Azerbaijan-2012: Events of the year - POLITICAL - ANALYSIS
Although no significant progress was achieved in the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, the number one issue of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy, this year can be considered successful in terms of the results achieved in the psychological war with Armenia that has been going on for many years. We are talking about the event of the year – extradition of the officer of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan and his pardoning under President Ilham Aliyev’s order.
Ramil Safarov’s extradition and his pardoning
Ramil Safarov, who has been a subject of the psychological war between Azerbaijan and Armenia for years, was extradited to our country on August 31 and pardoned by President Ilham Aliyev on the same day. This event officialized the victory of Azerbaijan in “Ramil Safarov” psychological war between the two countries. Promoted to the rank of Major on September 1, Ramil Safarov was given a flat by the Defense Ministry and all the pay he had lost since his arrest eight years ago.
Ramil Safarov’s extradition and his pardoning actually stalemated the process of negotiations on the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict in 2012. Though the activeness in the negotiations considerably declined after Vladimir Putin’s re-election as Russian President, later the process almost stopped. It is clearly felt in the dynamics of the settlement of the conflict in 2012.
Inactive year in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict
2012 can be considered as an inactive year in the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Only one meeting was held between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia. The meeting held in Sochi on the initiative of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the statement made at the end of the meeting gave hope on significant progress in the settlement of the conflict this year, but these hopes failed. The results of the presidential elections in Russia, the escalation of the tension between the two countries due to Ramil Safarov’s extradition to Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan’s dissatisfaction with the inactivity of OSCE Minsk Group have played a main role in protraction of the process. This year, the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia met only twice and this fact shows the situation of the settlement process. Although it was announced that the parties would discuss the new approaches on the settlement of the conflict at the meeting in Paris on June 18, the statement made by the co-chairs following the meeting focused on the importance of maintenance of ceasefire. The foreign ministers’ second meeting in Paris on October 27 aimed to seek possible opportunities to move the settlement process from “dead lock” and intensify the negotiations, but the following processes showed the failure of this effort. In spite of the all expectations, the meeting between the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia didn’t take place as a part of the Dublin summit of the OSCE Ministerial Council and the possibilities to hold such a meeting early next year are still being sought.
The current inertness also affected the frequency of the co-chairs’ visits to the region. OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs paid only three visits to the region this year. The visits took place in March, July and November have not played an important role in the approximation of the parties’ positions. Moreover, the co-chairs separately met with the foreign minister of Azerbaijan and Armenia first in Paris and later in New York. The statements made following the negotiations were not significantly different from the previous statements and despite the mediators’ efforts, the unconstructive position of Armenia caused the failure of the foreign ministers’ meeting in Dublin. The last point in the negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict this year is the agreement to hold foreign ministers’ meeting in Paris late in January, 2013. Taking into consideration the presidential elections in Armenia on February 18, 2013, it is not worth expecting significant results at the foreign ministers’ meeting in January.
The recognition of Khojaly genocide
2012 was successful in terms of the recognition of Khojaly genocide in the international arena. The Mexican Senate passed a decision on the official recognition of Khojaly genocide on January 31. It is the first fact that Khojaly genocide was recognized by the foreign parliament on the level of legislative act. Following this decision made by the parliament of one of the greatest and leading states in the Latin America, one more authoritative state has officially recognized Khojaly genocide. On February 1, following the hearings on Pakistan-Azerbaijan relations, the Pakistani Senate adopted the resolution entitled “The occupation of 20 percent of the Azerbaijan territories and Khojaly genocide committed by Armenians”. In the resolution, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate condemned the occupation of the Azerbaijani lands by Armenia and the genocide committed against civilians in Khojaly town of Azerbaijan by the Armenian armed forces on February 26, 1992. The documents called Armenia an invader country and demanded the implementation of the resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council on the occupation of the Azerbaijani territories.
Azerbaijan – as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council
One of the most important political events of 2012 is the election of our country as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Azerbaijan has been elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2012-2013 with the support of 155 UN member states and took the office on January 1, 2012. According to the rule, our country chaired the UN Security Council in May. The situation in Middle East and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the recent situation in the Balkans and the solution of the crisis in Syria were discussed at the meetings chaired by Azerbaijan and the UN Security Council held an open meeting on combating terrorism.
The last Russian soldier is leaving Azerbaijan
One of the important events of the year was the clarification of the issue on the fate of Gabala radar station. The term of the contract signed between Azerbaijan and Russia on lease of Gabala RLS, one of the eight stations of the USSR missile defense system, expired on December 12 this year. On December 10, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a note to Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on official suspension of the station’s exploitation. The reason was the lack of agreement on the lease term. Azerbaijani Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadyarov said that the special commission would be established for evacuation of workers and removal of equipments in the station. The minister also noted that they had not received a proposal on the operation of Gabala radar station, they did not believe the station would be exploited by a third country and the Azerbaijani side had no initiative to lease this station to any country. The commission on the stock-taking of moveable and immovable property has been already completed the stock-taking at Gabala RLS and will submit the results to the governments of Azerbaijan and Russia. The suspension of Gabala radar station’s exploitation means complete cessation of Russia’s military participation in our country and in this sense, 2012 can go down in history as “The year when the last Russian soldier left Azerbaijan”.
Elshad Abdullayev’s videos, inertness of opposition
The domestic policy of the country in 2012 was memorable with the videos posted on internet by former rector of Azerbaijan International University Elshad Abdullayev. This video shot by hidden camera in his cabinet caused serious accusations against MP Gular Ahmedova. Though the MP didn’t agree to these accusations, she voluntarily renounced her parliamentary seat. The videos interruptedly released by Elshad Aliyev drew attention for a short time and didn’t cause serious changes in the domestic policy. 2012 was not memorable for the opposition. Public Chamber, which arose as a political coaltion of forces dissatisfied with the results of the parliamentary elections, held a few small-scale rallies within a year. This inertness in the Public Chamber’s activity was observed in the entire opposition and lack of elections in Azerbaijan this year also caused this dull mood. Public Chamber didn’t determine a single candidate for the presidential elections and deferred the determination of the pre-election tactics to 2013 – the year of presidential elections.
The host country of the Eurovision Song Contest 2012
2012 was also memorable with the Eurovision Song Contest held in Azerbaijan. Every year, about 600 million people watch the Eurovision contest – one of the five television projects with large audience. This contest has played a significant role in terms of promotion of our country. Azerbaijan won the right to host the contest as a result of the victory of Nigar Jamal and Eldar Gasimon in Germany, 2011 and Sabina Babayeva represented Azerbaijan in this contest. She took the fourth place and Sweden representative Loreen won the contest.
Successful sports year
One of the other significant events in 2012 is the successful performance of Azerbaijani athletes in London Olympics. Winning 2 gold, 2 silver and 6 bronze medals at the Summer Olympics, the Azerbaijani athletes took the 30th place among 204 countries and renewed the record on the number of medals. Winning 7 medals (1 gold, 2 silver and 4 bronze) in Beijing Olympics, 2008, Azerbaijan took the 39th place among the 204 countries.
This year, Azerbaijan also hosted FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. It was the first large-scale football tournament held in our country under the flag of FIFA. Despite the fact that our national team failed in the tournament, this world cup, where 16 national teams competed, has played a significant role in terms of Azerbaijan’s promotion.
Another significant sports event in 2012 is the decision to hold the first European Games in Baku. At the General Assembly of the European Olympic Committee in Rome on December 8, it was decided to establish the European Games and hold this tournament in Baku, May, 2015. The European Games will be held on 13 kinds of sports and it is expected to increase the number of sports.
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