BAKU: Azeri Daily Says Us Troops May Be Stationed in Karabakh


Yeni Musavat, Baku
23 Aug 04

The USA might help Azerbaijan gain back its Armenian-occupied lands in
return for stationing its troops in Nagornyy Karabakh, Azerbaijani
daily Yeni Musavat has said. This could provide excellent chances to
Washington, which aims to reduce Russia’s role in the region and is
about to launch its plans vis-a-vis Iran, since Nagornyy Karabakh
borders both on Iran and on Armenia which hosts Russian military
bases, the report said. I do not believe that US troops will come here
only to protect the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the deputy chairman of
the opposition Musavat Party told Yeni Musavat. The US forces to be
deployed in the country will be “multipurpose”, the party official
said. For his part, the spokesman of the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry
denied that deployment of US troop had been discussed during the
latest visit by the US defence secretary to Baku. However, the
spokesman said, military units of countries involved in the
construction of Baku-Ceyhan might take part in the protection of the
pipeline. The following is an excerpt from Elsad Pasasoy’s report by
Yeni Musavat on 23 August headlined “US bases in Karabakh” and
subheaded “Can Baku make such an appeal to the USA?” and “Sulhaddin
Akbar: Personal and power interests should be set aside”; subheadings
have been inserted editorially:

Reports that US troops will be stationed in Azerbaijan have caused
serious concern in Russia. In its comments on Pentagon chief Donald
Rumsfeld’s unexpected visit to Azerbaijan, Russia’s Nezavisimaya
Gazeta reported that the issue of military bases had been discussed
and agreement in principle had been reached.

There have been discussions for a long time about the possibility of
setting up NATO or US military bases in Azerbaijan. Although
Washington officials have so far firmly denied the existence of this
plan, this intention is being more openly expressed now. The deputy
commander of US European Command, Charles Wald, has also unveiled
Washington’s intention to deploy mobile forces in the region to ensure
the security of the (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) oil pipeline.

US troops in Azerbaijan to be multipurpose

Commenting on the issue, the deputy chairman of the Musavat Party,
Sulhaddin Akbar, said that the discussions of this issue had started
long before and negotiations were under way. “But the discussions have
not finished yet. Some technical preparations are being made. However,
the resolution of the issue on an official legal level is being
delayed because Azerbaijan has not given its official consent.”

Akbar says that the factor that keeps the Azerbaijani authorities in
hesitation is Russia’s and Iran’s positions. He thinks that the bases
that will be set up in Azerbaijan might not be conventional military
bases. “As is known, the notion of military bases implies the
long-term deployment of armed forces of one foreign country in another
country based on a legal document. It might be envisaged that some
mobile forces will be temporarily deployed. In the first place I mean
air bases.”

(Passage omitted: known details)

Akbar says that if US troops are deployed temporarily, they will be
multipurpose. “In other words, they will be used both within the
framework of the Caspian security programme, to ensure the security of
oil reserves and oil transportation to international markets and for
the Iranian issue. A new function might appear in the future. In other
words, I do not believe that they will be here only to protect the oil

Undoubtedly, this plan will be implemented in accordance with the US
interests. The deployment of troops in Azerbaijan could be an event of
serious significance to Washington from the viewpoint of minimizing
Russia’s role in the region and implementing the Iranian plan. Since
the USA explains the deployment of troops by the fight against terror,
the interests of Azerbaijan, which has been subjected to terror,
should also be satisfied.

US troops may be stationed in Karabakh

One may wonder if the Azerbaijani side can dare to propose that our
occupied lands be liberated and in return US military forces be
stationed in Karabakh. By the way, in the occupied lands Azerbaijan
borders Iran and Armenia, which hosts Russia’s military bases. So, it
would promise a more beneficial prospect for the USA to set up
military bases in Nagornyy Karabakh. But can the Azerbaijani
authorities raise this issue with Washington?

Akbar (says): “For this condition to be put forward, private and power
interests should be set aside and the national interests should come
to the fore. Of course, this is possible if the national interests
come first. This issue was touched upon in a meeting between
(Azerbaijani Defence Minister) Safar Abiyev and Donald Rumsfeld. It is
desirable to have these issues raised. They include restoration of
Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, increased border
security, Caspian security and assistance in the resolution of
Azerbaijan’s numerous problems and army building. If Azerbaijan is
interested, it may raise many issues as part of bilateral cooperation
and within the framework of NATO.”

Akbar said he did not expect the presence of US military forces in
Azerbaijan to directly influence the resolution of the Nagornyy
Karabakh dispute. “It may simply have a certain effect in terms of
preventing the conflict from expanding. Namely, if US armed forces are
deployed in Azerbaijan, this will naturally play a role in
strengthening stability in the region from the geopolitical and
geostrategic viewpoint. Or the reverse could be true. Say, if the
Iranian issue comes to the agenda, it could play an opposite
role. This should also be taken into account.” (Asked if) this will
nullify Azerbaijan’s chance to start military operations, Akbar (said
that) “Azerbaijan does not have such an intention, desire and power.”

Tension to grow between Russia and USA

What will be Russia’s reaction to Washington’s military plans? Will
Moscow pull back its military bases from Georgia and Azerbaijan, or
will it continue showing more resistance?

The expert says that strategic disagreement is already increasing. “It
is hard to predict any understanding in this direction soon. The
situations both in Ukraine and Georgia and in Azerbaijan show that the
disagreement is growing. I think this tension will continue growing at
least till the end of the year. If (US President George W.) Bush is
re-elected and if perhaps understanding is reached with Russia from
the geopolitical and geostrategic viewpoint, Moscow could withdraw
from here. But this understanding is not expected to be reached at
least this year.”

Azeri defence official denies talks on US troop deployment

Expressing an attitude to press reports on the prospect of deployment
of US military forces in Azerbaijan, the head of the press service of
the (Azerbaijani) Defence Ministry, Col Ramiz Malikov, said that no
discussion had been held at the ministry to this effect. Reminding
that the Defence Ministry is not a political organization, the colonel
thinks that it is up to politicians to discuss this issue. Also, he
played down the reports that during his sudden visit to Azerbaijan
last week (on 12 August) US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had had
discussions with his Azerbaijani counterpart on the deployment of (US)
troops. “I personally took part in the meeting that was held at Heydar
Aliyev international airport. A broad exchange of views was held with
our minister. However, the setting up of military bases was not the
subject of the discussions.”

Besides refuting reports circulated in the Russian media, Malikov
wanted the reality to be heeded, too. Judging by what he said, the
disseminated information was not by far unsubstantiated. “Today, the
eyes of the whole world are on Azerbaijan. A total of 60m dollars have
been invested in the Baku-Tb ilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and the countries
concerned want to have the security of this pipeline ensured. Certain
circles, countries concerned and their military units might take part
in the protection of this pipeline. A unit from Azerbaijan might also
join this process.” Nevertheless, the Defence Ministry spokesman
reiterated that the discussions of this type had not been held. “The
Defence Ministry is just an executive body.”

Malikov’s reaction to Russia’s concerns at the setting up of US
military bases in Azerbaijan on the pretext of protecting the oil
pipeline was brief and clear-cut: “Has Russia ever been unconcerned?”
(Asked if) the military forces that will be stationed in Azerbaijan
may in any way contribute to the (resolution of) the Nagornyy Karabakh
dispute, Malikov said: “How can they help? These units will just
protect the pipeline. Now, you see (US Co-Chairman of the OSCE Minsk
Group) Steven Mann, on the one hand, and the Russian foreign minister,
on the other, shouting. We have to resolve the Nagornyy Karabakh
dispute ourselves.”