Azerbaijan - NATO

Azerbaijani-NATO relations started their formation in March 1992, with admission of Azerbaijan to its body, the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. The Azerbaijani delegation first participated in the seminar of the NATO countries held in Turkey in October 1992, and met its Secretary-General Manfred Werner.

In February 1993, the Azerbaijani delegation participated in the conference held in Brussels, on the European security problems. Socio-political situation in Azerbaijan and the Armenian aggression were reported in the conference.

A high-level cooperation between the North Atlantic Alliance and Azerbaijan was founded in 1994. During his visit to Brussels on May 4, 1994, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev signed the "Partnership for Peace Program" (PFP), which provided the cooperation of NATO cooperation with former Soviet republics. During the visit, such an idea was expressed that this program will assist to stop the armed conflicts and achieve peace. The PFP provided assistance to the participant countries in peace-building, rescue, demining and humanitarian operations.

The realization of PFP program began in 1996. Hence the representatives of the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan participated in the seminars and conferences held in the framework of PFP. In the spring of 1998, the representatives of NATO held a conference on ensuring the pipelines security together with the representatives of the Defense, National Security and Internal Affairs ministries o Azerbaijan.

In 1995, representatives of different structures of NATO headed by Necil Nedimoglu, chairman of the verification committee of the organization. The importance of release of the Azerbaijani territories from occupation and achieving peace in the region were stressed in talks with the delegation.

In June 1995, C. Mackenzie, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of NATO forces in Europe, visited Azerbaijan. In his meeting with the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev he said that the North Atlantic Alliance could play an important role in the improvement of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan. In this meeting, the representative of NATO for the first time stressed the importance of liberation of the Azerbaijani territories from occupation and establishment of peace in the region.

President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev met Javier Solana, Secretary-General of NATO, in April 1996, during his visit to Brussels, to sign an agreement on cooperation with the European Union. During the meeting Solana said that he highly appreciated Heydar Aliyev`s activity in strengthening of the independence and statehood of Azerbaijan. He also said that the signature of the agreement on cooperation between the three Caucasian republics and the European Union was an important step.

Javier Solana visited Baku in February of 1997. In his talk with him, the head of the Azerbaijani state Heydar Aliyev said that Azerbaijan fulfilled its obligations in the framework of the PFP program, but also noted that there was much work to be done.

Telling that security issues were of great importance both for Azerbaijan and NATO, Javier Solana said that he hoped for cooperation in the framework of PFP.

Azerbaijan joined NATO`s another body, Euro Atlantic Cooperation Council, established in May of 1997. Unlike North Atlantic Cooperation Council, this structure of NATO provides for passing to practical steps from discussions and consultations in the framework of PFP.

President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev participated in the meeting of the heads of states and governments of Euro Atlantic Cooperation Council held in Madrid in July 1997. In his speech in the meeting, he called the Euro Atlantic Council an important mechanism of discussions and partnership of the member states. Furthermore, he called on NATO not to stand aside from prevention of armed conflicts in the Caucasus. Heydar Aliyev declared that the armed conflicts in this region threatened the European security.

In November 1997, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan issued a decree "On the measures for strengthening cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and NATO". A commission of cooperation with NATO attached to the President of Azerbaijan was established in conformity with this decree. The commission is charged to coordinate the activities of respective ministries to draft a program in the framework of PFP. The Azerbaijani mission started its activity in NATO headquarters in Brussels.

The Azerbaijani-NATO military cooperation strengthened more in 1997. In same year, Azerbaijan joined the Planning and Review Process (PARP) of the organization. This project provides reforms in defense sphere in Azerbaijan. The representatives of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan participated in the military trainings of NATO held in the US in July-August 1997.

In September 1998, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana visited Azerbaijan for the second time. During this visit he conveyed the organization`s ideas about the Euro Atlantic and regional security iand discussed the ways of improvement of mutual contacts.

In April 1999, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan participated in the 50th anniversary of NATO held in Washington and made a speech there. He once again declared that the participation of Azerbaijan in PFP program will continue.

Azerbaijan closely cooperates with the Parliamentary Assembly, the influential body of the organization as well. Azerbaijan got the observer status in the session of the Parliamentary Assembly held in Poland in May 1999. In September of the same year, a platoon of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan started to take part in the peace-keeping activities in Kosovo together with the NATO peacekeepers. On November 19, 2001, the Republic of Azerbaijan became an associate member of the Parliamentary Assembly.

In January 2001, George Robertson, the new Secretary-General of NATO visited Baku. In his meeting with the President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and opportunities of improvement of the Azerbaijani-NATO contacts were discussed.

In November 2002, Heydar Aliyev participated in the Prague summit of the heads of states of the Euro Atlantic Cooperation Council. In his meeting in the summit, President of Azerbaijan called on NATO to be active in the prevention of the conflicts in the South Caucasus.

In 2002-2003, units of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan joined peace building operations in Afghanistan and Iraq in the framework of cooperation with NATO. In May 2003, George Robertson visited Azerbaijan once again. During this visit, Azerbaijan appealed him to join the "Individual Partnership Operation Plan" for closer cooperation with the organization. The plan was submitted to the Secretary-General of NATO Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The latter visited Azerbaijan in November 2004.

The situation in the Azerbaijani-NATO cooperation became much clearer with the visit of the special envoy of the NATO Secretary-General on South Caucasus and Central Asia Robert Simmons to Baku in April 2006. In his meeting with him, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said he was satisfied with development of contacts between the North Atlantic Alliance and Azerbaijan. Along with it, Ilham Aliyev noted the importance of partnership between NATO and Azerbaijan in a new stage.

In his turn Robert Simmons highly appreciated reforms in Azerbaijan in conformity with the NATO programs. He also said that the North Atlantic Allaince was satisfied with participation of Azerbaijan in its peace-keeping operations in different regions of the world. The special envoy of the Secretary-General of NATO on the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia stated that there were great opportunities of cooperation between NATO and Azerbaijan in the spheres of border security, combating terrorism, organized crime, proliferation of nuclear components, drug trafficking and illegal migration.

Rise of Azerbaijani-NATO relations to a high level, in general, cooperation of Azerbaijan with NATO as a priority of its foreign policy, were due to the signature of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev the PFP agreement of NATO on May 4, 1994. In his speech in the ceremony of the signature of the agreement, Heydar Aliyev stated goal and importance of cooperation with NATO: "...We met with great pleasure NATO`s invitation calling newly independent post soviet states to join the document of Partnership for Peace. We decided to sign this document and hope much for cooperation with NATO. This cooperation is very important for us from the point of view of integration of Azerbaijan into the Western democracy for searching additional ways to stabilize the situation in the region, for stopping the war and for establishing peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan by cooperating with NATO".

Brief essay was compiled on May 25, 2006.