Russian Envoy Slams Azeri NATO Cooperation

BAKU (Reuters)–Russia’s ambassador to Azerbaijan Monday slammed the ex-Soviet state for agreeing to send a platoon to Kosovo under NATO’s partnership for peace program.

Azerbaijan told NATO earlier this month it wanted to participate in any peacekeeping force the western alliance decided to send to Kosovo and offered a 30-strong platoon as part of a Turkish battalion.

"Azerbaijan’s cooperation with NATO–especially in light of events in Yugoslavia–negatively affects Russian-Azeri relations. But how negatively it is hard to say right now," Russian ambassador Alexander Blokhin told a news conference.

Russia has frozen ties with NATO over the Western alliance’s bombings of Slav–Orthodox Christian Serbia. Relations between Azerbaijan and Russia have steadily worsened.

Azeri President Haydar Aliyev criticized Russia last week for recent arms transfers to Armenia.

Azerbaijan dealt another blow to Russia–when on Friday it decided against signing a protocol extending a collective security pact linking the Commonwealth of Independent States group of former Soviet republics.

"We’ve practically left the treaty. The fact that we didn’t sign the protocol on extending it means that we will no longer participate in the pact," Azerbaijan’s deputy foreign minister Khalaf Khalafov told Reuters.

Meanwhile in Moscow Friday–the Kosovo conflict was discussed during the summit of CIS leaders and a resolution was drafted severely condemning the NATO offensive on Kosovo–reported the Noyan Tapan news agency.

The measure–introduced by Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko–did not garner the necessary support–thus a announcement calling for an "end to the bloodshed" in the Balkans was issued.

At Moscow’s Vnoukova airport–Lukashenko met with Russian and Armenian journalists and announced that Azerbaijan was among the CIS nation that opposed the measure.

Lukashenko added that Armenian president Robert Kocharian expressed a firm and decisive stance on the matter.

"He supported Belarus’ rigid and the revised version of the announcement," announced Lukashenko referring to Kocharian’s position on the matter.

Lukashenko told reporters that only Russian–Belarus–Armenia and Kazakhstan agreed to the measure.

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