Azerbaijan, Baku, Sept. 7 / Trend E.Tariverdiyeva /
NATO supports Azerbaijan's defence reforms, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said speaking at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy (ADA), NATO official website reports.
Rasmussen said his visit is timely.
"NATO and Azerbaijan have recently taken important steps to deepen our partnership further. Azerbaijan has committed to a stronger, and longer contribution to the international peace effort in Afghanistan," he said.
And for its part, NATO is also looking at ways the parties can do more together, he said.
NATO Secretary General said he is particularly pleased to be at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy.
"I am delighted to be here, and I am particularly pleased to be here at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Because this academy has become much more than a training institute for Azerbaijan's diplomatic service. It is an important school of international affairs as also reflected in the Ambassador's introduction. And it attracts high quality students from this country, from the region and beyond, Rasmussen said.
Azerbaijan, according to the secretary general, plays an important role in NATO operations in Afghanistan, allowing transit via its territory.
"You have made a generous financial contribution to the training of Afghan security forces. These contributions are less visible than uniformed personnel - but they are just as important. Azerbaijan has been, and continues to be, a solid, reliable partner for NATO on Afghanistan," Rasmussen said.
He said NATO is determined to work more closely with its partners, including in South Caucasus region.
"We need partners who share our desire for security, and our values. In this respect, we encourage Azerbaijan to pursue democratic reforms in such areas as elections and free media," Rasmussen said.
The NATO-Azerbaijan partnership gives Baku access to a unique security forum, a seat at the table where vital security concerns like Afghanistan can be addressed.
"Our partnership also supports Azerbaijan's reforms. Especially in defence reforms, that are relevant to today's security challenges, and able to play their full part in multinational operations, he said.
Much of NATO-Azerbaijan cooperation is focused on military-to-military activities, such as training and education, Rasmussen said.
"We are also deepening our cooperation on energy security and cyber-security. But for all this progress, this region still faces great security challenges. Azerbaijan has a complicated neighbourhood. And the most pressing regional challenge remains finding a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," he said.
Two things are clear, Rasmussen said. "First, that there is no military solution. And second, the only way forward is through dialogue, compromise, and cooperation," he stressed.
Rasmussen noted that he is deeply concerned by the Azerbaijani decision to pardon Ramil Safarov, as this damages trust and does not contribute to the peace process.
"There must be no return to conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Tensions in this region must be reduced, and concrete steps must be taken to promote regional cooperation and reconciliation," he said.
He said Azerbaijan is an important partner for NATO and NATO will continue to be an important partner for Azerbaijan.
"We have already achieved a great deal together. We have an opportunity to do much more," he underscored.