Former adviser to George Shultz on air at Azeri.Today
Exclusive interview of Azeri.Today with Abraham Sofaer, famous American lawyer, ex-federal judge of the US District Court in the Southern District of New York (appointed to this post by Jimmy Carter) from 1979 to 1985, former legal adviser to the Secretary of State George Shultz from 1985 to 1990, senior researcher on foreign policy and national security at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.
- Mr. Sofaer, first of all, I want to thank you for agreeing to give an interview to our website. You have a very large experience in the field of jurisprudence. And the first question concerns your legal activity. Why did you choose to become a lawyer?
- In the USA, being a lawyer is a flexible profession that allows one to serve in the private and public sectors, in a variety of positions. I have enjoyed the choice I made.
- In 1985, former Secretary of State George Shultz asked you to become a legal advisor to the State Department, and you worked there until 1990. You were the main negotiator in interstate matters. What interstate issues were you able to solve successfully? What methods did you use?
- I worked on many issues and negotiations in the Dept of State, and the most important ones that I led and settled are (1) the Taba dispute between Egypt and Israel; (2) the payment by Iraq of damages for their attack on the USS Stark; (3) the exchange with the Soviet Union of Zacharov for Danilov (US citizen); (4) settlement of civil claims against Chile for the attack on its Ambassador in Wash DC; (5) settlement of claims by families of victims of the Ras Burqa massacre in Egypt's Sinai; (6) sovereign immunity issues with the Soviet Union; (7) handling of the Pollard Affair. I also led the effort to develop and articulate the US position on international law and terrorism, including the use of force.
- By the way, you also helped George Shultz to force to disclose information that led to the cessation of arms supplies to Iran within the scandal with Iran Contra. How did you manage to help Shultz on this issue?
- This is described in some detail in the reports of the Special Prosecutor and the Congress on Iran/Contra, and in an article I have written. I identified potential misstatements by some officials to Congress and the public, and helped Secy Shultz prevent such falsehoods and protect the President against the consequences of such lies, which caused the downfall of the Nixon Administration. Secy Shultz provided the moral and political strength to close down the arms sales.
- Mr. Sofaer, as you know, Armenia occupied Azerbaijani territories - Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions. Even on the official website of the State Department, Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 districts are listed within Azerbaijan (you can also see it with your own eyes). I am sure that the US supports us in this matter, but there is a Russian factor. After all, Armenia is Russia’s vassal and there is a Russian military base in Armenia. You have successfully resolved the dispute between Egypt and Israel over Taba. How can the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict be successfully resolved? What would you suggest?
- I know that issue is profoundly important and difficult. My approach would be to study the problem in depth and then to collect ideas and options from all sources, and only then to implement an agreed strategy, recognizing that the ultimate result would inevitably take a long time to achieve.
- In addition, there are 4 resolutions of the UN Security Council, but Armenia does not fulfill them. According to international law, Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 regions are the territories of Azerbaijan. So, why does the UN (the world community) not compel Armenia to comply with these resolutions?
- Because the UN has no guaranteed mechanism for enforcing its decisions, requiring individual states and groups of states often to take the lead in implementation, in those few situations where such a coalition can be formed.
- You are a well-known lawyer in the world. How do you assess the situation with human rights in the South Caucasus region, especially in Armenia? According to the Freedom House report, the human rights situation in Armenia is deteriorating every year. How can this be explained? And what factors influence the deterioration of the human rights situation?
- The meaning of "human rights" is very broad, and so one has to be specific about what rights are being violated. It is very difficult for outside forces to get a given state that is in control of a population to extend rights that the state does not want to extend. Egregious violations of various human rights exist in many countries. We were immensely successful at convincing the Soviet Union to allow its Refuseniks to leave, or to stay and be permitted to dissent peacefully. But that was a rare success even at this stage of human history.
- If you received an order from the Azerbaijani government, would you assume the resolution of the Karabakh conflict?
-We would have to discuss more specifically what role they have in mind, and the terms of such an engagement. Among other things, I would need to know what has already been tried and to get briefed in general about the situation.
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