The death was announced in Baku on Friday evening of Vafa Guluzade, the veteran Azerbaijani diplomat and one of the architects of Azerbaijani foreign policy after the country regained its independence in 1991. In the crucial period following the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh Guluzade was the Chief negotiator on the Azerbaijani side in negotiations with Armenia.
Guluzade was born in Baku in 1940 and was one of the leading orientalists in the former Soviet Union. He served as a Soviet diplomat in a number of Middle Eastern countries and was often the official translator at meetings between Soviet leaders and visiting Arab statesmen. His experience was sought immediately after Azerbaijan regained its independence in 1991 and he served under three consecutive Presidents - Mutalibov, Elcebey and Heidar Aliev - as State Advisor on Foreign Affairs and a member of the Security Council, and under Aliev also as the Chief negotiator in the discussions that started with Armenia following the 1994 cease fire that halted hostilities in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.
It was in this position that he was to attract prominence. He was one of the architects of the Azerbaijani strategy that managed to score a considerable diplomatic success against Armenia in Lisbon in December 1996, when at the summit of heads of state of the OSCE all the member states, overuling Armenia's objections, adopted a position clearly supporting the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
A confidant of president Heidar Aliev since the time when the latter was First Secretary of the Communist Party in Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1970s, Guluzade disagreed with Aliev's negotiating tactics on Nagorno-Karabakh at the talks in Key West in 1999, brokered by President George Bush, and he and two other senior officials subsequently resigned. He never again accepted an official position in the Azerbaijani government, but his advice continued to be sought informally.
Guluzade was considered a tough and stubborn negotiator, and he held strong opinions on a number of issues, not least on the negative role of Russia in the South Caucasus. He was however widely respected for his principled positions and dignified demeanor.
photo: Vafa Guluzade, Azerbaijani diplomat who died in Baku on 1 May 2015 aged 75.. (Picture courtesy of the Voice of America).