Statement by Serbian President Boris Tadic
Thank you for coming to this press conference. I am very pleased to say that I have had a meeting with the esteemed President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, my friend Mr. Ilham Aliyev. We have discussed many issues related to our bilateral relations. We have also signed many documents today. In essence, this is evidence of relations between our countries – Serbia and Azerbaijan – in many spheres. We can see that our political relations are rising to a strategic level.
Ladies and gentlemen, Serbia and Azerbaijan today are facing the same tasks and problems. There are similarities between our countries. I am talking about the Nagorno-Karabakh and Kosovo problems. The Republic of Serbia is not in favor of a division of Azerbaijan, we are emphatically against it and recognize Azerbaijan as a member of the UN, within the framework of its territorial integrity. I have also expressed my gratitude to Mr. President. I have thanked Mr. President for his stance on the Kosovo issue.
At the same time, we have stated that Azerbaijan recognizes the territorial integrity of Serbia and Serbia recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. We think that these are important and fundamental principles of international law. Indeed, this is a very important issue for our countries.
We have also discussed our cooperation in many other spheres. We have signed documents related to various spheres today. However, we think we should further deepen our economic and energy cooperation. Azerbaijan is producing a large volume of oil and gas today. Azerbaijan’s positions on the global scale are strengthening, Azerbaijan has initiated major projects.
Georgia, Romania and Azerbaijan are working on an important project. We are very hopeful that Hungary will also join it soon, and this will be a major gas project. I do hope that it will be realized in several years. Serbia has strategic interests in this issue. Serbia wants to join this project, and we have discussed this issue with Mr. President. We have now reaffirmed our interest in joining this project. Serbia intends to diversify the sources of its gas supply, and Azerbaijan is one of our great and potential partners.
We have also discussed other aspects of our cooperation. We have reviewed the spheres of energy, construction, terminals, liquefied gas. We think we can cooperate in the construction of gas storages. This is very important for our region, especially in winter. We think we should have special cooperation with Azerbaijan because we are seeing the energy problems emerging in the world today. Certain nuclear disasters are taking place. Therefore, gas is generally more important for Europe than nuclear energy. This is what we think.
So the importance of Azerbaijan’s steps in this sphere is gradually growing. In this connection, I would like to thank and congratulate Mr. President on the major steps Azerbaijan has been taking in this sphere, in the sphere of gas production, which has facilitated the economic development of the country.
Azerbaijani economy is rapidly developing. Azerbaijan is also a frontrunner country, it has its own place in the region, cherishes its heritage and identity. We are cooperating not only in the sphere of energy, but also in many other economic sectors.
One of the spheres of our cooperation is cultural exchanges. I am thankful to Mr. President for the financial assistance in the construction of culture centers in Belgrade, which is also of great importance. Using a special approach, we are also paying special attention to the environmental protection. In the future we can achieve a lot in this issue. At the same time, we have discussed our cooperation in the area of infrastructure development. Azerbaijani companies are very well-known. They are building roads and bridges in many countries.
Azerbaijan is developing its infrastructure, and there are extensive opportunities in the future from this standpoint. Taking this into consideration, we have agreed that our companies jointly with an Azerbaijani company could start the construction of railway in Serbia. We have the idea of securing a common access, a route from Chine to Europe by means of the Caspian Sea, via Azerbaijan. We are aware of the enormous strategic importance of the Balkan region. Azerbaijan, for its part, has a strategic importance in the Caucasus. We think that if there are direct ties between China and Europe, this may have a more global importance.
We have also touched upon the health sector, reviewed the issue of cooperation in the area of defense. In essence, there is not a single economic sphere that we have not examined. We are very glad with our negotiations. We are pleased with the documents we have signed. Our governments have already taken these steps. We think that this mutual understanding is great. These steps will take us forward for decades. There is a special relationship of friendship and cooperation between Azerbaijan and Serbia.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Mr. President again for the contribution to the development of our relations, namely for the assistance in the area of culture. Because we have examined and discussed this aspect of our cooperation. In essence, this issue has good prospects. We have also discussed the issue of conducting culture workshops in Baku and Belgrade.
President Aliyev, welcome to Serbia! Consider yourself at home. Just as I did during my visit to Baku. Thank you very much again.
Statement by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev
Dear Mr. President, thank you very much!
First of all, I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for inviting me to your beautiful country. I am very pleased to be in Serbia. I am very pleased that the relations between our countries are developing rapidly. Our relations have always been at a high level. But I have to say that over the course of the last few years these relations have become even more dynamic and intensive.
Mr. President, your visit to Azerbaijan last year and its great results have given a strong impetus to the development of these relations. My current visit is evidence of the fact that the growing political dialogue between us is indeed of strategic nature, and we are approaching bilateral relations from this standpoint.
Our relations are multifaceted. In your statement, Mr. President, you spoke about our talks today. I want to add that we are indeed paying special attention to these relations. These relations are very important for us. We want our cooperation in the bilateral format to expand further into all areas. At the same time, our relations have a positive impact on the strengthening of regional cooperation trends. There are quite a few projects capable of linking the Balkan with Caspian and Caucasus regions. We have had a broad exchange on these projects today, and there are no disagreements between us.
We will continue our joint activities in international organizations to develop political ties. As you know, our countries are victims of separatism. The territorial integrity of our countries has been violated, and unfortunately this injustice has been ongoing for many years. We recognize the territorial integrity of Serbia and will always protect it in all international organizations of which we are members.
We think that the borders of any country as recognized by the international community cannot be altered without its consent. International law must prevail at all times. This is our principled position and we will never depart from it.
At the same time, we are grateful to the government and leadership of Serbia for always displaying a fair stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. This position also manifested itself during voting in international organizations, namely the UN General Assembly. We are grateful to you for this position.
But we are bound together not only through pain, grief and problems. We are also bound together through the atmosphere of optimism in our countries. We are absolutely sure that our countries have a great future. We will resolve the problems that are currently causing us pain and worry us. Justice will eventually prevail and I am sure that the territorial integrity of our countries will be restored.
As you mentioned, Mr. President, we have held a broad exchange today. Indeed, our bilateral agenda is quite extensive. We are pleased to welcome Serbia’s initiative to join the AGRI project. As you know, this project has recently been discussed, and the first summit has been held in Baku. Research of the AGRI project is currently under way, a feasibility study is being prepared. We would very much like Serbia to join this project, considering the fact that Azerbaijan’s hydrocarbon resources are now transported to different markets and we are very interested in new markets. We do hope that we can realize our rich gas potential to the maximum extent.
At present, Azerbaijan has confirmed gas reserves of 2.2 trillion cubic meters. This, however, is a very modest figure. The forecast is at least twice as high. Considering that, our gas will be serving European and other markets for at least another century. We need new markets and European consumers need new sources of supply. Diversification is equally important to producers and consumers. Therefore, our interests overlap here.
In general, Azerbaijan is playing an active role in issues of energy security. Our country has managed to transport rich Caspian resources to world markets for the first time. There are seven oil and gas pipelines linking Azerbaijan with world markets now, and they are all in operable condition. Our oil and gas are transported to world markets in different directions. We are very interested in a cooperation that would bind Serbia and Azerbaijan together, including the energy sector.
At the same time, we have discussed other projects today. A major railway project – the new Silk Way project – is being implemented. I do hope that by the end of new year a new railway linking Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey will be commissioned. This will also be a railway linking Asia with Europe. All the countries located on this railway will benefit from this cooperation. Therefore, there can be even greater regional cooperation.
We are also grateful to the leadership of Serbia for the positive attitude towards Azerbaijani companies. There are modern and strong companies in Azerbaijan now. And this work, the participation in contracts in Serbia may be very interesting to them. We have discussed these issues too.
So the bilateral intergovernmental commission will have a lot to do. I am sure that the commission will start operating soon. The issues we have discussed today will be examined by the commission and submitted to the presidents.
The documents signed today are also evidence that we have very good and kind intentions. We want to cooperate in all spheres. Underlying this cooperation are strong political ties. At the same time, during discussions with Mr. President today we have expressed a shared opinion that relations between people, humanitarian contacts are also very important. Religious and ethnic tolerance in both Serbia and Azerbaijan has very deep roots and a long history. Representatives of different religions and ethnicities live like one family in both Serbia and Azerbaijan. This is our unique experience. Drawing on this experience, we must try to eliminate all religious and ethnic conflicts and stand-offs throughout the world. By joining their efforts to this end, Serbia can do a lot in the Balkans and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus and the Caspian basin.
In other words, my visit is already yielding wonderful results. I am sure that the visit results will be great, and this will give a powerful impetus to the development of our relations. Thank you again, Mr. President, for your hospitality. I wish the people of Serbia success and progress. Thank you.