Georgia, Azerbaijan Indirectly Aiding Syria: Report
The roles played by regional powers Russia and Turkey in Syria's civil war are well documented, the former on the side of the government of Bashar al-Assad, and the latter on the side of the opposition. But according to a new report by a human rights group, Georgia and Azerbaijan also play bit parts in helping the Syrian government.
The report by the Human Rights First, Enablers of the Syrian Conflict (pdf), attempts to shine light on the international actors fueling the bloodshed in that country. It focuses solely on aid given to the government of Syria, not to the rebels. "Although both sides of the conflict are responsible for atrocities, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the vast majority," the report says.
Private companies in Georgia and Lebanon have supplied Syria with diesel fuel, the report notes:
[S]mall vessels carrying diesel from Georgia have also
sailed into Syria.The United States provides foreign assistance to both Lebanon and Georgia. This assistance, and close bilateral relations, affords the United States an opportunity to exercise diplomatic and political action to have the Lebanese and Georgian governments investigate these reports and stop actors within those countries from fueling the crisis in Syria.
For its part, Azerbaijan allows Russia to use its airspace for shipments of weapons and cash:
Some lethal provisions to Syria by air initially involved transit through Turkey; however, after Turkey took steps to inspect suspected arms flights to Syria, Russia, Iran, and North Korea have all attempted to instead use Iraq as an arms corridor, with Russian transfers also traveling through Azerbaijan and Iran....
Russia has attempted to send military equipment and other items to Syria through a more indirect aviation route, traveling from Moscow through Azerbaijan, Iran, and Iraq to Damascus. Flight documents show that Russia attempted to arrange four separate flights in November and December 2012, each sending a repaired Mi-25 attack helicopter to Syria. ...
Russia has used the same aviation route across Azerbaijan, Iran, and Iraq to send newly minted bank notes to the regime ...According to flight records obtained by ProPublica, Russia is also transporting bank notes into Syria through flights from Moscow to Damascus, traveling indirectly through Azerbaijan, Iran, and Iraq. Flight manifests show eight separate flights between the two cities each transported 30 tons of bank notes between July and September 2012.
It's interesting that Azerbaijan here is allowing itself to be used by Russia for a purpose that its big brother, Turkey, has forbidden. One wonders if this has been brought up by the Turkish government in its talks with Azerbaijan. But this is certainly a case where Azerbaijan doesn't have the wherewithal to stand up to Russia, even if they wanted to.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.