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Cablegate: Azerbaijani President to U/S Burns: "You Can't

DE RUEHKB #0134/01 0560815
O 250815Z FEB 10

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BAKU 000134


E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/24/2020

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."

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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

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

-- 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

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,

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

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.

© Scoop Media

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