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NATO boss backs Azerbaijan-Armenia peace talks during Baku visit

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has begun a tour of the three countries of the South Caucasus in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. It was his first time in the country since he took up his post nearly 10 years ago, although Azerbaijan has been an active partner of NATO for more than 30 years, making an important contribution to peace-keeping forces in Kosovo and Afghanistan. So perhaps the Secretary General, who is due to step down later this year, was making up for lost time, writes Political Editor Nick Powell.

When Jens Stoltenberg and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev spoke to the press, the NATO Secretary General welcomed the country’s long-standing collaboration with the Alliance, saying he looked forward to further strengthening the partnership. Despite his long absence from Baku, he fondly remembered his visits in the 1990s, when he was the Norwegian Energy Minister. Newly independent Azerbaijan was then developing an energy sector for which several NATO countries are now especially grateful, as its gas supplies safeguard their energy security.

“I welcome that Azerbaijan is developing closer and closer ties with several NATO Allies and that your country is playing a more and more important role in delivering gas”, he said, also mentioning future plans to supply green electricity to Europe. He saw the upcoming COP29 global climate summit in Azerbaijan as an important milestone. “It is important for everyone concerned about climate change but also important for our security because those issues are closely interlinked.”

President Aliyev began his remarks by recalling that the Azerbaijan-NATO partnership has a long history of more than 30 years. “Our partnership has been positive”, he said. “Azerbaijan participated in peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan. It was a great experience for us. Our servicemen were the last allied forces to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2021. This once again demonstrates our strong commitment to our cooperation”.


The President also recalled their previous meetings in Brussels. “During our long-term discussions, we always talked about the occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenia. Now, for more than three years, this issue has not been discussed. Because Azerbaijan restored its territorial integrity and sovereignty as a result of the Second Karabakh War in 2020 and the anti-terrorist operation carried out in September last year. Thus, full sovereignty over the country’s territory was restored”.

He said this is a clear example of how protracted conflicts can be resolved. “The conflict was resolved by military and political means. We exercised our right of self-defence under the UN Charter. Currently, we are in the active phase of peace negotiations with Armenia … we are closer to peace than we have ever been”.

On energy, President Aliyev said the European Commission’s designation of Azerbaijan as a reliable partner and pan-European gas supplier is both a great advantage and a great responsibility. He added that he had also briefed the Secretary General on his country’s green transition agenda. “Azerbaijan was unanimously chosen as the host country for COP29. This is a recognition of our green transition efforts. As a country with rich natural resources and fossil fuels, we invest in renewable energy sources together with our partners”.

He said he had invited the Secretary General to visit COP29 in November, “regardless of his position”. This was reference to the imminent departure from NATO of Jens Stoltenberg, who was finally visiting Baku after the decisive resolution of the Karabakh conflict. “Peace in this region is extremely important for the people, the countries in the region, but it also matters for the Black Sea region and for North Atlantic security”, the Secretary General said. 

“Therefore, peace and stability is not only important here, but for security more broadly”, he continued. “Armenia and Azerbaijan now have an opportunity to achieve an enduring peace after years of conflict. I appreciate what you say about that you are closer to a peace agreement than ever before. And I can just encourage you to seize this opportunity to reach a lasting peace agreement with Armenia”.


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