PanARMENIAN.Net - One of the major reasons for certain deterioration of relations, which may grow into something completely different and ruin the Azerbaijani-Russian cooperation widely advertised by Aliyev clan, is the radar station in Azerbaijani town of Gabala. “All of a sudden”, Baku demanded that Russia should pay USD300 million for the station lease instead of the previously agreed USD7 million. Naturally, Moscow is puzzled by Baku’s unexpected move, especially taking into consideration that the $300 million would suffice to build two new radar stations in Russia. So, this drastic groundless increase in the annual lease price and short leasing term are simply baffling.The Gabala radar station needs comprehensive modernization requiring significant costs. Russia’s Defense Ministry seeks lease of this station for at least 10-15 years so that the funds invested in its modernization would be repaid. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s demands do not comply with the agreements reached in 2011 between the two countries’ top officials regarding the Russian presence at the station.
The background is as follows: following the meeting between the Defense Ministers of Russia and Azerbaijan Anatoly Serdyukov and Safar Abiyev in November 2011, the Russian minister said the parties have agreed on all issues except for the financial one. Azerbaijan ерут voiced its intention to double the lease price from $7 million to $15 million. A special committee comprising representatives of Russia’s Defense, Foreign Affairs and Industry ministries joined the negotiation process in an attempt to settle the pricing discrepancy. However, this had a reverse effect; Baku first raised the price to $150 million, then inflated it to $300 million. The radar station in Gabala has been a major element of missile defense system in Soviet epoch. After Azerbaijan gained independence and took over ownership of Gabala, Russia was still operating the station. The lease agreement was signed in 2002, due to expire on December 24, 2012.
The Russian Defense Ministry negotiated with Azerbaijan to extend the lease of Gabala station through 2025 intending to complete the talks by June 2012, since the new agreement should be signed no later than six months prior to expiration of the previous agreement. Yet, a new agreement seems unlikely to be signed; Baku persists in its pro-West position hoping for a favourable resolution of Karabakh conflict, at the same time trying to move farther from Russia which it believes supports Armenia in the dispute. However, Baku has slipped again: Russia is no West, and cannot be tempted by either oil or caviar; it tries hard to maintain its positions in South Caucasus, and any attempt to oust Russia can become devastating for Azerbaijan. However weak Russia may be, it is not so powerless that one can demand some $300 million for an outdated radar station.
Threat over Aliyev regime is looming large both in Moscow and in PACE. The notorious “Caviar Diplomacy: How Azerbaijan Silenced the Council of Europe” article detailing the chronology and mechanisms of bribing over 20 PACE representatives by Aliyev’s regime is widely discussed at PACE summer session, and this is no good sign at all. The article says PACE deputies get 0.6 kg of caviar during each PACE session from Azerbaijani government. In addition, they are generously paid, too. Azerbaijan’s large-scale bribing of European MPs representing various international structures may jeopardize these countries: these deputies are engaged in obvious, unveiled lobbying of Azerbaijan wherever they can.
Azerbaijan’s another initiative to re-establish a Subcommittee on Nagorno Karabakh in PACE will most likely fail. PACE president Jean-Claude Mignon stated he did not support activities of the subcommittee within PACE since the OSCE Minsk Group is in charge of Nagorno Karabakh conflict resolution, and it works to settle this issue.
“I totally trust the work of the Minsk Group and see no need to increase the number of structures dealing with one and the same issue. Several institutions aiming to resolve such a sensitive issue may become confusing. Whether we trust the activity of the Minsk Group or not, this is the structure that currently deals with settlement of this conflict. As to me, I've opposed the subcommittee since the day it was established, and I have not changed my mind,” Mignon stressed adding that if PACE Bureau takes a different decision, he, as PACE president, will try to follow it.