James Appathurai

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James Appathurai
NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges
Online press conference with NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai.

Topics: NATO’s relations with Armenia, and with the countries of the South Caucasus more broadly
NATO current political agenda

The online press conference was organized within the framework of "International Press-Center "Dialogue": Diversification of the sources of international news for Armenian media" project.  This project of Region Research Center is supported by the OSCE office in Yerevan.

Online Newspaper “Hetq”, www.hetq.am

Question - Please summarize this ending year of 2015 for NATO as an organization of collective security, and what challenges in which specific regions will be the main areas of NATO’s activity in the near future?

Answer - Collective defence has been at the heart of what NATO stands for since its inception. This is very clear when you read the Organization’s legal basis, the Washington Treaty, a very short text which has recently also become available in Armenian on our website http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_17120.htm?selectedLocale=hy. Under the Treaty’s Article 5, individual Allies pledge to assist one another in case their security is under threat.  As the security environment evolves, we have to make sure this security guarantee retains its strength and credibility.

Unfortunately, we have experienced over the past year a far more unstable and potentially more dangerous world than we had grown accustomed to in recent decades.  In the east, Russia has illegally annexed Crimea and continues to destabilize eastern Ukraine including through direct support to the separatists there. And to our south, from Syria to Libya, failed and failing states have emerged and extremist and terrorist groups fill the vacuum. In addition the events to our east and our south are increasingly intertwined.

To ensure that that the Article 5 security guarantee remains strong and reliable under these circumstances, NATO’s Allies and partners must be able to move quickly and act decisively.  They must be able to deter and defend against those who would do us harm at home and be able to respond to crises beyond our borders when our interests are threatened.  We must be able to achieve defined military objectives, and thus protect our people, our societies and our values.

That is why you will have seen this year a number of NATO measures to reassure those Allies that feel most vulnerable at present. That is also why we are building new capabilities and conduct more and larger exercises than in the recent past. I believe this trend will continue, as the security challenges we face are unlikely to disappear in the short term. Let me add though that NATO’s actions, both to reinforce its Allies and to conduct more exercises, are being taken in full compliance with its international commitments, including under the Vienna Document and the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. As for the Organization’s focus in the coming period, the discussion of NATO Foreign Ministers last week reflected the challenges that we see are most important: those to our south, i.e. mostly in the Middle East and Northern Africa, as well as to our east, following the start of Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine.

David Stepanyan, IA www.arminfo.am

 Question  - Has NATO’s proposal to Montenegro to become its 29th member been on NATO’s current political agenda; what place on this agenda do the relations with Russia occupy; whose response has been formulated in the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry, namely, that this is - "an openly confrontational step, fraught with additional destabilizing consequences for the Euro-Atlantic security system"? Please answer this question in as many details as possible.

 Answer - NATO’s Open Door policy has been a historic success, moving us closer to a Europe whole, free and at peace. All countries in Europe are more stable, secure, and safe because NATO has enlarged. On 2 December NATO Foreign Ministers decided to invite Montenegro to begin Accession Talks to join the Alliance.  This decision is not about Russia.  It is not aimed against anybody. And NATO does not force any country to join it. Each country has a sovereign right to choose its own security arrangements. Membership in NATO is a national decision, it is a free choice for sovereign countries. Candidate countries need to apply and as always, NATO members need to agree to it. The decision followed five years of reform work by Montenegro in the Membership Action Plan.  Montenegro’s membership of NATO will make Montenegro more secure.  And it will reinforce security and stability of the Western Balkans, a region which has suffered from instability and conflict.

Aram Sargsyan - www.1in.am, online Newspaper www.hetq.am , and Artak Barseghan - Public Radio of Armenia (www.armradio.am)

Question  - How can the aggravation of Russian and Turkish relations affect NATO‘s cooperation with the countries in South Caucasus, namely the cooperation  between NATO and Armenia, and NATO and Azerbaijan? Can the acute manifestation of geopolitical interests contribute to Georgia’s actual NATO membership any time soon? On the whole, taking into account the various geopolitical interests existing in the South Caucasus countries, how do you see the prospects of the regional policy pursued by the Alliance?

Answer - We recognize of course that each of the three countries in the South Caucasus have chosen their own security policy, and we respect that. To be a partner of NATO is fully compatible with aspirations to seek NATO membership, but also with membership of the CSTO, with membership of the Eurasian Union, with membership in the Non-aligned Movement or with other forms of regional cooperation.  Indeed, more regional cooperation seems to make a lot of sense for the South Caucasus both from an economic and strategic perspective.  In this context, I am pleased to see that occasionally NATO can provide the framework for more cooperation between Armenia and Georgia, or Georgia and Azerbaijan.  However, each of our partnership relations is individual in nature. In the case of Armenia, our basic document is the Individual Partnership Action Plan, that anyone can find on the internet under http://mfa.am/en/international-organisations/NATO/.  It covers a two-year period. A similar plan has been agreed with Azerbaijan, whilst we have other mechanisms for Georgia in recognition of their membership perspective. All these partnerships are approved and supported by our 28 Allies, i.e. also Turkey, and they have their characteristics and logic.  This also means these relationships are not a subset of our relations with Russia, and I do not see an immediate impact of the current tension between Turkey and Russia on our individual relations with the three countries of the South Caucasus.


Araks Martirosyan, Newspaper “168 hours”, www.168.am

Question - After the aggravation of the Russian-Turkish relations, some experts do not exclude the possibility that in case of further escalation of the situation, Armenia and the Russian military bases in that country will become targets for Turkey. What will be NATO’s reaction in the event of such a scenario? Will it take deterrent steps? What will they be?

 Answer - I think that such speculations are unhelpful and I do not see any basis in reality to justify them. Clearly the situation south of the Turkish border is extremely complex and developments in Syria and Iraq affect Turkey most directly. Of course we support Turkey in its defence of its sovereignty and the defence of its air space, as we would any other Ally. In practice, we have been supporting Turkey by augmenting its air defence since 2012. Allies also stood by Turkey following the downing of the Russian jet which had entered its airspace. At the same time, this incident also underlines the need for more transparency and risk-reduction measures as well as discussion between Ankara and Moscow to establish all the facts and avoid a repetition of this occurrence. Diplomacy must prevail and the NATO Secretary General has called for calm and de-escalation.

Tika Martirosyan, www.tert.am

 Question - Even before the escalation of the situation in the Russian-Turkish relations press reports periodically circulated on the probability of the deployment of peacekeeping forces in the zone of the Karabakh conflict. What was the attitude within NATO to the issue of the location of such forces before the aggravation of relations between Russia and Turkey, and what is NATO’s position now - against the background of the Russian-Turkish confrontation?

 Answer - As occasionally reported in the press, the deployment of peacekeeping units in Nagorno Karabakh could be a possible element of a political settlement, but no such political settlement has been reached yet. So it is very premature to discuss the possible nature of any such force. Instead, we need movement towards a settlement. So I support the renewed efforts of the Minsk Group co-chairs and hope that during 2016 we will see a fruitful dialogue between the Armenian and Azerbaijani side.

 Armen Minasyan, www.panorama.am

 Question - After the incident with the Russian military aircraft in Brussels an emergency meeting of the NATO states was held. The statement made as a result of this meeting was presented as Mr. Stoltenberg’s private opinion. One gets the impression that there is no common position among Member States, and there are harsher and softer responses to the situation. Is this impression accurate, and is the situation a challenge to the united NATO agenda and solidarity within NATO?

 Answer - Allies are united in their support for Turkey. A week after the incident, NATO Foreign Ministers met in Brussels and adopted a common statement stressing Allied solidarity with Turkey. All Allies fully recognize and support Turkey’s territorial integrity and its right to defend its airspace. We have long-standing plans to defend Turkey and we keep them under active review and we will strengthen them further. For several years, NATO has augmented Turkey’s air defence and we are developing additional assurance measures for Turkey. As the developments in Syria and Iraq over the past year have shown, Turkey is at the forefront of a very volatile region. We must now focus on diplomacy and de-escalation. We need to look ahead and reduce the risks of such incidents happening again.

Artak Barsegyan - Public Radio of Armenia (www.armradio.am), and Gagik Baghdasaryan - IAwww.newsarmenia.am

 Question - Does NATO have new proposals on the expansion of Armenia's participation in peacekeeping missions, how do you assess the participation of the Armenian military in peacekeeping missions under the auspices of NATO? What events is NATO is planning to hold in South Caucasus in 2016?

 Answer - We highly value the participation of Armenian peacekeeping units in NATO operations. Armenia’s commitment is steady and substantial, both in Kosovo, where Armenian units currently serve within the US contingent, and in Afghanistan, where your units serve mostly within the German contingent. Your contributions to these operations, as well as those in Mali (with the EU) and in Lebanon (with the UN), are very tangible contributions by Armenia to international security. At the same time, working together with forces from Allies nations has been a driving force to bring the Armenian armed forces closer to Western standards.  As a result of over a decade of hard work, a number of Armenian units were certified to meet the highest NATO standards this autumn (in accordance with what we call NATO Evaluation Level Two).  Armenia and specifically its armed forces can be proud of this achievement. I understand that Armenia now intends to broaden the set of units that meets these criteria.

As to our broader cooperation with Armenia, we intend to continue our support to Armenia’s defence reform efforts, provide assistance to the reform of Armenia’s defence education institutions, share best practice on how to reduce corruption in the security sector, support Armenia’s efforts to develop a concept of women in the armed forces, etc. The recently adopted constitutional amendments will have far-reaching implications for the way Armenia’s security sector is organized. I believe they should also create opportunities to strengthen parliamentary oversight over the armed forces.

Looking at our engagement with the South Caucasus region as a whole, we are of course very actively engaged with Georgia in recognition of its membership aspirations.  We are currently focused on the implementation of the package of measures agreed in autumn 2014, called the Substantial NATO Georgia Package. These measures include the establishment of a Joint Training and Evaluation Centre (inaugurated this summer), the conduct of regular NATO exercises in Georgia and the provision of expertise in a dozen different domains related to the defence sector with the aim to strengthen Georgia’s self-defence capabilities and to prepare it for future membership. Clearly the aim is also to make sure that these initiatives contribute to regional security, and we are frequently considering to what extent other regional partners can participate in, or benefit from, these activities.

As to our partnership with Azerbaijan, this is organized in a similar way as with Armenia through what we call an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) agreed between NATO and Azerbaijan. This Action Plan we renew roughly every two years. The NATO-Armenia Individual Partnership Action Plan is available on-line : http://mfa.am/en/international-organisations/NATO/  Although the partnerships with Armenia and with Azerbaijan are not identical, there are a substantial similarities, with Azerbaijan also contributing to our operation in Afghanistan and engaged in various aspects of defence reforms.


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