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Andrey Kortunov

Ph.D. in History, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member

The Director General of the Russian Council on International Affairs, Andrei Kortunov, in an interview to Vestnik Kavkaza spoke about the key issues of the international agenda that will be discussed at the forthcoming UN General Assembly, including the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, end of the war in Ukraine, reduction of tensions over the nuclear deal with Iran, and Turkey's heated relations with the West.

- Andrey Vadimovich, how do you assess the prospects for the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia on the fields of the UN General Assembly?

- Any meeting between high representatives of these two countries is very important, since contacts, exchange of positions, comparison of viewpoints, perhaps the establishment of relations are maybe small, but concrete steps towards improving the situation. Undoubtedly, we must proceed from the fact that there are mechanisms, in particular, the OSCE Minsk Group, which, probably, need some kind of activation now. I want to emphasize that at the moment, the main thing is to prevent a new outbreak of hostilities, similar to the one that took place in April last year, and prevent the death of people. Against the backdrop of many problems in the neighboring regions, the aggravation of the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh would have a pernicious effect on international stability.

- What can we expect from the meeting between the US and Turkish Presidents, Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the same platform?

- There is a number of questions concerning Turkey's role in the Syrian conflict, which have to be discussed by the presidents. We know that between the US and Turkey there are serious disagreements over the Kurds, their role in Syria and American support for the Kurdish units. There are other topics, in particular, Washington and Ankara imagine differently the future of NATO and obligations of the alliance members. As we know, Turkey insists on extradition of an eminent Islamic preacher Gulen to Ankara, who is accused, if not of organization, at least of a very active participation in the preparation of the last year’s coup. The US is not ready to extradite this person. Unfortunately, I do not think that they will be able to achieve mutual understanding on very important issues, and we can predict that the US-Turkish relations will remain complex, with the elements of both cooperation and a very serious divergence of views.

- Is it possible to discuss the Iranian nuclear deal at the UN General Assembly?

- From the Russian point of view, the Iranian nuclear dossier is closed: there is an agreement, it is being implemented by the both sides, there are mechanisms for verifying Iran’s actions. But we know that there are some forces in the US that consider this deal not a good one, believing that they could have bargained for additional concessions from Iran. In addition, they bring charges, in my opinion, not fully justified, that Iran violates the agreement. It should be added that many in the US and some in the Middle East have concerns about the state and prospects of the Iranian ballistic missile program. Therefore, unfortunately, it is not yet possible to fully integrate Iran into the international community, and there is a fundamental difference between Russia and the United States. If the United States regards Iran as the main factor of instability in the region, then Russia understands that without Iran stability in the Middle East is impossible and the republic should remain an important participant in any agreements in the region. Iran participates in the Astana process, we have an active cooperation with Tehran on the Syrian and other issues. That is, the Iranian problem remains complex, and, unfortunately, it appears that the current American leadership is determined to tighten further its approach to Iran, and this can have very serious consequences for the regional stability.

- What initiatives on the Ukrainian crisis should be promoted at the UN General Assembly?

- It seems to me, it is very important to promote the initiative that Moscow sounded: the creation of an international peacekeeping mission in Eastern Ukraine. We understand that there are a lot of details here, and probably not every proposal suits Kyiv and the West, and it is technologically necessary to solve all the issues. Nevertheless, the use of international peacekeepers is the most promising direction in reducing the severity of the crisis. If it is possible to ensure serious presence of international peacekeepers, we can hope that people will stop dying at least. And if there is a stable truce, we can gradually return to other points of the Minsk accords. We understand that this is a complicated process, it has not been possible to do so until now for various reasons, and the implementation of the Minsk agreements remains in question, but we must start somewhere. International peacekeepers can be the first step towards a further settlement of the situation in Eastern Ukraine.

Source: Vestnik Kavkaza

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