President Ilham Aliyev received Romanian, Austrian, Lithuanian FMs and European Union delegation
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has received Foreign Minister of Romania Bogdan Aurescu, Foreign Minister of Austria Alexander Schallenberg, Foreign Minister of Lithuania Gabrielius Landsbergis and a delegation of the European Union who are on a visit to Azerbaijan mandated by High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice-President of the European Commission Josep Borrell.
Welcoming the guests, President Ilham Aliyev said:
-Welcome. I’m very glad to see such a big delegation of the European Union. It’s a good sign of our cooperation, good sign of involvement of European Union and its members in the regional affairs. You know our cooperation with EU is very successful. Azerbaijan signed and adopted documents and agreements on strategic partnership with many countries, with nine countries of member states. This, I think, is a very big achievement of our country, because it’s one third of the member states. This demonstrates that the framework of cooperation is really very broad. It covers many areas of mutual interest and mutual importance.
Three years ago we initialed “Partnership Priorities” document between EU and Azerbaijan which supports territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of international borders of Azerbaijan. This was a very important step towards agreeing on a comprehensive new agreement. Your visit to the region as far as I understand, is devoted to the situation which now emerged after the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In other words, the post-conflict situation is important, because I think now during this year and next year the basic fundamental approaches of the post-conflict situation will be elaborated. Azerbaijan’s position is very straightforward, and clear.
I on many occasions really spoke about that we want to move from post-conflict situation to peaceful development and cooperation in the South Caucasus. Unfortunately, so far we have not heard something similar from Armenian government. All our statements with respect to beginning negotiations on peace agreement with Armenia are ignored by Armenian government. But probably, pre-election situation was not very friendly from making such statements. But now after elections are over in Armenia, we hope that there will be a positive response. Of course, I think that during your communications in Armenia this issue also will be discussed, because if we don’t have a peace agreement with Armenia that means we don’t have peace not only between the two countries but also in the South Caucasus. But we need peace and sustainable development and predictability, zero risk of war. We don’t need war, and we didn’t need war before. So, I think that this is the areas where we can actively cooperate and I am glad that the European Union demonstrates its involvement in the regional affairs. Your visit is a clear indicator of that. We appreciate any involvement which serves the cause of peace, reconciliation, development and cooperation in the South Caucasus. With respect to the pre-war situation I just want to press our position once again. Azerbaijan was always committed to peaceful settlement of the conflict with Armenia. And the very fact that we’ve been in the process of negotiations for 28 years since the Minsk Group was established is a clear demonstration of that. We wanted to resolve the issue peacefully and we had hopes during different times of negotiation process. I was involved in negotiation process since 2003. I held negotiations with 3 leaders of Armenia, and I can tell you that this was a very negative experience in any kind of negotiations held globally, because we clearly realized after many years of this useless meetings that Armenia didn’t want peace. They wanted to keep the status-quo unchanged. They wanted to keep our lands under occupation forever and their participation in negotiations was a kind of imitation of negotiation process. They were trying to mislead international and European organizations that they want to have a settlement but Azerbaijan is not constructive. So, what happened recently is also totally a responsibility of the Armenian government which made a lot of provocative steps and actions and provoke the war. There are a lot of evidences which can prove my position. I will bring you just a couple of examples. Armenian defense minister publicly said that Armenia is preparing for a new war for new territories. That was an open threat against Azerbaijan. Armenian prime minister said that the so-called authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh should be a part of negotiations which actually was against not only our interests but against the format which was elaborated by the OSCE Minsk Group and its co-chairs. Therefore, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries also were a little bit surprised to put it mildly with this position. They objectively considered it as an attempt to walk away from negotiation process, because the format of negotiations was established by the two countries and by the OSCE: it’s a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Another provocative statement made by Armenian leadership was that “Karabakh is Armenia and that's it” which actually de facto put an end to any kind of negotiations. First, it was very contradictory statement, because on the one hand the Armenian leadership was saying that Karabakh is an independent country and Azerbaijan have to negotiate with it and then they say that “Karabakh is Armenia”. We asked them where you are telling the truth? Actually, they were lying in both cases. But that was a very provocative statement which actually made any negotiation useless, and meaningless. During my several meetings with Minsk Group ambassadors I saw that they were also a little bit embarrassed and surprised with this position and actually they didn’t know what to do. If Karabakh is Armenia, then what to do about it? So, that was a deliberate attempt of Armenian leadership to totally destroy negotiation process and to keep the lands forever under occupation. But that was not a full story. Then last year they made three provocative military actions on the line of contact, and on our state border killing civilians, shelling our villages and provoking us. So, the second Karabakh war was inevitable, and it was clear for everyone. Now we are in the situation of the post-conflict development. Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is resolved. There is nothing to negotiate about that. The trilateral statement which was signed on 10 November is not only a ceasefire agreement as some international politicians want to present it. If everybody looks at that paper everybody will see that it’s not only about ceasefire, it’s about many other issues. So, we need to think about the post-conflict situation. Again, as I said in the beginning of my comments, we are ready to turn the page, we are ready to move forward and to contribute to regional stability.
Once again, I would like to express gratitude for the visit. I hope it will be very successful, fruitful. And after your regional tour, definitely we will be in touch through our embassy in Brussels, through our Foreign Ministry in order to discuss our future plans. So welcome, once again.
Foreign Minister of Romania Bogdan Aurescu said:
-Mr. President, it’s an honor for us to have this meeting. Thank you so much for accepting this discussion. The presence of three ministers together with the Special Representative here and other colleagues from the external services is the result of debate we had the informal meeting of foreign ministers in May in Lisbon. It was a meeting that Romania has initiated including the debate on the conflicts in the region on the agenda of the European Union. At the end of that meeting we concluded that the European Union is willing to do more and to be more involved in the region on one hand, in the process of settlement of this conflict in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh in the post-conflict resolutions. Of course, if the parties agree on that, and our presence here is meant to convey strong message of support from the part of the European Union for the stability and security of the region to see what we can do in terms of post-conflict support in order for reaching as you mentioned, a comprehensive settlement of all pending issues.
At the same time, it is a visit which is also connected to the preparation of the Eastern Partnership Summit at the end of this year. For the European Union, Azerbaijan has a very important role as a strategic partner in the energy field, the largest trade partner for the European Union. At the same time, it is the largest recipient of EU investments in the region. So, for us Azerbaijan is essential for the stability and prosperity of the all South Caucasus. We appreciate Azerbaijan as an example of tolerance, multiculturalism and interfaith dialogue. I know that you have done a lot during your mandate to achieve that. It is also important for connectivity and again here with a lot of space for discussion in the future cooperation. In terms of post-conflict developments, we are willing to learn from you. We will visit Armenia and then we will go to Tbilisi as well, to learn from you what can we do in terms of, for instance, confidence-building in terms of post-conflict rehabilitation, in terms of helping destabilization process. We have witnessed certain steps recently, the release of detainees at the same time, the presentation of maps of minefields. We are just supporting further such processes which are important for the confidence-building.
Foreign Minister of Austria Alexander Schallenberg emphasized that the region is experiencing a post-conflict period, and noted the importance of transition to a period of peace and a sustainable peaceful settlement. He expressed the European Union’s great interest in the region, including in the economic area of the region. Alexander Schallenberg said that the European Union works in coordination with the OSCE on a number of issues in the region.
Foreign Minister of Lithuania Gabrielius Landsbergis recalled with pleasure his visit to Azerbaijan a few months ago. He noted that a number of issues were discussed during that visit, adding that the current visit provided an opportunity to continue discussions.