Azerbaijan President Intends to Attend NATO Summit in Bucharest

The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, intends to attend the NATO summit in Bucharest, the President said in his interview with Interfax.

"Together with other State heads of the former USSR countries, to my knowledge, the heads of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) participating countries also intend to participate in the summit. It is not the first participation in the NATO summit and it does not testify that these and other countries are eager to join this organization," Ilham Aliyev said.

According to him, Azerbaijan has been co-operating with NATO for long and the co-operation began with the Partnership for Peace program. "Currently the co-operation transferred to the stage of Individual Partnership Program. Azerbaijan participates in the peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan, as well as up to the recent period, Azerbaijani peacekeepers participated in Kosovo, but after the political situation changed in this region, according to my presentation, the Parliament of Azerbaijan approved withdrawal of the Azerbaijani peacekeepers from Kosovo," the President said. "The co-operation with NATO is sufficiently positive, it gives us an opportunity to carry out reforms in this sphere and we are satisfied with the current level of co-operation," the State Head said.

According to Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan proceeds from the issue that the membership to any organization should be carried out on the bases of mutual agreement. "We do not plan to fasten ourselves to anybody. In addition, we effectively co-operate with the European Union, and like other South Caucasus countries, Azerbaijan implements EU's New Neighborhood Program. However, if again the initiative of integration to Europe comes from the organization, we will surely consider it," the President said.

According to him, Azerbaijan itself ensures its security and is a self-sufficient country in economic, political and energy plans.

"Therefore, we proceed from the issue that the relations should be established on the bases of equality, mutual respect and mutual interests. Currently we are satisfied with the level of our co-operation with NATO. It is difficult to say what will take place in the future, how the events will develop in the world, what processes will occur in our region. Therefore, proceeding from the current situation, the issue of Azerbaijan's membership to NATO is not on the agenda," Ilham Aliyev said.

In addition, the President of Azerbaijan said that over the past four years, the expenses of Azerbaijan's Public budget increased by 10 times, which is an unique indicator from $1.3bln in 2003 to $12bln of total budget in 2008. "We plans to appeal to the Parliament of Azerbaijan with a suggestion to increase the budget. Therefore, it is not surprising that the military expenses of Azerbaijan also significantly increased in the past four years. In 2007 the military expenses totaled $1bln and in 2008 will total $1.3bln, but it is the figure the country plans to increase yet," Ilham Aliyev said.

Moreover, according to the President, the same cases are observed with regards to education. Currently $1bln is spent on education as compared to significantly less figure four years ago.

Speaking about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the President of Azerbaijan said that the negotiations which the Country has been holding for more than ten years have not yielded any results. "Of course, it is possible to positively speak of certain closeness in the positions. I do not say that the negotiation process fully exhausted. There were positive moments as well. We moved forward on several items, firstly on Armenia's understanding that all occupied Azerbaijani territories should be released and the conflict should be settled only within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Although several Armenian politicians try to pervert the essence of the negotiations process and model of the closing settlement, it is such: releasing 7 occupied regions, returning all refugees and internally displaced persons and later settling the issue of status of Nagorno-Karabakh. The future will tell how the status will be. Currently the situation and occupation of our lands push us to increase military expenses and we do it," Ilham Aliyev said.

According to him, recently Azerbaijan established Ministry of Defence Industry and commenced manufacturing military products and will expand it. "Possessing huge financial resources, today we can create new spheres. We create new spheres in metallurgy, aluminum industry. Not one billion dollar will be spent on these goals. This process already commenced in other spheres as well. We will create strong military-industrial complex which will ensure our security in the future," the State Head said.

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