Though Armenia is a CSTO member, it successfully cooperates also with NATO. Armenia, represented by the Foreign Minister and Defense Minister, participated in the Lisbon NATO summit in November 2010, as part of which opinions were exchanged with respect to the bilateral relations. Newly appointed NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for the South Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai commented toPanARMENIAN.Net on the current level of NATO-Armenia relations, outlooks for boosting the relations within the framework of IPAP, as well as the organization’s position on the Karabakh conflict settlement and the Armenian-Turkish normalization.
What is your vision for relations between NATO and the South Caucasus states?
The South Caucasus countries and the 28 Alliance Member States have many interests in common. And we cannot think of the security of the 28 NATO Member States without thinking as well of the security of the wider Euro-Atlantic community and that includes the South Caucasus. That is the basis for the partnerships we have developed with the South Caucasus. With Georgia it manifests itself through the NATO Georgia Commission and its Annual National Programme. With Armenia and Azerbaijan it is developed through the Individual Partnership Action Plan. I expect that NATO will further develop its dialogue and broaden its cooperation with the countries of the South Caucasus over the coming period within these frameworks. In addition, NATO offers a number of wider frameworks (Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, meetings of ISAF troop contributors etc) giving the countries of the region a voice in multilateral consultations on key security issues.
How does NATO assess the current level of relations with Armenia and participation of Armenian peacekeepers in ISAF?
Let me first of all express appreciation for the troops which Armenia currently contributes to ISAF and the ones it intends to provide. The two successive rotations of the contingent have been doing a very professional job. We are grateful for this support and it is a key element of NATO’s relations with Armenia.
From my perspective, NATO’s relations with Armenia are developing satisfactorily and gaining in substance within the framework of the NATO-Armenia Individual Partnership Action Plan. Beyond the ISAF contribution already mentioned, we focus together on defence reform and aspects of broader security sector reform. We also have an ongoing political dialogue on regional security and political issues. Next year, we will discuss with Armenia the content of a new Individual Partnership Action Plan, which will be an opportunity to widen the scope of our cooperation.
Armenia hosted NATO disaster response exercise in September 2010. How does cooperation develop in this field?
The exercise in September 2010 was an important opportunity to practice international cooperation amongst military and non-military teams from different nations when responding to the consequences of a natural disaster, such as a large earthquake. This allowed Armenia to showcase the progress it has made in developing its national crisis management system. Armenia continues to participate in the work of NATO’s Civil Emergency Planning Committee and its working groups, which gives Armenia access to the experiences of other nations in this field. NATO will continue to be ready to give practical assistance and advice to Armenia, notably in the context of the Individual Partnership Action Plan in areas where NATO has specific expertise.
The Lisbon Summit Communiqué contains the same abstract language as previously on the resolution of conflicts in the South Caucasus, citing only the principle of territorial integrity. How would you comment on this wording if NATO officials reiterate that the Alliance is not involved in the settlement of Nagorno Karabakh conflict? Or does this mostly refer to Georgia?
NATO Heads of State and Government indeed referred to the protracted regional conflicts in the South Caucasus and the Republic of Moldova in their recent Summit Communiqué, and stated that these are a matter of great concern. Besides expressing support for the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of the countries concerned, the Heads of State and Government also stressed the need for peaceful conflict resolution, respect of the current negotiation formats, and constructive engagement. This is in line with what NATO Heads of State and Government stated at their previous summit two years ago in Strasbourg/Kehl. As to Nagorno Karabakh, NATO has not changed its position either. NATO is not directly involved but we support the efforts of the Minsk Group. In this context, I welcome the recent statement by the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan at Astana, which restates the commitment of the two sides to seek a final settlement and spells out what the basis for such a final settlement will be.
NATO has often stated that it hails normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations. What does NATO think about the future of this process?
We were pleased to see the signing of the bilateral protocols which offered a very clear prospect for improved bilateral relations to the benefit of the entire region. The stalling of the ratification process has been a setback, but we continue to hope that the process can be reenergized.
Recent media reports prompt that NATO dislikes Turkey’s closer relations with the Arab world. There were rumours about possible expulsion of the country. Can this information be true to fact?
Not only are these rumours unfounded, their premise is wrong as well. NATO is itself reaching out increasingly to various countries in the Arab world. Strong relations between Turkey, a key NATO Ally, and its Arab neighbours are an asset not only for Turkey, but also indirectly for NATO.