Agency WPS
September 30, 2005, Friday


SOURCE: Voyenno-Promyshlenny Kurier, No 36, September 28 - October 4,
2005, p. 3

by Aleksei Matveev


Attention of the international community is once again centered on
Nagorno-Karabakh, one of the self-declared states in the post-Soviet
zone denied international recognition. President of Armenia and
Azerbaijan, Robert Kocharjan and Ilham Aliyev, met in Kazan
(Tatarstan, Russia) in late April and discussed conflict settlement
with nothing to show for it. Even official press releases indicate
that the failure did not become a breakthrough. As a matter of fact,
many analysts predicted it. The dialogue has been under way for a
long time now without, however, a single accomplishment in over a
decade. Practically all meetings of the leaders of Armenia,
Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-Karabakh result in vague declarations on how
negotiations continue and how progress is made towards peace and
stability when in fact absolutely no progress worth mentioning is
ever made.

In the meantime, Nagorno-Karabakh exists as a de facto republic. The
Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh celebrated its 14th anniversary of
independence on September 2. Kocharjan attended the festivities.
Kocharjan mentioned in his speech that the negotiations had "positive
tendencies" and said that he had never implied that "Armenia might
change its stand on the matter of Nagorno-Karabakh settlement." In
fact, the Armenian president was refuting himself. What positive
trends are possible when Armenia would not even hear of a compromise?
Ditto Azerbaijan, for that matter.

Aliyev of Azerbaijan is criticizing Nagorno-Karabakh openly. "Let the
enemy know that the Azerbaijani national army can liberate our lands
at any moment," he was quoted as saying not long ago (at the opening
of a monument to former president Heydar Aliyev in Lenkoran on
September 8). Aliyev had arguments to substantiate his threats. "Arms
spending amounted to $175 million in 2004, and to $300 million in
2005. They will amount to $600 million next year," he said. Stripped
of diplomatic finesse, it means that Azerbaijan will stop at nothing
to accomplish its goals.

The president of Azerbaijan may be understood. A six-day joint
exercise of the Russian Army Group in the Caucasus and Armenian Armed
Forces began in Armenia the day before, on September 7. Aliyev could
not let it go without comments. There are no doubts that the
maneuvers were planned, but official Baku took them for
muscle-flexing on the part of Yerevan backed by a foreign power.
Indeed, the legend of the exercise was really something. An enemy
makes a forced march 15-20 kilometers into Armenia across the border
with Turkey. Armenian and Russian servicemen check the enemy advance
and use artillery and aviation to force the enemy to fall back. Sure,
no implications with regard to Azerbaijan were intended, but in the
light of the situation with Nagorno-Karabakh the ambivalence is
certainly undeniable. Aliyev could not help condemning the exercise.
He did so obliquely - speaking about combat readiness and increased
arms spending as a certain counterweight to Armenia's military
preparations. It is a different matter altogether that Baku was
fairly rude and openly resorted to threats...

Azerbaijani leaders are critical of Russia too. Conference Parallel
CIS: Abkhazia, Trans-Dniester, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh As
Realities Of The Post-Soviet Zone in Moscow on September 14-15 (here
CIS stood for the Commonwealth of Ignored States), was taken in
Azerbaijan as a provocation. Addressing the Nagorno-Karabakh
Provisional Commission of the Parliamentary Assembly in Paris the
other day, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov announced
that his country had waged a war on two foreign powers at once -
Russia and Armenia. Azimov also said that Russia had transferred a
great deal of weapons to Armenia. Shavarsh Kocharjan of the Armenian
delegation in return cited chapter and verse on what weapons and
ordnance Armenia had received from Russia before 1993. He said that
all arms deals were then suspended in honor of the Tashkent Accord
(May 1992). Kocharjan added that even according to official reports
Azerbaijan had received twice as many tanks from Russia, 2.5 times
more armored personnel carriers, 1.5 times more artillery pieces, and
twice as many helicopters. Armenia did not receive a single aircraft
from Russia while Azerbaijan received 53. "Armenia has more reasons
to begrudge Russian military assistance to Azerbaijan," Kocharjan
said. "And yet, Armenia recognizes the role Russia has been playing
in connection with the truce made in 1994, because there would have
been no truce without Russia."

In any case, Russia finds itself between the frying pan and the fire
in the Azerbaijani-Armenian dispute. Generally speaking, settlement
of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is delayed...