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 Wednesday, January 31 2024 11:35
Marianna Mkrtchyan

In the last couple of years, Armenia has decided to step up  politically and practically the cooperation with NATO in general  terms - Javier Colomina

In the last couple of years, Armenia has decided to step up  politically and practically the cooperation with NATO in general  terms - Javier Colomina

ArmInfo. NATO supports the process of normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan and insists that, at this stage, the principles agreed upon between the parties till the present moment should not be changed, Javier Colomina, the special representative of NATO in the South Caucasus, stated in an interview with "Armenpress" in Brussels.

As to his latest visit to Yerevan and meetings at the top level, Mr  Colomina said:

"We are very satisfied with the bilateral relationship that we have  today with Armenia. We are also very encouraged by the decisions that  Armenia has decided to take in their foreign policy and defense  policy, the shift they have decided to implement. I know it is a  decision that is difficult to implement and will probably take a long  time, but, of course, we encourage our partners to get closer to us,  and that is what Armenia is doing. 

"We also talked quite a lot, extensively I would say, about the  situation in the regional context and particularly about the peace  talks with Azerbaijan. As you know, our policy is very clear. We  support the normalization of relations between Armenia and  Azerbaijan. We do not take sides between our partners, unless there  is a violation of the principles and the main elements of the UN  Charter that we are very attached to. Therefore, the message was very  clear. We would like the peace talks to reconvene as soon as  possible. We know there are different tracks, the bilateral track,  the US track, the EU track. For us, the most important thing is the  outcome at the end, is there lasting peace? Because that would be  very important for the stability of the Caucasus."

As to what developments can be expected from the Armenia-Azerbaijan  settlement process, given Azerbaijan's aggressive statements, the  NATO official said: 

 

Well, I have heard many concerns from your authorities about the  statements from President Aliyev in particular. For us, as I  mentioned , the normalization of relations that lead to a lasting  peace is a fundamental element today and we will be pushing for that,  support whatever tracks brings the two nations to sign something like  that. We are supporting the US; we are supporting the European Union.  Actually, I was there at the same time that Tovio Klaar, the Special  representative of the European Union.

"Therefore, I had the opportunity to speak with him at length and we  are supporting the bilateral track. At the end it is for the two  nations to decide how they move on, so we will be supportive of  everything that at the end of the day brings as an outcome a lasting  peace. We believe that the principles that were set at the beginning  of the process -of course respect of sovereignty and territorial  integrity- are fundamental. I actually tweeted at the end of my visit  on that. It is one of the principles that we are very attached to,  sovereignty and territorial integrity. Of course, we believe that  together with that principles, delimitation of borders, the  connectivity, the principles that were set at the beginning of the  process should be part of that process. Unless, of course, the two  sides decide to change those principles and have different principles  or other principles or more.

"However, the agreed principles should not change at this stage.  Therefore, as I said, I heard a lot of concern. I do not think that  statements help the process move forward, that we will continue to  send the same message to the partners; they need to reconvene the  talks as soon as possible. Actually, I would like to add that my trip  was supposed to be a regional trip. In addition, we had already  worked with both capitals to make it regional, but at the beginning  of January, Azerbaijan decided to postpone the visit because of the  presidential elections, so I couldn't actually convey the messages  that I was going to convey. One of those messages was a very clear  message that we expect you guys to reconvene the peace talks as soon  as possible." 

As regards normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations, Mr Colomina  said: 

"Well, for us Turkey is a very important ally, as you know, it is the  only ally that has borders in the region and therefore is a key actor  in the region. We have a very frank conversation with Turkey on every  topic and of course, we talk about the concourses as well. Turkey  knows that we are supportive of the normalization of relations  between Armenia and Turkey. I think Turkey is willing to make  progress in this direction. I do not know if they are actually  waiting for some progress in the Azerbaijan-Armenian track first.  That could be probably one of the considerations, but I think they  are genuinely interested in advancing on that. As you know, I cannot  really go into the foreign policy, the domestic politics of our  allies, but I think, and we have talked about this, it would be a  very positive development whenever that happens." 

As to what NATO's reaction would be in the context of Turkey's  possible intervention in the event of a new aggression by Azerbaijan  against Armenia, Mr Colomina said: 

Well, it is very difficult to preempt conversations and as I said I  can't really go into foreign policy decisions of my own allies. What  I can tell you is that we are very attached to those two principles:  sovereignty and territorial integrity. We have been very clear always  that for us those are very important. The situation three years ago  was different. As you said, there was a controversy in terms of how  you looked at the particular enclave. In addition, even though there  was recognition of the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of  Azerbaijan, there was a controversy, as I said. I think we are now  facing a different situation and, in my opinion, and without  preempting anything, the reaction I would assume would be different."

Asked about steps NATO is ready to take to support international  efforts aimed at establishing peace and stability in the South  Caucasus, the NATO official said: 

"Our policy is very clear and that policy honestly limits very much  what we can do. However, the policy is based on 'we don't take sides  between partners in general', not just between Armenia and  Azerbaijan, and we have decided to implement that policy. Unless  there are violations of principles of the UN Charter and the  principles that are also enshrined in the Washington Treaty, so at  this stage what we are doing and what we are planning to do, and I  have the full support of the Secretary General in that work, is to  support, to have a larger presence. I have visited the region seven  times since I took office on September 21, probably more than in the  previous 10 Years. Therefore, I think we have leverage, politically  more presence of NATO in the context of the Caucuses in general. So,  the three countries, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, but  particularly in the context of Armenia and Azerbaijan. In addition,  we have been always very clear about what we expect from our  partners. We expect normalization of relations, based on agreed  principles and some of those principles are principles that are  enshrined in the Washington Treaty and the UN Charter, such as  sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we will continue to  support that same line and to continue to push for the normalization  of relations." 

As to NATO's plans to expand relations with Armenia, Mr Colomina  said: 

Yes, we are very satisfied. In the last couple of years, Armenia has  decided to step up politically and practically the cooperation with  NATO in general terms, we are always willing to move at the pace that  our partners want to move. So, we've been encouraging whatever was  coming from Yerevan. Yerevan has decided, for instance, to increase  to more than 50 soldiers, their contribution to KFOR , they have  decided to make that visible, which is clearly a sign of political  engagement and commitment. We are now working on the new ITPP  with  quite ambitious goals. We are working on training opportunities. We  are working on all kinds of partnership work, different tools that we  have. I'm not going to bother you with those, but we are using all of  them. While two years ago basically the cooperation after the war was  sort of frozen and the moves, the shift has been very substantive. So  now what we have ahead is the approval of the ITPP. I have high  expectations and hopes that that will be done in the next weeks and  from there we'll take it. But after the conversations I had in  Yerevan, my impression is that the Armenians are willing to continue  that path and to increase the cooperation, and we will be helping  Armenia doing that."  

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