Lavrov’s visit irked Baku

Agency WPS
February 2, 2005, Wednesday


SOURCE: Nezavisimaya Gazeta, January 31, 2005, p. 3

by: Sokhbet Mamedov, Elkhan Shaginoglu

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to Azerbaijan expected on
February 1 is the focus of attention. Some Baku newspapers announced
that Lavrov would insist that Azerbaijan join the Organization of the
CIS Collective Security Treaty. The report alarmed national patriots
who immediately screamed treason on the part of the authorities and
began talking of the danger to sovereignty. Most analysts took the
reports with a certain grain of salt. Zardusht Alizade, a prominent
Azerbaijani political scientist, told journalists that Lavrov was too
old a hand at diplomacy to bring up so delicate a subject
(particularly since Armenia was a member of the Organization of the
CIS Collective Security Treaty).

A source in the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry says that Lavrov is
coming to discuss preparations for the Russian-Azerbaijani summit
scheduled for the second half of February when President Ilham Aliyev
will visit Moscow. Lavrov and his opposite number Elmar Mamedjarov
will also discuss economic problems, the matter of the legal status
of the Caspian Sea, and preparations for the second Caspian Summit.
Special attention will be paid to join efforts against international
terrorism; an audience with Aliyev is scheduled as well.

Commenting on Aliyev’s forthcoming visit to Moscow, opposition media
outlets maintain that the relations between the two countries are
based on economic concessions on the part of Azerbaijan more than on
any political support from Russia.

Karabakh settlement remains the stumbling stone in the
Russian-Azerbaijani relations. According to what information this
newspaper has compiled, Moscow will be asked to abandon its role of a
neutral mediator and talk to its strategic ally Armenia.
Well-informed sources also say that Lavrov will be asked to explain
the latest statements made by Yuri Merzlyakov, Russian Chairman of
the OSCE Minsk Group, which Baku found to be clearly pro-Armenian (as
far as Merzlyakov is concerned, Karabakh is a warring party also).
Armenian origin of the Russian foreign minister may have played its
role in the public outcry in Azerbaijan too.

Some Azerbaijani experts are of the opinion that unless Lavrov
reaches an agreement with Baku on central issues, Moscow may lose
initiatives in dealing with the problems Azerbaijan regards as vital.
This loss of initiative will make the United States and EU major
players in the southern part of the Caucasus. Should Moscow decide to
meet Azerbaijan halfway, Baku is prepared to consider its interests,
intensify economic contacts, and broaden direct contacts between
regions of Russia and Azerbaijan.

Translated by A. Ignatkin