Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu discussed military cooperation with Azerbaijan as well as issues pertaining to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement during his visit to Baku on August 14-15, according to Russian and Azerbaijani media.
The defense ministries of Russia and Azerbaijan have a few issues to discuss in regards to military and military-technical cooperation, RIA Novosti quoted Shoygu as saying on Sunday during his meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
“During our today’s and tomorrow’s activities we will be taking into account everything you have agreed upon with the president of Russia in terms of military and military-technical cooperation,” the top Russian military official added.
On Monday, Shoygu also met with Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov and, according to media reports, Russian-Azerbaijani cooperation in the military sphere and ways of settling the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh were the main subject of the talks.
This was the second meeting of the two defense chiefs since Friday, when Hasanov unexpectedly made a trip to Moscow. No specific agreements were announced after the April 12 talks between Shoygu and Hasanov.
Armenia has been concerned over growing military ties between Moscow, which is its top political and military ally, and Baku. Many in Armenia blame Russia for at least having contributed to the deadly escalation of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh in April by supplying up to 4 billion dollars’ worth of arms, including some modern offensive weapons, to Azerbaijan since 2011.
At a joint press conference with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian in St. Petersburg on August 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin effectively defended those arms supplies, saying that an oil-rich country like Azerbaijan could have purchased similar types of weapons elsewhere on the world market.
At the same time, Putin stressed that Russia has long been providing substantial military aid to Armenia and “has always fulfilled its obligations” to Yerevan relating to the defense sphere.
Putin’s remarks came two days after he discussed with President Aliyev in Baku ways to make headway in negotiations on the Karabakh conflict settlement in which Russia, along with the United States and France, acts as a top negotiator.
During the visit of the Putin-led delegation to Baku for a trilateral summit with the leaders of Azerbaijan and Iran on August 8, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin reiterated Moscow’s interest in continued supplies of arms to Azerbaijan.
In September, Moscow and Baku plan to sign a new contract on the opening of a Russian helicopter maintenance center in Azerbaijan.
According to Rogozin, in 2017, Russia is going to sell one An-124 military transport aircraft to Baku and open an aircraft assembly plant in Azerbaijan. Besides, according to him, next February Moscow and Baku plan to sign a contract for the supply of at least 10 new Russian MS-21 aircraft.
Remarkably, Shoygu’s trip to Baku overlapped with the visit by Nikolay Bordyuzha, the secretary general of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), to Yerevan for the purpose of attending a regular meeting of the member states’ defense ministers scheduled for August 16.
Bordyuzha has also dismissed criticism heard from certain circles in Armenia that by supplying Azerbaijan with modern weapons Russia, a key CSTO member, has been disturbing the military balance in the region in favor of Azerbaijan.
“Had the military balance in the region been disturbed, the four-day war [in Karabakh] would have had a different outcome,” Bordyuzha stressed in an interview with Tert.am published last Friday.
In an interview with Armenian television companies in May Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian admitted the loss in the April 2-5 hostilities in Karabakh of some 800 hectares of an 800,000-hectare territory held by the Karabakh military as a security zone. Earlier, talking to Bloomberg in April, the Armenian head of state stated, however, that in the four-day fighting in which scores of soldiers were killed and wounded on both sides Azerbaijan tried to punch through to Nagorno-Karabakh itself and then “issue an ultimatum” to the Armenian-held enclave. Lusine Musayelian