NATO US to Develop Military Aid Program in Azerbaijan

BAKU (Ekspress)–Commenting on the outcome of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s visit to the South Caucasus last month–NATO general Frank Boland told Baku-based Ekspress that the US and NATO intend to launch an unprecedented military aid program in the region in the near future.

"We are thinking about extending our aid to Azerbaijan within the framework of the newly-drawn up program. Discussions were held during Rumsfeld’s meetings with Azerbaijani officials," commented Boland–the chief of Force Planning Section at NATO’s Defense Planning and Operations Division

The US Congress–according to Boland–has considered specific loans for the development of military forces in the South Caucasus countries in the current year. "This figure is higher in Azerbaijan than in other countries," he said–and revealed that Azerbaijan seeks to implement the program in the Caspian basin and its borders.

According to some critics–the US and NATO project exceeds the limits of the Caucasus. Boland said the initiative will help beef up the onshore–offshore–and air security of Azerbaijan–and Kazakhstan in the Caspian region.

He also said that NATO is familiar with the realities of the Mountainous Karabagh conflict–and is seeking new approaches there. "We will increase our positive attempts to achieve a solution to the conflict."

Addressing NATO–Azerbaijan cooperation–Boland stated that the fight against terrorism in maintaining security in the region is necessary–and that numerous projects centering on security–are nearing completion. "These projects mainly serve the development of security in the region. The interests of NATO and Azerbaijan in the region coincide."

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