Azerbaijan Close to Agreement on Hosting US Forces

MOSCOW (Combined Sources)–Azerbaijan and the US are close to reaching an agreement on establishing a US military presence in Azerbaijan–reported the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The move the paper said would follow the pull out of US forces from Uzbekistan.

"This move that Washington is pushing for is almost completed," an unnamed source close to Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry told the Russian paper.

Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov–who met US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday–reportedly discussed the possible deployment.

Washington announced last week that Uzbekistan had given the US 180 days to close an air base there–which is used to support operations in Afghanistan.

Citing a source in the Azerbaijan’s security forces–the paper said that a team of US military experts are already in Azerbaijan reviewing possible sites for hosting the US military. One site is reportedly near the capital of Baku–and the other close to the Iranian border.

After his meeting with Rice–Mammadyarov referred to the Karabagh conflict–telling journalists that as a member of the OSCE Minsk Group–the US will exert effort to make the regulation process more effective. He also said that the US position on the Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity is unchanged. Mammadyarov also met with Minsk Group’s US co-chair Steven Mann.

While in Washington–Mammadyarov will hold meetings in the Pentagon and National Security Council–and will meet with representatives of the National Democratic Institute–International Republican Institute–International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) and non-governmental organizations.

He will also address representatives of the US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce in the Washington based Azerbaijan Trade and Cultural Center on Wednesday.

On Thursday–Mammadyarov will deliver a speech at the US Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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