Following the first official meeting between the U.S Marine Corps General Joe Dunford and Russia’s Valeri Gerasimov in February 2017, Baku host another high-level meeting on September 8 between General Petr Pavel, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee and General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and First Deputy Minister of Defence, the first such high-level meeting since the two sides froze relations in 2014. “Chiefs of general staffs of the US and Russia are likely to mull cooperation in Syria against the “Islamic State” (IS) terrorist group” said Matthew Bryza, former ambassador to Azerbaijan emphasized amid military leaders visit to Baku.
In the light of the aforesaid high-level meetings between the U.S, Russian, Turkish, and Iranian officials, Azerbaijan gradually becomes a suitable, and neutral geopolitical entrepot for international peace talks.
Over the last several years, a pragmatic approach of Azerbaijan makes it one of the key actors in the South Caucasus region, in particular as a guarantor of peace and regional stability. The secret formula of Azerbaijan appears to be simple but at the same time quite complicated: in the light of the ongoing dramatic events in the Middle East (in particular in Syria) Azerbaijan seems to be an irreplaceable, neutral and secured platform for all regional and global parties that are involved in the conflict resolution across the Middle Eastern region.
Some argue, how does Azerbaijan so rapidly become a Caucasian peace mediator for global actors? “We should admit that Azerbaijan has a very good infrastructure as a venue for meetings. But the main thing, of course, is that Azerbaijan has a clear, neutral position in this dialogue.” says the Kremlin-linked Russian expert Sergei Markov. The similar position has been stressed out during the recent “Baku – Moscow Axis” conference that held in Moscow, during which more intensive cooperation with Azerbaijan was discussed. In this regard, regional powers such as Russia, Turkey, and the West values Azerbaijan as a reliable partner.
Taking into consideration the fact that for more than 20 years Azerbaijan has pursued a multi-vector foreign policy in the South Caucasus, one can understand Baku’s eagerness to maintain the regional peace by deepening cooperation with all regional powers. Russian military analyst, Viktor Baranets, told news agency APA: “Conducting this kind of meeting in the Azerbaijani capital suggests that first, Baku is turning into the capital of the normalization of Russia-US and Russia-NATO relations. Secondly, Baku is situated in a position of global significance.”
Seemingly by providing a negotiation platform for regional powers, Baku endeavours to harmonize the bilateral relations of Russia, Iran, and Turkey. The new patterns of Azerbaijani diplomacy justify itself, as it targeted to impede the spread of flames of various sectarian conflicts in South Caucasus. In this respect, the partnership of Moscow – Ankara – Tehran triangle made a valuable contribution to the military operations in Iraq and Syria against radical Islamist movements. Obviously, Russia, Turkey, and Iran have different visions and foreign policy discourses towards regional developments, therefore it is very important to have a neutral and trustworthy mediator in order to coordinate further joint actions.
Moreover, the common choice for platform of Ankara, Tehran, and Moscow fell on Baku also due to historical, and cultural reasons, as all mentioned countries have a common history and strategic partnership.
Simultaneously, by gathering all regional powers in the same place, Baku seeks for opportunity to drag the attention of regional countries to its Nagorno-Karabakh problem that still remains under illegal occupation of neighboring Armenia. By the strengthening of bilateral relations with Ankara, Moscow, and Tehran, as well as, by demonstrating its capability to be an effective mediator Baku may count on the support of triangle cooperation for the resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh issue.