Wednesday, 27 February 2002

AZERBAIJAN EXPECTS TO BECOME ASSOCIATED MEMBER OF NATO PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY

Published in Field Reports

By Gulnara Ismailova (2/27/2002 issue of the CACI Analyst)

At the beginning of the 1992, NATO officials actively used the changes in the political situation on the European continent to expand their influence in Central and Eastern Europe. Partnership for Peace (PfP) was taken as basis for that policy, and was approved in January 1994 during the winter session of the NATO Council. In May 1994, Azerbaijan signed the framework agreement on joining PfP.

At the beginning of the 1992, NATO officials actively used the changes in the political situation on the European continent to expand their influence in Central and Eastern Europe. Partnership for Peace (PfP) was taken as basis for that policy, and was approved in January 1994 during the winter session of the NATO Council. In May 1994, Azerbaijan signed the framework agreement on joining PfP. It became possible after the signing of an armistice with Armenia and the observation of a cease-fire regime by both sides the conflict. But the difficulties of  building statehood and independence under those conditions made it impossible for Azerbaijan to participate more actively in this NATO program. Economic crisis and financial difficulties prevented Azerbaijan from fulfilling a number of obligatory conditions to conclude practical agreements with NATO.

However, from 1996 Azerbaijan began to take on a more active policy within the framework of PfP. Since then, representatives of Azerbaijan take part in events held under the aegis of NATO, be it maneuvers or various seminars and courses aiming to improve the armed forces of the country. Azerbaijan has its representatives at the headquarters of NATO. Every year, Azerbaijan and NATO sign an individual program on cooperation. According to this document, representatives of Azerbaijan participate in all events held by the various NATO committees. A major breakthrough took place in September 1999, when an Azerbaijani platoon was sent to participate in the NATO peacekeeping forces in Kosovo, to serve within the Turkish Battalion. 

In the military academies of Azerbaijan, education has been altered with the purpose to comply to NATO standards; at the higher levels, officers are specifically educated in the workings of NATO and PfP, thereby understanding and working toward NATO standards. 

In November 2001, the exercise called Cooperative determination 2001 took place in Azerbaijan, in which 9 member-countries of NATO and 10 partners participated. These exercises were another important step toward the Azerbaijan’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic security structures. In 2001 alone, Azerbaijan participated in more than 250 NATO events.

Recently, the President of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly Rafael Estrelle visited Azerbaijan and met with the President, the Speaker of Parliament, and with the ministers of Defense and Foireign Affairs. Estrelle’s visit confirms the ever closer links between Azerbaijan and NATO. Unlike most other states of the CIS, Azerbaijan has openly declared the importance it attaches to NATO’s efforts to strengthen European security.

Speaking in Baku, Estrelle stated that NATO intended to undertake efforts to strengthen security in Europe and in the wider world in the following years. Negotiations in Baku showed that Azerbaijan is ready to fulfill its obligations within the PfP program. In the words of the NATO official, the visit was helpful in receiving trustworthy information on the situation in the Caucasus, and to strengthen and expand the ties between NATO and the region. The main topics discussed were the perspectives of the development of the relations between the alliance and Azerbaijan within the framework of this program, and security issues including regional, and specifically Caucasian problems.

On January 18, Azerbaijan’s President Heydar Aliyev received the guest and assessed the visit of the NATO PA delegation as a logical step in the in the light of the national interest of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan considers itself as part of Europe and intends to intensify its participation in European integration processes, in particular in its security structures. According to the President, Azerbaijan is not content with the role of permanent observer in NATO’s PA and aspires to be accepted as an associate member of this organization. During the meeting, Estrelle expressed regret for the indifference of international organizations on settling the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and for the lack of implementation of the well-known resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. In his words, NATO views this conflict very seriously and will pay particular attention to its peaceful settlement. He mentioned NATO plans to expand its cooperation with the countries of the South Caucasus to ensure the safety and stability in the region.

President Aliyev stressed that the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict creates huge problems for Azerbaijan, which was forced into this conflict. He noted that Azerbaijan positively assessed the prospects of NATO’s increasing involvement in solving this conflict by peaceful means.

It was also announced that at the beginning of March, experts of the U.S. defense department would arrive in Baku. This became possible after the waiver to section 907 of the Freedom Support Act. The lifting of the sanctions imposed against Azerbaijan will allow the U.S. administration to render military aid to the country, which will help Washington in its struggle with international terrorism. As reported by the local mass media, American military experts will arrive to get acquainted with the local situation and work out a cooperation plan, which is scheduled to be approved by the two heads of state after that.

Gulnara Ismailova
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