoured hardware, have been brought to Armenia and Karabakh. These are the figures I know.
Correspondent What about military aircraft?
Mehdiyev There are no fighter aircraft, since their possibilities are restricted. However, the Armenians have established their air defence in three directions. They have helicopters.
Correspondent How reliable are your figures? Are the sources reliable?
Mehdiyev These figures have been taken from US sources. The Armenians have briefed them that we Azerbaijan have these quantities of weapons. In addition to this, Armenia delivers most of the modern arms it receives to Karabakh. For this reason, Armenia's military equipment is being reduced every year. For instance, there were 120 pieces of TV-72 tanks in Armenia in 1998, but this number went down to 102 in 2000. That means that the missing tanks have been given to Karabakh, since Armenia does not need them. Moreover, they want to dodge responsibility in this way.
Correspondent What about Armenian troops on Azerbaijani territory?
Mehdiyev There are about 25,000 in Karabakh. The overwhelming majority of them are conscripts from Armenia. If the local population was previously mobilized here (under 45 years of age), they have been released from the army since 1996. Moreover, a large number of Armenians have left the region. In fact, the demobilization of local Armenians is advantageous for Yerevan from the point of view of direct administration. After rendering Samvel Babayan (the former "military commander" of the so-called republic, who is in prison now) harmless, Armenia has placed all the military facilities in Karabakh under its supervision.
Correspondent Let us acknowledge that the number of military hardware still does not mean certain victory. Do you think a military force of 25,000 people could resist the Azerbaijani army?
Mehdiyev No, they could not, of course. But this is not only about an army of 25,000. Forces from Armenia have also been involved in the conflict.
Correspondent What was NATO's reaction to the figures you presented? Isn't the West worried about such a huge quantity of uncontrolled arms or should only Azerbaijan resolve the problem?
Mehdiyev Yes, the resolution of the problem depends on Azerbaijan. As we know, NATO does not interfere in these issues. They said that they had drawn Armenia's attention to this fact. Indistinct sentence. The problem is Azerbaijan's national security. A self-respecting state would not tolerate such a foreign military presence on its territory. But such a state does not exist.
Correspondent What should Azerbaijan do? What is the solution?
Mehdiyev The Azerbaijani government and opposition and people should devote much attention to neutralizing Armenian military formations harmless on Azerbaijani territory. They are now talking a lot about the issues of peace and war. We should remember that our modern world is fighting for terms, styles of expression. By destroying the Armenian military on its territories, Azerbaijan should ensure its security. To speak about the country's independence and sovereignty without this is to deceive ourselves.
Correspondent Another year has passed without results. Do you see any element in favour of Azerbaijan in the resolution of this conflict?
Mehdiyev The delay on this issue is certainly beneficial for the Armenians. Susa Shushi and other territories have already been occupied for 10 years. The existence of the self-proclaimed Armenian establishment in Karabakh is strengthening with time. The Armenians are showing the world that this territory has been living separated from Azerbaijan for ten years already.
Correspondent One of our officials has said that to accuse the authorities of being incapable is unfair, since the resolution of the conflict demands not one or two years, but a long time.
Mehdiyev Such statements do nothing but play into the Armenians' hands. The delay of the settlement will lead to the loss of Azerbaijan's control over those territories forever. The issue is of a military nature and it is directly linked to the survival of our state.
Correspondent What are your forecasts for this year? Do you expect progress? Returning from his visit to Iran, Armenian President Robert Kocharyan said that the conflict would be resolved this year... ellipses as published .
Mehdiyev The peace negotiations serve as an umbrella for the Armenians. They want to win time like this. At the same time, they hope that the situation will change in Azerbaijan and that Baku will adapt to reality. At present, there is no pressure on the Armenians. They do not expect any danger from the Azerbaijani side. I think that we should make use of the situation ensuing from the 11 September events. US President George Bush has said that there cannot be peace where there is no justice and that justice should win. From this point of view, the destruction of the Armenian armed force in Azerbaijan is the number one requirement for establishing peace in our region... ellipses as published
Correspondent Like the USA, which is carrying out military operations in Afghanistan to establish peace.
Mehdiyev Yes. Azerbaijan should launch military operations and destroy the Armenian military force on its territory (he especially stresses this view) and fight this war on Armenian territory to establish peace, since Armenia will not appreciate peace until it realizes the danger of war. Armenians are still unable to distinguish between the notions of peace and war, since the war is fought on Azerbaijani territory.
Corespondent Elxan bay form of address , how much does the peaceful policy of the Azerbaijani authorities threaten our state?
Mehdiyev There was irreconcilability with the problem in 1992-93, even in 1994-95 (until 1997). The neighbouring states understood Azerbaijan. At all sessions Turkey and Iran demanded that Armenian forces withdraw from our land. These states began seeing this demand as an obstacle to Azerbaijan, when they heard Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev's statement that he had taken the path of total peace. Aliyev has been saying for some time that the resolution of the conflict should satisfy the sides' interests. With this, the issue of Armenian aggression has been taken off the agenda at Azerbaijan's own initiative. It is true that 2001 started noisily in the country. However, the biggest step was taken this year from the point of view of forgetting the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict.
Correspondent To be honest, it has been said that Aliyev has not agreed to a peace of capitulation.
Mehdiyev The Armenians believe (and they are right) that they have recently won a great diplomatic victory. Until recently the problem was considered to be within the framework of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and our territorial integrity was described as a prerequisite, but now such a condition has been removed, as I stressed. Aliyev also said that the conflict should be resolved in accordance with the interests of both sides.
Correspondent Such a policy seems to be the result of the OSCE's "forgetting" that Nagornyy Karabakh is Azerbaijani territory in the documents it has adopted on the conflict over the last two years. A document of this kind was adopted at this organization's foreign ministerial meeting in Budapest last month December 2001 . It transpires that Azerbaijan's territorial integrity is doubted on the level of the OSCE level, does it not?
Mehdiyev Such a precedent was set at the OSCE's Istanbul summit. Heydar Aliyev and former Turkish President Suleyman Demirel are responsible for this, since they acted jointly. Meanwhile, Aliyev altered the course of the Lisbon summit on this issue, and did not vote for the OSCE document.
Correspondent This trend shows that nobody believes that Azerbaijan will be decisive. Do you agree?
Mehdiyev Let us make a comparison. The UN Security Council has adopted two resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while four resolutions have been adopted on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict at Turkey's initiative. This is a very important achievement, since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict's resolution is based on Resolution 242 of 1967, while we have four documents at our disposal. Namely that resolution serves as the basis for the negotiations in the Middle East. Despite the fact that we have four resolutions at our disposal, they have been forgotten since the Armenians do not accept them, and Aliyev is completely indifferent to them. They are very serious weapons in our hands. Nobody can change those resolutions.
Correspondent They often say that the Karabakh problem will become as dragged out as the Middle East conflict. Are these prospects real?
Mehdiyev The resolution of the conflict depends on Azerbaijan. Simply, decisiveness and political will should be displayed and our army should be raised to a high level of readiness. At the same time, Azerbaijan should make haste since time is working in favour of the Armenians.
Correspondent Some people say that the world community is reproaching us for resorting to force.
Mehdiyev I think that the frequent use of the phrase "world community" is a sign of cowardice, lack of will and understanding of processes under way in the world.
Source: Yeni Musavat, Baku in Azeri 3 Jan 02 p 9