BAKU: Azeri DM laments Russian-Armenian military exercises

Azeri Defence Ministry laments Russian-Armenian military exercises

525 Qazet, Baku
25 Aug 04

Text of Rasad Suleymanov’s report by Azerbaijani newspaper 525 Qazet
on 25 August headlined “Russia an invader Armenia start joint
exercises” and subheaded “Ramiz Malikov: We regret that the troops of
the occupying country and Russia, which mediates a settlement to the
Nagornyy Karabakh conflict, are holding joint exercises”

Armenian and Russian military units started joint exercises at the
Marshal Bagramyan military training centre yesterday. The deputy
defence minister of Armenia and chief of the General Staff, Col-Gen
Mikael Arutunyan, said that Armenia’s reinforced motorized-rifle
regiment and Russia’s 102nd military base stationed in Gyumri are
involved in the exercises that will last till 27 August.

Different weapons, artillery, fighters and bombers will be used during
the exercises. Arutunyan said that the aim of the exercises was to
examine the defensive capability of the troops.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the exercises were
being held within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty. He
also said that 5,000 servicemen are on active duty in the 102nd
military base, which is included in the North Caucasus Military

An independent military expert, retired Col Ildirim Mammadov, thinks
that the joint Russian-Armenian exercises aim to create tension in the
South Caucasus. At the same time, this step is being taken as a
response to the ongoing events. “There have been ideas of late that
the USA will station military bases in the South Caucasus. On the
other hand, the developments in South Ossetia and the Georgian
president’s statements that the Georgian people should be ready for
war with Russia cannot but worry the Russians. In retaliation, Russia
is flexing its muscles in the Caucasus.”

Mammadov believes that the exercises might be held also in retaliation
for the command and staff exercises in Baku for the protection of the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan main export pipeline. “The Russians are
unambiguously trying to disrupt this project. And their ally in this
effort could be only Armenia.”

Other experts also agreed that the exercises were a show of Russia’s
force in the Caucasus. They believe that these exercises serve the
ultimate goal of aggravating the situation in the South Caucasus.

The head of the press service of the [Azerbaijani] Defence Ministry,
Col Ramiz Malikov, says that the exercises are being held within the
framework of strategic partnership between Russia and Armenia. “On the
other hand, this is also a political issue. The Defence Ministry does
not comment on political issues. But anyhow, we regret that Russia,
which is a mediator in the OSCE Minsk Group dealing with the
settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagornyy Karabakh conflict, and
the troops of the occupying country are holding joint exercises.”