The country sitting on fence of Israel-Palestine war terrified of flare ups
The recent escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict has cast Azerbaijan into a challenging diplomatic position, forcing it to navigate a delicate balance between its historical ties with Israel and its connections within the Islamic world, particularly Palestine.
Azerbaijan’s initial response, characterised by a neutral stance, reflects the complexity of its foreign policy strategy. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry condemned violence against civilians in the conflict zone and called for an urgent de-escalation.
The country’s government has since called for a ceasefire and stressed on the importance of a two-state solution to the war.
Despite a pro-Israeli sentiment prevailing in Azerbaijani media and social platforms, the government has tried to maintain a calculated neutrality.
Azerbaijan’s foreign policy challenges will become more pronounced in the face of a prolonged or expanded conflict. While maintaining close ties with Israel, Baku also emphasised its support for the Palestinian people and the two-state principle. This stance allows Azerbaijan to avoid alienating key allies like Turkey, which supports the Palestinian cause.
Careful diplomatic manoeuvring
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Elin Suleymanov, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United Kingdom shed light on Azerbaijan’s careful diplomatic manoeuvring. He stressed the need to rebuild relationships on bilateral agreements and highlighted the importance of preventing conflicts from spilling into Azerbaijan.
The Ambassador acknowledged Azerbaijan’s connection to all involved parties but underscored the nation’s commitment to doing whatever is within its power to contribute positively.
He said: “Diplomatically speaking, we’re [Azerbaijan] not in a position to condemn anybody. Especially third parties’ view on this.
“We need to build our relationship once again on bilateral agreements and think about the region and make sure that this kind of conflict does not flare up in our country.
“I think that’s the most important lesson today.”
Asked to respond to criticism of Azerbaijan sitting on the fence of the Israel-Palestine war whilst being crucial to the dynamics surrounding the conflict, he said: “We’re much more centred to the region of Southern Caucuses of the Eurasian crossroads than we are to the Middle East.
“As a matter of fact, we do not share a neighbourhood with the Middle East.
“It’s true we have connections to all of those players involved. But within its power, as a nation, Azerbaijan is doing whatever it can.
“We do what we can. We call for, and have always called for, a two-states solution. We have always spoken to our interlocutors both in Palestine and in Israel about the need for this move going forward because this is precisely what is needed for this situation, and to to go backwards.
“But at the moment, you know, being vocal or not vocal doesn’t affect the situation on the ground.
“What we need to do is to make sure that there’s aid going on. We need to make sure that civilians are protected as much as possible.”
The Ambassador also defended Azerbaijan’s commitment to a two-state solution, aligning it with international law. However, he pragmatically noted that the ground situation may not be significantly impacted by vocal positions and underscored the importance of humanitarian aid and civilian protection, failing to openly condemn Western nations like the UK and the US refusing to call for a ceasefire.
He said: “Legally speaking, this is our position and it’s aligned with the UN’s position and with international law. But at the end of the day, this is for the Palestinians and Israelis to decided how they see their own future.
“But I’m yet to hear a solid alternative proposal to this. Whether you like it or not. What’s the alternative?”
Azerbaijan’s cautious approach is not without regional implications. The conflict is viewed in the context of Azerbaijan’s economic and military ties with Israel, leading to criticism from Armenia.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have historically strained relations, primarily due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The conflict has led to a complex geopolitical situation in the region, with sporadic outbreaks of violence and diplomatic tensions between the two countries, the latest of which was witnessed last September.
Yerevan’s measured response to the Israel-Hamas war reflects its delicate regional positioning. The shift toward the West, coupled with anti-Israeli sentiments, may strain Armenia’s relationships, especially with Russia.
Additionally, Armenia is attuned to Iran’s support and takes care to avoid actions that could jeopardise its ties with Tehran.
The Israel-Hamas conflict and Russia’s war in Ukraine have disrupted the established international order, presenting heightened defence and security challenges for smaller powers like Armenia and Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus.
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