NATO not to create dividing lines in Caucasus, alliance chief says

Mediamax news agency, Yerevan
1 Nov 04

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who is to visit the
South Caucasus countries in early November, has said that the aim of
the visit is to encourage the countries of the region to make the most
of NATO's partnership programmes. In an exclusive interview with
Armenian Mediamax news agency ahead of the visit, Scheffer said that
NATO's policy of enlargement aimed to extend the benefits of stability
and security, which alliance members enjoy, to new member
states. Scheffer stressed that "NATO enlargement is designed to break
down dividing lines rather than create them". He also denied that
friction between Turkey and Armenia could impede Yerevan's cooperation
with NATO. The following is the text of the interview in English by
Armenian news agency Mediamax headlined "The alliance wishes to deepen
its cooperation with Armenia" on 1 November; subheadings have been
inserted editorially:

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will arrive in Yerevan on
5 November. Ahead of the visit he gave an exclusive interview to
Mediamax news agency.

South Caucasus states urged to make most of NATO programmes

[Mediamax correspondent] Mr Secretary-General, at the summit in
Istanbul [28-29 June 2004] the South Caucasus was officially described
as a priority region for NATO. What specific changes in the alliance's
policy in relation to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan are you going to
present during your visit to the region?

[Jaap de Hoop Scheffer] At the Istanbul Summit, allies reaffirmed
their commitment to an enhanced, closer and more individualized
relationship with NATO's partners from the South Caucasus. We want to
work with all of the countries of the region on the basis of their
priorities. This will be my main message.

In order to support this policy, allied leaders took two important
decisions. The first was to appoint one liaison officer for the
Caucasus, as well as one for Central Asia. The second decision was to
agree on the appointment of the secretary-general's special
representative for the two regions, who would be responsible for
establishing high-level working contacts with regional leaders in
order to support NATO's objectives. Robert Simmons, who I nominated
for this post, will accompany me during my visit.

This visit will be an opportunity to encourage the three countries to
make the most of the partnership instruments which are of most
relevance for them - such as the Planning and Review Process (PARP)
which provides for consultations on defence reform issues and
establishing the ability for partner armed forces to work with NATO
armed forces; the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) which will
provide a framework for individual relations with NATO; and the new
Partnership Action Plan on Defence Institution Building which is
designed to help build up the institutions which are critical in any
democratic society to successfully decide upon and implement defence
policy.

Partnership with NATO requires democratic reforms

[Correspondent] In November 2002, your predecessor at this post, Lord
Robertson, told our agency that "the partners willing to take
advantage of a more individual relationship with NATO would have to be
able to do the following: they would have to demonstrate true and
sustained determination to walk the path of democratic transformation
and pursue a foreign and security policy to support it". Do you think
the South Caucasus countries demonstrate the abovementioned efforts?

[Scheffer] In 2002, we offered all partners the opportunity to engage
with the alliance in Individual Partnership Action Plans. This new
mechanism allows willing partners to develop a more individualized
relations with the alliance focused on reform.

Of course, the main emphasis is put on defence reform, where NATO has
special expertise to offer. NATO is an alliance based on values
including the commitment to democratic and economic reform,
fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. To be successful, defence
and other critical reforms must be underpinned by these values. We
know that the path of reform is a long and difficult one, and this is
why allies are ready to assist the countries of the region. The fact
that all three South Caucasus countries have engaged in an IPAP is an
important sign that they are willing to look at all aspects of
reform. Genuine efforts to meet the objectives which they define for
themselves will now be needed in order for our cooperation to move
ahead.

NATO differentiates between South Caucasus and Central Asia

[Correspondent] Don't you think that NATO is not quite right to
consider the regions of the South Caucasus and Central Asia in the
same plane? Taking into account serious differences between these
regions, especially different problems in the security sphere, do you
think an individualized approach to each of these regions will be more
effective?

[Scheffer] The fact that we consider both regions as strategically
important does not mean that we fail to differentiate between
them. Indeed, even if they share some common characteristics and
legacies, it is obvious that they are very different. Our new
cooperation mechanisms give us the opportunity to build up
relationships tailored to the specific needs of the individual
countries, allowing us to take into account the diversity between
regions and the countries in each of the regions.

Relations with Russia no obstacle to Armenia's cooperation with NATO

[Correspondent] Many people think that sooner or later Armenia will
have to choose between maintaining close ties with Russia and further
integration into NATO. There is another opinion as well: Armenia can
become kind of a "bridge" between Russia and NATO. Which of these two
positions is closer to you?

[Scheffer] The alliance wishes to deepen its cooperation with
Armenia. While it is perhaps the case that in the past this country
has not pursued its partnership with the alliance at the same pace as
the other two South Caucasus countries, we see clear signs now that
Yerevan is committed to deepening our relations, and we are pleased to
engage with Armenia. For example, Armenia has just accredited an
ambassador in Brussels whose sole responsibility will be related with
NATO. In addition, Armenia has declared its intention to participate
in the IPAP process, which will provide the critical framework for
pursuing these enhanced relations on the issues that the country
chooses.

Armenia does indeed enjoy a good relationship with the Russian
Federation, but that should not in any way impede the development of
its relations with NATO. We have worked successfully with Russia over
the last few years to overcome lingering suspicions, and now cooperate
on many practical issues through the NATO-Russia Council.

Armenia is a proof that a country can maintain a close relationship
with Russia and at the same time be a very active partner of
NATO. Allies, Russia and the Caucasus states have all a strong
interest in regional stability. All our countries face the same
threats from terrorists who do not respect borders, from proliferation
and from failed states. Our capacity to address these new threats will
depend on our ability to bridge old dividing lines and avoid any sense
of competition. The partnership between NATO and Russia is driven by
this understanding. And because it has strong links with both Russia
and the West, Armenia can not only benefit from this relation but also
has a strong interest in supporting it.

Turkey not averse to Armenia-NATO cooperation

[Correspondent] Unsettled Armenian-Turkish relations negatively affect
Armenia-NATO cooperation. It is clear that NATO's headquarters in
Brussels cannot affect the foreign policy of its
members. Nevertheless, does the existence of this problem cause your
concern?

[Scheffer] You are correct that NATO does not react to the policies of
its member states. Nevertheless, I would like to stress that Turkey
has never been in the way of cooperation between Armenia and NATO, and
that many high-level meetings between leaders of Turkey and Armenia
have taken place on the margins of meetings of the Euro-Atlantic
Partnership Council. This is for me an illustration that the
partnership is a very helpful framework through which to maintain
dialogue.

NATO not to create dividing lines in Caucasus

[Correspondent] Armenian officials say that if Georgia and Azerbaijan
become NATO members and Armenia does not, this will obviously bring
about new dividing lines in the Caucasus. Do you see such a danger?

[Scheffer] It is difficult to answer a question based on a
hypothetical scenario. NATO's policy of enlargement is driven by the
desire to extend the benefits of stability and security, which
alliance members enjoy, to new member states. It is not aimed against
any other countries, but simply at ensuring the security and stability
of its members. While it is a fundamental right of every country to
choose its own security arrangements, NATO enlargement is designed to
break down dividing lines rather than create them. This is a
fundamental principle of enlargement which will not change in the
future.

[Correspondent] Do you agree with the point of view that NATO is ready
to go in its relations with Armenia as far as Armenia itself is ready
to?

[Scheffer] This is indeed the modus operandi of the Euro-Atlantic
Partnership. Partnership for Peace programs are open to all partners
and it is for them to decide the extent to which they want to
cooperate and where they wish to focus their cooperation.

Let me give you an example. In 1994, allies opened to partners the
Planning and Review Process, a very important mechanism to provide
guidance on how to make troops interoperable with NATO. For many
years, it was not a priority for Armenia to contribute to NATO-led
operations, and it did not therefore participate in the PARP. Two
years ago, the Armenian authorities decided that they wanted to have
troops able to join international operations and Armenia joined the
PARP. Today, Armenia is actively participating in the PARP and
Armenian soldiers have joined troops of some 35 other nations in the
NATO-led operation in Kosovo.

I will add that following its recent decision to develop an IPAP,
Armenia is using all available partnership mechanisms. This is a
perfect illustration that there is only one prerequisite for a partner
to deepen its cooperation with the alliance: its own willingness to do
so.