Azerbaijan's Dilemma: To Attend or Not Attend NATO Summit in Washington

Azerbaijan's Dilemma: To Attend or Not Attend NATO Summit in Washington

As the NATO summit in Washington approaches, Azerbaijan faces a strategic decision: whether to accept an invitation to attend the event at the level of foreign ministers. The invitation, extended by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O'Brien during his visit to Azerbaijan on June 28, includes participation from 30 partner countries, notably Azerbaijan and Armenia.

While Armenia has already confirmed its attendance, Azerbaijan has yet to make an official decision. On July 2, Karim Valiyev, Chief of the General Staff of the Azerbaijani army, met in Baku with Stefan Fiks, Deputy Chief of Staff of NATO Brunssum Joint Forces Command. During this meeting, Valiyev underscored the ongoing benefits of Azerbaijan-NATO cooperation and the promise of continued fruitful engagements.

However, the potential ramifications of Azerbaijan's participation extend beyond bilateral relations with NATO. Experts caution that attending the summit may provoke reactions from regional powers such as Russia and Iran. Rasim Musabayov, a member of the Milli Majlis Committee on International Relations and Interparliamentary Relations, maintains that Azerbaijan's participation should not be seen as a commitment to NATO. "I think it can and should participate," Musabayov told Turan, emphasizing that Azerbaijan is not seeking NATO membership and will not partake in decision-making at the summit.

Musabayov also highlighted Azerbaijan's involvement in NATO's "Partnership for Peace" program and its delegation's participation in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Elkhan Shahinoglu, head of the Atlas Research Center, echoed this sentiment, arguing that Azerbaijan's foreign and security policies should prioritize national interests over potential objections from Russia and Iran. "If we prefer cooperation with NATO, if we are interested in cooperation, then we must participate in these events," Shahinoglu asserted.

Azerbaijan has a longstanding cooperative relationship with NATO, participating in various programs since gaining independence, particularly the "Partnership for Peace." Shahinoglu pointed out that while Azerbaijan has no intention of joining NATO, it remains committed to joint planning and activities with the alliance.

On July 3, the Russian Foreign Ministry weighed in on the matter. Andrei Nastasin, Deputy Director of the Information Department, suggested that the West is attempting to distance Moscow's allies from cooperating with Russia. This commentary underscores the delicate balancing act Azerbaijan faces in navigating its foreign relations.

The NATO foreign ministers' summit, set to take place in Washington from July 9 to 11, looms as a pivotal moment for Azerbaijan. The decision to attend could reaffirm its commitment to international cooperation while potentially straining ties with influential neighbors. As the date approaches, all eyes will be on Baku to see which path it chooses.

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