In a working Pentagon visit this week, Colonel General Safar Abiyev, Azerbaijan's Minister of Defense, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel pledged to extend and deepen the strategic partnership between their two countries, the Counselor of the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the US Fakhraddin Ismayilov reported.
Azerbaijan is the key transit and partner country for the NATO-led operations in Afghanistan.
Following their August 5 meeting, Secretary Hagel thanked Minister Abiyev "for the valuable role Azerbaijan plays in providing ground, air and sea transit access for logistical support to Afghanistan." In the same vein, the top defense officials agreed "to continue to work together on issues to include North Atlantic Treaty Organization interoperability, counterterrorism, defense transformation and maritime security."
Minister Abiyev reiterated the importance of the bilateral relationship with the United States and the military cooperation between the two countries. He said Azerbaijan will continue its commitment to Afghanistan's future even after the expected 2014 troop drawdown.
The strong partnership between the United States and Azerbaijan, the top U.S. ally in the South Caucasus, is based on shared values and common goals. Azerbaijan, located at a strategic geopolitical juncture, successfully cooperates with the United States in countering terrorism, nuclear proliferation and narcotics trafficking and in promoting security in and beyond the Caspian Sea region. Currently, Azerbaijani troops serve shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S soldiers in Afghanistan. As a key component of the Northern Distribution Network, Azerbaijan provides ground and naval transit for roughly 40 percent of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition's supplies bound for Afghanistan. In addition, completion of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project is expected to significantly enhance regional transit capacity.
With discussions turning to the South Caucasus region, Secretary Hagel also recognized "Azerbaijan's role in fostering regional security and stability."
Minister Abiyev underscored Azerbaijan's activities within the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative and noted how energy, transport, communication and other regional projects have become an important factor in the development of the Azerbaijani-U.S. strategic partnership. Touching on the military-political situation in the South Caucasus region, Minister Abiyev also expressed his wish for more active U.S. involvement in the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on the principles of the international law.
During the visit, Minister Abiyev also met with United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to discuss bilateral cooperation in maritime security.