Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 12

Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev agreed with his Turkish counterpart Suleyman Demirel’s initiative during Aliev’s January 10 visit to Ankara (Turan, AzadInform, Anatolia news agency, The Turkish Daily News, January 11-12). The Turkish proposal, in effect, carries an earlier Aliev proposal one or two steps further. The Azerbaijani president had called for a South Caucasus security pact in his address to the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) last November in Istanbul.

Aliev’s proposal was designed–just like Demirel’s in its fleshed-out form–to codify a role for the Western powers in the security arrangements of the South Caucasus-Caspian region, so as to end any residual monopoly of Russia and to prevent attempts at reasserting such a monopoly. Those attempts have come to the fore with the ascent of Vladimir Putin as prime minister and then president of Russia. The pressures and threats, which Putin orchestrated as prime minister against Georgia and Azerbaijan in late 1999, formed the background to Aliev’s initiative at the OSCE. A key ingredient in Aliev’s proposal was the inclusion of the United States and other Western countries in the regional pact.

While implicitly intended to contain a possible Russian re-expansion, the Azerbaijani proposal emphasized also the common interest of Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Iran in upholding the principle of the territorial integrity of states. Aliev aired his proposal once more in his address to the ruling Yeni [New] Azerbaijan Party congress last month. Aliev is due soon to Iran on a fence-mending visit, on the agenda of which the regional pact is certain to figure near the top.

As a basic premise–one shared with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze–the Aliev plan holds that Turkey is fully as indispensable as Russia to any reliable regional security framework. That formula represents Baku’s, Tbilisi’s and Ankara’s implicit answer to Moscow’s leitmotiv that “no issue can be solved without Russia” (see the Monitor, November 19, 24, 1999; Fortnight in Review, December 3, 1999; Yeni Azerbaijan, January 14; Turan, AzadInform, January 17).