Baku needs help from Moscow

Agency WPS
August 20, 2004, Friday


SOURCE: Vremya Novostei, August 18, 2004, p. 5

by Shakhin Abbasov


Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Eldar Mamedjarov came to Moscow with a
three-day official visit, yesterday. This is Mamedjarov’s first visit
to Russia in the capacity of the foreign minister. The visitor and
his Russian opposite number Sergei Lavrov will discuss the war on
terrorism and problems of the legal status of the Caspian Sea.
Mamedjarov said before leaving for Moscow that “the central issue on
the agenda concerns Russia’s role as a mediator and chairman of the
OSCE Minsk Group in settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
“This is a matter of importance for us,” Mamedjarov said.

The talks in Moscow are taking place against the background of active
Russian-Azerbaijan contacts. Five prominent Russian politicians
visited Baku in the last three months – ex-premiers Yevgeny Primakov,
Sergei Stepashin, and Viktor Chernomyrdin, CIS Executive Secretary
Vladimir Rushailo, and Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov.

Some discords have been already settled. The accord signed in 2002
divided the Caspian Sea into national sectors of Russia, Azerbaijan,
and Kazakhstan. Azerbaijan joined construction of a railroad from
Russia to Iran and to the Persian Gulf via Azerbaijan.

In 2002, Azerbaijan made an important step in Moscow’s direction when
it leased Russia the Gabala radar installation. Azerbaijani parties
of the opposition and organizations of environmentalists still
maintain that the radar is harmful to the population of nearby areas.
The day before yesterday, PR Department of the Russian Space Force
found itself compelled to announce that the effect the radar has on
the population and environment does not exceed the established norms.
In fact, demands to sanitary norms in the USSR were stiffer than
anywhere else in the world. In any case, the final conclusion will be
drawn by specialists.

Political scientist Rasim Musarbekov maintains that “the
Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict is like a time bomb” that jeopardizes
the otherwise good relations between Baku and Moscow. Mamedjarov’s
visit to Moscow is taking place against the background of
deterioration of the situation in Georgia. In Azerbaijan itself, not
one public statement of President Ilham Aliyev in the last twelve
years failed to boil down to the threats to resume hostilities and to
criticism of the OSCE Minsk Group. When a military exercise was run
in Nagorno-Karabakh in early August (participation of the Armenian
army in it was not even denied), Mamedjarov even went so far as to
question expediency of continuation of negotiations within the
framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.

Some specialists do not rule out the possibility that official Baku
may take radical steps to restore territorial integrity of the
country, simultaneously with analogous actions on the part of Tbilisi
against runaway autonomies. “Mamedjarov on his visit to Moscow will
try to gauge the readiness of the Kremlin to put Yerevan under
pressure so as to make it more docile in the talks,” Musarbekov
explained. The United States is another key member of the OSCE Minsk
Group, but the forthcoming presidential election in this country have
persuaded the US Administration not to grate the powerful Armenian
diaspora without a compelling reason.

On August 20, President of Russia Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet
with his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharjan in Sochi. It is clear
that the course and the tone of conversation will take into account
the outcome of Lavrov’s negotiations with Mamedjarov that will have
ended by then.

Unless Baku secured Moscow support, Azerbaijan may begin buying arms.
Sources in the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan say that Baku is
already negotiating the matter with Pakistan and Ukraine. “These arms
deals will radically change the military parity between Azerbaijan
and Armenia,” Musarbekov said.