Russia Rebukes Baku Complaints of Sergeyev Visit

MOSCOW–BAKU (Itar-Tass–Reuters)–A visit of Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev to Armenia was–"unfortunately–inadequately taken" in Baku–spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Vladimir Rakhmanin said in Moscow on Tuesday.

The July 14-15 visit "was made within the framework of the Russian efforts to develop friendly relations with regional countries in the interests of stability in Transcaucasia," the spokesman’said. A statement of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry claimed–however–that the visit results "created a serious threat to the peace process of the soonest settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict" and misinterpreted the results of the negotiations–he noted.

"We would like to stress that Russia abides by its obligation not to supply armamen’s to the conflict zones–so supplies of Russian armamen’s to Armenia were not discussed at negotiations with Marshal Sergeyev," the diplomat remarked. He said they had mostly discussed a higher combat ability and readiness of the Russian military base in Armenia and specified the base’s functions and interaction with the Armenian armed forces.

A clear and objective opinion about the content of the negotiations could have been formed on a basis of a Russian-Armenian joint statement–circulated on July 15 in Yerevan before Sergeyev’s departure to Moscow–the diplomat said. The statement stressed that the Russian-Armenian interaction in the military sphere did not aim to harm anyone. The spokesman called the attention of Baku to that part of the document.

"Russia builds its relations with the Transcaucasian countries openly and suspicions regarding our intentions are groundless," the spokesman’said.

"The Foreign Ministry expresses its concern both about Sergeyev’s visit and its results," the foreign ministry of Azerbaijan said in a statement–Monday.

"In particular plans to strengthen military cooperation between Russia and Armenia–in our opinion–will not further the restoration of peace in the Caucasus or help resolve the Armenian-Azeri conflict," it said.

Azerbaijan has accused Russia–which along with the United States and France is acting as a mediator trying to find a political settlement–of sending Armenia $1 billion worth of military hardware from 1994-96.

Russian ministers confirmed the supplies but said they were neither paid for nor officially sanctioned by the government.

Russian newspapers reported after the visit that Sergeyev and Armenian officials had discussed the possible shipment of S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Armenia and said such a step would violate Moscow’s commitmen’s under the Conventional Forces in Europe agreement.

"Further supplying of Armenia by Russia with military hardware is a gross violation by Russia of the CFE treaty," it said.

Armenian officials were not immediately available for comment on the Azeri statement.

Sergeyev visited Russia’s military bases in Armenia during the visit and said that it would receive new equipment in the near future.

He signed agreemen’s with Armenian officials on strengthening military cooperation and implementing aspects of an air defense agreement between countries of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States. Armenia is a party to the air defense agreement.

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