Hikmet Cetin: “NATO should be involved in the settlement of Nagorno Karabakh conflict” – INTERVIEW – EXCLUSIVE

Hikmet Cetin: “NATO should be involved in the settlement of Nagorno Karabakh conflict” – <font color=red>INTERVIEW – EXCLUSIVE </font>
# 07 May 2009 10:31 (UTC +04:00)
-The world has focused attention on Afghanistan. How do you characterize the situation and activation of Taliban?

-The situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating in Afghanistan since 2006. Taliban has found new financial sources and is becoming strong, as NATO and the world countries, including US, do not give full support to Afghanistan. The number of soldiers was not increased, economic investments were not enough. Afghanistan government failed to spread its influence over the whole country. But present situation gives ground to say that steps are being taken for the good. There are also many problems connected with Pakistan. The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is 2500 km. It is very difficult to control the area, as there are Pushtus on both sides of the border.

The US plans to send extra 20,000 soldiers to Afghanistan. Other NATO member states, partner states including Azerbaijan, intend to increase the number of their soldiers and offer economic assistance to Afghanistan. NATO has a decision to hold exercises for Afghan army and police and supply them with necessary technical equipment. NATO will withdraw its soldiers from Afghanistan in case afghan army and police fulfill this task completely.

-How do you assess Obama’s strategy on Afghanistan?

-This is a very correct approach. This strategy has five elements: to have regional approach to Afghanistan problem, deploy additional troops, increase economic aid, participate more in the exercises of Afghanistan army and police and offer aid to Afghanistan government for the reestablishment of the state. Not only the US, but also the countries of the region, including Russia and Iran, should participate in the solution of Afghanistan problem. Iran also borders on Afghanistan, and this country’s contribution to ensuring public order in Afghanistan is important. Narcotic plants grown in Afghanistan create serious problems for Iran. Iran is against Taliban. As Taliban is Wahhabi-tended ideology Iran does not want it. Russia helps the development of Afghanistan. When NATO deployed troops in Afghanistan, Iran did not oppose to it. Iran is ready to cooperate with both Afghanistan government and NATO to maintain public order in Afghanistan.

-What should be done to ensure public order in Afghanistan? More military force, or investments?

-It is impossible to achieve anything with more military forces. It is impossible to solve a problem with the help of servicemen. If we do not win people’s heart, mind, support, struggle against terrorism will produce no results.

-Do you think NATO has won the heart of people in Afghanistan?

-People in Afghanistan pay more attention to security and living standard. Here include economic and social needs such as job, education, health etc. In this respect Afghanistan is the poorest country of the world. The other important issue is not to cause damage to civilians during operations. This is one of the main problems lying ahead.

-Why does NATO’s army supplied with modern weapons and technologies fail to cope with a group Taliban gunmen?

-Today Taliban means Afghan people. They receive support of people. Afghanistan is a new battlefield for NATO. Though the alliance played an important role in the cold war, it did not shoot a bullet. Only air operations were carried out in the Balkans. NATO began its first ground war and operation to combat terrorism in Afghanistan. In this respect, military operations, ground battle tactics in Afghanistan are new for NATO. Secondly, struggle against terrorism is not an easy problem. It is very difficult to struggle against terrorism with the help of regular army. Taliban uses dangerous method, suicide bombers. We met with the local tribes for struggling against terrorists. Armed people of the local tribes will struggle against terrorists under Interior Ministry.

-Then losing Afghanistan means end of NATO as a military alliance.

-NATO doesn’t fear to lose Afghanistan. NATO must do its duties in Afghanistan as it came here. If it can’t provide tranquility in this country, NATO and the international community will lose the war on terror, which will lead to the activation of terrorists over the world. The losing Afghanistan means “the resolving of NATO future” and therefore NATO has to take all necessary measures in Afghanistan.

-You said Azerbaijan would send additional forces to Afghanistan.

-I would like to notice that Azerbaijan has reached the number of achievements since joining the Partnership for Peace Program (PfP) in 1994, particularly with the assistance of Turkey, USA and other NATO countries. Turkish ambassador played an important role as a coordinator between Azerbaijan and NATO for 15 years. Today Azerbaijan takes an active part in the defending peace and stability in the world. Azerbaijani soldiers are perfectly serving in Afghanistan within the Turkish forces. I was meeting with the Azerbaijani soldiers during my visits to Kabul. Who could think 18-19 years ago that Azerbaijan would participate in the establishing peace in the world? The Azerbaijan’s participation in the peacekeeping operations is very important issue. Regarding the increase of peacekeeping forces, it is possible. Recently Azerbaijan sent additional forces to ISAF. But NATO proposed to the member and partner countries to increase their military assistances.

- Azerbaijan said it would provide civil assistance too.

-I know that. Afghanistan and Azerbaijan discussed the additional support besides the military assistance last august. I know that Azerbaijan offered its support in the training of military servicemen and police, opening the schools and medical services. The Afghans need that. On the other hand, they see Azerbaijan as a brother country.

- How is TRASECA corridor acceptable for the supply of forces in Afghanistan?

-TRASECA is very important route. Besides that Russia also allows transit via its territory and some of the cargos are transmitted over Russia. TRASECA is very useful route for the shipment and I consider that all national governments in the lead of Azerbaijan should agree with that. TRASECA is more secure corridor and has a necessary infrastructure.

-Is NATO looking forward to participate in the settlement of Karabakh conflict in any form?

- In my opinion, the efforts toward the settlement of the conflict are developed. Let me remind that I was foreign minister of Turkey when the OSCE Minks Group was established. 17 years have passed since than and there is no progress toward the solution of the problem. Everything was forgotten or frozen. The problems become more complicated while the processes are delaying. Cyprus can be an example. Many years have passed since 1974. The solution of the problem was easier in the first years, but now there is a different situation. The world, including Minsk Group, is forgetting the Karabakh events. What is it arising from? I think not only the Minks Group, but USA, Turkey and Russia, as well as NATO can reach anything toward the solution of the problem. NATO has larger opportunities and therefore I consider that the NATO should be involved in the process. Karabakh is not only the problem of Azerbaijan and Armenia. This is a problem of global impact. All over the region and the world are concerning over the solution of this problem.

-How do you see Turkey’s intention to open borders with Armenia? Is it possible?

-Turkey closed the borders with Armenia in a protest against the occupation of Azerbaijani lands by this country. I participated in this process once and I can make you sure that Turkey can never make decision against Azerbaijan. There were some people concerned over that or tried to use it to damage the Azerbaijan-Turkey relations. Turkey and Azerbaijan have so healthy relations that no one can damage it.