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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow, Baku Ties Are Touted Amid Mounting Fears in Russia

President Vladimir Putin and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev on Thursday hailed their countries' burgeoning economic ties amid signs of concern from Moscow about its southern neighbor's improving relations with the West.

"Our bilateral relationship has reached the highest level since we got independence," Aliyev said at the start of the two leaders' fourth meeting this year. "It is necessary to continue cooperation. ... It will help not only to strengthen ties between Russia and Azerbaijan, but also stabilize the situation in the region as a whole."

Azerbaijan is the starting point for a newly completed U.S.-backed pipeline that transports Caspian oil to Western markets, bypassing Russia. It also sent troops to serve in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

Aliyev arrived in Moscow after a trip to Brussels, where he and NATO leaders discussed energy security. Earlier this year, he got a warm White House welcome from U.S. President George W. Bush.

Kommersant reported Thursday that Moscow was worried Azerbaijan would be making more military purchases in NATO countries as it built up its armed forces -- and ultimately building a "strategic relationship" with the Western alliance and even allowing NATO and the United States to use its military bases.