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Viewing cable 10BAKU134, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT TO U/S BURNS: "YOU CAN'T

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10BAKU134 2010-02-25 08:08 2010-11-28 18:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baku
VZCZCXRO2823
OO RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKB #0134/01 0560815
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 250815Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY BAKU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2437
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA IMMEDIATE 3808
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE IMMEDIATE 1573
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BAKU 000134 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/24/2020 
TAGS: PREL PHUM MARR ETRD AJ AM RS IR TU
SUBJECT: AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT TO U/S BURNS:  "YOU CAN'T 
BOIL TWO HEADS IN ONE POT" 
 
Classified By: Charge Donald Lu, for reasons 1.4 (b,d). 
 
 
 1.  (C) Summary:  President Aliyev used this coarse street 
slang to describe the relationship between Russian President 
Medvedev and PM Putin, but he might well have used the same 
idiom to describe his concerns about Turkey-Armenia 
reconciliation and the Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) Peace Process. 
He told U/S Burns that the "Sword of Damocles" of the April 
24 Armenian Remembrance Day is hanging over the NK Process, 
as well as the Turkey-Armenia normalization process.  He 
suggested that it would be easier if the Turkey-Armenia 
normalization could be considered after April in order to 
allow more time for progress on NK.  He also took the 
opportunity to press the USG to apply maximum pressure on 
Yerevan to make concessions on NK.  He stressed, "Now we are 
trying to be even more flexible." 
 
2.  (C) Summary Continued:  On Iran, President Aliyev said he 
supported economic isolation and believed it could be 
effective if enforced by a broad coalition.  He complained 
about Iranian security provocations.  On a proposed 
battalion-sized Afghanistan contribution, Aliyev said that he 
would support sending a team to Georgia to observe the 
training being provided by EUCOM to Georgian troops headed 
for Afghanistan.  On energy cooperation, President Aliyev 
said that if the Turks demonstrate "constructive behavior" 
this year that a gas transit deal can happen.  Finally, on 
the jailed youth activists, though he made no firm 
commitments regarding their release, he said, "I think (a 
pardon or amnesty) can be done.  I had no intention to hurt 
anyone."  End Summary. 
 
Seeks Pressure on Yerevan to Resolve NK 
--------------------------------------- 
 
3.  (C) Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Bill 
Burns began his hour-long meeting with President Ilham Aliyev 
by stressing that he was sent with the simple message that 
Washington wants to build our bilateral relations and create 
a stronger partnership.  He then offered his condolences for 
the three Azeri soldiers killed on the Line of Contact on 
February 18.  Aliyev responded that such events show that 
there is no peace, no peace treaty and no peacekeepers 
enforcing the cease-fire.  He worried more such incidents 
could happen.  Burns commented that such incidents 
underscored the urgency of finding a political solution on 
Nagorno-Karabakh. 
 
4.  (C) The balance of Aliyev,s comments sought to convey 
that he was ready to move forward in the Minsk Group Process, 
but that international pressure would be needed if Armenia 
was to move forward.  He said that it is now time to find a 
final resolution, but Armenian President Sargsian wants to 
walk away from the process.  "I told the co-chairs that 
Armenia wants to delay as long as possible and escape at the 
end.""  He said that Azerbaijan was prepared to do its part 
to propel the talks forward.  "Now we will try to be even 
more flexible." 
 
5.  (C) Aliyev outlined several steps to persuade Armenia to 
agree to the Minsk Group Basic Principles: 
 
-- the three co-chair countries should consolidate their 
efforts at a senior-level, 
 
-- (C) the three co-chair countries should send a strong 
message that the independence of NK is not under review, and 
 
-- (C) if these new proposals are not accepted, there should 
be consequences in terms of international isolation, 
especially in the form of Russia,s curtailing some of its 
economic support for Armenia. 
 
6.  (C) Aliyev noted that at Sochi, President Sargsian had 
inserted a proposal for specifying a definite date for a 
referendum or plebiscite on NK final status.  This, Aliyev 
argued, undermined the entire framework of the agreement, 
which is premised on an eventual referendum ) with no 
definite timeframe ) in exchange for legalizing "the 
illegally established regime in NK.""  He also noted that 
Armenia is vulnerable to isolation because it is dependent 
upon remittances from its diaspora, as well as imports of gas 
and electricity.  "After 18 years of negotiation, we have 
tested all options.  If this phase (of Minsk Group talks) 
ends, what is next?" the President asked aloud. 
 
The Russian Role in NK and Russian Succession 
 
BAKU 00000134  002 OF 004 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
7.  (C) In response to U/S Burns' question about the Russian 
role in the NK talks, Aliyev responded that he was convinced 
that Medvedev's efforts have been sincere.  He said that 
Medvedev has personally met with the Azerbaijani and Armenian 
presidents five times.  Thus any failure to make progress on 
this issue will damage Medvedev's credibility.  He said that 
at Sochi, Medvedev tried to persuade Sargsian to achieve a 
breakthrough.  He added, however, that it was strange that 
with so much pressure from Moscow and Lavrov's visit to 
Yeveran, the Armenians not only resisted progress, but 
actually backtracked on previously-agreed items.  In response 
to a question, Aliyev said that he believes that PM Putin has 
his own separate opinion about the desirability of an NK 
resolution.  "I have no evidence, but I can feel this," 
Aliyev remarked. 
 
8.  (C) Aliyev said that he considers Medvedev "a modern, 
new-generation intellectual," surrounded by people whom he 
does not control.  He said that he has personally witnessed 
Medvedev taking decisions that then required further approval 
before they were implemented, referring specifically to a 
border demarcation agreement that he had agreed with Medvedev 
only to have it stymied by ""others,"" presumably in the 
prime ministerial office.  He added, "Many high-ranking 
officials don't recognize (Medvedev) as a leader."  He said 
that there are signs of a strong confrontation between the 
teams of the two men, although not yet between Putin and 
Medvedev personally.  "We have a saying in Azeri, 'Two heads 
cannot be boiled in one pot'" (crude street slang suggesting 
that two leaders are spoiling for a fight). 
 
Strong Pushback on the Turkey-Armenia Normalization 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
9.  (C) U/S Burns stressed that the U.S. believes that 
progress on the Turkey-Armenia protocols could create 
political space for Sargsian to be more flexible on NK.  He 
continued that the reverse was also true, that a failure of 
the Turkey-Armenia process would almost certainly result in 
serious negative consequences for the NK process.  Aliyev 
said that NK progress would require a minimum of five or six 
months.  He suggested that the entire Turkey-Armenia protocol 
ratification process be delayed until after April 24.  He 
said that the "Sword of Damocles" of Armenian Remembrance Day 
is hanging unhelpfully not only over the Turkey-Armenia 
process, but also now the NK progress.  "If there were no 
deadline, maybe we could see how to combine our efforts (to 
resolve NK)." 
 
10.  (C) Aliyev pushed back with his usual warnings about the 
negative effects of Turkey-Armenia protocol ratification 
without being proceeded by NK progress.  He darkly predicted 
postponement of any NK settlement; no comprehensive regional 
security improvement; damage to Turkey-Azerbaijani relations; 
no real partnership between Turkey and Armenia; further 
isolation of Central Asia; the undermining of energy 
projects; and damage to Georgia, both in lost transit income, 
but also in its role as the sole land corridor between Russia 
and Armenia. 
 
Relations with Iran Described as Tense and Unstable 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
11.  (C) U/S Burns explained in detail the steps the U.S. had 
taken to initiate dialogue with Tehran and support the Tehran 
Research Reactor initiative.  He ended by noting that, given 
the rejection of these overtures, the U.S. would move forward 
with another UNSC resolution that included new sanctions 
targeting the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.  Aliyev 
responded that although the visible side of Azerbaijan's 
relations with Iran appears normal, the substance was very 
different.  "I do not exclude that relations will be become 
more difficult," the President added. 
 
12.  (C) "(German Chancellor) Merkel was very firm with me on 
Iran, trying to persuade me.  I told her, 'No need,'" the 
President recalled.  He said that he was supportive of Iran's 
economic isolation and believed it could work if the 
international community worked together.  He said that 
earlier sanctions observance had been spotty with many 
European energy companies working in Iran.  "Statoil supports 
Iran more than it supports us!" he complained.  He noted that 
Russian President Medvedev once told him that Russia did not 
want the Americans to squeeze Iran, but also did not want a 
nuclear Iran. 
 
 
BAKU 00000134  003 OF 004 
 
 
13.  (C) Aliyev said that Iranian provocations in Azerbaijan 
were on the rise.  He specifically cited not only the 
financing of radical Islamic groups and Hezbollah terrorists, 
but also: 
 
-- the Iranian financing of violent Ashura ceremonies in 
Nakhchivan, 
 
-- the organization of demonstrations in front of the Azeri 
consulates in Tabriz and Istanbul, 
 
-- a violent religious procession recently in Baku, 
 
-- the use of the President's photo alongside the Star of 
David on the Azeri-language Seher TV broadcast into 
Azerbaijan, and 
 
-- conflict in the Caspian. 
 
14.  (C) The President added that Azerbaijan will not 
reciprocate on the liberalization of the visa regime with 
Iran.  He also noted that Azerbaijan is planning to create a 
TV channel in Persian that will broadcast into Iran.  He said 
that he did not understand why the Supreme Religious Leader 
chose Ahmadinejad over former President Moussavi.  He joked 
that perhaps it was too dangerous to have two ethnic Azeris 
at the head of the Iranian state.  He said that the election 
fraud was outrageous, with Ahmadinejad winning in 
Azeri-dominated Tabriz and Moussavi winning in Tehran, where 
it was harder to falsify the vote.  He viewed the situation 
as very tense within Iran and believed it could erupt at any 
time. 
 
Supports Afghanistan Troop Contribution, with Conditions 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
 
15.  (C) U/S Burns asked for the President's support to 
continue our discussions about a battalion-sized contribution 
of troops to Afghanistan that would include a U.S. train and 
equip program.  The President said that he is aware of this 
initiative and his foreign and defense ministries are working 
on it.  He said that the fundamental problem is one of 
""optics,""  claiming it was difficult for him politically if 
it looks like the Americans are only training Azeri troops to 
send them off to Afghanistan.  He said that it would be 
easier if half of those trained would be sent to Afghanistan, 
while the second half would remain in Azerbaijan or be used 
for other purposes.  U/S Burns noted that the President's 
suggestion would create problems involving the U.S. funding 
of the training.  The Charge proposed that as an initial 
step, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense Ministry staff 
observe the training of Georgian troops headed to Afghanistan 
by U.S. Marines.  The President thought this was a good idea 
and instructed his aide to look at this suggestion. 
 
Pardon or Amnesty of the Youth Activists "Can be Done" 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
16.  (C) U/S Burns said that one of the ways Azerbaijan could 
show leadership as a tolerant and secular country was in 
advancing democracy and human rights.  He specifically asked 
that, following the appeal process of the two youth 
activists, the President find a way on humanitarian grounds 
to release the two men.  Aliyev made no firm commitment, but 
responded, "I think this can be done.  I had no intention to 
hurt anyone."  When U/S Burns expressed the hope that the 
government could quietly take this step, the President said, 
"Okay." 
 
Russians are a Factor in Turkish Gas Transit 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
17.  (C) On energy cooperation, President Aliyev said that if 
the Turks demonstrate "constructive behavior" this year that 
a gas transit deal can happen.  He was clear, however, that 
nothing would be signed before April 24.  He also professed 
to be worried that active Turkish-Russian cooperation could 
be one of the impediments to progress.  He confided that 
Turkish Energy Minister Yildiz recently told the head the 
Azerbaijani State Oil Company, "Why do you want to ruin our 
relations with Russia?  Do you really need Nabucco?" 
 
18.  (C) The President continued that it is imperative for 
Azerbaijan that formalities for the commencement of Shah 
Deniz Phase II gas development begin this year.  This project 
will bring $20 billion in much-needed investment to 
Azerbaijan and potentially develop Azerbaijan into a major 
source of new gas, as much as 50 billion cubic meters. 
 
BAKU 00000134  004 OF 004 
 
 
 
19.  (C) Unprompted by U/S Burns, Aliyev spelled out the 
reasons Azerbaijan decided to sell gas to Russia last year, 
noting that ""Moscow had asked" and offered a good price for 
gas that was surplus anyway.  But the real reason, Aliyev 
confided, was that the sale illustrated to "our Turkish 
friends" that they will not be allowed to create a gas 
distribution hub.  "Aliyev made clear his distaste for the 
Erdogan government in Turkey, underscoring the "naivete" of 
their foreign policy and the failure of their initiatives, 
including the loss of support for Turkey among traditional 
international friends because of Ankara,s hostility to 
Israel.  He noted that in his view, there had never been any 
merit to the notion of a "moderate Islamist" government in 
Turkey, and that Erdogan,s insistence on promoting Hamas and 
Gaza ) when other Arab countries were notably silent on 
these issues ) had brought Turkey no benefits. 
 
20.  (U) Lastly, U/S Burns asked for the President's 
assistance in resolving the long-standing difficulties in 
finalizing the lease for the new Embassy compound.  The 
President responded positively that he thought this could be 
done. 
 
21.  (U) U/S Burns was accompanied by EUR Deputy Assistant 
Secretary Amb. Tina Kaidanow, NSC Director Bridget Brink, and 
Charge.  President Aliyev was joined by his Foreign Policy 
Advisor Novruz Mammadov. 
 
22.  (U) This message has been cleared by U/S Burns. 
LU