WASHINGTON – The U.S. is not considering a joint U.S.-Russian use of Azerbaijan's radio station in Gabala as an alternative to installing missile defense stations in Poland and the Czech Republic,said Stephen D. Mull,acting assistant secretary in the bureau of political-military affairs.
He made this statement Monday during a briefing at the U.S. State Department after a meeting on security issues with Azerbaijan officials from six securities ministries.
“We believe that those installations are necessary for the security of our interests in Europe,and both of those countries agree,and the entire NATO alliance agrees. And so we do not believe that the Gabala suggestion replaces that. We're still going to go ahead with the installation on those sites,” Mull said.
U.S. officials have said the proposed missile defense stations in Europe would protect against possible attacks by Iran. Moscow considers them a threat to its national security,and says it will aim its missiles at the American stations in Poland and the Czech Republic and arrange more forces in its border region of Kaliningrad.
During the last Group of Eight summit in Germany,Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to President Bush that the countries have a joint missile defense station in Gabala,which is about 125 miles from Iran's border.
The U.S. officials say they still haven't received any official information from Russia on the joint use of the Gabala station. Mull said the U.S. and Russia are going to have joint consultations on missile defense at the end of July,adding that he hoped to get an invitation for the U.S. delegation to visit the Gabala station by that time.
Because of the absence of official information from the Russian side,Mull said that the U.S. didn't discuss the Gabala issue in detail during the meeting with Azerbaijan's officials.
It was the 10th annual session on security policy in the Caucasus region. U.S. and Azerbaijan officials planned to raise the Gabala issue again Tuesday with U.S. military officials. The U.S. officials said that the position of Azerbaijan is important in this issue.
Azerbaijan's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Araz Azimov said that the Russian president called the president of Azerbaijan to get his agreement before proposing the joint using of Gabala to Bush.
“If the station and its proposal about – on use of this station shall be considered acceptable,then Azerbaijan probably would be interested in participation in consultations,” Azimov said. “And of course,we shall try to look at that from that angle. But in general,we are in favor of the successful maintenance of strategic security globally. I believe no dividing lines should appear in this case also.”
The Gabala radio station controls most territories in Asia,including Iran,and most of Africa and the islands of the Indian and Pacific oceans. It was built in 1987,and after the collapse of the Soviet Union,Russia continued to use it without official permission. Only in 2002,did Azerbaijan and Russia sign a treaty under which Gabala was recognized as the property of Russia and was rented by the Russian military until 2012 for $3 million annually.
Azimov said that the issue of the Gabala property is one of the reasons why his government consults with both sides on this issue.