New NATO Chief Not to Change Caucasus Policy

0804-03

BAKU (Today AZ)—NATO policy regarding the South Caucasus countries will not change dramatically after the new Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said an official representative of NATO, James Appathurai.

“Rasmussen certainly has not announced any major changes,” Appathurai said by telephone from Brussels on August 4.

“I don’t think that you should expect to see any great changes.”

The new Secretary General has expressed his strong commitment to fundamental principles of NATO with regard to its partnerships, mentioning specifically the South Caucasus, Appathurai said.

“He demonstrated commitment to partnership and to autonomy and independence of sovereign states in that region [South Caucasus],” Appathurai said.

NATO cooperation with the South Caucasus countries – Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia – is mainly carried out within Partnership for Peace Program, Individual Partnership Action Plan, as well as Process of Analysis and Planning Program. These documents define the objectives and intentions of the partner countries to hold consultations with NATO regarding reforms in the spheres of defense, security and military policy.

Cooperation of the South Caucasus countries with NATO is regarded as a step towards European integration and security and stability in the region.

New Secretary General’s commitment to fundamental principles of NATO includes the rejection the idea of the spheres of influence, when the big countries imposing their will on smaller countries that might be in the neighborhood, Appathurai said.

Dane Anders Fogh Rasmussen came to the post of NATO Secretary General on August 1, replacing in this post Dutch Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who spent five years in office.

As to NATO co-operation with Muslim countries, Appathurai said that NATO has strong history with Muslim countries in two ways.

“One way is the operational way: we have as an alliance defended Kosovo population, which is principally Muslim. Of course, we are defending Afghans from the extremists in Afghanistan,” he said.

In terms of partnership with many Muslim countries in the Mediterranean dialog, the Istanbul cooperation initiative, NATO has very good partnerships, Appathurai said.

“Rasmussen wants to build on that. And he made as a priority for himself, demonstrating his respect for and commitment to deeper partnership with Muslim countries,” Appathurai said.

Rasmussen was elected head of the North Atlantic Alliance at the anniversary summit of NATO in April. Whether he would come to the post was unclear by the last moment.

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