Oskanian Questions Azerbaijan’s Grasp of NATO Partnership Principles

ARMENIAN OFFICERS BARRED FROM ATTENDING NATO CONFERENCE IN BAKU

(RFE/RL)–An Armenian military delegation failed to attend a NATO conference in Azerbaijan after being prevented from boarding a Baku-bound plane in Istanbul–in what official Yerevan denounced as a breach of the US-led alliance’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) program.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia condemns this action–and believes that it is inconsistent with the letter–the spirit–and the premise of the Partnership for Peace Program," Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said. "This unprecedented action by the Azerbaijani authorities calls into question the realization of the basic principles of the Partnership–which are aimed at strengthening mutual confidence–enhancing dialogue and co-operation in the Euro-Atlantic area and–in particular–among the nations of the Southern Caucasus."

The two senior army officers and their interpreter were expected to arrive in the Azerbaijani capital the previous night despite being denied entry visas by the Azerbaijani embassy in Georgia. According to the Armenian Defense Ministry–Turkish authorities did not allow them to fly to Baku at the behest of the Azerbaijani government–which seems keen to stave off Armenia’s participation in a NATO-led military exercise in Azerbaijan scheduled for this summer.

Oskanian said NATO leadership should "take appropriate steps to rectify this situation." He added Yerevan will continue to seek participation in the NATO exercise.

"We took the steps that were suggested by NATO," Oskanian said. "They themselves suggested that we get visas and travel [to Azerbaijan] via Istanbul."

The Armenian officers were initially scheduled to travel to Azerbaijan on Monday with conference participants from Turkey and other NATO member states and try to get a visa at Baku airport. The Defense Ministry says they missed Monday’s Istanbul-Baku flight after arriving two hours later from Yerevan.

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