Azerbaijan to further back NATO operations beyond 2014

By Sara Rajabova

Azerbaijani Defense Minister, Colonel-General Zakir Hasanov took part in a North Atlantic Council meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Brussels hosted the North Atlantic Council meeting at the level of defense ministers of the countries-non-NATO members, but contributing to the ISAF operation in Afghanistan, on June 4, the Azerbaijani defense ministry said.

Hasanov stressed in his speech Azerbaijan's political, financial, economic, and educational support to Afghanistan, noting his country will continue to provide this support.

He reiterated that Azerbaijan will continue to support NATO operations beyond 2014, noting people of Azerbaijan and the government committed to respecting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

The meeting further discussed the current status of the ISAF operation, the transition process and transmitting of responsibility for security to the Afghan National Security Forces, presidential elections, in the country and the current political situation, the new NATO mission after 2014 (The strong support) and other issues.

Also ahead of the meeting, Hasanov held a bilateral meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and a trilateral meeting with the Turkish and Georgian counterparts.

Azerbaijani delegation headed by Defense Minister wrapped up the visit on June 4.

NATO and Azerbaijan are actively cooperating on democratic, institutional, and military reforms, and enjoy practical cooperation in various areas.

The cooperation plan between Azerbaijan and the NATO is set out in the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) on Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan aspires to achieve Euro-Atlantic standards and get closer to Euro-Atlantic institutions. In this regard, supporting reform in the security sector and establishing democratic institutions are the key elements of the NATO-Azerbaijan cooperation.

The Azerbaijani peacekeeping contingent in Afghanistan doubled in 2009. Currently, some 90 Azerbaijani servicemen are serving in ISAF. A company and then a battalion of peacekeepers were established as part of the Azerbaijani armed forces in 1997.

In the past, Azerbaijan has also actively supported the NATO's operations in Kosovo.

Azerbaijan is among the eight partner countries that have confirmed their presence in Afghanistan after 2014.