President Ilham Aliyev has given an interview to Azerbaijani journalists in Istanbul.
- Mr. President, as part of the summit in Turkey you have held multilateral meetings. In general, could you please provide some information about your remarks at the summit and these meetings.
- All the meetings have been good and successful. In other words, I can say that the meetings were of traditional nature. We have held regular meetings with our partners. Taking this opportunity, we held different meetings. The talks I have had with both the president and prime minister of Turkey, the prime minister of Russia, presidents of Ukraine and Iran have produced very good results. In other words, Azerbaijan’s relations with these countries have a long history, and we work quite actively in different spheres. Cooperation both in a bilateral format and within the framework of international organizations is successful. Our relations with all countries are built on mutual interest and respect. I think that the meetings and talks I held yesterday and today will serve the development our relations with these countries.
- Mr. President, you have repeatedly stated with regard to the Upper Qarabag conflict that if Armenia does not provide a response over the Madrid principles, if it says no to them, a resolute position of our country will be demonstrated. What will happen if Armenia doesn’t respond?
- In fact, at present we are facing the situation you have described because Armenia is not giving any answer – neither yes, nor no. Therefore, under these circumstances, mediators must say their word. As you may know, I have repeatedly expressed my opinion about that. Azerbaijan generally accepts the updated Madrid principles. However, there are certain aspects in the proposals which are not acceptable for us, but they are more of a technical and wording nature.
If we look at the updated Madrid principles as a whole, they reflect issues of restoration of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and return of all those affected by the occupation to their native lands. There is no answer from Armenia, and I think it is time for the co-chairing countries to say their word. How long should Azerbaijan wait for an answer?! To be more exact, how long can co-chairing countries wait for an answer?! The updated Madrid principles are not our proposal, it is a proposal of three co-chairing countries. I do hope that these countries treat their own proposals with due respect and send serious signals to Armenia, which has been trying to undermine talks for the last several months. If we are interested in continuing the talks, some steps must be taken. If this doesn’t happen and Armenia keeps on dragging time or officially rejects the principles, then Azerbaijan will certainly have to think about further prospects for participation in the talks and in the process as a whole. We are thinking about that. We are considering different options and will aspire to restoring our territorial integrity by all means. I personally have no doubt that Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity will be restored. The only question is when! We want to achieve that soon and in a peaceful way. But if Armenia wants to continue its policy of grab and to conduct talks only for the sake of talks, Azerbaijan, of course, will considerably revise its own position.
- Mr. President, the agreement on the exports of gas from the Azerbaijani field of Shah Deniz to Turkey was signed yesterday. In general, can this agreement be viewed as an important historic event in Azerbaijan’s energy policy? What can you say about the prospects for this project?
- I think that this agreement holds a special place in the chain of Azerbaijan’s energy successes. From the standpoint of its essence, it will lead to the implementation of a grandiose project. If we look at the financial side of the issue, we can see that according to preliminary estimates, $20 billion will be invested in the project. Considering that a total of $40 billion has been invested in Azerbaijan’s oil and gas sector since 1995, we can see that the project requires tremendous financial resources. On the other hand, the implementation of this project will enable us to fully realize Azerbaijan’s extensive gas potential.
As you may know, our production is limited to the capacities of existing markets now. We can easily double production in a short period of time. But in the gas sector, as you know, production depends on the capacities of existing markets. The project will give us the opportunity after five years to produce and transport extra 16 billion cubic meters of gas from Shah Deniz. Considering that Azerbaijan already has a very powerful and diverse gas export infrastructure, we can see that the expansion of the network of existing pipelines will enable us to send any volumes of gas in any direction and earn significant revenues for our country. On the other hand, as you know, cooperation in the gas sector is not confined to economic interests. It will also become a factor that will considerably strengthen Azerbaijan’s standing in the region and on the continent.
I am very glad that we have finally reached agreement on all issues. The issue of supplying additional volumes of gas to Turkey has been resolved and necessary measures have been envisaged to compensate the price difference in previous periods. Also, if necessary, we can transport Azerbaijani gas in different directions in the future.
I do hope that all our plans are implemented. There are grounds for such optimism because all our energy plans have thus far been fulfilled successfully and timely.
- Mr. President, you have received a message from the American president. I would like to find out about your attitude to it and whether, in general, you will respond to it?
- I certainly will. I am sure that the issues reflected in the message outline prospects for US-Azerbaijani relations because it reflects agreements reached earlier. I also think that the message represents a major step towards the future. The relations between America and Azerbaijan in all areas listed in the message have a long history. Our relations did not emerge in the last year or two – they have a very long history. Our role in peace-keeping operations, our initiatives in the energy sphere which led to the signing, among others, of the present agreement and, in general, the energy policy Azerbaijan launched in the mid 1990s have changed the world’s energy map. In other words, we have achieved this, and today we are working on other projects on the basis of this positive experience.
The agenda of US-Azerbaijani relations is very broad. I do hope that we can enrich our cooperation with new factors in the coming years for the benefit of both parties.
The message is very friendly. We will continue our cooperation in all the spheres described in the message.
- Mr. President, you have also met with Vladimir Putin. Russia is playing a role in the Qarabag settlement, however it may try to deny that. In other words, a lot also depends on Russia for speeding up a settlement. Were these issues also discussed in the meeting?
- Indeed, as you may know, the Minsk Group co-chairing countries dealing with the issue and Azerbaijan are engaged in regular bilateral consultations. Meetings with representatives of America, France and Russia are held at different levels. No country is denying its role in a settlement. We can’t allow any discrimination in this issue either. For us all co-chairing countries represent one group, i.e. we treat them as a group but, of course, each country has its own resources. Of course, Russia is the only country bordering on Azerbaijan, i.e. it is in this region. Russia is both a Caspian littoral state and a country of the Caucasus. It is also our neighbor. It goes without saying that a country of this region has special capabilities and influence mechanisms.
However, despite that, I want to repeat that we have never separated these countries from each other in the context of this issue, i.e. the Minsk Group is a single entity. Its co-chairmen also advocate a single position and the proposals they make are not of individual nature. In other words, these are common proposals.
Of course, we expect all co-chairing countries to put serious pressure on Armenian because we are entering a completely different stage in negotiations. At all other stages since 1992, when the Minsk Group was established, we held talks. Although the talks were based on different proposals, this was a single process. Today, we have reached a stage when proposals prepared on the basis of updated Madrid principles, which represent the results of the Prague process, are on the table.
Azerbaijan accepts that, Armenia doesn’t. Going back to your previous question: if everything goes on in this way, something has to happen. What can happen?! There is not much of a choice. Either the issue will remain unresolved, i.e. the status-quo will be continued, which we can’t accept. The status-quo must change. Either the talks will be continued for the sake of talks only, something Azerbaijan will never agree to – I have repeatedly said that we will not take part in an imitation of talks and negotiate as long as there is hope for a result – or the issue will stop being frozen and enter a different plane. In other words, it is no secret that this is a military option. It has never been ruled out. It is not being ruled out today either. And we must always be prepared for this option. Therefore, the present stage has its own logic and importance. The steps to be taken at the present stage both by Armenia and co-chairing countries will determine how the issue will be resolved.
We want the co-chairing countries to take advantage of their authority and influence to send serious signals to Armenia and compel it to accept the updated Madrid principles so that we could start working on a peace treaty on the basis of that.
- Mr. President, the Turkish prime minister said in a news conference that you are supporting Turkey a lot in connection with the developments in the Mediterranean. Could you please elaborate on that?
- I expressed my views on this in remarks today. As you may know, Azerbaijan was one of the first countries to react to this horrifying incident, and that’s the way it should have been because we always stand by Turkey. We have always supported Turkey in all issues, and are supporting it now. We have raised our voice against this bloody incident, this attack on civilians committed in international waters. I stated this again in my remarks today. We are condemning this attack. We are expressing our solidarity with Turkey and its people and sympathize with the families of martyrs. I think that a thorough investigation must be conducted and the culprits brought to book. I want to reiterate that our position on this issue is unequivocal and resolute. It is based on fraternal relations with Turkey and on international law. Of course, we think that other allies of Turkey must also speak out. You know, this is the moment of truth, i.e. real friends should demonstrate their position at such difficult times. It often happens in life that when everything is good many people can say nice words, but at difficult moments, i.e. when it is necessary to make a choice, countries and people must express their position. Azerbaijan has never made secret of its principled position on all issues. We have spoken out on any issues regarding our allies, and our voice was one of truth and justice. Azerbaijan has never supported any unlawful acts and has never taken part in them, especially in our relations with Turkey.
We can see the same attitude from Turkey. In other words, since Azerbaijan regained state independence Turkey has always stood by us and provided us with the biggest support. Today the situation is the same. Sometimes there are forces trying to interfere with Azerbaijani-Turkish relations. Sometimes they may create a semblance of something, but they can’t change the essence of things. Unfortunately, some Turkish and in some cases Azerbaijani media have published very indecent and clearly dirty articles in the past year. We can’t let this happen. We can’t allow our ill-wishers to dwell upon an artificially created issue to cause damage, albeit negligible, to Turkish-Azerbaijani relations. This is impossible and the present-day developments and the current state of Turkish-Azerbaijani relations is evidence of that.
The Turkish prime minister has recently paid an official visit to Azerbaijan. During the visit, a monument to greater leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was unveiled in the center of Baku. There are many examples like that. Our relations are truly fraternal. Therefore, we must always support each other, and I am sure we always will.
- Mr. President, as you may know, the talks in Sochi were followed by a certain stagnation in the Upper Qarabag settlement. We would like to know whether your meeting with the Armenian president is on the agenda.
- There haven’t been any suggestions to that effect yet. As you know, no meetings have been held after Sochi although the Armenian president asked for two weeks’ time to express an attitude to the proposal made. It has been six months already but there is no news. Therefore, no such meeting is planned for the near future. At least we have not received any proposals in that regard.
- Thank you very much, Mr. President, for the time you have spent with us despite your busy schedule. Thank you very much.
- Thank you. My meetings with journalists are not too frequent, so to speak. However, I am always ready to meet with you, but there aren’t too many opportunities to do that in Baku. I regularly make statements or use other opportunities to touch upon certain issues.
I am giving a positive assessment of your work. Let me add that your question yesterday provided an opportunity to express Azerbaijan’s attitude towards the developments in the Mediterranean Sea. It is our common task to communicate the truth about Azerbaijan to the world. Unfortunately, sometimes foreign media take an unfair and biased position towards of Azerbaijan. There are different reasons for that. I don’t even want to talk about most of them now. In general, perhaps we shouldn’t even pay attention to that, On the other hand, we must show our realities in response, inform them of the development processes unfolding in our country. Sometimes foreign media either deny or provide a distorted picture of that. This is how a wrong opinion forms about our country. As a state, we don’t pay attention to that because I think we should simply continue our work. If we are sure that this work is necessary for our country, we must do it no matter what. The present realities in Azerbaijan and our successes demonstrate that the path we have chosen is correct even though there have been certain pressures and, to put it mildly, recommendations in recent years. At least there have been attempts. But none of them could make us deviate from our path. Our path is one of independence and development. The Azerbaijani people can and will determine its future itself. Azerbaijan is a country living at its own expense, and will live better with every year. We simply want the world community to know our realities. The forces prejudiced against us may continue their activities for several more years. But it is impossible to deny our realities. As time passes, as our opportunities and foreign relations expand, it will be impossible to deny Azerbaijan’s realities.
In any case, in all the meetings I have held today and earlier, on all foreign visits and high-level talks, I have heard only positive opinions about Azerbaijan. Most importantly, there is no discord in Azerbaijani society as to our future development. In other words, Azerbaijani society advocates a single position in this issue. Therefore, each one of us must work hard in all areas of life to multiply the power of our country, strengthen our independence and improve the well-being of the Azerbaijani people. I wish the people of Azerbaijan every success in this.
- Thank you very much, Mr. President!