Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 6 Issue: 2

Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev agreed with Demirel’s initiative during Aliev’s January 10 visit to Ankara. 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 OSCE summit last November in Istanbul. Aliev’s proposal was designed–just like Demirel’s follow-up–to codify a role for the Western powers in the security arrangements of the South Caucasus-Caspian region, so as to end any residual Russian monopoly and to prevent attempts at reasserting that monopoly. Those attempts have come to the fore with Putin’s ascent in Moscow. The pressures and threats, which Putin as prime minister orchestrated against Georgia and Azerbaijan in late 1999, formed the backdrop to Aliev’s initiative at the OSCE. Key ingredients in Aliev’s proposal were the inclusion of the United States and other Western countries in the regional pact and the removal of “foreign” military forces from the South Caucasus–that is, of the Russian bases and troops from Georgia and Armenia.

While intended implicitly to forestall 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 visit Iran on a fence-mending visit. The regional pact is certain to figure near the top of his discussion agenda.

Basic to Aliev’s concept–and to Shevardnadze’s as well–is the premise that Turkey is fully as indispensable as Russia to any viable framework of regional security. That formula represents Baku’s, Tbilisi’s and Ankara’s answer to Moscow’s leitmotiv that “no issue can be solved without Russia.”