A military-political alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization protects liberty and security of all its members both politically and militarily, according to the principles of the UN Charter. The main principle of the activity of the alliance is the implementation of general liabilities and establishment of cooperation among the sovereign states on the basis of indivisibility of the members. NATO was established on April 4,1949, with signing a treaty among the USA, the UK, France, Italy, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal, Nor-way, Denmark and Iceland. Turkey and Greece joined the alliance in 1952, the FRG - in 1955, and Spain - in 1982. In 1997, three former communist countries, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland, were invited to join NATO, which finally happened in 1999. Several years later - in 2004 Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia, as well as, former Soviet republics Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined the organization. Thus, the number of NATO members reached 26.

The supreme bodies of NATO are the Session of the NATO Council, the Defense Planning Committee and the Military Committee. One of the important bodies is the Nuclear Treaty Committee as well. The relations with the European countries are coordinated via the European Group within the alliance. NATO is chaired by the Secretary General. The main purpose of NATO is ensuring peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.

Azerbaijani-NATO Relations

Protection of the territorial integrity and citizens is one of the main demands of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The Conception of National Security of the Republic of Azerbaijan, which is confirmed by the President IIham Aliyev in May 2007, states: "Any kind of development of military-political and military-technical relations and cooperation for strengthening the defense ability of the country are of great importance. Integration with the Euro-Atlantic security system, creation of NATO-level military operational forces, participation in international peacekeeping response operations for the elimination of crises are considered the main directions of the defense policy of the Republic of Azerbaijan."

Azerbaijani-NATO relations started their formation in March 1992, with the admission of Azerbaijan to its body, the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. The Azerbaijani delegation first participated in the seminar of the NATO countries held in Turkey in October 1992, and met Secretary-General of NATO Manfred Wörner.

The Azerbaijani delegation participated at the conference on the issues of European security held in Brussels in February 1993.

A high-level cooperation between Azerbaijan and NATO was founded in 1994. During his visit to Brussels on May 4, 1994, the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev signed the "Partnership for Peace Program" (PfP) on cooperation of NATO with former Soviet republics.

In his speech in the ceremony of the signature of the agreement, Heydar Aliyev stated: "We met with great pleasure the invitation of NATO calling the Eastern European and former Soviet countries to join the document of Partnership for Peace; we have come here with hopes, and we are ready to sign the document "Partnership for Peace”.

Normal conditions for the development of relations between NATO and Azerbaijan have been founded since then. During his next visit to Brussels on April 23, 1996, Heydar Aliyev presented the Secretary-General of NATO Javier Solana the document of Azerbaijan for joining the "Partnership for Peace” program.

Heydar Aliyev met Javier Solana in next years, during Solana's visits to Baku in February 1997 and in September 1998, and during Aliyev's visit to the US in July 1997. Development of the cooperation between Azerbaijan and NATO was the main issue of discussions during the meetings.

In July 1997 Azerbaijan joined NATO's another body, the Euro-Atlantic Part­nership Council. Unlike the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, this structure of NATO provides for passing to practical steps from discussions and consultations in the framework of PfP. In the same year, Azerbaijan joined the Plan­ning and Review Process (PARP) of the organization, which was a new stage of cooperation. This process provides defense planning, correct use of resources. On November 14, 1997, with the decree of the President Heydar Aliyev, a commission on cooperation with NATO, attached to the President of Azerbaijan, was established. In 1997, the Azerbaijani mission started its activity in the NATO headquarters in Brussels, too.

On April 26, 1999, the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev participated in the summit dedicated to the 50th anniversary of NATO. In his speech Heydar Aliyev emphasized the role of NATO in the world: "We appreciate the role of NATO in ensuring peace and security in the world and consider it as an important means of the European security."

In 1999, Azerbaijan sent a military unit to Kosovo in order to take part in the peacekeeping activities of NATO.

In January 2001, the new Secretary-General of NATO George Robertson visited Baku. In his meeting with the Secretary-General, President Heydar Aliyev mentioned Azerbaijan's interest in the development of relations with NATO. George Robertson thanked Heydar Aliyev for the participation of the Azerbaijani military unit in the peacekeeping activities in Kosovo.

In 2002 Heydar Aliyev took part and made a speech in the summit of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. In his speech, Heydar Aliyev spoke about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and stated that its settlement is important for all the countries. In the same year an Azerbaijani military unit joined the NATO peace building forces in Afghanistan.

Following the political course of the national leader Heydar Aliyev, his successor President Ilham Aliyev attaches great importance to the development of cooperation with NATO. A number of meetings Ilham Aliyev had with the NATO authorities prove it.

In 2004 in Brussels, the Azerbaijani President submitted to the NATO authorities the first Individual Partnership Operation Plan. The Individual Partnership Operation Plan includes partnership actions, reforms plans and political dialogues. Establishment of total democratic control on armed forces, formation of defense measures, as well as creation of organizational structures of armed forces according to the NATO norms and standards are the main spheres of the partnership.

In June 2004, the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev took part and made a speech in the NATO summit held in Istanbul. The participation of President Ilham Aliyev in the summit, the meetings and negotiations held within the frames of the summit are the beginning of a new stage of the partnership of our country with NATO. The Azerbaijani President noted the continuation of our policy on the integration into Europe and into the Euro-Atlantic structures, as well as expectations of support from NATO in the struggle against the aggressive separatism.

Organization of Cooperative Best Effort 2003, land-based exercise and the seminar on "Reform of integrated borders administration: establishment of joint borders security standards within the frames of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council" held in Baku on June 23, 2005 according to the Individual Partnership Operation Plan prove the importance which the organization attaches to the cooperation with Azerbaijan.

In May 2006, the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev participated in the spring session of the NATO Parliament Assembly in Paris. In his speech there, he spoke about the significance of the Azerbaijani-NATO relations and informed the participants of the session about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

In November 2006, the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met Secretary-General of NATO Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in Brussels. In the press conference after the meeting, the Secretary-General stated: "Azerbaijan's participation in the operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo is of great importance for NATO and its partners. I can not forget it, because this step makes Azerbaijan important in the security system."

The information center of NATO in Baku started its activity in 2006.

The Azerbaijani-NATO relations can be evaluated briefly: the Republic of Azerbaijan cooperates with NATO in prevention instability, conflicts and threats in Europe and the Euro-Atlantic area; it is ready to contribute to the establishment of a common security system in its region and Europe entirely.

Azerbaijan cooperates with NATO within the frames of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and Partnership for Peace. The Individual Partnership Operation Plan is an important means for strengthening the cooperation of Azerbaijan with NATO in future.

Key Areas of the Azerbaijani-NATO Cooperation

The most important area of the Azerbaijani-NATO cooperation is within the frames of the "Partnership for Peace" Program. Within the program officers of the Azerbaijani armed forces, participate in hundreds of exercises and seminars annually. Partnership for Peace is a NATO program proposed on 10-11 January 1994 NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium.

Azerbaijan joined the "Partnership for Peace" Program in 1994. During his visit to Brussels on May 4, 1994, the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev signed the "Partnership for Peace Program".

PfP includes defense planning and budgeting. NATO experts regularly visiting Azerbaijan have declared their assistance to Baku in this area.

One of the main goals of PfP is the establishment of democratic control on the armed forces. During his last visit to Baku, the NATO Secretary-General's Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia Robert Simmons stated that Azerbaijan would be provided assistance within this frame, emphasizing the importance of democratic control on the armed forces.

PfP's goals also include ensuring conduction of UN-sponsored or OSCE.

Thanks to regular participation in PfP activities, Azerbaijan has been able to contribute actively to Euro-Atlantic security by supporting NATO-led peace-support operations. Azerbaijan military units have served alongside NATO forces, as part of a Turkish contingent, in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and in Kosovo.

Improvement of capabilities of the participating countries in peacekeeping, research and humanitarian operations is paid attention as well. Development of relations of military cooperation with NATO in organization of planning and exercises, as well as in establishment of long-term multinational forces of NATO members is included on the program.

Expansion of political and military cooperation in Europe, ensuring stability, prevention of threats to war, as well as practical cooperation and strengthening relations based on democratic principles of NATO are important issues for PfP.

From CIS countries only Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Moldova take part in the realization of PfP process. Annually officers of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces participate in nearly 500 NATO activities. It helps our officers improve their skills and establishes a ground for Azerbaijan's integration with NATO standards.

The Centre of Partnership for Peace attached to the Educational and Training Centre of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry has been established. Our officers are trained there according to the NATO standards.

Partnership for Peace includes the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Work Plan (WP), Individual Partnership Plan (IPP), Planning and Review Process (PARP), Membership Action Plan (MAP) and Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP).

Euro-Atlantic Partnership Work Plan includes an overview of activities (different exercises, courses, seminars, working meetings, etc.) proposed by the International Staff and Military Command. Individual Partnership Plan is a two-year program elaborated jointly with one of the partner countries. Individual action option within PfP depends on the wills and capabilities of the country. Selected areas are included on the Presentation Document, a source document for mutually agreed Individual Partnership Plan between NATO and the partner country.

Planning and Review Process is a voluntary mechanism reflecting Defense Planning Process of NATO. PARP has 16 participating countries, including Azerbaijan. PARP includes different liabilities for the participating countries on conformation their Armed Forces to NATO standards.

Membership Action Plan is a NATO program of advice, assistance and practical support tailored to the individual needs of countries wishing to join the Alliance. MAP includes five parts - political and economic issues, defense and military issues, resource issues, security issues and legal aspects.

Individual Partnership Action Plan is designed to better support domestic reform efforts of a partner country The Alliance offers its advice and assistance to a partner country wishing to lead defense, political reforms. The Euro-Atlantic partnership supports many partner countries in their defense reforms and encourages them for democratic changes. It helps creation effective and democratic armed forces and other defensive institutions and assists a partner in controlling outcomes of the reforms.

Azerbaijan cooperates with NATO and Partner countries in a wide range of other areas through the Partnership for Peace (PfP) and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC):

Thanks to regular participation in PfP activities, Azerbaijan has been able to contribute actively to Euro-Atlantic security by supporting NATO-led peace-support operation. This includes sharing intelligence and analysis with NATO, and cooperating with the Allies on enhancing national counter-terrorist training capabilities and improving border and infrastructure security.

Defense and security sector reforms are crucial to the development of Azerbaijan and its goal of achieving Euro-At­lantic standards as well as its increasing Euro-Atlantic cooperation. This is an area in which NATO and individual Allies have considerable expertise, which Azerbaijan can draw upon.

In cooperation with NATO and through partici­pation in activities organized by NATO, Azerbaijan is developing its national civil emergency and disaster-management capabilities. Azerbaijan's special search-and-rescue platoon has participated in several exercises.

Under the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, Azerbaijan has received grant awards for about 30 cooperative projects. Projects include collaboration on improving trans-boundary water quality and protecting drinking water supply from terrorism. Projects through the SPS Programme also cover environmental protection.

Another key area of cooperation is to improve access to information and increasing public awareness of NATO and the benefits of NATO-Azerbaijan cooperation. Since 2003, NATO has been co-sponsoring a summer school in Baku. Programmes developed year on year, leading to the establishment of the NATO International School in Azerbaijan (NISA) in 2005.