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Larger agenda: Black Sea

Larger agenda: Black Sea
Interview with Neil MacFarlane, head of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford University, about Black Sea and energy trade.

Russia has large agenda of cooperation with Turkey.

Neil MacFarlane, head of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford University.

The agreement between Turkey and Armenia on opening borders and establishing diplomatic relations may fail. Armenia is insisting on the ratification of the agreements as soon as possible, while Turkey is in no hurry to ratify them. Do you think the Turkish parliament will ratify the Zurich protocols without concessions from Armenia on Karabakh?

It will be extremely difficult for the Turkish parliament to ratify the protocols without evidence of progress on the Karabakh question.

Azerbaijan and Armenia are surrounded by three growing regional superpowers - Russia in the north, Turkey in the west and Iran in the south-east. Will the future interaction among these regional superpowers depend on the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in particular, Nagorno-Karabakh? Could a conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh frustrate the regional players' strategy?

I do not think that the Karabakh issue, or, for that matter, Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, are a central factor in defining relations among the big three. They have bigger questions: notably energy transit and trade, security in the Black Sea basin, etc. However, a renewal of the Karabah conflict would make it difficult for them to continue with their larger concerns and might cause tension between them.

The leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia recently met in Sochi in an attempt to settle the Karabakh conflict, while the Turkish prime minister discussed the conflict during an official visit to Moscow. What are Moscow's interests in involving Ankara in a conflict settlement?

Russia has a larger agenda of cooperation with Turkey in the Black Sea region. The Karabakh issue, as already noted, complicates the larger rapprochement. So, if Turkey can help get rid of the conflict, that would be worthwhile from a Russian perspective. And, don"t forget, Armenia has reasons of its own for improving relations with Turkey.

Do you think the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh could get out of control with a resumption of hostilities, even if Russia, Iran and Turkey try to prevent this?

That is possible. It mainly depends on the Azerbaijani side, I think.

Has the rapprochement of Azerbaijan and Russia been caused by the fact that neither Turkey nor the US nor the EU have done anything to resolve Nagorno-Karabakh?

I think the rapprochement, if that is what it is, reflects the Azerbaijani leadership"s interpretation of the significance of the war in Georgia, and also their concerns about the improvement in relations between Turkey and Armenia. It may also be useful for Azerbaijan to remind the West (and Turkey) that Azerbaijan has a Russian alternative. But that is just a guess.


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