NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Yerevan on Tuesday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan

NATO’s Stoltenberg Visits Armenia, Azerbaijan, Pledging Closer Cooperation with Both

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YEREVAN (Combined Sources) —  NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited both Armenia and Azerbaijan this week, urging both to have closer cooperation with the organization.

During a joint press conference with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on March 19, the latter called for firm support from the international community, including NATO, for the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan based on known and mutually agreed-upon principles. He also emphasized the unequivocal rejection of the policy of coercion and threats.

“I presented to Mr. Stoltenberg the vision and approaches of the Government of the Republic of Armenia to establishing stability and peace in the South Caucasus. I reaffirm my repeatedly voiced willingness to normalize relations with Azerbaijan based on the 3 principles agreed at the highest level, namely, recognition of each other’s territorial integrity based on the Alma-Ata Declaration, the delimitation of the Armenia-Azerbaijan interstate border according to the Alma-Ata Declaration for restoring the border that existed at the time of the collapse of the USSR in 1991 between the two republics, as well as the unblocking of regional infrastructures, respecting the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the countries they pass through, based on the principles of equality and reciprocity. Regarding the latter, I have also presented the “Crossroads of Peace” project, which summarizes our ideas on the issue,” Pashinyan added.

He added, “I also presented to the General Secretary the proposals for a simultaneous withdrawal of troops from the Armenia-Azerbaijan border of 1991, mutual arms control, and the signing of a non-aggression pact, which have not received a positive response from official Baku to date.”

Pashinyan noted that Armenia is also “committed to the agenda of normalizing relations with Turkey.”

He concluded, “Of course, we are interested in deepening cooperation with NATO, and I hope that the individually tailored program for Armenia will be adopted as soon as possible. As you are aware, we are currently undergoing significant reforms, and I trust that this program will prove beneficial for our foreign agenda as well.”

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In his speech, Stoltenberg highlighted the importance of ensuring peace and stability in the region. He emphasized that NATO supports Armenia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and peaceful aspirations.

“Thank you for hosting me and my delegation. We highly value cooperation with Armenia. You have participated in various NATO missions and operations for many years; we appreciate your participation in the Kosovo mission. We hope that we can now further deepen and strengthen our cooperation, including through the adoption of a program individually tailored for Armenia. Of course, we support your sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“We also support your efforts to develop a more independent foreign policy, which we believe is important. I personally admire your leadership and commitment. We welcome your steps aimed at strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law. Additionally, we appreciate the fact that you are providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine,” he said.

Stoltenberg added, “I welcomed the fact that you are working to strengthen democratic control over your armed forces, including through your participation in NATO’s Building Integrity Programme. You have also shown real commitment to fighting corruption, strengthening your democratic institutions and upholding the rule of law.”

On March 17, Stoltenberg visited Baku. Meeting with President Ilham Aliyev, the Secretary General welcomed Azerbaijan’s long-standing collaboration with the alliance, saying he looked forward to further strengthening the partnership.

Stoltenberg welcomed the opportunity to discuss energy security, saying, “energy matters for our security and I welcome that Azerbaijan is developing closer and closer ties with several NATO Allies.” He further pointed to a track record of work on issues of mutual concern and thanked Azerbaijan for its contributions to NATO-led operations and missions – including in Kosovo and Afghanistan – since Azerbaijan joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace in 1994. The alliance and Baku have also cooperated through NATO’s Science for Peace and Security programme on counter-terrorism and cyber security.

On the situation in the South Caucasus, Stoltenberg stressed that “peace and stability are not only important here but for security more broadly.”

He said: “Armenia and Azerbaijan now have an opportunity to achieve an enduring peace after years of conflict. I can just encourage you to seize this opportunity to reach a lasting peace agreement with Armenia.”

On Ukraine, Stoltenberg welcomed support provided by Azerbaijan, and called on all countries in the region to step up: “more support is needed because the situation in Ukraine is extremely difficult.”

The Secretary General called the upcoming COP29 global climate summit in Azerbaijan an important milestone: “It is important for everyone concerned about climate change but also important for our security because those issues are closely interlinked.”

Finally, Stoltenberg praised the close cooperation between the “Azerbaijani army and the Turkish armed forces,” which he said, “will greatly contribute to the deepening of [Azerbaijan’s] relations with NATO.”

Not surprisingly, Russian officials were not thrilled with the visit. “The North Atlantic Alliance’s attempts to expand its presence in the Caucasus are “visible to the naked eye,” TASS quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as telling reporters on March 19.

“NATO’s wish to assert its presence in the Caucasus is well known to us. Its attempts are visible to the naked eye. Also, there is an understanding that, in fact, NATO’s attempts to somehow expand its influence and presence are hardly capable of adding to stability in the Caucasus and predictability of the situation,” he said, while commenting on NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s tour of the Caucasus.

(Stories from Armenpress, Panorama.am and Public Radio of Armenia were used in compiling this report.)

 

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