Voyage to South Caucasus NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

NATO Secretary General commends strong partnership with Armenia

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Alliance wants to forge an even closer partnership with Armenia during his first visit to the country on Thursday.

After talks with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in Yerevan, the Secretary General thanked Armenia for its strong contribution to NATO-led operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo, which strengthen the country’s own peace-keeping capabilities. He also highlighted NATO’s support for Armenia’s defence reforms, civil defence and disaster relief efforts, stressing that NATO and Armenia have already achieved a lot: «Armenia is a valuable partner for NATO and NATO is a valuable partner for Armenia. We now have an opportunity to build an even stronger partnership for the future. It’s an opportunity we must seize because we all have to gain and so does the region as a whole.»

Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said his visit reflected NATO’s commitment to security and stability in the South Caucasus region. In a speech delivered to students at Yerevan State University, the Secretary General said old barriers of mistrust in the region should be broken down and new bridges of reconciliation buit: «There must be no return to conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Tensions must be reduced and concrete steps must be taken to promote regional cooperation and reconciliation.»
NATO Secretary General praises Georgia’s progress toward NATO in visit to Tbilisi

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen praised Georgia for its strong commitment to NATO and to democratic reforms during a visit to the country on Thursday. The Secretary General said Georgia’s reforms are bringing the country closer to NATO. «Georgia is a special partner for NATO and a model of commitment,» he said after talks with President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi. The Secretary General also addressed the Annual Session of the Georgian Ambassadors.

Mr Fogh Rasmussen noted Georgia’s «very significant» contribution to the Alliance-led ISAF mission in Afghanistan, where Georgia will become the largest non-NATO contributor of troops this autumn, and welcomed Georgia’s commitmet to be part of a new NATO-led mission after 2014 to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces .«We are deeply thankful for the courage, determination and professionalism that your troops show every day,» Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said. The Secretary General also greeted two Georgian peace-keeping battalions about to depart for Afghanistan.

He also commended Georgia for its commitment to find a peaceful resolution involving its regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and reiterated NATO’s «unwavering support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally recognised borders.»

The Secretary General said NATO continued to support Georgia’s reforms and looking to Georgia to keep the momentum of democratic reforms. Mr. Fogh Rasmussen described the conduct and the run-up to the parliamentary elections this October and presidential elections in 2013 as a litmus test for Georgian democracy. «I trust that all political players in Georgia will play a responsible role in this process,» said the Secretary General. «The future is in your hands. But know this: you have a friend in NATO — and a future home in NATO.»
NATO Secretary General commends strong security cooperation with Azerbaijan

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen commended Azerbaijan for its progress in defence reforms and called for closer security cooperation during his first visit to the country on Friday.

The Secretary General thanked Azerbaijan for its participation in the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and relayed the Alliance’s appreciation for the country’s additional support given to NATO operations, through over flight and transit lines. Azerbaijan is also helping to fund the training of Afghan security forces. Mr. Fogh Rasmussen also expressed his appreciation to Azerbaijan’s intention to continue to support Afghanistan after the ISAF mission ends in 2014.

«Our relations are developing steadily and positively,» the Secretary General said after talks with President Ilham Alyiev. «We appreciate the steadfast support provided by your troops in Afghanistan.» Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said Azerbaijan is a «valuable partner for NATO,» adding that both sides have «an opportunity to build a solid, long-term partnership.»

He said that the Alliance was determined to build closer ties; «to deepen the practical experience that our military forces have gained by working together in Afghanistan over the years.» He added the two sides had to work together in dealing with the security challenges of the 21st century. The Secretary General said NATO could, for instance, serve as a platform to strengthen cooperation on energy security. The Alliance is already consulting with Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia on training and science cooperation.

Azerbaijan was urged to keep up the pace of defence and security sector reform as well. «We encourage you to keep up the momentum in this key area,» said the Secretary General. NATO is assisting Azerbaijan with this reform, helping to remove huge quantities of landmines. «This is one of the biggest such projects in the world and it is of real benefit to people,» said Mr. Fogh Rasmussen.

The Secretary General also raised the issue of regional stability in a speech to the Azeri Diplomatic Academy. He urged Azerbaijan and Armenia to reconcile. «The only way forward is through dialogue, compromise, and cooperation,» he said.
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