Internet Press Conference with Arastun Orujlu

Joint Internet press conferences with leading experts from different countries on the topical issues of the modern times are organized within the framework of the project, entitled "Enhancing knowledge and understanding of ‘the other side’ by Armenians and Azerbaijani through Alternative and First-Hand Information". This project, implemented by Region Research Center (Armenia) and the Institute for Peace and Democracy (Azerbaijan), is supported by the British Embassies in Armenia and Azerbaijan.  
Tarana Kyazimova, “Turan” news (Azerbaijan)
1. Do you think the statement of SOCAR Rovnagh Abdullayev on the possibility of supply gas to Armenia was made off cuff, or did he voice the messages of the official Baku?
-I think that this statement was not and could not be made off cuff, or uncoordinated with the higher political elite of the country, since the political system and its rules totally deny any initiative. That is why it is quite possible to assume that these were the messages of the official Baku, and they were addressed not only to the official Yerevan, but also to all the participants of the process, so to say. And perhaps this was announced aiming to compensate the failure of the US’s attempts to organize the meeting of the Presidents of the 2 countries, that is to say the Azerbaijani authorities aimed to demonstrate that they are in fact ready for a dialogue, by the way, beyond the framework of issues that have been traditionally discussed. 
2. Can this proposal from Baku be a result of the preliminary consultations with the West and their recommendation? 
-I do not think so. Rather, this was an individual decision, and I have already mentioned some of the reasons for this unexpected statement. 
3. How realistic is it that Armenia will agree to Azerbaijan’s proposal on gas sale, if Yerevan refused the Baku-Ceyhan project at a time? 
-I think there will be no reaction, because in fact such a proposal somehow “disarms” Yerevan, which have recently and contrarily been speaking in a much harsher tone, including talks on the possibility of making preventive strikes in case of the “military accumulation” (the notion “accumulation” is quite a relative one). It will not be very easy for the official Yerevan to abruptly change its rhetoric.
4. What may Russia’s reaction be to the probable gas cooperation between Baku and Yerevan?
-Definitely negative, but not quite obligatorily will it be expressed in statements or any other verbal expressions. Moscow does not like it when someone tries to intrude into its traditional markets and especially when this is done by Azerbaijan. Even more so in the case with Armenia when “gas discussions” may be evaluated as more than economic cooperation.
5. How decisive a factor do you think the Azerbaijani oil may be in the achievement of a peaceful agreement over Karabakh? Can we expect that the Armenian party will review its positions in exchange for economic assistance to Armenia and investments for the development of the Karabakh region? 
-The energy factor, when taken separately, cannot be feasible in the given case, but it can be a factor that will initiate the normalization of relations regarding broader issues in bilateral relations, including closer and pragmatic cooperation in the discussion of issues on achieving agreement over Karabakh. But so far the Karabakh issue is a key factor not only in the relations between the two countries. It is exploited as a major and tested instrument of internal and foreign policies. I think it is too early to think of any reviews in positions and approaches.  
Aydin Kerimov, “Novoye Vremya” (Azerbaijan)
1.Do you think the head of SOCAR is authorized to make a statement on the sale of gas to the occupant country, that is, Armenia?
-I have answered this question already. I think this was coordinated with the higher administration in the country. 
2. Do you believe that Armenia, in exchange with even favorable conditions for the supply of the “blue” fuel will soften its position on Karabakh regulation?
-This question was also answered above. 
3. Are you aware of the reaction of international mediators, that is to say the OSCE Minsk Group to the gas proposal by Azerbaijan?
-As far as I know, there has been no reaction so far, but it should be there, because such an offer has been expressed for the first time ever, and the mediators must show their attitude to it. Moreover, the calls to start economic relations came from these countries in the first place, however in quite varied forms. 
Gagik Baghdasaryan, “News Armenia” news (Armenia)
1.Mr. Orujlu, how do you think the situation in Turkey will develop and can it have any impact on the political processes in Azerbaijan?
-Some compromise will be found, and the parties will sit at the table of negotiations: as the most recent events showed that stability in any country, including Turkey, cannot be preserved through the oppression of political opponents. This will not have any impact on Azerbaijan, because with all the other factors that bring us together, the political systems are quite different.
2. Do you think the Co-Chairs will manage to organize the meeting of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the future?
-Personally, I am not very optimistic in this regard. 
3. Are any new proposals over Karabakh possible to ensure a way out from the dead-end situation? 
-The matter of our discussion is already the new offer and the more such initiatives are, the more chances there will be to find a way out of the current dead-end situation. Naturally, this will take place only in condition there are an adequate reaction and a bilateral peaceful initiative, requiring the political will of both parties.  
“Hetq” online (Armenia)
1. How do you think the announcements made by the Presidents of the Minsk Group co-chairing countries over the Karabakh conflict in the G8 Summit in Ireland should be perceived?
-This may be evaluated as the co-chairing countries’ concern with the lack of any progress in the peaceful regulation process, as well as a call to the parties of the conflict to renounce the escalation of the conflict in the region.
2. What were the more likely circumstances to condition the present developments in Turkey – the internal or external “irritants?” 
-I think they are primarily internal, since recently the ruling party began to oust the secular traditions of Kemalism too actively, and was mistaken in its calculations of the internal layout, especially after the mass arrests from among the high ranking military. The lack of any public reaction to these arrests stimulated the miscalculations in the continuation of their own policy within the ruling circles in Turkey. 
3. What caused the statement, made by the official circles of Azerbaijan on the possibility of selling gas to Armenia in case the latter comes up with such a request?
-I have already answered this question. 
Armen Minasyan, (Armenia)
1. In the statement, made by the Minister of Defense of Armenia a month ago, it was not excluded that the Armenian side might undertake a preventive strike against the forces of the enemy if there is reliable information on the dangerous accumulation of enemy forces. This means that the Armenian side from now on refuses the previously announced official position not to undertake any offensive action. How would you assess the current situation? 
-I think that such abrupt and provocative announcements are able to bring about the adequate reaction of the Azerbaijani side, which will not contribute to the maintenance of peace in the region. 
2. In the course of many years Azerbaijan has been refusing to withdraw snipers from the front line and to develop mechanisms, to investigate the incidents along the front line. Why is Azerbaijan turning down offers that might at least relieve the tension at the border?
-I have heard that both sides are doing it, even though two years ago they reacted positively to such an appeal, made by the Chairman of the OCSE, however, no concrete steps were undertaken. 
3. Ramil Safarov, the Azerbaijani military officer who axed an Armenian officer was extradited from Hungary to Azerbaijan in 2012, did not have to continue serving his sentence in prison. Moreover, he was pardoned by the President and was awarded, promoted to a higher military rank and so on. How do you evaluate the fact of the murder of an unarmed person in peaceful conditions and the reaction of the Azerbaijani authorities to all this?  
-I have expressed my opinion on this fact, and it was negative. Unfortunately, heroization of crimes is still a commodity that is highly demanded in both societies. Definitely, it is a pity that Aliyev did it, but in this respect the stories of the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan told to the American investigator Thomas De Waal on how he participated in the killings in Khojalu do not evoke delight. 
4. How would you assess the internal political situation in Azerbaijan, taking into consideration the circumstance that the right to free assembly of the opposition and civil activists is mostly violated and in prisons there are over 80 political prisoners, by various calculations? What impact do you think the nomination of Ilham Aliyev’s candidacy for President the third time in a row may have on the situation inside Azerbaijan and beyond it? 
-The situation is complicated and quite disputable, regarding Aliyev’s third term in office, and today it is quite difficult to forecast anything. However, the increased pressure put on the opposition and the civil society by the power gives us grounds to assume that the situation is even more complicated than we think. Personally I have suspicions that there are serious disagreements at the international level and this is what makes the Azerbaijani authorities practice even more arbitrary rule inside the country.  
Rashad Rustamov, “Zerkalo” (Azerbaijan)
1.For over 20 years now the international community has failed to solve the Karabakh conflict. Doesn’t this mean that Armenia and Azerbaijan must come to an agreement on their own and solve the conflict through economic concessions? 
-Undoubtedly so, but first of all both countries need to go through profound democratic reforms and form legitimate power structures. Only democratically elected authorities are capable of taking resolute steps towards the settlement of the conflict.
2. Do you believe that the Armenian party will agree to the proposal made by SOCAR? Isn’t this a propaganda act?
-I do not believe so; I have already covered this matter above. 
David Stepanyan, “Arminfo” news (Armenia)
1. Do you think the Union of Millionaires, created by Azerbaijani entrepreneurs in Russia, will be able to play the same role in Azerbaijan as the Georgian Dream in Georgia?
-I don’t think so. There are much fewer opportunities for that in Azerbaijan than there were in Georgia. The power is richer than everyone else, and actually keeps all the spheres of socio-political life in the country under a very strict control. This is impossible, given all the restrictions of freedom and right, that are currently present in Azerbaijan.
2. Some experts believe that the Union of Millionaires might be initiated by the Kremlin in the light of the upcoming Presidential elections in Azerbaijan. There is an opinion that this is a joint project, implemented by the Kremlin and the West.  There is a version that the Union of Millionaires aims to oust the “Old Guard” in the person of the representatives of the Nakhijevan clan and those who came from Armenia. Which of the options are you more inclined to believe, if you do not have your own interpretation, of course?
-I think this is a means of pressure, applied by the Kremlin on Baku, aiming to get a more pliable and obedient behavior from the latter. Nothing more.
3. What are the chances of the joint candidate, nominated from the National Council for the President of Azerbaijan – Rustam Ibrahimabekov – in terms of winning in the upcoming elections?  
-Rustam Ibrahimbekov is not yet the joint candidate. 
4. The official Baku has not yet reacted anyhow to the processes in Turkey, if we do not consider the protest action at the Turkish Embassy in Baku that was held for the first time ever in the course of its existence. What do you think the reasons for this complete neglect of reality are?
-The official Baku has very sensitive relations with Erdogan’s administration. Realizing that the miscalculated reaction in the given case may destroy the fragile tone of relations, the Azerbaijani authorities prefer to keep silent. Besides, against the multiple problems, existent in the fields of rights and freedoms in Azerbaijan, the official Baku I think does not have a moral right for any reaction. 
5.Do you think the substitution of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by Hassan Rouhani will correct the imperfect Azerbaijan-Iran relations? 
-There will be changes of principle while the official Tehran perceives the fact of the existence of an independent Azerbaijani state as a threat to its own national security.
Natig Javadli, “Bizim Yol” (Azerbaijan)
-How will Russia behave if Azerbaijan supplies gas and oil to Armenia, as was announced by the head of SOCAR Rovnagh Abdullayev?
-The question is repeated.  
2. What will the role of economic factors be in the compromising policy of Armenia in terms of the Karabakh conflict regulation?
-It will definitely be positive, if the parties have sufficient political will to settle their economic relations, but I think the conditions for such relations have not matured yet. For this purpose, it is necessary to form a democratically elected power in both countries. And this is not yet visible, unfortunately.


30 January, 2014
Right after the New Year, the citizens of Armenia were shocked by the gas and electricity bills for December.

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