Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 9

Azerbaijan’s official daily newspaper, “Yeni Azerbaijan,” called yesterday [PL OKAY] for an international and regional response to the emergence of a “Russia-Iran tandem” [PV OKAY] in the South Caucasus-Caspian area. The officially inspired article also identified massive Russian arms transfers to Armenia as part of the challenge to regional security. To counter that challenge, the article called for Azerbaijan’s military and security cooperation with Turkey and Israel, and a de facto alliance stretching from NATO countries and Turkey to Israel, to encompass Azerbaijan (Yeni Azerbaijan cited by Turan, January 13).

At the end of December 1998, Azerbaijan’s defense minister paid a week-long visit to Turkey to discuss military cooperation on the basis of similar considerations. According to Baku press reports, ideas along these lines figured in former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s talks in the region last week (Azadlyg cited by Turan, January 13). The opposition Popular Front of Azerbaijan supports the idea. The other main opposition party, Musavat, however, is friendly to Iran. The issue may end up splitting the opposition while fostering common ground between the pro-Western sides of the opposition and the pro-Western government of Azerbaijan.

Reacting to this Azerbaijani trend, Armenia’s Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian cautioned yesterday in Yerevan against any “polarization” of the South Caucasus region. However, Oskanian and Russia’s new ambassador to Armenia, Anatolii Drukov, explicitly reserved the two countries’ right to continue arms transfers from Russia to Armenia (Itar-Tass, Noyan-Tapan, Respublika Armeniia, January 12, 13).

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