The cooperation in the framework of EAPC/PFP
– Perspective of azerbaijan –
After regaining independence in 1991 the Republic of Azerbaijan made a strategic choice in favour of integrating into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. The decision to join post-cold war European and Euro-Atlantic integration process evolved from legitimate aspirations of the people of Azerbaijan that emanated from centuries-old national political, economic and cultural experience connected to Europe.
In parallel to its cooperation in the field of democratisation, security, economy and humanitarian affairs with the OSCE, Council of Europe and the EU, Azerbaijan has been developing its close partnership with NATO on political-military and security related issues.
Since joining the NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme in 1994, Azerbaijan has actively utilized available partnership tools for military cooperation, defense and security sector reform. Among the first post-soviet states we joined Planning and Review Process (PARP) in 1997 to develop military interoperability with Alliance, including the national capabilities for participation in NATO-led peace support operations. Azerbaijan was the first Partner nation which extended the defense reform to the whole security sector, including the introduction of border security objectives into the PARP. The accession to the individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) in May 2004 became another milestone development in the bilateral partnership with Alliance. since then the iPAP has developed into a major instrument for reforming the whole defense and security sector of Azerbaijan as well as for enhanced political dialogue with the Alliance.
Our country has also been very active in the framework of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership council (EAPC) established in 1997 as a forum for multilateral consultations. We highly appreciate discussions within the Euro-Atlantic Partnership council (EAPC) that brings an added value of political and security dialogue with Allied and Partner nations into the practical cooperation within the PFP programme. in the framework of EAPc Azerbaijan has been pursuing a broader view on the Euro-Atlantic integration process that should have as one of the major outcomes the establishment of indivisible Euro-Atlantic security, which is based on international law and common democratic values enshrined in the UN charter and the OSCE helsinki Final Act.
Azerbaijan shares interest in developing a comprehensive agenda for the EAPC that should combine the consultations on different aspects of PFP programme with broader dialogue between Alliance and Partners on common security. in the meantime we recognize that differing interests and security problems existing in various regions of the Euro-Atlantic area, sometimes, represent a challenge for integrity of EAPC and PFP program, making difficult to maintain common issues for security dialogue between NATO and Partners and joint spheres for military cooperation. some Partner nations have already demonstrated a steady capability to make important contribu- tions to NATO-led peace-support operations, others still need assistance in military interoperability and support on defense reform before becoming fully interoperable with NATO Nations as potential contributors to operations.
Many Partner nations have made available their assets and facilities to combating terrorism and other emerging asymmetric threats and challenges. In recent years Azerbaijan has been increasingly contributing to the Euro-Atlantic security by sending troops to NATO-led peace support operations in Kosovo, joining the fight against terrorism and reconstruction in Afghanistan and iraq, participating with considerable assets in humanitarian relief and rescue operations in different regions of the world. Moreover, Azerbaijan is among the key nations for the operations in Afghanistan through opening its airspace and allowing refueling on its soil.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan, as a country with islamic cultural background and a member of the Organization of islamic conference (OIC) could also assist in bridging the gaps between West and the East on the issues of wider security and democracy. We have already voiced our readiness to facilitate the establishment of NATO-OIC humanitarian interaction in Afghanistan that should focus on reconstruction projects, involving the regional states as well.
Thus, to quite a large extent, Azerbaijan is a significant security provider.
In our view, NATO should be ready to substantially enhance cooperation with partners encountering imminent threats of terrorism, extremism, arms and drugs trafficking that originate mainly from conflict areas. Particular attention could be paid to common security agenda, including defense and security sector reform and development of crisis management capabilities. in this context, the EAPC could provide a flexible consultation format for timely assessment of partner concerns and dealing with security challenges throughout the whole Euro-Atlantic area. Further to consultations the close functional link between EAPC and the PFP tools could help to take appropriate response measures. In this regard the proposal by Azerbaijan on establishment of the EAPC center on defense and security sector Reform deserves serious consideration.
The establishment of a comprehensive security in the Euro-Atlantic area can not be seriously considered without the settlement of the conflict in and around Nagorno- Karabakh region of Azerbaijan that started almost 18 years ago. The aggression by Armenia brought about the military occupation of thousands of sq. km. of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognised territory, large-scale devastation and ethnic cleansing resulted in 1 mln. refugees and idps. The Government of Azerbaijan has always consistently demonstrated the commitment to the peaceful settlement of the conflict that is based on the norms and principles of international law, including respect for territorial integrity, as well as relevant uNsc Resolutions and OSCE documents.
Azerbaijan believes in the possibility to restore the peaceful coexistence of Azerbaijani and Armenian communities in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. To reach that point it is necessary to ensure complete withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, safe and dignified return of Azerbaijani population to their places of origin in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and other seven occupied districts of Azerbaijan. This should be followed by opening of communications, restoration of inter-communal relations, especially in the humanitarian sphere, implementation of special programs on tolerance and establishment of trust.
We believe that the ultimate objective of the settlement process is to eliminate the consequences of the conflict and define the model and legal frameworks of the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh region within Azerbaijan. Proceeding from the standards of democracy, rule of law and human rights, the process of definition of any status shall take place in normal peaceful conditions with direct, full and equal participation of communities, and their constructive interaction with the Government of Azerbaijan exclusively in the framework of a lawful and democratic process.
However, it is very difficult to hope for a substantial breakthrough judging from a position, on which Armenia persists. in reality, taking advantage of the favourable results of military actions, Armenia is trying to legitimize the results of ethnic cleansing and impose finally a fait accompli situation.
In the meantime, we would like to reiterate our inalienable legitimate right to restore territorial integrity of our country in compliance with norms and principles of international law.
While the NATO pursues policy of non-involvement in the regional conflicts, we believe that the armed aggression of a NATO’s Partner nation against another one can not be completely taken out of context of the defense and security cooperation in the framework of EAPC/PFP. Otherwise the very idea of Euro-Atlantic security and principles enshrined in the PFP Framework document could be compromised. The Partner nation grossly violating the basic principles of international law and Partner- ship, such as respect for territorial integrity of any state and existing borders, should be constantly reminded of persisting contraventions in its conduct in the official NATO documents and statements.
From its part, the Republic of Azerbaijan is determined to continue the multi- faceted partnership with NATO and Partner nations to eliminate instability, conflicts and common threats within the whole EAPC region and beyond. Azerbaijan stands ready to share the burden of building a common security system that is responsive to security concerns of all nations without discrimination.