Khazar Ibrahim: Azerbaijan to continue benefiting from NATO-proposed co-op mechanisms - INTERVIEW
Q. What do you think of the current level of Azerbaijan-NATO cooperation?
A. As you know, the foundation of Azerbaijan-NATO cooperation was laid after Heydar Aliyev signed the document titled “Partnership for Peace” in 1994. This cooperation developed over the last 22 years, expanding and deepening in content. NATO sees Azerbaijan as a reliable and loyal partner and it has been stated many times in various formats.
Azerbaijan-NATO cooperation includes areas such as political dialogue, participation in NATO-led operations, working on development of interoperability in the field of defense, destruction of light and small arms, as well as cooperation on trust funds on demining, new security challenges, civil emergency planning, public diplomacy, etc.
Every year, Azerbaijan and NATO hold regular political consultations on different formats and levels, organizing high-level meetings and visits. Azerbaijan continues its participation in the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. Azerbaijan has also revealed its principal consent to joining the NATO mission which will be created in Afghanistan after the Resolute Support Mission is over and will be led by a civilian.
Practical cooperation, which is another important direction of Azerbaijan-NATO partnership, was continued successfully over the past years. I have to say that during 2015 alone, close to 200 NATO events were joined by Azerbaijan’s numerous military and civilian representatives, who benefited from the Alliance’s Individual Partnership and Cooperation Program.
Ten Azerbaijani military officers currently serve as Partnership Headquarters Element in various NATO headquarters. In this respect, Azerbaijan is atop among partner countries. Furthermore, representatives of Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Emergency Situations serve as Voluntary National Contribution at NATO's Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre since 2009.
Q. What mutual visits are expected to be made as part of NATO-Azerbaijan political dialogue?
A. As I have already said, political dialogue is one of the main directions of Azerbaijan-NATO partnership and cooperation in this area is continuing successfully. Every year, political consultations take place on various formats and levels, mutual high-level visits and meetings are organized, and the sides exchange ideas on a number of issues like partnership policy, regional security, the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, energy security, etc.
As you know, in February this year NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai paid a visit to Azerbaijan and met with high-ranking officials. In May, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov visited NATO, met with the Alliance’s Secretary General and addressed the Azerbaijan-NATO meeting held at the NATO Headquarters. The sides expressed satisfaction with the development of Azerbaijan - NATO cooperation. Of course, such high-level visits will continue this year and in the coming years, and it will contribute to the development of mutual cooperation.
Q. How do you assess the implementation of Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) between Azerbaijan and NATO? Is NATO satisfied with the implementation of plan by Azerbaijan? Are NATO implementing other programs in Azerbaijan, or are new programs expected?
A. First of all, I want to note that the IPAP allows the partners to develop cooperation and carry out reforms in various areas. A partner country undertake obligations regarding cooperation with Alliance in these fields, sets out its priorities, benefits from the mechanisms of NATO-proposed partership to achieve these objectives, and cooperates with member and partner countries.
The IPAP is considered to be the basic document between Azerbaijan and NATO and it is based on national interests of our country. The plan agreed for a two-year period covers political dialogue between Azerbaijan and NATO and reforms in various areas such as defense and security. Azerbaijan joined the IPAP in 2004, cooperated with NATO in three periods 2005-2007, 2008-2010 and 2012-2013. The IPAP is being implemented in the fourth period of 2015-2016.
National and NATO experts are annually assessing the fulfillment of the obligations. In most cases, these assessments are coinciding with each other.
Azerbaijan, pursuant to the Partnership for Peace Framework Document, takes an active part in NATO's Planning and Review Process (PARP), Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) and Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC). The PARP envisages assistance to the partners through military reforms, training and education, application of standards, developing forces that can be sent to international operations and exercises with the participation of NATO forces. Azerbaijan is continuing to use training, evaluation and feedback tools of the Operational Capabilities Concept Evaluation and Feedback Program (OCC E&F) to complete the PARP and achieve a high level interoperability with the NATO forces.
The IPAP also creates the conditions for participation in events organized by the NATO members and some of the partner countries for the purpose of exchanging experience, improving the level of training as well as expert discussions.
Q. Azerbaijan peacekeepers continue their mission in Afghanistan. Considering the US has begun to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, are there any proposals, ideas, or discussions as to ending the peacekeeping mission of the Azerbaijani military servicemen? Some say the Azerbaijani servicemen may stay in Afghanistan after NATO withdraws its troops from the country. How realistic is it?
A. As a country contributing to global peace and security, and demonstrating an adequate position towards the process taking place around the region it is located, Azerbaijan has since the very beginning participated in NATO's International Security Assistance Force operation in Afghanistan till the end. At present, Azerbaijan continues to participate in the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission implemented in Afghanistan. So Azerbaijan is one of the 13 non-NATO partner countries represented in this mission.
At present, the Azerbaijani contingent of 94 peacekeepers is serving with the Resolute Support Mission. Under the Turkish Command, Azerbaijani servicemen are responsible for the defense of Kabul’s international airport.
At the NATO summits in Chicago and Wales, as well as during his visit to the NATO Headquarters, President Ilham Aliyev said that Azerbaijan will continue to provide support to Afghanistan. After completion of the Resolution Support Mission, it’s planned to set a temporary NATO representative in Afghanistan, which will be led by civilians. Azerbaijan has already expressed its readiness to participate in the mission.
Q. How do you assess the prospects of Azerbaijan-NATO relations?
A. Azerbaijan, relying on its national interests, will continue to benefit from the NATO-proposed cooperation mechanism and develop the existing multilateral partnership with the Alliance.
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