Turkey Defense Ministry Gives Azeris $3.5 Million

BAKU (Reuters)–Turkey gave almost $3.5 million to close ally Azerbaijan on Saturday for the ex-Soviet republic’s armed forces–the Azeri Defense Ministry said.

A Turkish delegation headed by Major-General Sharafetdin Telyazan signed the agreement on Saturday for "material and technical support" for the Azeri armed forces–the ministry said in a statement.

Although the statement did not say what the money was for–Defense Ministry sources said part of the sum would cover the cost of having 30 Azeri soldiers join a Turkish battalion taking part in a NATO-led peace mission in Kosovo.

NATO Secretary General Javier Solana gave the go-ahead on Thursday for the Azeri unit to join the operation.

"Now only technical questions remain and those are likely to be resolved in the near future," said a Defense Ministry source. He did not say when the troops would leave.

Unlike Turkey–Azerbaijan is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But it has increased its cooperation with the alliance under the Partnership for Peace program since 1995.

Senior Azeri officials have said they would also welcome NATO air bases and troops to guard against what they consider a Russian threat in neighboring arch-foe Armenia. NATO has not responded to this.

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