Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 23

President Haidar Aliev’s return to active duty since January 30 has been accompanied by both official protests against Russia’s military presence in Armenia and some suggestions of possible countermeasures (see the Monitor, February 2). On February 2, the head of the Yeni [New] Azerbaijan Party (NAP)’s ideological department, Sayed Aran, called for a national effort toward joining NATO. Aran said that the government and most of the opposition agree on this issue. He spoke at the conference on “Azerbaijan and NATO: Neutrality or Cooperation,” which NAP, its allies and some of the opposition parties held in Baku (Turan, February 2).

On February 1, the Azerbaijani parliament–in which NAP has a lopsided majority–expressed concern over the accumulation of Russian military hardware in Armenia and the growing military cooperation among those two countries. This trend, the resolution said, jeopardizes the security of Azerbaijan and undermines the regional military balance. The deputies stated that Azerbaijan would be within its rights to bring the status of the Gabala radar station into the argument (Turan, Assa-Irada, February 1). Gabala is the last remaining Russian military installation on Azerbaijani soil.

On January 30, Turkey’s leading English-language newspaper published an interview with the Azerbaijani ambassador in Ankara, Mehmet Novruzoglu. Novruzoglu stated that Russian arms transfers to Armenia are aimed not just at Azerbaijan but at Turkey as well. Baku, he said, is looking for Turkish support to provide a military balance in the Caucasus. He urged Turkey to oppose the deployment of Russian S-300 missiles in Armenia as energetically as it had opposed such deployment on Cyprus (Turkish Daily News, January 30). In the latter case, however, American and West European opposition were decisive in thwarting the Russian move. The ambassador granted the interview while Aliev was still in the clinic near Ankara, where he held almost daily discussions with Turkish officials.

These appeals follow the Foreign Ministry’s declaration that “the Azerbaijani leadership is forced to consider appropriate measures to protect the country’s security and independence.” Pointing to the violation of the CFE treaty through the arms transfers from 1994 to date, the declaration expressed concern that “the buildup of the Russian military presence in Armenia can lead to unpredictable consequences in the region and beyond” (Foreign Ministry press release, January 29).