Yerevan Avoids Comment on Russia’s Proposed Radar in Azerbaijan

YEREVAN, BAKU (Combined Sources)–Official Yerevan deemed it premature to comment on the latest Russian offer to share a radar station in Azerbaijan with the United States for missile defense until “Washington states its official position on the matter.”
Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Karapetian said on Friday that official Yerevan “is closely following the developmen’s.”
“It is yet early to make any comment at this point,” he told RFE/RL. “Let’s see how things develop.”
“Only the second party’s initiative will mean that certain actions will follow. We’d like to respond only to actions.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush at the G8 summit in Germany to share the use of the Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan as an alternative to U.S. plans to deploy anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe.
Armenia’s foreign ministry thinks “both Russia and the United States will consider the current balance of forces in the region in making any such decision.”
Artur Aghabekian, the head of the defense committee at Armenian parliament, said “Gabala is a radar station that covers areas far beyond the region.”
“Its role in conducting military operations in our region is not significant and cannot have a great impact in tactical terms,” the ex-deputy defense minister told RFE/RL.
However, according to Aghabekian, in terms of strategy, it turns the region into an area of common interest, as “both the United States has its interest in instituting control over the Caspian region, and we [Armenia] have the common command point within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty.”
“In this sense, of course, we will all be interested in the format of this cooperation,” Aghabekian said. “This issue should be of interest to any country of the region, in particular to Armenia, because, after all, there is an unresolved conflict and military operations in the region.”
In Baku, Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mamadyarov reaffirmed that his country was ready to consider proposed joint U.S.-Russian use of a radar facility in the country as part of a missile defense system.
"At this time, Azerbaijan’s position, which is supported by the United States and Russia, is that it’s necessary to start consultations in a two- or three-sided format. I can say that Azerbaijan is ready for such consultations," the foreign minister said at a briefing.
Mamadyarov said the proposal "can only bring more stability into the region because it can lead to more predictable actions in the region."
Azerbaijan is willing to hold bilateral and multilateral talks with Russia and the United States on the joint use of a radar installation in the country, a senior diplomat said Thursday.
Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov said Azerbaijan is currently holding consultations both with Russia and the U.S. on the joint use of the Gabala radar in the north of the country.
Azerbaijan confirmed in January it would not revise the terms of the agreement, despite speculations following Russia’s move to hike the natural gas export price for the country.
Putin said after a meeting with Bush that he discussed the radar issue with the Azeri President Ilham Aliyev in a telephone conversation on Wednesday.
"The current agreement allows us to do it [jointly use the radar]," the Russian leader said.

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