BAKU (Trend)–Russia’s position regarding the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan has not changed, Russian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Vasiliy Istratov said during a press conference in Baku on Tuesday.
Istratov’s statement came as Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed on Tuesday two decrees granting formal recognition to the Georgian breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, effectively shattering Georgian territorial integrity.
Istratov described the situation in Georgia as complex and unique from the situation in Azerbaijan.
In a bid to bring Azerbaijan back into its energy orbit and cement Russia’s hold over Caspian Sea energy, Medvedev visited Baku on July 3 and signed a declaration of friendship and strategic partnership with Azerbaijan, which contained an unusually explicit statement of support for Azerbaijan’s stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict.
The Russian President was in Baku to discuss selling Caspian gas to Russia, a prospect that could undermine a Western-backed project to bypass Russia and ship fuel from the Caspian Sea region directly to Europe.
According to Istratov, the declaration recognizing Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity signed between Medvedev and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev in early July "does not lose its force."
"The decision to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia is related to a unique situation, which appeared in the region as a result of beginning of military operations by the Georgian authorities in South Ossetia on August 8," he said. "This decision was made with regards to that unique situation in that unique area."
Medvedev, however, sent a clear warning to the former Soviet world on Monday that following Georgia’s example of trying to use force to seize back control of a breakaway region would be a "mistake."
Russia’sent peacekeepers to Moldova in the early 1990s to end a conflict between Chisinau and its breakaway Transdniestria region and is trying to mediate a deal between the two sides. Transdniestria, one of a number of "frozen conflicts" on the territory of the former Soviet Union, mirrored the standoff between Georgia and its rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia until they erupted in war earlier this month.
"This is a serious warning, a warning to all," Medvedev said to Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin. "And I believe we should handle other existing conflicts in this context."
Medvedev’s warning came against the backdrop of growing threats from Azerbaijan to use military force to "reclaim" the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which declared independence from Baku in 1991 following brutal massacres of Armenia’s throughout Azerbiajan.
Although the tense status quo in Karabakh has by and large held, Aliyev continues to threaten the use of his country’s petrodollar-funded military to take the territory by force.
A day after Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili deployed Georgian forces to "reclaim" South Ossetia, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement, describing Georgia’s military offensive as a positive precedent for countries seeking to use military force to restore "territorial integrity." The statement, published in Today.Az, referred to the frozen conflict between Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which declared its independence from Baku in 1991 following mass pogroms of Armenia’s throughout Azerbaijan.