Caucasus visit focuses on partnership
<p>NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visited Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia from 4-5 November, to demonstrate the Alliance’s commitment to expanding cooperation with the region.</p>
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visited Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia from 4-5 November, to demonstrate the Alliance’s commitment to expanding cooperation with the region.
The visit came as NATO is seeking to deepen cooperation with its partner countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus.
The Secretary General was accompanied by NATO’s newly-appointed Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, Ambassador Robert Simmons.
A lot on offer
Mr. De Hoop Scheffer and Ambassador Simmons met with the Heads of State and top officials in the three countries to discuss how co-operation could be expanded in key areas such as defence and military reform.
“There is a lot on offer, as well in areas that many people would not immediately associate with NATO. Partnership projects range from disaster preparedness, to defence conversion, to scientific and technical cooperation,” Mr. De Hoop Scheffer said in a speech at the Yerevan State University in Armenia.
The Secretary General stressed that in the face of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, developing a network for international cooperation was “a strategic necessity”. The Caucasus region is a crucial part of that network, he said.
In Georgia, the Secretary General underlined that terrorists threaten the values that NATO has always defended and still defends: democracy, human rights, rule of law, fundamental freedoms. NATO needs its partners and its partners need NATO for our common fight against terrorism.
Mr. De Hoop Scheffer called on the countries to show political will and good faith and find peaceful resolutions to the conflicts in the region. He stressed that NATO had no direct role in these negotiations, but fully supported the work of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and other actors involved.
In a speech at the Baky State University, the Secretary General said “I am aware that some of you may be sceptical about the immediate prospects for greater cooperation in this region. But I remain optimistic that solutions can be found. Not so long ago, our entire continent was divided into two hostile camps, with forces on both sides on hair-trigger alert”.
“Today, the antagonisms of the Cold War are only a fading memory. So it is certainly worthwhile to work towards lasting peace even in situations where this seems like a distant possibility”, he concluded in that speech.