Contacts with NATO Important to Azerbaijan

BAKU (Itar-Tass)–Relations with NATO are important to Azerbaijan–Foreign Minister Gasan Gasanov said on Tuesday at a meeting with visiting NATO military committee deputy chairman Nicholas Kehou.

Gasanov said that Azerbaijan wants an activation of its part in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program–the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council–which is the program’s extension–and in other NATO formats.

He said NATO should not see the Transcaucasus as a "single territorial formation" and should proceed from this assumption in building up its contacts with the Transcaucasian republics of Azerbaijan–Georgia and Armenia.

NATO’s relations with each of the republics should be differentiated–with consideration for the fact that Armenia retains Russian military bases and whose border with Turkey is still guarded by Russia’s–Gasanov said.

This is not the case with Azerbaijan–and NATO should have a corresponding approach to dealing with it–he said.

Kehou said he was satisfied with Azerbaijan’s part in Partnership for Peace and the effective plan of further cooperation. He lauded as a positive fact the presence of Azerbaijan’s liaison officer at the NATO headquarters.

Kehou added that the Madrid NATO summit was another major stride in the implementation of the Partnership for Peace program–bound to yield direct cooperation between state members.

As for NATO’s interest in the Caucasus region–Kehou said its two major determinants were the region’s geopolitical situation and its ample mineral resources.

Stability in the Caucasus region is crucial for reaching its economic well-being–Kehou said. He promised NATO’s assistance in mending relations between the Transcaucasus countries involved in conflicts.

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