A military delegation from Armenia failed in
its efforts to participate in "Cooperative
Best Effort-2004" military training exercises
planning session in Baku, Azerbaijan this week.
As part of NATO's "Partnership for Peace"
program, Armenia is among countries invited to
participate in training programs next September
in Azerbaijan. Previous exercises were held in
2002 in Georgia and last year in Armenia. Azerbaijan
did not attend the program in Armenia. On the
contrary, Armenia has maintained that it will
send a delegation to Azerbaijan.
According to the press office of Armenia's Ministry
of Defense, the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Tbilisi
refused to grant visas to the three Armenian officers
who tried to attend this week's preliminary session.
On January 12, Armenian officers decided to fly
to Baku without visas, and informed organizers
of their intentions. But prior to the plane's
arrival, activists from the Karabakh Liberation
Organization sealed of entrances and exits to
Bina Airport and said they would capture any Armenian
"We can meet with Armenians in Karabakh
but never in Baku," stated organizers of
the action, "NATO is not the owner of Azerbaijan."
"We regard such behavior of Azerbaijan as
unacceptable both for NATO members and NATO partner
countries and we are sure that they will remain
faithful to their principles and continue to oblige
Azerbaijan to do everything possible to help the
Armenian side to participate at the planned conference,"
said a statement released by the Armenian Ministry
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, Vilayat
Guliyev, called for a calm reaction to the planned
Armenian visit, saying that any controversy could
adversely affect Azerbaijan-NATO relations.
Not to be deterred, the Armenian officers attempted
to enter Baku via Istanbul, but were refused boarding
in Istanbul by the Azeri consulate there.
The delegation, headed by Colonel Murad Isakhanyan,
returned to Armenia January 14.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Vardan
Oskanian told reporters the Armenian delegation
was following NATO instructions in applying for
entry visas. (According to the Bishkek Agreement,
visas are not required among CIS countries.)
"We did what NATO dictated as they are organizers.
Contrary to promises made, NATO, in fact, didn't
succeed to oblige Azerbaijan to receive the Armenian
officers," said Oskanian.
Guliyev responded that it is not Azerbaijan but
Armenia who violates NATO's program, in particularly,
principles of territorial integrity and respect
to territories of neighboring countries.
Turan news agency in Baku reported the Minister's
"The lack of interstate relations between
Azerbaijan and Armenia allows Armenia to participate
at military exercises organized on the territory
of Azerbaijan, however, for the good of cooperation
no obstacles have been created to Armenian militaries.
The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan was ready
to receive the Armenian delegation and Azerbaijan
doesn't bear any responsibility for reasons that
didn't allow the Armenian delegation to visit
Minister of Defense of Armenia Serj Sargsyan
condemned the incident and accused authorities
in Azerbaijan of taking measures that contradict
basic principles of NATO's "Partnership for
"I think, primarily, the problem is neither
with us nor with Azerbaijan because Azerbaijan
was not the organizer of the measures but it was
NATO," Sargsyan said.
The Embassy of Greece in Yerevan, a NATO regional
embassy, said it supports Armenia's plans to participate
in the September exercises.
"The Embassy of Greece, which is also a
contact embassy of NATO in the region, regards
Azerbaijan's acts as illegal and will do everything
possible to find a solution to the problem of
creation of obstacles to participation of Armenia
by Azerbaijan," said Ambassador of Greece
to Armenia Antonios Vlavianos.