NATO Chief Calls for Army Cuts in Azerbaijan

BAKU (ITAR-TASS)–NATO Secretary-General George Robertson urged Azerbaijan to carry out military reform and reduce its armed forces.

In his meeting with Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev on January 17–Robertson said that military reform is always a painful process which requires cuts. If it is delayed–further reforms will be even more painful. Abiyev said that his country believes that one of the conditions of its security is active participation in European structures–including cooperation with NATO. The minister called for enhancing interaction between Azerbaijan and NATO under the Partnership for Peace program.

Abiyev also stressed the need to reduce tension in the South Caucasus as an inalienable part of Europe–and to restore peace and stability in the region as a whole.

Robertson was also due to meet Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliyev in the evening–but press was not allowed to be present. After the meeting–the NATO leader flew to Turkmen’stan. The central event of his visit to Azerbaijan was meeting with President Heydar Aliyev on January 16. Aliyev urged NATO to pay serious attention to the Karabakh conflict–saying that this 13- year-old conflict cannot go on forever.

"We think that NATO’s main goal is to create peace at least in Europe–of which the South Caucasus is an inalienable part," the president said.

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