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Hagel Hosts Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister at Pentagon

In a Pentagon meeting with Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel thanked his counterpart for his country's support to efforts in Afghanistan, including the sustained deployment of Azerbaijani forces with the International Security Assistance Force, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

In a statement summarizing the meeting, Little said Hagel also thanked Abiyev for the valuable role Azerbaijan plays in providing ground, air and sea transit access for logistical support to Afghanistan.

"The two leaders agreed to continue to work together on issues to include North Atlantic Treaty Organization interoperability, counterterrorism, defense transformation and maritime security," the press secretary said.

The defense leaders also discussed the regional situation, Little said. Hagel raised the recent inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, he added, and reiterated that it is imperative that Iran take quick steps to resolve the international community's deep concerns over its nuclear program.

"Secretary Hagel recognizes Azerbaijan's role in fostering regional security and stability," Little said, "and he looks forward to continuing the strategic partnership."

Pentagon officials said the Defense Department partners with Azerbaijan, as well as with other South Caucasus nations, to strengthen Azerbaijan's security development and better enable it to contribute to security and stability in the broader region. U.S. support to development of Azerbaijani defense and security institutions includes training and advising in civil-military relations, professional military education, and emergency management, they added.

Meanwhile, officials said, the United States assists in development of NATO interoperable units in Azerbaijan, including its Peacekeeping Battalion, which has deployed forces in support of international operations in Kosovo and Iraq, and fields troops in Afghanistan under the International Security Assistance Force.

Azerbaijan also provides key ground, air, and transit access for the logistical sustainment of international efforts in Afghanistan as part of a complex network of supply lines, playing an important role in the diversification of those supply lines, officials said.

Last month, Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, led bilateral defense consultations with Defense Ministry officials in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense

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