Ladies and gentlemen,
It is indeed a great pleasure to be here at the close-out of the NATO-Azerbaijan mélange conversion project. This project was jointly carried out by the Ministry of Defense and the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan, NAMSA - NATO’s Maintenance and Supply Agency - and NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division.
The successful destruction of all mélange in Azerbaijan is very important for Azerbaijan. A serious threat to the public health and to the environment in Azerbaijan has now been removed.
The successful destruction of mélange in Azerbaijan is also a very important achievement for NATO and NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme. It illustrates the importance NATO attaches to the co-operation with its Partner countries.
This project has largely demonstrated the common concern of NATO and Azerbaijan to working together to remove a major threat to the population of this country. This cooperation has to be seen in the broader context of NATO’s mission which is to achieve overall security and peace.
Removing the threat to the people working and living at the military bases of Alat and Mengichevir and to the population living in a wide area around these bases was of course the main goal of the project.
However, in addition to aspects of public health, there was of course the environmental dimension. One should not underestimate the environmental consequences of mélange leakages which would have lead to serious air, soil and groundwater contaminations. In this concern for the environment, NATO and Azerbaijan have made clear statements at the very beginning of the project that during the process of mélange conversion, emissions of all kinds, in the air, into the soil or into the groundwater had to be within the most severe standards accepted within the European Union.
We can say at this stage that the design and engineering of the plant has fully met this objective. It also must be underlined that during the whole process of handling the extremely dangerous and toxic substance no accidents have occurred.
Through this joint NATO-Azerbaijan project invaluable expertise has been acquired which is of utmost importance for other countries that still face the mélange threat.
NATO, Azerbaijan and NAMSA have made, and will continue to make, their findings known to all of these countries and I am especially thinking of Uzbekistan and Ukraine. I was informed that the visit of both a Ukrainian and Uzbek delegation which visited the site of Mengichevir was extremely instrumental in dealing with their own mélange problems. Arrangements are now being made to move the mobile mélange conversion plant to Uzbekistan for the conversion of its 1000 tonnes of mélange stored close to the historical city of Samarkand.
Concrete projects such as mélange, carried out in the framework of NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme, are a catalyst for NATO and Partner countries to more closely work together on common problems.
Indeed, regional and interregional co-operation is another key dimension of NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme and a lot has been achieved in this respect.
The most striking example is of course NATO’s virtual Silk Highway project through which the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme has been instrumental in opening the internet to the scientific and educational community of the Caucasus and Central Asian countries. Initiated by NATO, the Silk project has led to an outstanding regional cooperation among all nations of the Caucasus and Central Asia and is now the main vehicle for scientific exchanges and daily contacts between scientists and experts of the major research and educational institutions of these countries.
Other NATO projects are achieving the same spirit of cooperation especially in the field of environmental security. In no other field is transboundary cooperation needed more than in the field of the environment.
In the coming years, NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division and its Science for Peace and Security Programme will continue their cooperative activities of NATO nations and Partner countries. Key criteria for the selection of such future activities is on the one hand the enhancement of security of NATO and Partner countries and, on the other hand, the ability to make the public in these countries aware of NATO’s values and NATO’s mission in building a safer world.
NATO is especially open to co-operation in fields such as defense against terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyber defense, maritime security, and energy security, just to name a few. Partner countries are invited to bring forward concrete ideas and proposals for cooperation in these fields.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to conclude by congratulating Azerbaijan for the effort it has made to become now a “mélange free” country. I am very proud that NATO was able to contribute to achieve this goal.
I would like to express special thanks to NAMSA and its staff for managing this project on behalf of the Public Diplomacy Division, to UXB company who was the actor in the field, to the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan for their positive contributions throughout the project and, of course, to the Ministry of Defense and all officers and staff on the bases who were key to the successful and safe completion of this mélange conversion project.