By SeymurMammadov, The director of the international expert club EurAsiaAz and editor-in-chief of Azerbaijan news agency Vzglyad.az.
The ongoing fierce hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh have largely influenced the balance of power and the geopolitical situation in the South Caucasus region. The change in the status quo in the conflict zone, due primarily to the successes of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan, is pushing regional and non-regional players to revise their foreign policy vectors, which are lagging behind the dynamics of real changes taking place in the stormy region.
Iran, which is a large, influential player not only in the South Caucasus region, but also in the Middle East, has a definition of influence in Azerbaijan and Armenia. In the early days of the resumption of hostilities in Karabakh, Tehran’s official position was uncertain. First, Iran called on both conflicting parties to an immediate ceasefire in the Karabakh conflict zone. Then the Iranian Foreign Ministry said that it was ready to be an intermediary between Azerbaijan and Armenia in order to suspend hostilities. However, the video footage of the transfer of weapons to Armenia from Iranian territory, spread on social networks, triggered protests in major Iranian cities, for example, in Tabriz. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Said Khatibzade denied media allegations about arms supplies to Armenia.
However, with the development of the successful offensives of the Azerbaijani army in Karabakh, primarily on the border with Iran, there was a serious change in Tehran’s official position. On September 29, the representative of the highest religious leader of Iran on Ardabil, SeyidHasan, congratulated the Azerbaijani people on the latest victories and wished the complete liberation of Nagorno-Karabakh. A statement made the last point in Iran’s official position on October 1, disseminated by the highest religious leader Ayatollah Khamenei, together with his representatives in the provinces of East and West Azerbaijan, Ardabil and Zanjan. The statement, in particular, notes that Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan, which today is fighting in all legal ways for the return of its territories. During a telephone conversation on October 6 between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Azerbaijani President IlhamAliyev, the Iranian leader expressed his country’s concern about the continuation of the armed confrontation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani contact line and expressed hope for an early peaceful settlement of the conflict. Speaking the next day in the Iranian parliament, Rouhaninoted that “Azerbaijan is our brother, and Armenia is our neighbor.” The liberation of territories on the border with Iran – the cities of Zangilan, Jebrail, as well as the Khudaferin Bridge, pushed official Tehran to reconsider its foreign policy vector and choose a strong side in the military-political alignment. It is clear that all of these statements in support of Azerbaijan are related to the fact that Iran does not want to lose the trust of its reliable neighbor, friend, including not want to completely surrender the initiative not only to Turkey, but also to Israel.
As for Armenia, the current government in Yerevan, headed by NikolPashinyan, is viewed in Iran as a Western project aimed at preventing the undermining of Russian interests in the Caucasus. In addition, Iran well remembers that the Pashinyan government, violating the long-term policy of Armenia, opened an Armenian embassy in Israel, and Azerbaijan has not opened yet its embassy in Tel Aviv despite the high level of relations with Israel.
The United States is closely watching the situation in the region. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden condemned the passivity of the Donald Trump administration on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, even during its escalation this fall. “For Armenia, it should be clear that the regions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh cannot be under occupation indefinitely, and that immediately after the ceasefire is concluded, credible negotiations should begin on a long-term solution to the conflict,” Joe Biden said in a statement. In turn, the other day U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison openly supported Azerbaijan in the conflict with Armenia, she told reporters at a virtual press conference that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be resolved within the sovereign borders of Azerbaijan. “This problem has been festering for 30 years. The Minsk group of co-chairs, which includes the United States, Russia and France, which wants to return the conflict to the initial stage, namely, to the sovereign borders of Azerbaijan, within which the Armenian population can exist. This can be resolved, and then this conflict will end, ”said Hutchison Turan.
In the early days of the resumption of hostilities in the conflict zone, the London-based transnational oil and gas company, BP, took a wait-and-see attitude around the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. However, as the success of the Azerbaijani army on the battlefield developed, BP’s regional president for Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, Gary Jones, sent a letter to Azerbaijani Prime Minister Ali Asadov.
According to the press service of the Cabinet of Ministers, the letter expresses support for the Azerbaijani people in the struggle to restore their territorial integrity. In turn, the British Ambassador to Azerbaijan James Sharp reacted to the shelling of Ganja, as a result of which 14 civilians, including children, were killed. “Losses among the civilian population, in particular the recent events in Ganja, are unacceptable,” the ambassador wrote on his Twitter page.
Thus, the strengthening of the positions of official Baku has greatly changed the geopolitical situation in the South Caucasus region. Today a new history is being written in this region – Azerbaijan is successfully restoring its territorial integrity, and the official opening of the TAP gas pipeline is expected in the next few weeks – Azerbaijani gas will go to Europe. And after the end of the active phase of the fighting, in the post-war period, Azerbaijan will expand cooperation primarily with those countries that supported it in the Karabakh conflict.