NATO values Armenia’s contribution to peacekeeping missions: James Appathurai

Artak Barseghyan
Public Radio of Armenia

NATO highly values the participation of Armenian peacekeeping units in peacekeeping operations, NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for South Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai said in an Internet press conference for Armenian media.

Question – How can the aggravation of Russian- Turkish relations affect NATO‘s cooperation with the countries in South Caucasus, namely the cooperation between NATO and Armenia, and NATO and Azerbaijan? Can the acute manifestation of geopolitical interests contribute to Georgia’s actual NATO membership any time soon? On the whole, taking into account the various geopolitical interests in the South Caucasus countries, how do you see the prospects of the regional policy pursued by the Alliance?

Answer – We recognize of course that each of the three countries in the South Caucasus has chosen its own security policy, and we respect that. To be a partner of NATO is fully compatible with aspirations to seek NATO membership, but also with membership of the CSTO, with membership of the Eurasian Union, with membership in the Non-aligned Movement or with other forms of regional cooperation. Indeed, more regional cooperation seems to make a lot of sense for the South Caucasus both from an economic and strategic perspective. In this context, I am pleased to see that occasionally NATO can provide the framework for more cooperation between Armenia and Georgia, or Georgia and Azerbaijan. However, each of our partnership relations is individual in nature. In the case of Armenia, our basic document is the Individual Partnership Action Plan that anyone can find on the internet at

http://mfa.am/en/international-organisations/NATO/. It covers a two-year period. A similar plan has been agreed with Azerbaijan, whilst we have other mechanisms for Georgia in recognition of their membership perspective. All these partnerships are approved and supported by our 28 Allies, i.e. also Turkey, and they have their characteristics and logic. This also means these relationships are not a subset of our relations with Russia, and I do not see an immediate impact of the current tension between Turkey and Russia on our individual relations with the three countries of the South Caucasus

Question – Does NATO have new proposals on the expansion of Armenia’s participation in peacekeeping missions, how do you assess the participation of the Armenian military in peacekeeping missions under the auspices of NATO? What events is NATO is planning to hold in South Caucasus in 2016?

Answer – We highly value the participation of Armenian peacekeeping units in NATO operations. Armenia’s commitment is steady and substantial, both in Kosovo, where Armenian units currently serve within the US contingent, and in Afghanistan, where your units serve mostly within the German contingent. Your contributions to these operations, as well as those in Mali (with the EU) and in Lebanon (with the UN), are very tangible contributions by Armenia to international security. At the same time, working together with forces from Allies nations has been a driving force to bring the Armenian armed forces closer to Western standards. As a result of over a decade of hard work, a number of Armenian units were certified to meet the highest NATO standards this autumn (in accordance with what we call NATO Evaluation Level Two). Armenia and specifically its armed forces can be proud of this achievement. I understand that Armenia now intends to broaden the set of units that meets these criteria.

As to our broader cooperation with Armenia, we intend to continue our support to Armenia’s defense reform efforts, provide assistance to the reform of Armenia’s defense education institutions, share best practice on how to reduce corruption in the security sector, support Armenia’s efforts to develop a concept of women in the armed forces, etc. The recently adopted constitutional amendments will have far-reaching implications for the way Armenia’s security sector is organized. I believe they should also create opportunities to strengthen parliamentary oversight over the armed forces.

Looking at our engagement with the South Caucasus region as a whole, we are of course very actively engaged with Georgia in recognition of its membership aspirations. We are currently focused on the implementation of the package of measures agreed in autumn 2014, called the Substantial NATO Georgia Package. These measures include the establishment of a Joint Training and Evaluation Centre (inaugurated this summer), the conduct of regular NATO exercises in Georgia and the provision of expertise in a dozen different domains related to the defense sector with the aim to strengthen Georgia’s self-defense capabilities and to prepare it for future membership. Clearly the aim is also to make sure that these initiatives contribute to regional security, and we are frequently considering to what extent other regional partners can participate in, or benefit from, these activities.
As to our partnership with Azerbaijan, this is organized in a similar way as with Armenia through what we call an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) agreed between NATO and Azerbaijan. This Action Plan we renew roughly every two years. Although the partnerships with Armenia and with Azerbaijan are not identical, there are substantial similarities, with Azerbaijan also contributing to our operation in Afghanistan and engaged in various aspects of defense reforms.

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