Baku. Turbat Baghirova – APA. Azerbaijan is and will remain a key energy actor for Europe, and it is able to break Russia's energy monopoly, Dr. Mitchell Belfer, head of the Department of International Relations and European Studies at Metropolitan University Prague and chief editor of the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies (CEJISS), told APA.
He said that while, technically, the Czech Republic remains a parliamentary system, President Milos Zeman's visit to Azerbaijan was an important symbolic gesture, and the message he delivered is part of a recasting of Czech strategic priorities and needs to be understood in that context.
Belfer noted that over the past few years, the Czech Republic had politically re-entered Russia's sphere of influence owing to many in the government's historical links, the clear business connections and a deep sense of anti-Western populism among many active and would-be political elites.
“It is hoped that the Czech Republic's pursuit of strategic partnership with Azerbaijan also marks the Czech return to Europe in terms of interests. Azerbaijan is and will remain a key energy actor for Europe, and it is able to break Russia's energy monopoly” he added.
With a regard to President Zeman’s statement “Azerbaijan has fully implemented her obligations so far and not every country is as successful as Azerbaijan in such perfect financial discipline” the expert said that Not only President Zeman and many in Europe, who are well aware of the situation in Azerbaijan and the region, share this opinion.
The Eastern Partnership cannot move forward until the crises unfolding to the EU’s east are solved, the expert said. “In other words, what is the point of the EaP so one as war rages in Ukraine, Armenia continues to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh and Russia keeps inching territory away from Georgia,” he noted.
Belfer said the future of relations between Azerbaijan and the EU really depends on the future of the EU itself.
“If the EU continues to pursue a unity of purpose in terms of economic growth and solidarity, political harmonization and the construction of a unified military capability, then Azerbaijan will emerge front and centre in EU strategic priorities. If the EU continues to fragment under crises then Azerbaijan will emerge as a strong partner to some - including the Czech Republic and Slovakia - and less important to others. The future is, as they say, anyone's guess,” he stressed.
As for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the expert emphasized that for the settlement of the conflict there are only three major obstacles: Russia, Iran and Armenia.
“There should really be no compromise; Nagorno-Karabakh is sovereign Azerbaijani territory. While I strongly support a non-violent solution, there must be a drive to press Russia, Iran and Armenia on solving this issue through the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied territories,” he completed.