Jeyhun Bayramov: GUAM is an important regional platform to promote democracy, strengthen regional security
The next 36th meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development - GUAM was held on December 28. The meeting, chaired by Azerbaijan`s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeyhun Bayramov, was attended by Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani, Moldovan Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Aureliu Ciocoi and Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vasyl Bodnar.
The meeting discussed the assessment of cooperation within GUAM in 2020, as well as proposals and recommendations for the coming years.
Addressing the meeting, Azerbaijan`s FM Jeyhun Bayramov said: “Azerbaijan’s Chairmanship in GUAM comes to an end. In many senses, it has been a challenging year. Now it is a time to take stock of our cooperation and look to the future.
GUAM is an important regional platform to promote democracy, strengthen regional security and foster sustainable development. Our organization is gaining an increasingly prominent role in the system of international relations. There is a growing interest to our work from partner countries and organizations. We are confident that there is potential to exploit for a greater efficiency and synergy benefits.
Positive developments have also taken place in terms of interagency collaboration. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between GUAM and the Organization for Cooperation of Railways. Draft MoU with the UN Office on Drugs and Narcotics (UNODC) is almost finalized and hopefully will be signed soon.”
The FM said: “Our meeting takes place in soaring COVID-19 pandemics which has altered the dynamics of our mutual engagement in various fields during 2020. At the national level, our efforts were directed to the fight against shattering effects of COVID-19 on population, while addressing the adverse economic and social impact of the pandemic. Upon initiative of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, summit meetings of the organizations currently chaired by Azerbaijan were held in May, and a special session of the UN General Assembly in response to the Covid-19 pandemic was convened on 3-4 December 2020. Azerbaijan has so far signed 2 donor agreements to provide voluntary financial assistance to the Covid-19 Appeal Fund of the World Health Organization (10 mln USD in total). Recently, we joined Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX) with a committed amount of 21 million USD. We hope that the safe and effective vaccines will soon be available, and that they will be considered as global public goods ensuring their universal distribution at affordable prices for all.”
FM Bayramov noted: “The pandemic also negatively affected cooperation within GUAM. Chairmanship program of Azerbaijan could not be implemented in full as it was planned. Nevertheless more than 30 events took place throughout the year. GUAM working groups and experts continued to work online to reinforce cooperation in the areas of common interest.
Azerbaijan is a steadfast supporter of regional cooperation and is keenly interested in strengthening good-neighborly relations and stability in the region and creating favorable conditions for the growth of economic and trade ties. These constitute an overarching framework for our work and this is how Azerbaijan has approached its chairmanship. The chairmanship priorities were set to serve the common objectives. As a result, our cooperation has been further deepened in such promising areas as trade, transport and communication.
We intensely focused on the realization of the crucial project for our organization – GUAM Transport Corridor. Recent meeting of the Ministers of Transport and the joint declaration are an important step towards enhancing connectivity. We have already started working with the European Union for the feasibility study of the Transport Corridor project and appreciate the EU’s interest to support this project.”
“Negotiations on another flagship initiative of GUAM – Free Trade Agreement is underway. It is important the project is developed according to the interests and expectations of all Member States.
We are pleased with the effective cooperation and coordination of joint actions in the GUAM format within the international organizations. During the current 75th session of the UN General Assembly, the resolution on "Cooperation between the UN and GUAM" was unanimously adopted. We should continue our work towards promotion of the draft UN General Assembly resolution on “Protracted conflicts in the GUAM area and their implications for international peace, security and development”.
We welcome the recent EU Council Conclusions on Eastern Partnership (EAP) policy beyond 2020 where the EU Member States reaffirmed their shared commitment to the rules-based international order, international law, including territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty, as stated in the Helsinki Final Act. The unanimous position of the GUAM Member States on the subject matter has been critical and we do hope that the abovementioned elements will be clearly reflected in the draft Joint Declaration of the Eastern Partnership Summit which is to take place in March 2021.”
The Azerbaijani minister said: “Conflicts, prolonged foreign occupation and the lack of accountability endanger peace and security. It gives me a pleasure to inform the Council that the illegal Armenian occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan which was a threat to peace and security in the South Caucasus and wider Europe, has come to an end. Azerbaijan regained control over its territories that were under Armenian occupation for almost three decades in blatant violation of the four UN Security Council resolutions. The implementation of decisions adopted by the principal organs of the United Nations is key to the effective and accountable functioning of the international legal order.
I would like to stress the fact that Azerbaijan acted on its sovereign soil and took adequate and proportionate measures necessary to repulse the imminent threat to its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and security of its civilian population. The armed forces of Azerbaijan used force exclusively against legitimate military targets strictly complying with international humanitarian law.
The range and consistency of the attacks as well as the statements of the Armenian side before and during the military operations proved once again that the attacks on Azerbaijani civilians and civilian infrastructure have been preplanned and executed as a part of Armenia’s criminal war strategy.”
“As we entered the territories liberated recently by the Azerbaijani Army we once again witnessed the scale and gravity of devastation of these areas, including its cultural property. For instance, in the towns of Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Zangilan and Gubadli, where Azerbaijani population before the occupation numbered dozens of thousands, practically all buildings and infrastructure were razed to the ground. The situation is not better in Aghdam, Kalbajar and Lachin districts from which Armenia withdrew in accordance with the November 10 Statement of the Presidents of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation and Prime Minister of Armenia. Departing Armenian military personnel and settlers deliberately and indiscriminately destroyed the homes belonging to the expelled Azerbaijani population of these districts, schools and other public infrastructure. Forests were set on fire, inflicting irreparable damage to the environment. Religious sites were looted. All responsible for those war crimes must be brought to justice.
We hope that the situation emerged after the cessation of the 44-day war would be featured as post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation, a stage of restoration of peaceful co-existence. The trilateral statement has created a ground for ending the almost three-decades-long armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, return of the IDPs to their homes and realization of its huge economic potential. All economic and transport links in the region are supposed to be unblocked now. This can enable our region to strengthen its role in trade between Asia and Europe.
New opportunities for development and cooperation are emerging and GUAM can take advantage of the new realities. To this end, Azerbaijan is ready to work with its partners, including with the individual GUAM Member States, to contribute to peace and stability in the region.
There is so much that Azerbaijan can offer and is already offering to all its partners. Through the backbone Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line, Baku International Sea Trade Port, along with an ambitious investor-friendly Alat Free Economic Zone, Azerbaijan continues its practical contribution to the development of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, Lapis Lazuli transport route, as well as the North-South, South-West and North-West trade routes, aimed at increasing transit capacity of the entire region.
Four and half years after the inauguration of construction works, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline commenced commercial operations. This development allows us to build on the success of the Southern Gas Corridor. We are closely working with the EU in order to extend gas supply geography. This project not just enhances the energy security, but will also play a critical role in transition to a net-zero emission energy system in Europe.”
“Our initiatives, which bring together the countries of the region and enable to build a shared prosperous future, are the best examples of our interest and capacity to expand and deepen regional cooperation. We are ready for future collaboration.
Only with shared commitment and full compliance with the international obligations, particularly those relating to respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States and inviolability of their internationally recognized borders, we can achieve peaceful, prosperous and stable future,” Minister Jeyhun Bayramov added.
During the meeting, the Secretary-General of the Organization, as well as member states touching upon the issue of liberation of the Azerbaijani territories, which have been under occupation for many years, emphasized the importance of respecting the norms and principles of international law, especially the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Protocol (Minutes) of the current meeting and 4 resolutions (approval of the Country-coordinator of the sectoral working groups; communication strategy and rules for preparing statements and declarations; approval of the budget for 2021; handing over the chairmanship to Georgia) were adopted. At the end of the meeting, the chairmanship of the organization for next year was handed over to Georgia.