NATO statement seen as Azerbaijan’s success: analyst

BAKU – The statement adopted at the two-day NATO summit held in Lisbon could be considered as Azerbaijan’s success, Elkhan Shahinoglu, the head of Baku-based Atlas research center, concluded.

The declaration, adopted last Saturday by the heads of state and government participating in the North Atlantic Council meeting, contained a clause supporting Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. It said that the persistence of protracted regional conflicts in South Caucasus and Moldova "continues to be a matter of great concern for the alliance".

"We urge all parties to engage constructively and with reinforced political will in peaceful conflict resolution, and to respect the current negotiation formats," the statement reads. "We call on them all to avoid steps that undermine regional security and stability. We remain committed in our support of the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, and will also continue to support efforts towards a peaceful settlement of these regional conflicts, taking into account these principles."

Shahinoglu said the inclusion of such a clause in the declaration is not of legal, but of political importance. The document has no legal force, as NATO is not dealing with a settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno (Upper) Karabakh. The analyst said that it is not accidental that NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said he cannot imagine the alliance’s playing a role in the Karabakh settlement. Shahinoglu pointed out that in its previous meetings, NATO has also affirmed the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova. He said the Lisbon Summit Declaration could be seen as a precursor of developments concerning the Nagorno Karabakh conflict to take place at the OSCE summit due in Astana in early December. The point is that Baku will work to ensure that a statement to be passed in the Kazakh capital will stress Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity as well. In this sense, the forthcoming meeting may see a repetition of the events that occurred at the Lisbon summit of 1996. Then, the Armenian leader imposed a veto on the clause supporting Azerbaijan’s integrity, prompting the Azerbaijani president to veto the whole document, and, after pressure from superpowers, Baku had to confine to the OSCE chairman’s three-clause statement.

"There is a chance that this will re-occur at the Astana summit," said Shahinoglu. "But another alternative is possible too. Major countries, in an effort to prevent a diplomatic row, may prompt the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents to sign an intermediate statement that has no special importance so that the summit would proceed calmly."

The conflict between the two South Caucasus republics reared up in the late 1980s due to Armenia’s territorial claims. Armenian armed forces have been occupying over 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally-recognized territory, in defiance of international law. The ceasefire accord was signed in 1994, but peace talks have been fruitless so far.