NATO Secretary General commends strong security cooperation with Azerbaijan
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen commended Azerbaijan for its progress in defence reforms and called for closer security cooperation during his first visit to the country on Friday.
The Secretary General thanked Azerbaijan for its participation in the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and relayed the Alliance’s appreciation for the country’s additional support given to NATO operations, through over flight and transit lines. Azerbaijan is also helping to fund the training of Afghan security forces. Mr. Fogh Rasmussen also expressed his appreciation to Azerbaijan’s intention to continue to support Afghanistan after the ISAF mission ends in 2014.
“Our relations are developing steadily and positively,” the Secretary General said after talks with President Ilham Alyiev. “We appreciate the steadfast support provided by your troops in Afghanistan.” Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said Azerbaijan is a “valuable partner for NATO,” adding that both sides have “an opportunity to build a solid, long-term partnership.”
He said that the Alliance was determined to build closer ties; “to deepen the practical experience that our military forces have gained by working together in Afghanistan over the years.” He added the two sides had to work together in dealing with the security challenges of the 21st century. The Secretary General said NATO could, for instance, serve as a platform to strengthen cooperation on energy security. The Alliance is already consulting with Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia on training and science cooperation.
Azerbaijan was urged to keep up the pace of defence and security sector reform as well. “We encourage you to keep up the momentum in this key area,” said the Secretary General. NATO is assisting Azerbaijan with this reform, helping to remove huge quantities of landmines. “This is one of the biggest such projects in the world and it is of real benefit to people,” said Mr. Fogh Rasmussen.
The Secretary General also raised the issue of regional stability in a speech to the Azeri Diplomatic Academy. He urged Azerbaijan and Armenia to reconcile. “The only way forward is through dialogue, compromise, and cooperation,” he said.