BAKU: Azeri politicians divided over possible US troop deployment

Azeri politicians divided over possible US troop deployment

Ekho, Baku
27 Aug 04

The setting up of US military bases in Azerbaijan has appeared on the
agenda again recently. The unexpected visit of US Defence Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld to Azerbaijan has brought this issue under the media

Moscow hopes that Washington will not set up its bases in the Baltic
countries and the Caucasus, said a statement by the Russian Foreign
Ministry in connection with the US plans to reassign its troops in
Europe (Turan news agency). As for the military bases established in
Central Asia, Moscow hopes that they will be closed as soon as the
antiterror operations in Afghanistan are over.

The deputy chairman of the PFAP [the People’s Front of Azerbaijan
Party (reformists)] on international affairs, [MP] Asim Mollazada,
said that at issue was not the deployment of troops but rather the
development of ties between Azerbaijan and the USA. Mollazada notes
that strategic partnership is being observed between Baku and
Washington in security issues, however, “it is necessary to reach a
strategic alliance”. There are all prerequisites for this, Mollazada

The security of the region is a priority for all the South Caucasus
countries. In any case, Mollazada thinks, the USA will do its best to
maintain stability in the region. He said that mobile detachments
could be brought into the region to ensure the security of joint
projects. However, what is more important is the resolution of
political issues – “deployment of mobile units is a purely technical

“We want solely Azerbaijani forces on the territory of our country,”
the deputy chairman of the Azarbaycan Milli Istiqlal Party [AMIP],
Maharram Zulfuqarli, told Ekho. He said that the issue of deployment
of US troops in Azerbaijan was being whipped up. They are allegedly to
ensure the security of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. The AMIP
official thinks that this function should be accomplished exclusively
by Azerbaijani troops. “We did not drive the Russian troops out of the
country in 1992 to replace them with any other foreign units.”

“Negotiations to this effect are actually under way. And the USA
wishes to deploy its military contingent in Azerbaijan,” the deputy
chairman of the Musavat Party, Sulhaddin Akbar, said. According to his
information, the authorities have not so far consented to this. At the
same time, Akbar believes that Azerbaijan should soon file for NATO
membership. “This could give us more advantages both in the military
and political spheres.”

The co-chairman of the Azerbaijani Social Democratic Party, Zardust
Alizada, is flatly against the deployment of any foreign troops in
Azerbaijan. He said that our country should adhere to
neutrality. According to Alizada, the “pro-NATO” fight for the
deployment of foreign troops here “is a grave mistake”. Those
soldiers will protect the interests of the USA, and the USA has always
backed Armenia’s interests.

Alizada also pointed at the USA’s desire to “unleash aggression
against Iran”. “This could lead to a fratricidal war as many
Azerbaijanis live in Iran.”

[Passage omitted: another similar opinion by Aydin Quliyev]

Gular Ahmadova, MP from the [ruling] New Azerbaijan Party, said that
Azerbaijan was in the US-led antiterror coalition. Moreover,
Azerbaijan fully backs cooperation with NATO. “The country’s
leadership also fully supports integration into the Euro-Atlantic
structures.” At the same time, the MP believes that the idea of
deployment of US troops is “populist”. “The country’s cooperation with
NATO is a completely different matter,” Ahmadova said.

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS