One of the more significant results of last week’s visit to Moscow by Azerbaijani president Haidar Aliev (see Monitor, July 7) was Baku’s consent to sign a trilateral agreement with Russia and Chechnya on the transit of Caspian oil through Chechnya. By stressing that this was a purely commercial agreement, both Moscow and Baku ensured that the accord could not be interpreted as tacit recognition of Chechen independence. The document, which treated Chechnya as the equal of Russia and Azerbaijan, is nonetheless a great success for Djohar-gala. Until recently, the Kremlin had ignored Chechnya’s demand for equal treatment. Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov had failed to move Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on the issue when the two met in Sochi on June 13, and the Chechen leader was also unsuccessful in subsequent efforts to win the support of Azerbaijan and the AIOC (Azerbaijan International Operating Company): both Aliev and AIOC chairman Terry Adams said that they considered the question Russia’s internal affair.
The surprise breakthrough came on June 30, when a Chechen delegation managed to get Moscow to agree to a trilateral agreement. At that point, Baku proved inflexible, saying that it had no intention of re-examining its 1996 agreement with Russia. Baku apparently feared that Chechnya’s success could strengthen the position of its own breakaway Karabakh republic. A last-minute trip by Maskhadov to Baku on the eve of Aliev’s flight to Moscow appears however to have won Aliev over. When he arrived in Moscow, Aliev consented to sign a trilateral agreement. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, July 5)
Russia and Azerbaijan Cannot Agree on Fate of Strategic Radar Site.