The Messenger, Georgia
June 8 2005

Political Analysis: Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey military alliance:
another red herring in the Baku-Yerevan conflict?
By M. Alkhazashvili

Talk of a new military pact between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey
started flowing along with the first drops of oil along the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. However, Azeri government officials are
denying any plans for a military block to protect the pipeline and
some experts think the rumors are just another extension of the
on-going Baku-Yerevan power struggle.

According to a report in the Baku-based 525 newspaper, the Azerbaijan
ministry of defense has flatly denied the creation of any military
alliance between the three countries. The newspaper reports that
since an agreement has already been signed concerning pipeline
security, any addition measures would be redundant.

However, the Georgian paper Akhali Taoba cites local analysts as
saying that such an alliance is still possible if needed. But the
newspaper also reported most former government officials believe the
talk about new military alliances is just that - talk.

Vapa Gulazadem, a former Azeri government advisor on foreign policy,
thought it was just a case of unbiased rumors. "Such a military
alliance has no prospects," Gulazadem told Akhali Taoba. "Perhaps
this is just an invented story." Tapik Zulpugarov, the former
minister of foreign affairs of Azerbaijan, agreed with him. According
to Zulpugarov, it is not hard to find the source of the rumors:
Armenia.

The former foreign affairs minister is not the first to suspect
Yerevan of plotting against the pipeline. Last month the Baku-based
newspaper Zerkalo reported that all BTC working documents are in the
hands of Armenian special services. "At this stage, the BTC pipeline
is practically left defenseless to potential terrorists," the head of
an Azeri think tank Roshvan Novruzoglu is quoted as saying in the
newspaper.

In fact, as early as 1993 the Azeri media was predicting the then
planned pipeline would fall victim to Georgian and Armenian
terrorists in a future 'pipeline war.' Although there were no threats
from Armenia, the Baku-based newspaper Ekho was convinced the country
had plans for terror. "Yerevan refrains from making any strict
statements or threats so far. But this does not mean that Yerevan
will not try to change the situation by using radical methods," the
newspaper reported.

To date, the only official statement from Armenia concerning the
pipeline was more concerned with maintaining balance in the Caucasus
than starting a 'pipeline war.' According to the Prime Minister of
Armenia Andranik Markarian, the new pipeline will violate the power
balance in South Caucasus and Armenia will have to seek alternative
ways to restore it. In his statement, he announced that Yerevan was
investigating the possibility of an Iran-Armenian gas pipeline
through which Europe will receive gas via Georgia.

Regardless of what Yerevan feels about the new pipeline, it is one in
a continuing series of regional projects being initiated without
Armenia's participation. In addition to the BTC oil pipeline, there
is also the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzrum gas pipeline, and the
Baku-Akhalkalaki-Karsi railway. Despite their relations with Russia
and Iran, Armenia is looking increasingly isolated in its own back
yard. Perhaps this will be enough to motivate more productive
relations with Azerbaijan - and a break through in the on-going in
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.