Azerbaijan’s capital Baku has once again been the venue for a meeting between the top brass of Russia and US, at a time when relations between the two military superpowers are at a new low.
The Commander-in-Chief of the NATO Armed Forces in Europe, Curtis Scaparotti, met with the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia, Valery Gerasimov in Baku on 12 December.
Scaparotti also met with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, thanking him for offering Baku as platform for the meeting for the second time. He said Baku was a perfect venue for a meeting in the NATO-Russia format.
Last April a first meeting between Scaparotti and Gerasimov took place in Baku.
The April meeting was the first since 2013, when the administration of ex-US President Barack Obama imposed a ban on personal contacts between the head of the Allied Forces of NATO and his Russian counterpart.
Azerbaijan has good relations with both Russia and NATO. The country, rich in fossil fuels, seeks no affiliation or rapprochement either with NATO or the Russia-led structures such as the Eurasian Union. Azerbaijan cooperates with NATO and has sent troops in support of the alliance’s mission in Afghanistan.
“Stars and Stripes”, the American military newspaper, writes that the meeting between Scaparotti and Gerasimov has most likely focused on the tensions surrounding Ukraine, including the Azov Sea.
On Thursday, the US conducted a surveillance flight over Ukraine under the Open Skies Treaty. The flight, which came at the behest of Ukraine, was intended to demonstrate solidarity with Kyiv after Russian warships opened fire on three Ukrainian vessels in the Azov Sea near the Kerch Strait.
Meanwhile, US State Secretary Mike Pompeo issued an ultimatum to Moscow, giving Russia 60 days to come into compliance with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty or else the US will begin the process of terminating the accord. NATO says a new Russian missile system — the 9M729 — is in violation of the treaty, which Moscow denies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened countermeasures should the US move to develop missile systems banned under the pact.
Azerbaijan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov said that the talks in Baku are an indicator the international trust in Azerbaijan.
“I think that this is an indicator of the influence of our country,” added Khalafov.
The Head of the Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration Hikmet Hajiyev called Baku “the diplomatic capital of the region”.
He noted that his country has good relations both with Russia and the US and that “strategic relations between Azerbaijan and the US cover partnership in security, energy and economy. Azerbaijan is a reliable and active partner of NATO as part of the Partnership for Peace program and the agenda of the bilateral cooperation is broad.”
“Azerbaijan, in particular Baku, being the ‘diplomatic capital’ of the region, isn’t only an international arena for the discussion of humanitarian, sustainable development, multiculturalism, intercultural and interreligious dialogue, energy and other issues, but also plays the role of a strategic dialogue platform where global security issues are discussed,” Hajiyev noted.