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Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: NATO Secretary-General Concludes South Caucasus Tour

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Photo: Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: NATO Secretary-General Concludes South Caucasus Tour. Source: nato.int
Photo: Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: NATO Secretary-General Concludes South Caucasus Tour. Source: nato.int

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg concluded his tour of the South Caucasus today in Yerevan, Armenia, where he met with President Vahagn Khachaturian and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the Alliance's press service said.

Stoltenberg praised Armenia for its long-standing partnership and contributions to NATO operations, including the increase in troop levels in the KFOR peacekeeping mission. 

"For almost 20 years, Armenia has been a key partner in NATO's KFOR peacekeeping mission, helping to ensure a secure environment for all communities in Kosovo," he said.

Stoltenberg called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to reach an agreement to pave the way for normalisation of relations and a lasting peace. 

"This is important for Euro-Atlantic security as we face a more dangerous world," he stressed, reiterating that "NATO supports Armenia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as its peaceful aspirations". 

The NATO Secretary General warned that "Russia's war in Ukraine is a sobering reminder that we cannot take peace for granted.

Stoltenberg called on all NATO partners to "do everything possible to ensure that Putin does not win his war of aggression". "The situation on the battlefield remains difficult, but this is a reason to step up, not to scale back, our support," he said.

As part of his visit to the South Caucasus, Stoltenberg arrived in Baku on 17 March, where he met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The next day, he held talks with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and Defence Minister Zakir Hasanov.

With regard to Ukraine, Mr Stoltenberg welcomed the much-needed support provided by Azerbaijan and called on all countries in the region to step up: "more support is needed because the situation in Ukraine is extremely difficult".

The same day, the NATO Secretary General travelled to Georgia for meetings with President Salome Zurabichvili and Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze.

"Georgia is one of NATO's closest partners. We highly value your significant contribution to NATO's missions and operations and fully support Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of Georgia," Mr. Stoltenberg said. 

He called on Russia to revoke its recognition of the Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states and added that Russia's organisation of elections in the occupied parts of Georgia and Ukraine is completely illegal. "The presidential elections in Russia were clearly neither free nor fair," said Mr Stoltenberg.

Of these three countries, only Georgia is developing an active partnership with NATO and has declared its aspirations for membership. 

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