MOSCOW (RFE/RL)—A prominent filmmaker who is expected to be Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s main challenger in an upcoming presidential election has advocated a radical change of Azerbaijan’s strategy of winning back Nagorno-Karabakh.
In an interview with the Georgian Times daily newspaper, Rustam Ibragimbekov said Baku should avoid antagonizing Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population with threats of military action.
“I am categorically against saber-rattling and declarations that Armenians must be wiped out,” Ibragimbekov said. “You can’t solve conflicts with weapons in the 21st century.”
“If there is a truly democratic situation and no corruption in Azerbaijan … if Armenians, who are clever and pragmatic people, see that living in a Karabakh belonging to Azerbaijan is much better than living in a Karabakh belonging to Armenia, they will live just like they did for centuries,” added the screenwriter who has spent much of his life in Russia.
Ibragimbekov also suggested that the governments of both Azerbaijan and Armenia are interested in the Karabakh status quo. “They pretend to be making attempts at resolving the conflict because it’s a source of uncontrolled profits on both sides. It’s a source of power. It’s an instrument for putting the country in a state of war at any moment.”
“I believe that the problem should be lowered from a narrow circle of individuals to the popular level,” stressed the 74-year-old.
Azerbaijan regularly threatens to forcibly regain control over Karabakh and other Armenian-controlled territories surrounding the disputed enclave. Over the past decade, Aliyev’s government has spent billions of dollars in oil revenues on a massive military buildup which it says will eventually force the Armenians to give up Karabakh.
Ibragimbekov, whose works include the Oscar-winning Russian movie “Burnt by the Sun” and the Soviet classic “White Sun of the Desert,” was chosen by Azerbaijan’s leading opposition groups last month as their single candidate in the election slated for October. The filmmaker has been absent from Azerbaijan for the past several months. He has expressed fears that he will be arrested on charges of tax evasion if he returns to the country.