BAKU (RFE/RL)—Signaling fresh defense contracts with Azerbaijan, Russia’s two top state officials dealing with arms exports visited Baku and met with Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov on Thursday.
Azerbaijani news agencies cited Hasanov’s press office as saying that he discussed with Aleksandr Fomin, the head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, and Anatoly Isaykin, the chief executive of the Rosoboronexport state arms exporter, “Russian-Azerbaijani relations in military and military-technical areas.” Fomin and Isaykin were reported to stress “big prospects” for boosting those ties.
The three men also talked about “the military-political situation in the region,” with Hasanov calling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict the greatest threat to regional stability. No other details of the talks were reported.
Despite its military alliance with Armenia, Russia has become in recent years the number one supplier of weapons and military hardware to Azerbaijan. A senior Azerbaijani defense official expressed hope in April that Moscow will solidify this status.
Citing Russian government data, the UN Register of Conventional Arms reported earlier this month that Azerbaijan purchased 72 tanks, 34 armored vehicles, 456 artillery systems, 37 attack helicopters and 1,200 rockets and missile systems from Russia in 2007-2013. Moscow reported the delivery of fewer tanks and artillery systems to Armenia in that period.
The Azerbaijani army began receiving last year about 100 T-90 tanks purchased from Moscow in 2012. Fomin’s deputy, Konstantin Biryulin, said last month that Baku has the option of buying 100 more such tanks.
Russian and Azerbaijani officials have estimated the total volume of bilateral defense contracts signed since 2010 at nearly $4 billion. The Moscow daily “Kommersant” reported recently that the figure could rise to $5 billion by the end of this year.