With elections around the corner, incumbent Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s candidacy has gotten a surprise endorsement from the enemy's leader, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.
Aliyev may have spent the better part of his two terms as Azerbaijan's president making public threats toward Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, but his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan, still thinks that it is "perhaps best" to see Aliyev win a third term in October.
Better the devil you know than the devil you don't? Maybe so, yet, despite the endless fatal exchanges of sniper fire and threats between the two countries, the Armenian president’s words, uttered at a youth-group meeting, suggest that he does not expect Azerbaijan under Aliyev actually to go to war with Armenia to reclaim Karabakh.
The comment carries even further interest since Sargsyan himself is a native of Karabakh and once served as the separatist territory's chief of military operations against Azerbaijani forces.
But despite more than 20 years of talks with Baku with scant results, Sargsyan appears to believe that the two heads of state together have come a long way toward negotiating a settlement for the conflict.
“The road map to a solution has almost been drafted,” Sargsyan stressed, while conceding that the talks now are not "going actively."
If a deal is reached, and Aliyev "finds in himself the willpower to rise above his mania for Armenia-phobia," the 51-year-old Azerbaijani leader "would be the most acceptable and preferable option for us."
Some Armenian commentators think that Sargsyan’s words are another indication that the Armenia-Azerbaijan talks are going better than may seem based on public statements and on Baku getting armed to its teeth.
Others believe that Sargsyan is pretty sure that Aliyev is highly likely to win the election anyway. The only robust opposition candidate, Oscar-winning screenwriter Rustam Ibragimbekov, faces a dual-citizenship stumbling block for registration as a candidate and must also do battle with Aliyev's access to ample campaign funding and state machinery to pull out the campaign stops.
Sargsyan did say that, ideally Armenia, just like any country, would rather have a democratic neighbor. But for now, whatever the reason, he claims that raisons d'état must prevail.