BAKU: President Musharraf arrives in Azerbaijan

July 8 2004

President Musharraf arrives in Azerbaijan

BAKU: President Pervez Musharraf arrived in the oil-rich former
Soviet republic of Azerbaijan Thursday at the start of a two-day
visit which officials said would cement a growing friendship between
the two Muslim nations.

Pakistan is keen to sell its military hardware to Azerbaijan while
the south Asian state wants to get its hands on Azerbaijan’s sizeable
oil and gas resources.

After landing near Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, Musharraf, who was
accompanied by Pakistan’s first lady Begum Sehba Musharraf, was due
to have talks with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and then ink a series
of agreements.

The Azeri leader told reporters on Wednesday that his country
“attaches great importance to the visit of Pakistan’s president… I
hope (it) will give a new impetus to our relations and lift them onto
a new level.”

The visit was taking place amid tight security. An army general who
came to power in a bloodless coup five years ago, Musharraf has been
the target of several assassination attempts at home.

Azerbaijan is a tiny state of eight million people bordering Iran and
Russia, which in recent years has emerged as a steadfast ally to

The two countries are united by a common fight against their
neighbours: Pakistan in its conflict with India over Kashmir and
Azerbaijan in a 15-year-old dispute with Armenia over the enclave of

Pakistani and Azeri diplomats have an informal pact to back each
other when their conflicts come up for discussion in international
forums like the United Nations.

They are also members of the exclusive club of Muslim states which
have sided with the United States in its fight against international
terrorism, offering logistical and military support to US-led
operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Relations between Azerbaijan and Pakistan were first forged by
Musharraf’s predecessor Nawaz Sharif when he visited Baku in 1995.

The late Azeri head of state Heidar Aliyev — the father of the
current president — made a return visit to Islamabad the following

The two sides concluded a military pact last year. Details are
sketchy, though it is known that Azeri officers are training in
military academies in Pakistan.

Ahead of Musharraf’s visit, an advance party headed by Pakistan’s
Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Chaudhry Nauriz Shakoor
Khan has been in Azerbaijan thrashing out agreements with Azeri

“Azerbaijan has always supported Pakistan on the Kashmir problem,”
the minister said Wednesday, speaking through an interpreter. “During
the visit…the (two) presidents will sign agreements on friendship
and cooperation.”

That cooperation is likely to include deals on oil and defence, he
said. “If Azerbaijan has spare oil and gas and Pakistan has demand
for them then we can buy them,” said Khan. “We can also offer
Azerbaijan military technology.

Khan said other agreements would pave the way for Pakistani
businessmen to invest in Azerbaijan’s agriculture and tourism
sectors, and that Urdu — Pakistan’s official language — would soon
be taught at Baku State University.

Musharraf is scheduled to fly out of Azerbaijan on Saturday morning.
On Friday he is due to address a special session of the Azeri
parliament, go on walkabout around Baku and attend a concert in his
honour at the State Philarmonic Hall.