Aliyev Says Russia Destabalizing Caucasus

BAKU (Reuters)–Azeri President Haydar Aliyev complained to NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on Wednesday about what he called Russia’s "destabilizing" activities in the tinderbox Caucasus region which includes his country.

Aliyev–using remarkably blunt language for the head of a former Soviet republic Moscow still regards as in its sphere of influence–blasted Russia for supplying its enemy Armenia with weapons and keeping military bases there.

"Over the past three years–$1 billion worth of weapons have been shipped from Russia to Armenia. We have repeatedly expressed our concern about this but haven’t got any response," he said.

Aliyev also complained about Russian military bases in Armenia and Georgia. "The countries of the Caucasus are independent states. There are no reasons for other countries to keep their troops on the territory of Georgia or Armenia," he told Solana.

Solana–on a tour of the Caucasus which includes Azerbaijan–Armenia and Georgia–frowned and took notes as Aliyev spoke–flanked by members of his government in the presidential palace in Baku.

"These factors hamper stability in the region," Aliyev–who is expected to win a second five-year term in office in an October 11 presidential election–told Solana.

Russia’s relations with Azerbaijan–Armenia–and other Caucasus countries–specifically in the military realm–do not aim to harm anyone–Vladimir Rakhmanin–the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman–said Thursday–reported the Itar-Tass news agency.

Rakhmanin refused to comment on media reports about Aliyev’s remarks on Russian relations destabilizing the region.

"Russia and Azerbaijan maintain good political dialogue during which all matters of bilateral cooperation are discussed," the spokesman’said. "They are aimed at the development of traditional mutually-advantageous ties to ensure of peace and stability in the region."

At the same time Rakhmanin noted that the Russian side did not see anything unusual in the NATO Secretary-General’s visit to Georgia–Azerbaijan and Armenia. They are sovereign states and equal participants in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and Partnership for Peace program–Rakhmanin said.

According to the information the Russian Foreign Ministry obtained from NATO headquarters–the talks with leaders of these countries concentrated on problems of the North Atlantic Partnership and Partnership for Peace programs. "We will thoroughly analyze the results of the visit," the Foreign Ministry spokesman’said.

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