Restoration of peace & harmony in South Caucasus holy mission of Azerbaijan
By Fuad Muxtar-Aqbabali
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev received Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk in Baku on October 27 ahead of his unilaterally confirmed meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Sochi on October 31 under the aegis of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The meeting ahead of the upcoming trilateral summit seems logical and crucial in terms of identifying and agreeing on issues to be discussed in Sochi in the hope of bringing closer positions of Baku and Yerevan towards the possible signing of a peace deal by the end of the year, and closing gaps on issues the parties cannot come to the terms yet.
The two men in Baku, according to available reports, discussed the activities of the trilateral Azerbaijani-Russian-Armenia working group established for the purpose of restoring transport and economic relations in the region regarding the implementation of the November 10, 2020, statement.
On the same day, President Ilham Aliyev received UN Deputy Secretary General, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UN Geneva) Tatiana Valovaya, where the sides expressed confidence that Azerbaijan will achieve the targets set by 2030 in connection with the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
However, pundits familiar with the behind-the-curtain developments in the South Caucasus cite Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s October 24 working visit to Georgia as the most significant of the outgoing week.
In Georgia’s Château Mukhrani in Mtskheta Municipality, the ideal venue for discussing fateful for the South Caucasus issues, the Azerbaijani leader, accompanied by Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, viewed the “Heritage of Karabakh Khanate” exhibition. With this move, official Tbilisi seems abandoned the previously-held balanced approach to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and proved on whose side it is on the Karabakh issue ahead of the upcoming second anniversary of the September 27 – November 10, 2020, war that led to the liberation of territories from Armenia’s 30-year-long yoke.
This is vital amid Azerbaijan’s quest for a peace deal with Armenia to finally bring peace and harmony to the war-torn Karabakh and surrounding region through rebuilding once prosperous towns, districts, and villages, and resettling the IDPs back to their homes by providing them with the vital infrastructures.
In Azerbaijan's regional vision, Georgia occupies a crucial place as it can and should be conducive to Baku’s efforts to make Yerevan play its part to this end. Since the start of the Karabakh conflict, Georgia has been the sole corridor for land-locked Armenia, through whose territory the gas pipeline carries Russian gas to resource-poor Armenia.
Azerbaijan’s strategic partnership relations with Georgia have almost risen to the level of alliance, Aliyev said in Georgia, opining that “many projects are of special importance not only for our countries but also for the region and Europe as a whole”.
The processes taking place in the region and issues related to security are at the center of the ongoing Baku-Tbilisi discussions.
“I have informed the prime minister about the situation after the second Karabakh war and the progress of peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” the president said in Georgia, adding that “after the Karabakh conflict, the time has come for Azerbaijan and Armenia to sign a peace treaty”.
“We have laid down our proposals consisting of five main principles to the Armenian side. I do hope that the Armenian side will also show political will and sign the peace treaty with Azerbaijan on the basis of these fundamental principles recognized by the international community. If this happens, peace will come to the South Caucasus, and, at the same time, opportunities for cooperation will emerge. Today, during the conversation, we also exchanged views on the start of Georgia-Azerbaijan-Armenia consultations. If the Armenian side is ready for them, we are ready, too,” Ilham Aliyev reiterated, leaving no doubts that this message was clearly heard in Armenia.
Georgia is well aware of Baku’s importance and if the relations between the two nations are expressed succinctly, it would be sufficient to remember former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s statement made in Baku many years ago, addressing the Azerbaijani president.
"If Azerbaijan did not stand behind us, I don't know where we would be now and whether we would exist at all."
In view of the current situation in Georgia, this is a wake-up call for Armenia to think twice before ignoring Azerbaijan’s sound and sincere call for peace in the region.
Azerbaijan is a good friend that makes bad days much more bearable and this is proved with regard to Georgia when it faced serious risks, and Baku spared no efforts to support Tbilisi. The messages of friendship and brotherhood, statements, based on realities and statistics about the high-level development of relations and the confident steps taken in the direction of raising cooperation to the level of a strategic alliance, there are visible indicators of the success of the current policy.
In 1997-98, under very difficult conditions, Azerbaijan managed to build the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline and connect the Caspian Sea with the Black Sea through the oil pipeline. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipelines, which were built later, marked the peak of cooperation. Moreover, it was a historical event in terms of laying the foundation of the tripartite economic union in the example of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey.
As a result of the construction and commissioning of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, the volume of cargo passing through the territory of our countries is increasing day by day. This project is an important link to the Silk Road project, and Azerbaijan had the final say in its realization, which is well-known in friendly Georgia.
However, Baku and Tbilisi are not going to be satisfied with the successes achieved so far, and this was once again clearly uttered during the visit of the president to Georgia. Under the current circumstances, Georgia is Azerbaijan's gateway to Europe. Over the years, the neighboring country has been the destination of not only Azerbaijan’s oil and gas pipelines but also land and air routes.
In this regard, Azerbaijan constantly emphasizes the importance of Georgia. However, this cooperation is not only bilateral but also of regional importance. Many implemented joint projects are of special importance not only for our countries but also for the region, Europe, and the world as a whole.
Azerbaijan intends to increase gas exports to world markets. This year Azerbaijan will export 22bn cubic meters, next year it will increase even more. The Memorandum on Strategic Partnership in the field of energy, signed between the European Commission and Azerbaijan in July 2022, indicates that Azerbaijan will double gas exports to Europe in the next five years. It is planned that in 2027 Azerbaijan's gas export to Europe alone will reach 20 billion cubic meters. At the same time, exports will be increased through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline next year.
Just as Azerbaijan saved its neighbor from freezing 14 years ago, it is now taking on the function of warming a number of distant countries, which means a mission to serve humanity in general. Azerbaijan is driven by the desire to help both Georgia, Armenia and other nations in need of energy resources and the collective efforts of interested states are vital in compelling Armenia to realize this mission and reject its militaristic policies and help with the establishment of permanent peace in the wider region.
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