Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Azerbaijani colleague Ilkham Aliyev in Baku on Wednesday to discuss a broad range of relations, from energy and the Russian language to regional issues. The two leaders also signed a complex plan of cooperation between Emergency Situations Ministries of the two countries for the next three years.
Noting that the two states support each other in the international arena, the Azerbaijani leader turned to one of the key items on the agenda: the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. "Azerbaijan would like to see Russia as a referee. The occupation of Azerbaijani land has continued for more than two decades," Aliyev said, taking a dig at Armenia. "What could be demolished, has been demolished. Twenty percent of our territory is occupied; the UN resolutions remain on paper." A solution can only be political, Putin replied with a standard phrase. He reminded that there were one million Azerbaijanis working in Russia, and that together with those who had received Russian citizenship, they made up two million.
A key event during the visit was the signing of a complex plan of cooperation between the Emergency Situations Ministries of the two countries for 2013-2015, the Novye Izvestia writes. In addition, Russia and Azerbaijan signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in airborne search and rescue. President Aliyev said bilateral military cooperation had increased to four billion dollars, with a trend toward further increase, the newspaper notes. Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin represented oil and gas interests. Energy is a traditional field of cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan. Some reports said Rosneft is interested in developing the Apsheron gas field in the Caspian offshore zone. On Tuesday, Rosneft signed a cooperation agreement with the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic.
Local analysts said Putin's visit shows that Azerbaijan is of considerable interest as a partner of the Russian Federation, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Lawmaker and political scientist Rasim Musabekov believes that the Russian president's delegation comprising six key ministers shows that it was not a demonstration trip but a visit which envisions serious discussions, specifying the condition of bilateral relations, and their possible prospects and future vectors.
As for the presence of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in the delegation, Musabekov said "there are issues in the military area that should be discussed."
"It is not just military cooperation. It is very important to consider issues that may affect Azerbaijan, such as the situation on the Caspian Sea where military activity has been gaining momentum; there is also the Iranian context, Middle East events and, most importantly, the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. "It is difficult to imagine the settlement of this conflict without Russia," Musabekov told reporters.
Russia cannot but be cautious over Baku's turning into an important logistics center for Afghan transit. Moscow needs solid guarantees that U.S. troops are not coming there tomorrow.