TRIUMPHS AND FAILURES OF GEYDAR ALIYEV
The Azeri president seriously argues the positions of the Armenians. Recently Aliyev had a meeting with the editors of the lead Azeri newspapers. The president referred to the problem of Nagorno Karabagh and expressed his viewpoint concerning both the "roots" of the conflict and the current status and prospects for the problem resolution.
In order to support his viewpoint, Aliyev digressed to the history and told the journalists how he held the problem of Nagorno Karabagh "under control" first as the head of KGB of Azerbaijan and later as the first secretary of the Communist party of AzSSR. For more vividness Aliyev referred to the actions that he had taken for changing the demography in Nagorno Karabagh.
"Karabagh raised the issue of establishing a higher educational institution there. Everyone was against that, but I decided to open the institute provided that it should consist of three sectors: Azerbaijani, Russian and Armenian. Thus, the institute was established. Instead of educating the Azeris from the neighboring regions in Baku, we sent them to that institute in Karabagh. A large foot-ware factory was opened there. There was no labor force in Stepanakert and the workers were recruited from the nearby regions. These actions contributed to the increase of the Azeri population and reduced the number of the Armenians in Nagorno Karabagh." In short, the Azeri president brings enough serious arguments against the Armenian side which states that the authorities of Soviet Azerbaijan did everything in order to oust the Armenians from Karabagh, as it was the case with Nakhichevan with only one difference that Azerbaijan did not manage to realize fully this intention in Karabagh.
Aliyev emphasizes that Azerbaijan "lost" Nagorno Karabagh as early as in 1991: "In February of 1991 I was elected a parliament member from Nakhichevan and came to Baku. There, at the session, I mentioned in my speech that Karabagh was already lost". Definitely, the citation from his own speech was necessary for Aliyev in order to show that Azerbaijan had lost Nagorno Karabagh two years prior to his coming to power in Baku. Nevertheless, regardless of Aliyev's motivations, the fact itself proves again that legally the pretensions of Azerbaijan to Karabagh are groundless. The Oblast was never part of the independent Azerbaijan and this was more than once emphasized by the Armenian side.
Aliyev's arguments were sound. For example, he is sure that after losing Karabagh the authorities of Azerbaijan had to make the correct judgements. "If the appropriate policy had been run during the following period, if the situation had been assessed properly, if the war had been ceased and negotiations started, we might have not lost the other territories. However, we did lose them later". Again, this is another confirmation of the position of the Armenian side which states that the subsequent armed conflict which ended in the defeat of Azerbaijan was not by the fault of the Armenians.
Aliyev states that he is obliged to apply various "diplomatic tricks", like, for instance, the exchange of Karabagh with Meghri, although he is aware that this version is hopeless. "I know that it is unrealistic. I know that Armenia would not agree to that... During the talks sometimes I proposed actions for bringing the counterparts to bay or for achieving some goals by means of diplomatic tricks. But to propose is one thing and to implement the proposal is quite a different thing".
What did Aliyev want to achieve by his articulations about Meghri? The Azeri president gives the following answer: "I thought that they would be impressed, but they were not. The reaction was cool".
It is interesting that Aliyev indicated that the "Meghri option" had been unrealistic from the very beginning. He noted that the plan on the exchange of the territories existed as early as the origination of the Karabagh movement, but Azerbaijan was against that. "You are not aware of how important Meghri is for Azerbaijan. I will be honest. There were talks on this subject once, after which the leaders of some of the states raised the question whether Azerbaijan was going to create a Turkish zone when Turkey and Nakhichevan would be directed connected with Azerbaijan and Central Asia. He confessed: "I am not a child. I know it is true. Do you understand?"
What is the turnout of all these diplomatic actions? Alas, there is no clear answer to it. As to Aliyev's plan on the conflict resolution, he "will be continuing to cooperate with all these organizations", i.e., the ones which keep recommending Aliyev that he should take into account the realities and come to an agreement with Kocharyan. What is the alternative? According to Aliyev, there is only one option, i.e., the war. However, he admits that in such event not a single country would support Azerbaijan. He honestly admits that war would mean the crash of the Azeri economy which is now developing. All major projects would fail and everything would be directed to supporting the war.
One should do justice to the Azeri president. He was rather frank, but was silent about something that he was expected say: there is a solution to the current situation, i.e., the authorities of Azerbaijan simply need to do is to declare openly to the Azeri people: "The people of Nagorno Karabagh have the equal right to be their own master just like the people of Azerbaijan do so". The problems would be resolved. The peoples would live in peace and accord, and the expected results would finally be obtained thanks to the implementation of economic projects.