By Nazrin Gadimova
Azerbaijan's capital is hosting a NISA Senior Partnership Conference called "The 20th Anniversary of PfP and Future of NATO Partnerships".
The conference, organized by the NATO International School of Azerbaijan (NISA) in cooperation with NATO and Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry, will run till April 12.
Opening the event, Azerbaijan's Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov said the conference is aimed to stimulate comprehensive discussions on Partnership for Peace (PfP) achievements, to determine priorities of the NATO's agenda to better serve Euro-Atlantic security, as well as to find ways of strengthening NATO's partnership with other countries to tackle common challenges.
Newly-appointed NATO Assistant Secretary General Sorin Ducaru, in turn, said Azerbaijan was one of the first countries to join the Partnership for Peace Program, describing Azerbaijan as one of NATO's long-term and most active partners.
Ducaru praised alliance's cooperation and political dialogue with Azerbaijan. He also thanked Azerbaijan for assisting NATO/ISAF nations in bringing stability to Afghanistan.
"2014 is a milestone in the cooperation between Azerbaijan and NATO as this year the coalition forces will withdraw from Afghanistan," he added. "Azerbaijan has opened transit opportunities for us. In particular, this year we will withdraw our forces from Afghanistan. After 2014, our presence in Afghanistan will differ from the previous one," he said.
He said practical cooperation is also essential adding that NATO supports the reforms in Azerbaijan, particularly in the sphere of defense.
Ducaru said the sides conducted about 80 joint activities, which raise the practical cooperation to a higher level.
"NATO has consistently supported the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the countries of the region. It also calls for the settlement of conflicts based on these principles," Araz Azimov told journalists.
Azimov said NATO is not directly involved in the negotiations, but support for these principles is a very important factor in itself.
"Azerbaijan holds extensive and conceptual discussions with NATO, and discusses all the factors that may affect the security of the Euro-Atlantic space, including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," he added.
The two-day conference has brought together NATO International Staff, NATO Military Authorities, member and partner countries, civilian and military officials, as well as academicians and researchers.
The conference will basically try to find answers to questions like: what did Partners and Allies gain through PfP; how PfP could better operate in evolving security environment and what should be done for that; which issues should be furthered in the NATO partnership agenda to better serve Euro-Atlantic security; how can partnership with individual countries be strengthened to tackle common challenges; and how will NATO advance partnerships and sustain interoperability, beyond-2014.
The Partnership for Peace (PfP) is a program of practical bilateral cooperation between individual Euro-Atlantic partner countries and NATO. It allows partners to build up an individual relationship with NATO, choosing their own priorities for cooperation.
Based on a commitment to the democratic principles that underpin the alliance itself, the purpose of the Partnership for Peace is to increase stability, diminish threats to peace and build strengthened security relationships between individual Euro-Atlantic partners and NATO, as well as among partner countries.