RUSSIA AND AZERBAIJAN MAY SETTLE THEIR DISPUTE OVER GABALA, IF COMMON SENSE PREVAILS; RUSSIAN EXPERT SAYS
July 23, 2012
YEREVAN, July 23. /ARKA/. Russia and Azerbaijan may settle their
dispute over the Gabala radar station, leased by Russia in Azerbaijan,
if common sense prevails, Mikhail Alexandrov, a Russian political
scientist and expert on the Caucasus at the CIS Institute, said today.
Moscow and Baku are currently negotiating the terms of a lease
extension for the Gabala radar station. To Russia’s surprise – and
dismay – Azerbaijani authorities are now asking Russia to pay $300
million a year instead of the seven million dollars a year previously
paid. In late May 2012, Russia threatened to terminate the radar
lease agreement. A Russian source close to the negotiations was
quoted by Interfax news agency as saying that Moscow was stunned by
the unjustified demand for a substantial lease price increase. Russia
could build two new similar radar stations on its own territory for
the same amount of money, it said.
December 24, 2012 will mark the end of the lease contract of the
station, built by the Soviet Union in 1984 to monitor missile launches
at distances as far as 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles) away. This
remains Russia’s only military presence in Azerbaijan. Russian defense
ministry said it would like to extend the contract until 2025.
“Azerbaijan is now under very strong Western pressure. The West has
promised it something. Moscow and Baku mail fail reach an agreement.
But if common sense prevails in Baku, it should agree to extend the
lease and drop its fee lease rise demand,” he said Monday at Novosti
international press center in Yerevan.
According to him, Gabala increases the value of Azerbaijan in Moscow’s
eyes. “Without Gabala Azerbaijan’s value for Moscow will slash and
respectively its ability of influencing Moscow. I think it would be
extremely disadvantageous for Azerbaijan. Gabala is not an issue,
where Baku can sacrifice Moscow’s good attitude, he said.
Andrei Areshev, a representative of the Institute of Political and
Social Research of the Black Sea and Caspian regions, said Russia is
cutting on its presence in Gabala. The families of Russian officers
were taken to Russia and the school for their children was shut.
According to him, there is an element of political bargaining in the
talks, but this issue should not be linked to Nagorno-Karabakh. “They
are different questions. Gabala is a question of Russian-Azerbaijani
relations, although there is an mixture of foreign influence, and
the Nagorno-Karabakh problem has a wider foreign policy context,
and I do not see any opportunities for trading here,” said Areshev.