Azeri Defense Minister Calls for NATO Bases in South Caucasus

BAKU (Turan)-"The deployment of NATO bases in the countries of the South Caucasus would be the main factor for strengthening stability," said Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev on March 23 in a meeting with Lt-Gen Carlton W. Fulford Jr–Deputy Commander-in-Chief–United States European Command.

The minister said that the main threat to stability in the Caucasus was coming from Armenia–which supposedly carries out aggression against Azerbaijan and occupies its territory. Having foreign military bases on its territory–Armenia is the main destabilizing factor in the region according to Abiyev.

"Why does NATO not think of deploying its bases in the South Caucasus? They would become one of the main factors for ensuring calm in the region and would sober up countries trying to violate stability. As for the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict–none of the options for settling this problem should be ruled out," Abiyev said.

In reply–Fulford said that the idea of deploying NATO bases in the Caucasus was "attractive and was worth thinking about". He also welcomed the development and consolidation of military ties between Turkey and Azerbaijan. "Any kind of relations with Turkey–which has one of the most powerful armies in NATO–would be useful for Azerbaijan," the American general said.

During the meeting–the sides also discussed the current situation surrounding the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and the military-political situation in the region as a whole.

It should be noted that in 1999–former foreign policy adviser Vafa Quluzada came up with the idea of deploying NATO military bases in Azerbaijan. Commenting on Abiyev’s statement–Quluzada pointed out with satisfaction that the idea he had voiced was finding more and more understanding among the Azerbaijani leadership. "Time has shown that my suggestion was based on sober calculations and on the military-political realities of the present day," Quluzada stated.

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