Vol. 2, No. 9 (May 01, 2009)

NATO-Azerbaijan: Assessing the past, looking into the future

Kamil Khasiyev, Amb.
Head of Mission
Mission of the Republic of Azerbaijan to NATO

This year NATO is celebrating the 60th Anniversary of its foundation, while Azerbaijan is marking the 15th Anniversary of its accession to the Partnership for Peace.  On these significant occasions, it gives me a special pleasure to glance through past years and to assess the current level of partnership that we have achieved. 

Let me first stress that the foundations of this mutually beneficial partnership were laid down by President Heydar Aliyev when he signed the Framework Document about accession to PFP during the official visit to NATO HQ on 4 May 1994. 

Over the past 15 years Azerbaijan has made considerable progress by developing practical cooperation with NATO through available partnership mechanisms such as Individual Partnership Program (IPP), Planning and Review Process (PARP) and Individual Partnership Action Plan with NATO. 

The Individual Partnership Program, annually adopted on the basis of Euro-Atlantic Partnership Work Programme (EAPWP) includes all joint activities and events to be attended by national military and civilian representatives.  Every year Azerbaijan participates in more than 200 NATO/PFP activities and events, including training courses, conferences and military exercises.

The Planning and Review Process (PARP) is aimed at closely engaging Azerbaijan into NATO’s Defence planning for operational readiness.  Since 1997, based on two-year cycles Azerbaijani Armed forces have taken on the implementation of increasing number of the so-called Partnership Goals, which were focused on achieving military interoperability with NATO troops through introduction of NATO’s military, training and technical standards.  Starting from 2002, the PARP and Partnership Goals of Azerbaijan have been extended to broader security sector areas such as Defence against terrorism, Border Security and reform of Internal Troops and their preparation for peace-keeping operations. 

The Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) is an important instrument for strengthening cooperation with NATO in both short and a longer-term perspective.  In May 2003, Azerbaijan formally applied for joining the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) with NATO, adopted as a new PFP mechanism at the NATO/EAPC Prague Summit in 2002.  In May 2004, President Ilham Aliyev officially submitted to the Alliance the IPAP Presentation Document, which included comprehensive information about democratic, political, judicial, social and economic developments as well as the current status of defence and security institutions of Azerbaijan. 

On the basis of the Presentation Document Azerbaijan and NATO elaborated and approved the first Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) of Azerbaijan in May 2005.  The IPAP covers all major political, defence and security areas as well as security related economic, scientific and environmental issues.  The IPAP is implemented and updated on the basis of two-year cycles.  Final two-year implementation assessment reports are also considered at the meetings NATO PC and NAC in the format 28+Azerbaijan.  Our country has successfully completed the first cycle of IPAP for 2005-2007, and is currently implementing the second cycle for 2008-2010.          

Let me now elaborate on concrete achievements in our multi-faceted partnership with NATO:

First, in the past years Azerbaijan has enhanced political dialogue with the Alliance through frequent and high-level contacts.  It is worth mentioning the recent visit of President Ilham Aliyev to NATO Headquarters on 29 April 2009.  The visit has significantly contributed to further strengthening the substantial political dialogue and the practical cooperation between Azerbaijan and NATO.

This dialogue is being actively supported by Mr. R. Simmons, the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative to South Caucasus and Central Asia, who pays regular visits to our country.  As to the substance of the dialogue, it is mainly focused on such important issues as regional security issues of mutual concern, including the Euro-Atlantic security, the situation in the South Caucasus and energy security. 

In this context, I would also like to emphasize the continuous support by the NATO member states for the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Azerbaijan and peaceful resolution of the conflict in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan founded on these principles.  The recent NATO Strasburg/Kehl Summit declaration is a clear expression of that support.

Second, Azerbaijan continues to contribute to the Euro-Atlantic security by participating in NATO-led operations sanctioned by the UN SC resolutions.  Between 1999 and 2008, Azerbaijan participated in the KFOR in Kosovo.  Currently the peacekeeping contingent of Azerbaijan, which was re-doubled in 2008, is participating in ISAF operation in Afghanistan.  Moreover, our country conducts bilateral consultations with the Afghan Government on possibilities of contributing to the peace and stability in Afghanistan through engagement in other areas, including civilian reconstruction projects. 

Third, our practical cooperation includes such broad and diverse areas as defence modernization and reform, democratic control of the armed forces, peace support operations, security sector reform, civil emergency planning, security related scientific, economic and environmental cooperation.  

Azerbaijan made significant steps in the field of application of modern standards in the Armed Forces, increasing interoperability, in particular, through further development of the military education and training system.
Despite the on-going conflict the process of gradual transformation of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan has been started.  Structural changes are under way within Ministry of Defence (MOD), General staff and army units.  The MOD has already launched a preparatory work for Strategic Defence Review that should consequently cover the whole security sector.

Considerable work has been done for gradual transformation of security sector to modern standards, including the reinforcement of technical capabilities and improvement of personnel management systems within the State Border Service and Internal Troops.  Appropriate measures are being taken for gradual transformation of the State Border Service (SBS) from military structure into a law-enforcement type of organization. 
Over the recent years, Azerbaijan has continued to improve national civil emergency planning capabilities and has made effective use of appropriate partnership mechanisms and NATO expertise assistance in that area. 

Other notable developments include Azerbaijan’s contribution to energy security issues within the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, successful initiatives in the public diplomacy and humanitarian fields, as well as training and education. 

The NATO/PfP Saloglu Trust Fund Project, funded by the contributions of NATO member countries and Partners is aimed at fully clearance of 600 hectares of land from the Unexploded Ordinances (artillery shells and other ammunition) in the Agstafa region of Azerbaijan and render it for the use of local population.  The final third phase of the project should ultimately solve the UXO problem in the mentioned area. 

Another large environmental project is the NATO-sponsored Melange (rocket fuel) pilot project which was completed in summer 2008.  It disposed 1.400 tonnes of dangerous rocket fuel inherited from the stocks of the former Soviet Union stored in the territory of Azerbaijan. 

In the sphere of education and training, NATO International School of Azerbaijan has proved itself as an important venue for constructive discussions on the topics of strategic importance for the Euro-Atlantic Partnership and NATO.  In the meantime, NISA has greatly contributed to raising public awareness on Euro-Atlantic and NATO related security issues within Azerbaijan and in the broader Euro-Atlantic area.

Finally, it would be to the point here to note the increasing role of the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy in our partnership with NATO on civilian education and training.  Currently, the Diplomatic Academy is considering ways of extending its participation in the work of the PfP Consortium of Defence Academies and Security Studies Institutes.

May I conclude by stressing that both political dialogue and practical cooperation with NATO serve the strategic goal of the Republic of Azerbaijan to integrate into the European and Euro-Atlantic political, security, economic and other institutions, as indicated in the National Security Concept.