A remarkable event occurred in the Azerbaijan capital, Baku, yesterday, although leading news agencies paid little attention to it. However, the event may be very significant for the further development of the situation in the Caspian region.
On Tuesday, Azerbaijan Minister of Defense Safar Abiyev received a Turkish delegation headed by commander from the Turkish General Staff of armed forces Jihangir Dumanly. Further bilateral co-operation in the military sphere was discussed during the meeting. As a result, two important documents were signed, an agreement on non-repayable military aid between the governments of both countries and a protocol on financial aid between the Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense and Turkish General Staff of the armed forces.
Signing of the documents is not a surprise at all, as Azerbaijan and Turkey have been strategic partners for a long period already. We may even call them allies. However, under the present-day conditions, Baku is greatly interested in increasing of military cooperation with Turkey. Azerbaijan needs reliable support, as the problem of the Caspian status is not solved yet and the Nagorny Karabakh conflict is not settled.
The official visit of Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev to Iran starts on May 18. Several important documents, including a treaty on friendship and cooperation between the two countries, are expected to be signed during the visit. No doubt, the problem of the legal status of the Caspian is to be touched upon during the visit as well. It is to be added that both countries expressed acute disagreement on the problem not long ago. In 2001, the countries were even about to wage an armed conflict when an Irani boat kept an Azerbaijan geological exploring vessel off one of the disputable oil fields in the Caspian Sea. Therefore, the Iran and Azerbaijan presidents have problems to discuss.
On Wednesday, the U.S. envoy to the resource-rich Caspian Sea region, Steven Mann, arrives in Baku. The main purpose of his visit is to discuss the position of the Azerbaijan government on the Caspian conflict. Indeed, the construction of the Baku – Ceyhan oil pipeline, which is so attractive for the USA, is to start soon. General director of Sokar, an Azerbaijan state company, Valekh Aleskerov says that construction of the pipeline may start in June of 2002. However, not only the Caspian problem is to be settled to start construction of the pipeline. It is also necessary to settle the Nagorny Karabakh conflict. The problems are to be settled within the nearest time, as it is planned to put the pipeline into operation in 2005 at the latest.
Turkey shouldered initiative in the situation. Today, talks between the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey concerning the Nagory Karabakh problem are to take place in Reykjavik (Iceland). It is unlikely that some sensation will occur during the talks or the problem will be settled, but Turkey’s concern in the problem is perfectly evident. However, it can be explained. First of all, successful mediation will add to Ankara’s international prestige, which is really very important for the Turkish authorities for entry in the European Union. Second, the pipeline is planned to be laid on the Turkish territory as well, which is why the country wishes for the project to be successfully realized.
Therefore, explanation of the activity of Turkish politicians and military men in the Caspian region is simple. However, it is still not clear whether their efforts are to bring any results at all. At the same time, it is perfectly clear that Turkey is strongly claiming leadership in the region. At the same time, Bake tries to use the claims for its own interests. Will Azerbaijan strengthen its position in the Caspian region with Turkey’s help? It is very likely, regarding the present-day situation. And nobody would venture to forecast further events. The situation in the region may provoke any possible scenario.
Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/05/15/41140.html
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