BAKU (Combined Sources)–Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Azerbaijan on Thursday for a two-day visit to focus on economic ties, cooperation in the Caspian Region, and the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, the Russian RIA Novosti news agency reported.
The long-running conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno Karabakh will be high on the agenda, RIA Novosti cited Sergei Prikhodko, an aide to Medvedev, as saying. As a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group with France and the United States, Russia is at the center of international efforts to mediate a settlement.
“Though insignificant, there is some progress,” said Prikhodko. “The parties and mediators manage to continue the political settlement of the process.”
The Kremlin source also downplayed a recently signed defense pact between Armenia and Russia extending Moscow’s military presence in Armenia and committing it to defending its security.
“We are not saying that we will defend them [Armenians] against Azerbaijanis. The reactions in Azerbaijan are various. I do not think that those who are aware of the real situation are concerned very much; it is something else as far as the opposition is concerned. We don’t worry about it,” he said. “The [defense] document isn’t about military-technical cooperation between Armenia and Russia but rather about the protection of the border,” he said.
According to Armenian Public Radio, Prikhodko said the meeting between Medvedev and Aliyev would not focus on the Russian military base in Gyumri but on the more important issue of Karabakh.
The Russian source said Medvedev and Aliyev will discuss military cooperation between their two countries, but did not elaborate on the issue. It was recently announced that Azerbaijan will buy four Russian Ka-32 helicopters, used in utility cargo work and fire-fighting.
Russian energy giant Gazprom and Azerbaijan’s state oil and gas company, SOCAR, are also expected to sign a deal to increase supplies of Azerbaijani gas to Russia in 2011-2012.
Medvedev and Aliyev will also sign a border agreement that will delineate part of the land border that begins where Russia, Azerbaijan and Georgia meet and runs eastward to the Caspian Sea.
It is unclear whether the two presidents will discuss the status of the oil- and gas-rich inland Caspian Sea, which has been a source of long-running disagreements between the five littoral states – Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan – since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.