NATO Is Determined to Promote Cooperation with the Caucasus and Central Asia (1)
NATO Is Determined to Promote Cooperation with the Caucasus
and Central Asia (1)
Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop
Scheffer at Baky State University, Azerbaïjan, November 5, 2004.
This is my first visit to Azerbaijan as NATO Secretary General, and I have
been looking forward to this opportunity.
At NATO’s Summit meeting in Istanbul last June, our Heads of State and
Government decided to put special focus on engaging with our Partners in the
strategically important regions of the Caucasus and Central Asia. I have already
visited all our Partners in Central Asia two weeks ago, and I am delighted to be
Whenever I travel, I use every opportunity to meet with young people. After all,
my own decision to go into politics was partly inspired by the debates I had
with fellow students during my own university days.
Of course, when I was a student, the time was still the Cold War. The world we
live in today bears little resemblance to that past era. The threat of major war
has vanished, but other challenges have come to fore that are no less dangerous.
And they affect us all.
If you ask why NATO attaches so much importance to its relations with your
country in this new security environment, the answer is two-fold.
First, we have seen over the past decade that NATO’s policy of partnership and
cooperation has enhanced stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. We have built
sound and fruitful relations with our strategic partner Russia, as well as with
countries ranging from Sweden to Azerbaijan. And NATO has offered concrete
support in helping young democracies face challenge of transition, in particular
in defence reform.
The second reason why NATO attaches so much importance to this country and this
region is that our new security environment makes closer cooperation between all
of us a strategic necessity. Terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass
destruction are perhaps the most lethal of these new challenges. And in
Afghanistan, we have also seen that failing states can cause instability in
their own region and well beyond. These threats know no borders. We can only
meet them through a broad network of international cooperation. And the Caucasus
region is a crucial part of that network.
Over the past few years, NATO has transformed significantly in response to this
new security environment. In the Balkans, the Alliance continues to play a key
role as a peacekeeper. Last year, NATO assumed command of the International
Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. This year, we have enhanced our
presence in that country and helped the holding of peaceful presidential
elections. We have also taken on the challenging task of assisting with the
training and equipment of Iraqi security forces.
In many of these operations, our Partner countries play an indispensable role.
Azerbaijan is no exception. Your country has deployed forces alongside those of
NATO in the Balkans, and you joined ISAF in Afghanistan already two years ago.
In addition, Azerbaijan has also made a significant contribution to the
coalition efforts in Iraq. Clearly, Azerbaijan has understood that in today’s
world, security cooperation is a strategic imperative.
As Azerbaijan moves forward into this new century, I believe that there are many
areas where it can benefit from advice and assistance, and where NATO has
valuable experience to share. Azerbaijan has decided to develop an Individual
Partnership Action Plan with NATO, which shows that this country, as well, is
interested in enhancing our cooperation. And we welcome that interest.
What direction should our future cooperation take, and what kind of NATO
assistance is available to Azerbaijan and other countries? NATO wants, in
particular, to help with reforms leading to more effective defence institutions.
This includes the difficult task of making sure that security services and
military forces are appropriately sized, structured and funded to meet the
challenges of the new security environment. It also means bringing these forces
under firm and effective democratic control.
We are also interested in helping the military forces of Azerbaijan to become
increasingly interoperable with NATO, in order to allow them to work smoothly
with our own forces. Your troop deployments alongside NATO forces have already
facilitated progress in this regard. Your continued active participation in our
Planning and Review Process will increase interoperability even further. And
that is in our mutual interest.
There is a lot on offer, as well, in areas that many people would not
immediately associate with NATO. Partnership projects range from disaster
preparedness, to defence conversion, to scientific and technical cooperation. An
excellent example of this latter form of cooperation is the Virtual Silk Highway,
a NATO-sponsored project that has established Internet connectivity between the
countries of the Caucasus, Central Asia and the wider world – and that we have
just recently extended to Afghanistan.
NATO is also encouraging its member nations, Partner countries and other
international donors to set up Partnership Trust Funds. Here in Azerbaijan, we
are helping to clean up the former Soviet military base in Sanoglu, removing the
unexploded ordnance and hazardous substances that are putting the lives of the
local population at risk.
So NATO is making a determined effort to promote cooperation with the Caucasus
and Central Asia. Here with me today is Mr. Robert Simmons, whom I have
appointed as my Special Representative for the two regions. Mr. Simmons will
return here regularly, and he will report directly to me on his contacts and
other efforts to improve our relations. In addition, we will also be posting a
Liaison Officer in this region, to provide hands-on assistance to our efforts to
At the same time, if Azerbaijan and our other Partners really want to enhance
their partnership with NATO, and to benefit fully from the opportunities that
are on offer, they have to be truly committed. They need to show the political
will to press ahead with the necessary reforms including streamlining their
NATO is and has always been a value-driven organisation. Defending and promoting
democracy, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law has been the essence of our
Alliance. And the more our Partners share these values, the stronger our
Partnership will become.
In the context of the wider development of the Caucasus as a stable,
democratic and prosperous part of the world, finding peaceful solutions to the
conflicts should be a priority for the countries of this region. NATO has
repeatedly expressed its support for the independence, sovereignty and
territorial integrity of its Partner countries.
But let me be clear - NATO does not have a direct role to play here. The
Alliance whole-heartedly supports the work of the OSCE and the Minsk Group. And
NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Partnership may help in facilitating dialogue. But it is
critical, first of all, that the parties in the region themselves show political
will and good faith. They must engage in meaningful negotiations, in a
non-confrontational manner that serves to promote lasting solutions. They must
work with the OSCE and the Minsk Group.
I am aware that some of you may be sceptical about the immediate prospects for
greater cooperation in this region. But I remain optimistic that solutions can
be found. Not so long ago, our entire continent was divided into two hostile
camps, with forces on both sides on hair-trigger alert. Today, the antagonisms
of the Cold War are only a fading memory. So it is certainly worthwhile to work
towards lasting peace even in situations where this seems like a distant
In concluding, let me stress the importance of the emergence of a younger
generation with a keen interest in foreign and security matters for the future
of Azerbaijan. After all, your generation will provide us with the leaders of
tomorrow. I urge you to maintain your active interest in world affairs. Your
involvement will help to shape the future for the better. And NATO is ready to
support you in this process.