Georgia and Azerbaijan developing defense cooperation

Malkhaz Tsulukiani, exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
Georgia and Azerbaijan developing defense cooperation

The two-day visit of Georgian Defense Minister Levan Izoria to Baku was an important event in the Georgian-Azerbaijani relations for several reasons. First, it was an official visit, not a working visit. Official visits of chiefs of defense always testify to the special quality of relations between states. Georgia's Minister of Defense rarely paid official visits, although he is welcomed in many allied countries, and Georgia has a lot of them, including its neighbors. Second, what stands out is the level of the meetings which took place in the capital of Azerbaijan - Georgia's Minister of Defense was received by the President, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan.

According to the Georgian Defense Ministry, during the meeting with Ilham Aliyev "the parties expressed support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the two states and hailed the successful development of bilateral relations." Regional security issues were discussed during the talks with Azerbaijan`s Prime Minister Artur Rasizade and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, where the need for developing a strategic partnership for peace and regional stability was noted. The signing of the plan of bilateral cooperation for 2018 with the Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov was also significant. The ministers emphasized the importance of developing relations in the Georgia-Azerbaijan-Turkey format. Izoria told reporters that in the near future a memorandum on expanding defense cooperation will be signed between the three countries. This document will create a legal basis for the union, which has been informally existed for several years. The defense ministers of the three neighboring countries have already met several times, and the armed forces have conducted joint exercises, but so far Tbilisi, Ankara and Baku were in no hurry to formalize these relations with the prospect of further deepening the new format of defense cooperation.

The trilateral format was created in 2012, since then the strategic character of cooperation in the defense sphere has been repeatedly mentioned, including in the context of security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. Last year, the Caucasian Eagle exercises was held on the territory of Turkey. The special units of the three armies were involved in counter-terrorism training. Azerbaijani mountain snipers are trained in shooting at mountain training courses in Georgia's Sachkhere.

Doctor of Military Sciences Vakhtang Maisaya recalled, speaking with Vestnik Kavkaza, that a few years ago it was a question of deepening the integration of the three countries right up to the confederal nature of relations. "Tbilisi and Ankara responded positively to this idea. Of course, there had to be a defensive component in such an alliance," Maisaya noted. According to the source of Vestnik Kavkaza, three states operate in a specific geopolitical context, considering the decisions of other regional players. "Yerevan denounced the protocols on the normalization of relations with Ankara, which further exacerbated Armenia's relations with neighboring Turkey," Vakhtang Maisaya recalled, suggesting that Georgia, in particular, is interested in military-technical cooperation with Azerbaijan, since the Azerbaijan Republic "has made great strides in this direction in recent years."