President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani have made statements for the press following the ceremony of signing the documents.
Statement by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
- Dear Mr. President,
Let me once again sincerely welcome you to Azerbaijan. Welcome to Azerbaijan! We attach great importance to your visit. I am glad that the visit has been very successful, and I am sure that the talks we held and the documents signed today will ensure the further development of Iranian-Azerbaijani relations.
For centuries, our peoples have lived together, side by side, in the conditions of friendship and good neighborliness. The history, culture and religion that have united us for centuries are our greatest common assets.
We build our bilateral relations on a solid basis. I am glad that Iranian-Azerbaijani interstate relations have developing successfully for nearly 25 years. I should also note that the recent period of development is especially significant because Iranian-Azerbaijani relations have registered a great progress in the past few years. Mr. President, we have met several times over the past few years. And the organization of mutual official visits – these are very important steps in this direction. In February of this year, I paid an official visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Today you are our guest. This in itself is an indicator which shows that our relations are developing very rapidly and dynamically, and have good results. As part of my official visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran, more than 10 documents were signed. Less than six months later, six more documents have been signed. This is very important for our future activities. The documents and agreements signed in Iran in February are being executed. Today, both in the one-on-one meeting and in the meeting with the participation of delegations, we discussed our bilateral relations. We can say that these discussions have been very constructive in all areas. I am sure that the agreements reached will further strengthen our unity and cooperation.
We successfully cooperate within the framework of international organizations. We support each other in all international organizations we are members of. We constantly work closely in the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other organizations. Azerbaijan has always opposed the sanctions applied against Iran and openly expressed its position. We are very pleased that these sanctions have now been lifted, and thus there are new opportunities for cooperation. Iran, for its part, has always respected the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and supported Azerbaijan's fair position in the settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This support manifests itself within the framework of the UN and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
The declaration adopted at this year's Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation demands a settlement of the conflict within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan again, and we appreciate the activities of the Iranian government in this direction.
Today, I informed President Rouhani about the current situation related to the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As you know, Azerbaijani lands have been under occupation for many years. Nagorno-Karabakh is ancestral and historical part of Azerbaijan. Today, Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts are under occupation. The Azerbaijani population has been driven pit of these regions by force. Our historical monuments, including our mosques, have been destroyed by the Armenians, and about 20 per cent of our land is occupied. This occupation continues. Ways of resolving the conflict are clear. Armenian armed forces, the forces that violate the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, must withdraw from our occupied lands. This is also required by four UN Security Council resolutions.
I should also note that the Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation condemned the April aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan and established a contact group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In April this year, the Armenian armed forces committed another armed provocation against Azerbaijan. As a result of this provocation, our soldiers and six civilians were killed. More than 20 civilians were injured. Over 600 houses were damaged and more than 100 houses were completely destroyed. Azerbaijan was forced to take the necessary steps to protect its citizens and its land, and these steps were very effective. The decisions and resolutions of international organizations on the conflict settlement must be fulfilled and the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored. Today, I informed President Rouhani about the latest state in the negotiations.
I am glad that our economic relations are developing successfully. Today, at a meeting in an expanded format, we were told that the turnover increased by 66 per cent this year. This is an excellent indicator. If we consider that the global financial and economic crisis is still ongoing, I think it required tremendous effort to achieve this success in such circumstances, and this effort was made. The joint inter-governmental commission works very successfully and actively. Today, there has been an extensive exchange of views on further cooperation in the economic sphere.
I am glad that the foundation of a plant was laid in the city of Neftchala on the eve of this visit yesterday, where “Iran Khodro” will produce cars. This is a perfect example of our cooperation. Each year more than 10,000 cars will be manufactured there, and this is a new form of cooperation. There was no such cooperation before. Today we had a broad exchange of views on joint activities in other areas as well. In particular, there are plans to build a plant for the production of medicines in the near future. It will operate on Iranian technology.
Of course, we are opening up opportunities to address energy and transport issues. I am glad that the Imishli-Parsabad line has been connected. This will have a very positive impact on the relations between our countries and regional cooperation. Very important steps have also been taken towards the creation of the "North-South" transport corridor.
In February last year, after returning from Iran, I made appropriate instructions and they are being executed. As I promised, Azerbaijan will extend its railway to the Iranian border before the end of this year. Also this year, with the participation of officials from Iran and Azerbaijan, we started the construction of a bridge across the river Astarachay, and much of the work has already been done. To accelerate the implementation of the "North-South" transport corridor, we signed a memorandum today, and the Azerbaijani side wants to participate in the future financing of this project. I should also note that this issue, as well as the issues related to energy, will be discussed at the first summit of the presidents of Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan tomorrow. Let me also note that this trilateral format is a new initiative and a very important step. Naturally, this format is based on bilateral relations.
Azerbaijan has very good relations with Iran and Russia. I am aware that Russian-Iranian relations are also at a very good level. Therefore, the creation of such a trilateral format of cooperation is natural. It is based on history and geography, as well as our joint projects. The transport corridor "North-South" is a project of great significance not only for our countries but also for continents, and very important steps for the further implementation of this project will be taken tomorrow.
As for the bilateral format, a wide range of issues was discussed today. There are excellent prospects in the tourism sector. Iranian citizens can already travel to Azerbaijan on the basis of a simplified visa regime. The railway Nakhchivan-Tabriz-Mashad is opening. There is a beautiful picture in the field of air transport. The number of flights is increasing. Issues relating to the environment and the Caspian Sea were also discussed. I can say that there are no disagreements on the issues discussed. Our main desire is to develop Iranian-Azerbaijani relations, protect and secure the interests of our peoples, and strengthen our political, economic and humanitarian ties. Today’s visit of Mr. President Hassan Rouhani to Azerbaijan is a very important step in this direction.
Mr. President, thank you again for accepting my invitation to visit Azerbaijan again. I wish you and the brotherly people of Iran continued success. Thank you.