Diplomat Magazine held an e-mail interview with the Chairman of Azerbaijan’s Center of Analysis of International Relations Dr. Farid Shafiyev.
Diplomat Magazine: The Center of Analysis of International Relations is quite novel, for it was founded in 2019. What is in your opinion its contribution to Azerbaijan’s foreign policy, which are its main topics of research?
Dr. Shafiyev: Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center) was established on 6 February 2019, and is a new public institution. On the one hand, the Center aims to delve into analysis, and research on wide-spectrum of issues on international relations, foreign affairs, global governance and politics, alongside closely following the related developments in the neighbouring regions and within our own region.
On the other hand, the AIR Center also extends its analytical and research expertise on the above issues to Azerbaijani government, academic and other interested local stakeholders by offering a unique synthesis of analytics of the events on international and regional dimensions and their potential implications for Azerbaijan. It is also a two-way street, in a sense that the implications of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy actions and decisions on wider neighbourhood and international community is also extensively studied.
The Center studies, researches and also offers policy guidance and recommendations to the Azerbaijani government on diverse foreign policy topics including among others, but not limited to, Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, its history and conflict resolution process, Azerbaijan’s global standing and cooperation with international and regional organisation, security and economics related topics, energy, transportation and communications networks, etc.
Diplomat Magazine: The center focuses on security matters paramount to Azerbaijan. How would you define the relations before the European Union, and their meaning for Azerbaijan’s stability?
Dr. Shafiyev: Our relations with the European Union have gone through a long process of evolution and we have cooperated within different programs, such as Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCAs), European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) and the Eastern Partnership (EaP).
We are currently negotiating the bilateral Strategic Partnership Agreement which is pending the agreement on some remaining issues. We value our partnership with the European Union, which is one of our largest trade partners, based on mutually beneficial cooperation and support of interests.
Diplomat Magazine: What is the relevance of Azerbaijani’s diplomatic network, particularly vis-à-vis the European Union, or the Russian Federation, to boost Azerbaijani security?
Dr. Shafiyev: Azerbaijan is on the crossroads of Europe and Asia and its favourable geo-strategic location has earned it an important transportation and transit posture in the era of globalisation. Azerbaijan has also established itself as an international player capable of accommodating the interests of and building reliable partnerships with diverse geographic distances, identities and religions.
Azerbaijan adheres to a multi-vectored foreign policy that prioritises good-neighbourly relations with its regional neighbours, including Russia and balancing out this dynamic with its interactions with Euro-Atlantic partners, including the European Union. Azerbaijan is bent on further pursuing its pragmatist foreign policy as this has become one of the central pillars of its security and welfare. It is no coincidence therefore that Azerbaijan’s name is associated with the existing security and stability in the region and the country has hosted number of high-level meetings between Russia and its western counterparts several times in a row.
Diplomat Magazine: The Nagorno-Karabakh issue continues to fissure relations to Armenia; do you foresee any possible solution(s) acceptable for both sides?
Dr. Shafiyev: Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict has been dragging on for over three decades now with very grim consequences resulting for Azerbaijan, who has lost 20 percent of its internationally recognised territories to the occupier and had to deal with the challenges posed by the thousands of refugee and IDP population. However, Armenian population has not seen any benefit of occupational policy as it depleted its economic and human resources – almost one out of three millions people emigrated from Armenia for the last twenty years. It played in hands of war lords and nationalist-minded politicians who hijacked the political scene in Yerevan.
Negotiation process has also been ongoing for many years now with no tangible results achieved. No meaningful and lasting solution to the conflict is possible until Armenia withdraws from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and displaced Azerbaijani population finally return to their homelands.
Future of the region lies in the two communities – Armenian and Azerbaijani living side-by-side in Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. This will be a truly European experience –based solution.
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Picture by Dr. Farid Shafiyev – Own work