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Dec 11, 2009 | 17:00 GMT

3 mins read

Azerbaijan: The Plot Thickens in the Caucasus

Azerbaijan's military leadership has been holding consultations all day Dec. 11, according to STRATFOR sources in Baku. The reason is that the United States this week asked Turkey to not link a resolution between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue to the resumption of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia. STRATFOR has long been watching the tense standoff in the Caucasus in which Turkey has been considering resuming ties with Armenia. But Ankara has delayed the final ratification of the normalization protocols drawn up in October, as ratification would have broken relations with Ankara's traditional ally — and Yerevan's traditional adversary — Baku. Though Turkey wants to resume ties with Armenia, thus increasing Ankara's clout in the Caucasus, Turkey has instead publicly told Armenia that it will wait for Yerevan and Baku to settle the dispute over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Now the United States has stepped into the situation and is pressuring Turkey to follow through with its commitment to normalize relations with Armenia without any resolution between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This is because Russia has been using Turkey's wish to befriend Armenia and Azerbaijan's fear that Turkey will betray it on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue in order to grow closer to all the involved parties. Washington thinks this could give Moscow a much larger consolidated presence in the Caucasus. The question now is whether Turkey will fold to U.S. pressure or stand by its commitment to Azerbaijan to keep any normalization with Armenia linked to a resolution on Nagorno-Karabakh. Baku already is formulating plans should Ankara betray its vow, and has been considering military options in Nagorno-Karabakh. In the past, Azerbaijan has shied away from any military options in the disputed region because its military has been a shambles. However, over the past few years, high oil prices have made Baku wealthy, and Azerbaijan has worked rigorously to expand, equip and train its military. Azerbaijan's military now has a budget four times the size of Armenia's. But the main thing stopping Azerbaijan from acting is that Baku knows any military conflict will not only prompt a harsh reaction from its traditional allies in Turkey, the United States and Europe, but it would most likely inspire a military reaction from Russia, who considers Armenia a military ally. Moscow and Baku are holding backroom talks to weigh their options, but there are no certainties about what Russia would allow or do should war return to the Caucasus. However, this issue hinges not on Russia or Azerbaijan, but on Turkey. Now that Washington has put pressure on Ankara about normalizing ties with Armenia regardless of a deal on Nagorno-Karabakh, STRATFOR is watching for signs that Ankara is about to renege on its commitment to Azerbaijan — a move that could have security repercussions for the region.
Azerbaijan: The Plot Thickens in the Caucasus

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