First VP: Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity must be restored, refugees must return to their homeland
Azerbaijan’s First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva held a meeting with a delegation led by Deputy Secretary General of NATO Rose Gottemoeller on September 20.
Mehriban Aliyeva noted that Azerbaijan attaches great importance to cooperation with NATO, adding that the country attends various meetings of the Alliance.
Azerbaijani peacekeepers have been serving in Afghanistan shoulder to shoulder with NATO servicemen since 2002, she said, underlining that in January 2018, Azerbaijan increased the number of its servicemen in the Resolute Support mission by 30 percent, bringing it to 120 people.
“Our country also provides financial support to the Afghan national army and assistance in addressing logistical and transport problems, and organizes training for the personnel of the Afghan army,” the first vice-president said.
During the meeting, the successful development of high-level dialogue between NATO and Azerbaijan was hailed.
Mehriban Aliyeva noted that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s participation in the NATO Summit in Brussels this July and his meeting with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg contributed to the development of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and the organization.
The first vice-president also said that Azerbaijan highly appreciates NATO member states’ unequivocal support for its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
She also emphasized that Azerbaijan lauds NATO’s great attention to gender issues, and the issues relating to women, peace and security.
“We are very happy that a conference on this issue has recently been held in Azerbaijan,” Mehriban Aliyeva said, adding that gender equality is one of the key priorities of state policy in Azerbaijan.
She went on to add that one of the steps taken by the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic 100 years ago was granting women the right to vote.
"We are proud that at the beginning of the twentieth century the Azerbaijani women achieved this equality before a number of developed countries,” she said.
Mehriban Aliyeva pointed out that the Azerbaijani women have been actively involved in the country’s public and political life after the restoration of independence.
She further noted that 17 percent of the members of parliament in Azerbaijan are women, expressing hope that the figure will increase in the future.
The first vice-president also said that 1,600 women are serving in the Azerbaijani army along with men. She underlined that women in Azerbaijan have enjoyed great respect for centuries, adding that this tradition lives on.
Mehriban Aliyeva emphasized that Azerbaijan is a peaceful country, which built relations with its neighbors and other countries on the basis of mutual respect.
“However, it is for 25 years that we have been suffering from Armenia's policy of aggression,”she said.“As a result of this policy the internationally recognized territory of Nagorno Karabakh and its seven surrounding districts have been occupied, more than one million people have become refugees and IDPs, hundreds of Azerbaijani women have been killed and captured during the conflict, and over 600 people, including women and children were brutally murdered during the Khojaly tragedy.”
The first vice-president mentioned that although the UN Security Council adopted four resolutions on immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian occupying forces from the Azerbaijani territories 25 years ago, this occupation still continues.
Noting that Azerbaijan wants the conflict to be solved in a fair manner in accordance with the norms and principles of international law, Mehriban Aliyeva said that Azerbaijan's territorial integrity must be restored, the refugees must return to their homeland, and only then peace will be established in the region.
“Peace, security are the factors that ensure mutual understanding among peoples,” the first vice-president noted, adding that NATO's humanitarian activity is highly praised in Azerbaijan and that the country is ready to work closely with the organization in this field.
Deputy Secretary General of NATO Rose Gottemoeller in turn expressed satisfaction with the visit to Azerbaijan.
“You can rest assured that we have taken notes of your statements,” she said.
Gottemoeller noted that “Women, Peace and Security” conference in Baku coincides with remarkable days for the country as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Azerbaijani parliament. She also spoke of the beauty of Baku, and hailed the country’s achievements.
Azerbaijan conducts political dialogue with NATO on a broad range of issues of common concern based on the PfP principles. Within the political dialogue, which is held in different formats and levels, the issues like partnerships, regional security, Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, operations, contribution to Afghanistan, energy security etc. are the matters of bilateral discussions and consultations. The high-level political dialogue based on mutual understanding promotes progress in the practical cooperation.
The country’s program of cooperation with NATO is set out in an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), which is agreed every two years.
NATO and Azerbaijan cooperate on wide-ranging democratic, institutional and defense reforms.
Azerbaijan has long been an active contributor to NATO-led operations – it deployed troops to Kosovo in the past and continues to support the mission in Afghanistan.