Change of the West’s policy on Azerbaijan and Karabakh conflict settlement

End of August and beginning of September 2017 is full of interesting news about settlement of conflict between Azerbaijan and Artsakh. In recent weeks periodically there have been published several interesting news that seem to constitute the change of attitude of the West, especially USA,  towards Azerbaijan.

News on corruption

The last two weeks Western media were filled with many negative publications on Azerbaijan. The reason was the article with the title Azerbaijani Laundromat which revealed the money laundering transactions by the Aliyevs clan amounting to 3 billion US dollars. This news has made a negative impact on Azerbaijan’s international rating.

USA pressure on Baku

On September 7, US senator Dick Derby proposed to impose sanctions on a number of Azerbaijani officials. According to the proposal, US entry restrictions should be imposed on the Azerbaijani officials who have links to the illegal detention of the founder of Turan news agency Mehman Aliyev. The journalist was detained on August 28 on the grounds of having tax problems and on September 9, exactly two days after Derbin’s proposal, he was released.

Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev also granted a pardon to Israeli and Russian citizen blogger Alexander Lapshin who had been arrested in Belarus and later handed over to Baku by Lukashenko. It should be reminded that according to the criminal case filed by the Azerbaijani prosecutor’s office the 40-year-old blogger was accused of making public calls for violation of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and lack of necessary documents for crossing political border of the country.

Aliyev’s strange “kindness” unequivocally shows that western pressure works and sanctions can change Aliyev’s regime policy.

Possible change of OSCE Minsk Group format

In the light of the above-mentioned news the news about the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s letter remained unnoticed. The letter, which Tilerson sent to Senator Bob Cockchin regarding proposed changes in the Department of State, suggested eliminating about 70 USA special positions including the position of co-chair in the OSCE Minsk Group dealing with the Karabakh issue. In his letter Tillerson suggests handing over that authority to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs of the State Department. It is mentioned that Deputy Assistant to the Secretary will fully assume the functions of the co-chair and the staffing will be maintained.

If Tillerson’s proposal is approved, the OSCE Minsk Group format will actually change. The presence of the OSCE Minsk co-chair position allowed holding frequent meetings and discussions, while after the elimination of the American co-chair position the successor could be less mobile. On the other hand, however, processes of the OSCE Minsk Group will be settled immediately by the US Department of State what may mean a more clear position of the United States in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement process.

Although Tillerson’s proposal has not been approved yet and maybe will not be, nevertheless,  events of the last two weeks show that the equations in the West-Azerbaijan relations are changing forcing Aliyev to make concessions. This can definitely have a positive impact on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement process.

Anna Pambukhchyan
Union of Informed Citizens

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