By Emil Danielyan
A senior Azerbaijani government official has alleged that the pipelines transporting his country’s oil riches to international markets are under threat of an Armenian “terrorist attack” and called for boosting their security.
“With such a neighbor we are constantly under threat of terrorist attack,” Deputy Prime Minister Abid Sharifov was reported to tell a seminar in Baku on Monday.
“Given the fact that [Azerbaijan’s] material and technical base is not up to the desired level, such terrorist acts could have bitter ramifications,” he warned, adding that Baku needs to take appropriate precautions.
Sharifov, who was apparently speaking for the Azerbaijani government, did not cite relevant information or concrete facts to substantiate his claims.
Most of Azerbaijani oil is currently shipped abroad through a pipeline running to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. The oil exports are due to increase significantly in the coming years and will largely be carried out through a bigger pipeline which is being constructed by Western multinational companies developing Azerbaijan’s substantial oil reserves in the Caspian Sea.
The pipeline, slated for completion by the end of this year, will run from Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.
Western governments and many independent analysts believe that the greatest threat to the implementation of the $3 billion project would come from a resumption of the Armenian-Azerbaijani war for Nagorno-Karabakh. Renewed fighting would also wreak havoc on the multibillion-dollar Western investments in the Azerbaijani offshore oil fields. This danger is a key factor in U.S. efforts to broker a peaceful settlement in Karabakh.
A renowned American scholar who was instrumental in the creation and activities of the U.S.-backed Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission highlighted these fears in a recently presented book. “In a matter of minutes, Armenian S-300 missiles could destroy Baku and wipe out Azerbaijan’s energy industry,” David Phillips wrote.
In fact, S-300s are primarily known as surface-to-air missiles capable of shooting down high-flying targets spotted hundreds of kilometers away. They were deployed in Armenia in the late 1990s and formally belong to the Russian military base stationed there. The two countries have an integrated system of air defense as part of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty.