Richard Kauzlarich (born 1944) is an American diplomat, former intelligence analyst and writer. Former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan (1994-1997) and to Bosnia and Herzegovina (1997-1999)
Azadliq: What to expect from the recent Foreign Ministers‘ meeting regarding Nagorni-Karabakh?
Based on past experience I expect little progress. I hope that I am surprised. I hope that serious negotiations are underway behind the scenes. The new US Minsk Group negotiator is an experienced, creative diplomat. I see nothing publicly however suggesting either Baku or Yerevan are ready to take serious steps toward solving this conflict through the Minsk Group process.
The January 19-20 armed clashes
and tragic deaths on both sides underscore the risks of failing to move ahead on the diplomatic front. It seems that incidents such as occurred often coincide with Minsk Group meetings. So it was with those taking place in Paris on January 24. Military action is another indication of the lack of serious commitment to peacefully resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. Does this presage even more serious military conflict? I do not know. Who is at fault? It does not matter because both sides have incentives to use military confrontation to strengthen their domestic political position.
Also troubling was President Aliyev’s recent statement that present-day Armenia is actually located on historical Azerbaijan. Was that statement timed to further undercut the diplomatic efforts in Paris? With that claim setting the stage I wonder how one can expect any progress when (or even if) President Sarkisian and President Aliyev meet.
Azadliq: How much does Azerbaijan's human rights record affects its relations with the US?
In the short run I do not expect an impact on relations with the US. Over the longer run, however, if Azerbaijan does not improve its human rights record then a shared values-based strategic partnership with the US will be impossible.
Azadliq: Election monitor, Anar Mammadii was jaiied before the new year. 140 political prisoners are still in jail. US aked for Anar'ss release. what else could be done to influencn Baku on this matters?
The US -- and others -- have asked for the release of Anar Mammadii. The Baku regime has chosen to ignore -- at least publicly -- these appeals. This is another indication that the current regime does not take its obligations to observe the basic human rights of its citizens.
The US -- and others -- have asked for the release of Anar Mammadii. The Baku regime has chosen to ignore -- at least publicly -- these appeals. This is another indication that the current regime does not take its obligations to observe the basic human rights of its citizens. A few weeks ago Ali Hasanov (an official in the President’s apparat) was quoted as saying that the government was “studying” statements made about Anar Mammadii’s arrest. I had hoped that indicated concern by the authorities about the international attention given to his case. Nothing has happened. Rather demonstrating a step in the right direction by releasing political prisoners, Azerbaijan authorities make ridiculous accusations against Freedom House’s latest Freedom in the World report that classified Azerbaijan as among countries experiencing a setback in observance of human rights.
Azadliq: Azerbaijan will turn to a major gas exporter soon. How it may strengthen Baku's international standings?
We all need to be careful in evaluating the significance of the important agreement to develop Shah Deniz II project. This is the first part of a three-part project. Under the most optimistic views this gas will not begin flowing to Turkey and on to Europe for another 4-to-5 years. It also requires the funding and construction of the TAP and the TANAP pipelines. That may not happen as rapidly as its proponents anticipate. Pipeline projects of this magnitude are subject to delays. There is also the uncertain impact of the internal Turkish political situation on Turkey’s borrowing costs for such major projects. We are seeing reports (Tim Arango’s New York Times January 31)
that Turkey may have to cut back on major investment projects because of the ongoing political crisis. These developments could drive the costs for the TANAP project even higher -- and result in construction delays.
It is too early to evaluate how much of an impact this project will have on Baku’s international standing as changes in the international energy market have decreased the importance of Azerbaijan's energy resources. The global energy situation is being driven by developments in the North American energy markets. Azerbaijan’s competition for European energy markets including gas may include non-conventional gas and oil produced in the middle of the United States. The companies producing this resource are not the major energy companies active in Azerbaijan. The majors as they are called are facing tough times of their own and may be forced to cut back on large capital projects. See Guy Chazan’s excellent analysis in the January 26 Financial Times
on this point. In any event major foreign energy companies will be reluctant to undertake major new investment projects in Azerbaijan until the way forward on renewing the existing Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) in Azerbaijan becomes clear.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the signing of the “Contract of the Century” which has enabled Azerbaijan to prosper economically beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, it is time for serious analysis of Azerbaijan’s energy future -- not in light of the experience of the 1990s -- but focussed on the realities of a radically changed global energy and financial markets of the 21st century.
Azadliq: What can Baku do curb corruption and how can the US help?
Turkey, China and Russia are all dealing with the consequences of unaddressed corruption. The longer steps are delayed to strengthen the rule of law and insure the transparency of how the revenues from Azerbaijan’s energy resources are actually used, the more likely it is that social pressures will build as a few well-connected groups are benefiting from Azerbaijan’s wealth. The US, the EU and others (including the World Bank) have offered to help with technical and other assistance to develop an independent judiciary but the authorities are unwilling to use that assistance to undertake the reforms necessary to reduce the social, economic and political challenges of corruption. I believe that one of the reasons why Azerbaijan is unwilling to establish an association agreement with the EU is fear of the reforms that would be required under such an agreement would force the regime to act on the corruption problem.