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Azeri daily links US general's visit to oil pipeline security

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  • Azeri daily links US general's visit to oil pipeline security

    Azeri daily links US general's visit to oil pipeline security

    Ekspress, Baku
    24 Mar 05

    Excerpt from Alakbar Raufoglu's report in Azerbaijani newspaper
    Ekspress on 24 March headlined "The Pentagon's mobile forces are

    The deputy commander of the US troops in Europe, Air Force Gen
    Charles Wald, will visit Azerbaijan next week. Ekspress has learnt
    from diplomatic sources that Wald will visit Azerbaijan as part of
    his tour of the South Caucasus. The Pentagon general will leave Baku
    for Tbilisi and then will go to Yerevan.

    The source said that US ambassador to Azerbaijan Reno Harnish and
    Azerbaijani Defence Minister Safar Abiyev had confidential
    discussions of the preparations for Wald's visit on 17 March. The US
    embassy's press service did not comment on the meeting.

    Gen Wald is to meet the country's top officials and ambassadors of
    NATO countries in Azerbaijan during his visit to Baku. Even though
    the Defence Ministry's press service has verified reports on Wald's
    visit to Azerbaijan in an interview with Ekspress, it said that "it
    is early to talk about specific issues to be discussed".

    [Passage omitted: reported details]

    Wald's visit this time is probably aimed at discussing the US
    programmes being implemented in the South Caucasus and cooperation
    between NATO and Azerbaijan. A general of NATO's European command and
    the director of the Force Planning Section [in the Defence Policy and
    Planning Department], Frank Boland, also confirmed this in an
    interview with Ekspress yesterday [23 March]. He said that Washington
    is concerned about the plight of security programmes, specifically
    about projects related to the security in the Caspian Sea and of oil

    "The security of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan [BTC] main export oil
    pipeline after it is put into operation might be seriously discussed
    during the visit," he said.

    [Passage omitted: quotes about the visit from foreign sources that US
    mobile forces will be brought to the region to protect the oil
    pipelines which will ensure security and develop cooperation ]

    Azerbaijan's official bodies have not yet reacted to reports that the
    Pentagon's mobile forces could be involved in ensuring the security
    of the BTC.

    "Irrespective of the reasons, US and NATO military bases could be
    deployed in Azerbaijan in the near future and it seems reasonable
    that in this way Washington will achieve stability in the region and
    also help Azerbaijan in the Karabakh resolution," former state
    adviser Vafa Quluzada told Ekspress commenting on Wald's upcoming

    It is no secret that safe transportation of Azerbaijani oil to the
    western markets is of great importance to NATO. The pipeline is to
    start operating soon. Washington's efforts to speed up events under
    such circumstances are understandable. The Americans understand that
    the forces that act against Washington's interests in the region
    might target the BTC. At the same time, it cannot be ruled out that
    the Pentagon is coming to the region with other objectives under the
    guise of ensuring security.