At the 16th ministerial of the Non-Aligned Movement in Bali, Azerbaijan formally joined the Non-Aligned Movement, a move that analysts perceive of as the manifestation of the balanced foreign policy doctrine that President Ilham Aliyev has pursued since coming to office but one that others see as reflecting a new direction in Baku’s foreign policy, one driven both by criticism from the West over the Azerbaijan government’s treatment of its opponents and a desire by Baku to wean Moscow away from Armenia and thereby open the way to a settlement of the longstanding Karabakh conflict.
In his speech to the Bali meeting, Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov remarked that Azerbaijan feels responsible for promoting mutual respect and mutual understanding through dialogue between religions and cultures” and thus “we must find new paths and means for the realization of a more effective Movement which will be in a position to react to the rapidly changing international climate.
Elmat Mammadyarov further said that Azerbaijan’s membership in Non-Aligned Movement will give Azerbaijan “an additional platform” for promoting the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The membership of the Non Aligned movement was the driving force behind in the election of Azerbaijan as a non-permanent member in the United Nations Security Council on October 25 2011.The election of Azerbaijan in the United Security Council has been hailed as one of the major achievements of the country’s foreign policy. In the voting, 155 countries voted in favour of the country and 24 countries remained neutral.
Support of the countries of the Non Aligned group was the key factor that led to Azerbaijan’s entry as a non-permanent member in the United Nations Security Council. Since January of 2012, Azerbaijan having its seat at the Security Council demonstrates most important and active role in the discussion of urgent problems, acts from criteria of ensuring the world peace and justice.
The entry of Azerbaijan into NAM also augments the country’s international standing as one following the programme of open neutrality and a disinclination to enter into an alliance or organization focussed against any particular block or country. Moreover, as a NAM member, Azerbaijan is also open to the option of pursuing an independent foreign policy, and establishing bilateral relations with countries without any pre-ordained ideological dispositions. Thus, Azerbaijan today has bilateral relations with Islamic states of Iran and Turkey, and at the same time enjoys a constructive partnership with Israel. More importantly, the membership of NAM is in no way an impediment to Azerbaijan’s relations with the major regional power –the European Union. The geostrategic position of Azerbaijan, lying on the borders of the European Union makes it an important neighbouring region for the latter. Also Azerbaijan too stands to benefit in many ways by enhancing its diplomatic and economic cooperation with the European Union.
Participation in the Non-Aligned Movement does not limit the efforts of the country to integrate into European and Euro-Atlantic structures which are still the objective of the country. Regarding Azerbaijan- transatlantic relations, it may be mentioned that Azerbaijan is an important transit country for U.S. and NATO troops and supplies to Afghanistan via a network of ports and railroads, which is known as the Northern Distribution Network. Azerbaijan contributed a platoon to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in 2002 with the aim of contributing to provision of peace, security and order in Afghanistan.
The most significant impact of Azerbaijan’s NAM membership on its internal politics is twofold. First, by providing it with a mooring in an international institution representing two-thirds of UN member states, it elevates the status of the balancing doctrine from a personal formula traditionally employed by its governments, to a common set of policy objectives pursued by developing nations. Secondly, the seven-year “Azerbaijan 2020” national development plan initiated by decree of Illham Aliyev on 29 December 2012 makes explicit reference to having already achieved an exceptional position among its neighbour states. This agenda suggests similarities with the trajectory pursued by rising Global South nations that have utilized forums such as the NAM to promote and garner support for their national concerns. “ By selecting a non-aligned status and by becoming a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Azerbaijan has essentially defined its vector of interest on the international arena. As a result, today Azerbaijan is a country that more or less successfully balances between the interests of the leading geopolitical and regional players.