Duma Leader Rejects US Base Option for Azerbaijan

MOSCOW (Itar-Tass–BBC)–There is no need to place NATO or US military bases on the territory of Azerbaijan–Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee Roman Popkovich said Tuesday when commenting on an announcement by Azeri Presidential Advisor Vafa Guluzade that the country was ready to host such bases.

Popkovich said the Azeri announcement was "an attempt to influence decision-making in Russia." As far as it is known–he said–such deployment of forces was never indicated in any agreement or summit.

The Russian lawmaker expressed regret over the possible change in Azeri presidential policy–vis–vis Russia.

He said Russia had shown far-sightedness by increasing the defense spending in the 1999 federal budget. However–the parliamentarian expressed that the possibility of establishing military bases would primarily pose a threat to Azerbaijan’s Caucasus neighbors instead of Russia.

"If the United States views the Caucasian region as a zone of its external interests–Russia has even more interests there," Popkovich stressed.

Meanwhile–Guluzade said that President Haydar Aliyev’s visit to Ankara should be used for deciding on the issue of including Azerbaijan in the Turkish defense system.

In an interview with Interfax Wednesday–he again favored the construction a NATO-US-Turkish military base in Azerbaijan.

The simplest way for that is to move the NATO air base from Turkey to the Apsheron peninsula in Azerbaijan–he said.

Guluzade said Azerbaijan and Turkey should decide on the defense system as soon as possible. "The question must be decided today because tomorrow it may be too late. I would ask the Turkish leadership and President Suleyman Demirel to demonstrate full responsibility with regard to Azerbaijan’s goal," he said.

He said Turkey should have a realistic idea of matters because "the transit of Caspian energy resources across its territory is in danger". According to Guluzade–Russia does not want to permit oil transit along this route. "The Russian elite is trying to restore the old empire and the Armenian-Azeri conflict is used as a means of reaching this objective," he said.

"Russia is preparing to deliver a blow to Azerbaijan with Armenia ‘s hands," he claimed and said the transfer of the latest Russian arms to Armenian territory is an indication of that.

Guluzade does not believe the Armenian-Azeri conflict will be settled this year. Azerbaijan’s task today is to prevent the seizure of remaining territories and Turkey should help it in this respect–he said. Defense ministers from the former Soviet republics of Ukraine–Georgia and Azerbaijan pledged closer military cooperation on Friday and discussed forming a joint peacekeeping force.

Ukraine’s Alexander Kuzmuk–David Tevzadze of Georgia and Azerbaijan’s Safar Abiyev signed a communiqu in the Azeri capital Baku calling for a coordinated approach on ties with NATO and the United Nations and joint military exercises.

The three republics and Moldova–which have accused Russia of fomenting instability in the Caucasus region–have formed an unofficial breakaway bloc inside the successor body to the Soviet Union–the Commonwealth of Independent States.

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