By Akbar Mammadov
Deputy Secretary General of NATO for Political Affairs and Security Policy James Appathurai has hailed the organization’s ties with Azerbaijan as well as policies pursues by Baku.
“Azerbaijan is characterized by its own unique orientation: Baku is not an ally of Russia, but it does not seek membership in NATO. We have excellent cooperation with Azerbaijan. A good example is that it hosts meetings between our military leadership and the Russian top military leadership on its territory. We are developing important cooperation in this direction," Appathurai told Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
Commenting on the Alliance’s cooperation with the South Caucasus, the official noted that NATO is more active in this region:
"All three countries of the region - Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia - are striving to strengthen relations with NATO. Clear aspirations for membership in the North Atlantic alliance are characteristic of Georgia. We have a very active presence in this country. We want to help Georgia maintain political independence, sovereignty and achieve its goal. People in this country want this, and we respect their aspiration."
"The example of Armenia visibly refutes the argument that we often hear from Moscow - they say that NATO wants to drag this country into an alliance, to "pull" it out of Russia's neighbors. The current Armenian leadership and all previous leaders of this republic will confirm that we have never been imposed on Armenia. Armenia is a part of the CSTO, it is a military ally of Russia, it cooperates well with Moscow, but this does not impede our good cooperation with Yerevan", D.Appathurai added.
The history of Azerbaijan-NATO relationship dates back to March 1992 when Azerbaijan together with some Central and Eastern European countries, joined a newly established consultative forum – the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC), which was transformed into the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council later in 1997.
The cornerstone of the substantive partnership between Azerbaijan and NATO was laid down on 4 May 1994 when the former Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev signed the Partnership for Peace (PfP) Framework Document.
Azerbaijan actively uses relevant partnership tools to achieve goals reflected in the PfP Framework Document as well as bilateral cooperation documents. The PfP Presentation Document (1996), Planning and Review Process (1997) and Individual Partnership Action Plan (2004) Documents are the main national papers that define key principles and goals of Azerbaijan’s individual partnership with NATO. In these documents Azerbaijan expressed its readiness for cooperation with NATO in the areas such as defence and security sector reforms, developing military forces according to NATO standards, participation in the NATO-led peace operations, civil emergency planning, addressing the emerging security challenges as well as science, environment and public diplomacy.
In the framework of its Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme based upon the PfP Framework Document, Azerbaijan has been participating annually at more than 200 events. From 1999 to 2008, troops from Azerbaijan were part of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR).
Azerbaijan actively supported the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan from 2002 to the end of the NATO-led operation in 2014. The country currently supports the follow-on Resolute Support Mission (RSM) to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces. Azerbaijan also contributes to NATO’s Afghan National Army Trust Fund.
Note that NATO has no direct role in negotiations aimed at resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which are being conducted in the framework of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group. However, NATO encourages all sides to continue their efforts aimed at a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Akbar Mammadov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AkbarMammadov97
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