Azeri-U.S. Military Drills Cancelled Amid Row Over Karabakh

BAKU (Reuters)–Planned joint military exercises by Azerbaijan and the United States were cancelled on Monday against a backdrop of strained ties between Washington and the oil-producing former Soviet republic.

The announcement by Azerbaijan followed its sharp criticism of Washington’s role in its festering conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Diplomats say the criticism reflects Azeri anger over U.S. support for a deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan’s close Muslim ally Turkey to mend ties and reopen their border.

Azerbaijan, a supplier oil and gas to the West, fears the deal will weaken its hand in negotiations with Armenia over Karabakh mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group.

Azerbaijan did not specify who canceled the exercises planned for May, or why, but the U.S. embassy said it suggested “that the question be posed to the government of Azerbaijan”.

An Azeri Defence Ministry spokesman told Reuters: “The exercises are canceled, but the reason is not known.”

In an interview with Reuters on Friday, a senior aide to Azeri President Ilham Aliyev accused the United States of siding with Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and warned that Baku could “reconsider” its relations with Washington.

The United States is co-mediator with Russia and France in the Minsk Group negotiated peace talks.

Despite misgivings over human rights under Aliyev, the United States has traditionally had good relations with Azerbaijan, which hosts oil majors including BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron.

Stung by the Azeri backlash, Turkey now says it will only ratify the deal with Armenia if Yerevan makes concessions on Nagorno-Karabakh.

Diplomats say the issue is weighing on negotiations between Turkey and Azerbaijan on gas supplies and transit, complicating plans for the U.S. and European-backed Nabucco pipeline.

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Peace Like A River » Cables, dispatches and memoranda

  2. Norin Radd said:

    Azerbaijan is not going to “reconsider” anything as far as relations with Washington go. When the US says “jump” the Azeri Prez will say, “yes sir, how high”. All their posturing is only for the media so they don't look like the dolled up insects that they are on the global stage.

    Without relations with Washington, Azeris will not have relations with ANY Western country, and now that China is buying oil from Russia or Iran, the oil that the Azeris do have will sit where it is while Azerbaijan's economy steadily spirals downward. Their surplus will drop in value over time as it builds and builds. Then, when they are back to hocking potatoes to Georgia to sustain themselves, the West will make a bid to purchase the oil again at a fraction of its current price.

    It's astounding that comments made by small states like Azerbaijan against the sole world superpower, the US, are taken so seriously by the Associated Press or affiliated news sites. Azerbaijan, as a whole, in comparison to the major global economic powers is an insignificant fly. If the West slapped on sanctions equal to those for Iran on either Azerbaijan or Turkey for 6 months, they would be crippled. Unfortunately, all the pampering Turkey has gotten has made it too big for its britches with their comments against Israel and their little brother Azerbaijan is trying to follow suit, they will soon find however, that their assumptions regarding their own importance to the rest of the world has been grossly overinflated.

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