Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2013

Azerbaijan's Foreign Policy and the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

Elizabeth Fuller

April 2013

Istituto Affari Internazionali


The over-riding objective of Azerbaijan's foreign policy has been to secure a solution to the longstanding conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh on Azerbaijan's terms. Consequently, Azerbaijan's foreign policy is focused primarily on strengthening ties with those states and organizations that are perceived as willing and able to help it achieve that objective. Azerbaijan's motivation for prioritizing a solution to the Karabakh conflict is two-fold. First, to remove the long-term security threat posed by the existence on Azerbaijani territory of an Armenian-populated enclave with a highly trained military. And second, to enhance Azerbaijan's international prestige and further its aspiration to parlay its Caspian hydrocarbon wealth into the status of the dominant power in the South Caucasus. The fundamental constraints Azerbaijan faces in pursuing these twin objectives result from its geographical location, between the Caspian and the Black Sea, bordering on Russia to the north and Iran to the south. Azerbaijan's geopolitical environment has impelled Azerbaijan to pursue a maximally balanced and pragmatic foreign policy necessitating a "compartmentalization" of bilateral relations with its neighbours and global partners.