Azerbaijan Serious About NATO Bases

MOSCOW (Interfax)–Azeri leaders are seriously considering a plan to set up a NATO military base in the republic.

Military and diplomatic sources in Moscow have tld Interfax that the plan envisages a NATO military base- Turkish or American- on the Apsheron peninsula outside the capital Baku.

The issue–the sources said–was discussed "in an atmosphere of strict confidentiality" at a recent meeting between representatives of Azerbaijan–Turkey and Israel–which maintains "close partnership" with Ankara.

The sources described the aim of the suggested models of NATO presence in the Caucasus as anti-Russian.

As the basic argument in favor of foreign military presence–Baku says that closer Russian-Armenian defense cooperation threatens to upset the balance of strength in the region.

The sources said it’s NATO’s military presence in Azerbaijan that will aggravate the already complex situation in the region.

Among the factors negatively affecting regional stability–the sources cited "an uncertainty of the Caspian status–serious disagreemen’s between Baku and Tehran over disputable offshore oil wells and the persisting military tension in Armenian- Azeri relations."

The sources said that Baku’s argument in support of NATO’s military presence in Azerbaijan "fits well into the USconcept of ensuring its interests in the Caucasus."

Such plans have already drawn a negative response from neighboring Iran–the sources said.

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