Ayna, Azerbaijan
May 17 2008


Unfulfilled commitments

NATO is trying to find 'a common language' with Azerbaijan over the
reforms which have not been implemented in the armed forces

As is known, the military committee of NATO's Euroatlantic Cooperation
Council met at the level of chiefs of general staffs in Brussels on
14-15 May. The Azerbaijani delegation attending the meeting was led by
the chief of general staff of the armed forces, Col-Gen Nacmaddin
Sadixov.

NATO calls for joining efforts

The meeting, which was attended by more than 60 representatives of the
military of NATO member states and partners, discussed the military
threats facing the alliance and ways of overcoming them, especially
the situation in Afghanistan and Kosovo. The meeting was closed for
the media and detailed official information was not given to the
public on the issues agreed by chiefs of staffs. However, NATO sources
said that chiefs of staffs of NATO member states and partners stressed
the importance of jointly fighting the dangers and threats at the end
of the meeting and joining efforts in this area. The head of the NATO
military committee, General Ray Heno, said that it is necessary for
NATO member states and partners to strengthen cooperation in the fight
against terrorism. [Passage omitted: Heno's quote on strengthening
cooperation and Brussels's plans to support reforms in Azeri army]

Unfulfilled commitments

For the time being, NATO experts are interested in a number of
commitments that Azerbaijan is to fulfil. "They want to get official
guarantees from Baku on the fulfilment of these commitments. This may
happen in June this year. Certain clarity will be brought to the fate
of the reforms, which are envisaged in the first stage of the
Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), but have not been carried
out due to some reasons if the Azerbaijani leadership satisfies
NATO. If this is the case, Baku will focus on the reforms that have
not been carried out in the first stage together with those in the
second stage. It is not ruled out that Brussels and Baku may hold
another round of negotiations on the fate of these reforms if Baku
refuses to implement some of them on the ground that they are
`harmful'. In that case, these reforms may be added to the second part
of the IPAP or may be taken out of the agenda," a source close to the
NATO circles told an Ayna correspondent. Our interlocutor did not want
to specify which article was in question, but it became clear from the
conversation that the emphasis is put here on four main points:

1. The formation of mechanisms of civil control over the defence and
security sector of Azerbaijan, the establishment of a transparent
military budget system and increased accountability of power
structures to the parliament.

2. The conduct of staff and structural reforms in the Defence Ministry
and the replacement of the ministry's staff and leadership with
civilians.

3. The protection of the rights of servicemen and promotion of carrier
opportunities for the military.

4. The announcement of the details of the existing military
cooperation between NATO and Azerbaijan to the public and the state
guarantee for separate civil society groups to carry out monitoring in
the mentioned fields. Support for the policy of the media and
non-governmental organizations on public awareness.

Ayna has learned that the Azerbaijani government does not seem to be
so willing to carry out reforms in the mentioned areas. Baku has
different arguments: some officials believe that the law and order in
the military system may weaken and every kind of anarchy may arise
there if the army becomes civilian and the military have closer ties
with the public.

The incumbent leadership of the Defence Ministry is also extremely
negative about another commitment the replacement of the military
leadership with a civilian one. They believe that it will not bring
about any positive result if the leadership consists of civilians who
"have no idea about the army" at a time when Azerbaijan is at war
[with Armenia].

However, NATO experts do not share all these opinions. Observers think
that the main hindrance to rapid reforms in the mentioned areas in
Azerbaijan is some top ranking military officials: "They are afraid of
being replaced. Therefore, some officials continue to oppose rapid
reforms."

Positive aspect of cooperation

Despite all the difference in opinions, NATO focused on one particular
positive aspect in the present relations with Azerbaijan. This is
Azerbaijan's providing strong support for efforts to fight
international terrorism. Western experts believe that Azerbaijan is
very active in this area and is trying too much to ensure
harmonization between its peacekeepers and the NATO coalition. This
issue is expected to be a new topic for discussions between NATO and
Azerbaijan in the days to come. As has been reported, Azerbaijan's
report on the Planning and Analysis Process Programme (PARP), which
also includes the objectives of partnership, will be discussed at
NATO's political and military steering committee in the 26+1 format on
19 May. According to information from Azerbaijan's representative
office at NATO, a broad delegation from Azerbaijan will take part in
the discussions. The head of the international cooperation and
Euroatlantic integration department of the Defence Ministry, Maj-Gen
Ramiz Nacafov, will lead the Azerbaijani delegation. It should be
noted that the PARP was last evaluated in Baku in February 2007. Then,
a NATO delegation met representatives of the Azerbaijani Foreign
Ministry and the Defence Ministry.

[translated from Azeri]