Azerbaijani president Haidar Aliev began a three-day official visit to Moscow yesterday by holding talks with Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on oil and other bilateral economic issues. Aliev is due to sign with President Boris Yeltsin a framework treaty on interstate relations, which will supersede a treaty signed in 1992 by Yeltsin and then-president Abulfaz Elchibey. In addition, the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan and Russia’s LUKoil have negotiated intensely in recent days toward an agreement to develop an Azerbaijani oilfield.
As outlined by Aliev and other Baku officials, however, the agenda of the Moscow meeting reads like a comprehensive catalogue of disputed or unresolved issues. These include: the unfulfilled agreement on transportation of Azerbaijani oil to Novorossiisk; the uncertain prospects for transportation of international consortium oil from Azerbaijan along that route; the legal status of the Caspian sea; the future of the Gabala early-warning radar station — Russia’s last military facility in Azerbaijan; restoration of cross-border railroad and highway communications, closed by Moscow since the war in Chechnya; reopening access to the lower Volga and the Volga-Don Canal for Azerbaijani cargo vessels; the stalled negotiations on a border treaty; cooperation between security services, under which Baku wants to include measures against Lezgin irredentists based in Dagestan; and extradition of accused Azerbaijani coup plotters living in Russia–an issue on which Aliev yesterday acknowledged that progress had been made.
Aliev asserted on his departure from Azerbaijan yesterday that he would also seek "specific answers" from Yeltsin on the clandestine deliveries of more than $1 billion worth of Russian arms and ammunition to Armenia. "The main thing is to have those armaments returned to Russia," Aliev said. The man who helped publicize the deliveries, Russia’s outgoing minister for CIS cooperation, Aman Tuleev, yesterday again raised that issue. Meanwhile, a senior Azerbaijani official stated yesterday that Baku would view many of these problems "through the prism of the Karabakh conflict" and of Moscow’s position on the terms of a settlement. (Turan, Russian agencies, July 1-2)
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