04 october 2017, 11:30
Ilham Aliyev received delegation of Council of European Union
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has today received a delegation of the Political and Security Committee of the Council of the European Union, including the EU's accredited ambassadors based in Brussels.
Opening speech by President Ilham Aliyev
- Dear guests, you are welcome. I believe that this is the largest delegation from the European Union to have visited Azerbaijan to date. I am glad that this room is large enough. Once again, welcome to Azerbaijan!
I know that your visit is rather short, but I hope that it is very fruitful. You will get even more information about Azerbaijan and see even more. Of course, you will decide on how to continue our successful cooperation. Azerbaijan is a relatively young independent state. As you know, we are only 25 years old. This month we will celebrate the 26th anniversary of the restoration of our independence. However, I think that over this time we have made good progress in various areas. Today Azerbaijan is a very stable, modern and developing country with a very clear outlook for the future.
One of the main challenges before us – I would like to begin our conversation with this topic – of course, is the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan that has been ongoing for more than 25 years. In fact, it began on the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and immediately after the break-up of the Soviet Union, with support from Armenia and other foreign forces, Armenian separatists committed a crime against humanity in Nagorno-Karabakh. They carried out ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijanis, and more than a million Azerbaijanis became internally displaced and refugees. They have completely occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, expelled about 30 per cent of Azerbaijan's population and occupied seven districts adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh where Armenians had never lived. In addition, as a result of this occupation, 250,000 Azerbaijanis residing in Armenia were also subjected to ethnic cleansing. A total of one million people. At that time, the population of Azerbaijan slightly exceeded 8 million people. This was one of the highest levels of refugees and internally displaced persons per capita.
The situation in the occupied territories is known to the international community. The OSCE has twice sent fact-finding and assessment missions to the occupied territories, and their reports indicate that acts of vandalism have been committed on these lands. All buildings, graves, cemeteries and mosques were destroyed by the Armenians. By perpetrating an act of genocide against Azerbaijanis in Khojaly, they killed 613 innocent people. Of these, over 100 were women and more than 60 children. Destroying our history and religious monuments, they committed genocide against our cultural heritage. Such is the situation.
Unfortunately, the negotiations within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group have continued for many years but there are no tangible results. Armenia is trying not to change and preserve the status quo. This is the main reason for the non-settlement of the conflict. In addition, Armenia does not comply with the UN Security Council resolutions adopted in 1993, which demand an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from our occupied lands. Unfortunately, these resolutions remain on paper. Unlike some other resolutions, which are sometimes implemented in a matter of days, when it comes to us we have to wait for more than 20 years, for 24 years, to be precise, for them to be executed. The status quo is unacceptable. This is stated not only by Azerbaijan, but also by OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries. The presidents of these countries have repeatedly stated that the status quo must be changed and is unacceptable. Armenia simply closes its eyes and does everything to keep the status quo unchanged. When pressure against them mounts at the international level, they resort to military provocations on the contact line, as in 2014. When they attacked our positions using military helicopters and we were forced to respond, this was the reason for freezing the talks for the whole of 2015.
When pressure began to build up again in 2016, they started shelling our villages and killed six civilians. More than 20 people were injured, and we had to respond again. The response was very serious and effective. We managed to liberate an important part of our territories. The Armenians, under this pretext, accused us of aggression again and began to put forward conditions for negotiations to resume. Of course, Azerbaijan did not accept any of those conditions. The Armenians probably understand that we will never accept them. This, perhaps, was another chance for them to gain time – for known reasons. Thus, in the second half of 2016 and in 2017, the situation with negotiations was somewhat frozen. Their tactics is to keep the status quo unchanged as far as possible. At present, they have drawn up a new map where the former Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region and seven districts adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh are portrayed as part of the self-styled "Nagorno-Karabakh republic". This shows that they are not interested in a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Our position is very clear and simple. It has been defined many times. Nagorno-Karabakh is a historical part of Azerbaijan. History confirms this fact. Nagorno-Karabakh is a legal part of Azerbaijan. The whole world recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan. We will not agree to the creation of a second fictional Armenian state on our historical lands. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored, UN Security Council resolutions must be executed and Armenian occupying forces must unconditionally withdraw from all occupied territories. Then there will be peace and the situation will be regarded as stable.
Today, this conflict is a constant threat to regional security and stability. So at the beginning of our meeting, I first wanted to present my opinion on what has happened and what needs to be done. I think that in the coming month, the main sphere of activity of the Minsk Group – you probably know that they are planning to make a trip to the region – should be increasing the pressure on Armenia’s occupation regime, so that it complies with international law. One of the reasons for the non-settlement of the conflict is the lack of pressure on the aggressor at the international level. If sanctions were imposed on Armenia, serious sanctions against a country that has flagrantly violated the norms of international law and humanitarian norms, perhaps the conflict would have been settled long ago. Such a moderate policy of the international community in relation to Armenia makes them think that they can continue to stay on our lands illegally. This is one of the reasons. However, I think that they should understand that this will never happen. Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity. I have no doubt about that. The question is that we want to do this peacefully.
As for other issues related to our development and problems, I want to say that despite the conflict, destruction and economic difficulties, the country has been able to achieve development. We have attracted tens of billions of direct foreign investment, created a favorable investment environment in Azerbaijan, modernized the economy, and channeled investments mainly in infrastructure and human capital. I believe that Azerbaijan is one of the good examples today as a country that has switched from the Soviet planned economy to a modern system and a market economy. More than 80 per cent of our economy comes from the private sector. We have managed to resolve the key and very serious social problems such as unemployment and poverty. Currently, the level of poverty and unemployment is close to 5-6 per cent. I think that this is one of the best indicators on a global scale. We invest mainly in education, as we are sure that only educated and trained people can ensure long-term development. The literacy rate in Azerbaijan is close to 100 per cent. We invest a lot in the health sector. Over the past 15 years, more than 600 modern hospitals have been built and reconstructed. Currently, more than 5 million people, half of our population, undergo free medical examination every year. Thanks to this, people stay healthy.
Our economic indicators are also reflected in the assessments of such international organizations as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Their assessments of our reforms are very positive. In addition, the latest economic competitiveness report published by the Davos Economic Forum ranks Azerbaijan in 35th place in the global competitiveness index. Last time we were in 37th place, but now we are 35th. We are the first among the CIS countries, and being 35th among 140 countries is a great success indeed. It is not us saying this. It is Davos saying this. The economy of Azerbaijan is developing successfully. We are paying great attention to the non-oil sector. This year, our economic growth constitutes 20-30 per cent, while growth in agricultural exports exceeds 50 per cent. Thus, economic diversification is already a reality. Therefore, despite the fact that the sharp drop in oil prices created certain problems for us, we managed to cope with these problems in a very short time. Of course, Azerbaijan is known as a country rich in energy resources and investing a lot in transporting them to world markets. Currently, our oil accounts for 25-30 per cent in the energy balance of some member countries of the European Union. Thus, we are playing a part in the energy security of many countries. A new mega-oil contract with a consortium of leading international energy companies has recently been signed. This contract will allow us the opportunity to develop our giant oil fields until 2050. To maintain a stable oil production profile, tens of billions will be invested additionally. Of course, the project on the transportation of natural gas from Azerbaijan to European markets is one of the most important issues on the European energy agenda these days, and we are working on this issue in close cooperation with the European Commission. Azerbaijan has become the driving force in the development of the Southern Gas Corridor project. To date, seven countries have joined this project. These are Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania and Italy. A number of Balkan countries intend to join this project as well. Minimum reserves of natural gas are 2.6 trillion cubic meters. This is a high figure which will increase, as we are currently exploring new giant gas fields. So we are talking about immense reserves. We are building a pipeline that would connect Azerbaijan with Europe, Italy through the countries mentioned.
The length of the pipeline is 3,500 kilometers. The associated construction work is also well under way. We do hope that next year will be the first phase and the project will be completed in 2020. The cost of this project is at least $40 billion. Azerbaijan acts as an active investor in the Southern Gas Corridor project and makes its contribution. The financial resources we have accumulated are sufficient to implement any project – they currently exceed $40 billion. We have a small external debt – less than 20 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. Therefore, we do not have any problem attracting international funds. Everyone we do is mainly aimed at achieving our goals in the Southern Gas Corridor project.
To implement other infrastructure projects and those carried out at the local level, we use budget funds. Therefore, the future of Azerbaijan, of course, seems even brighter in terms of economy and energy security. I have no doubt about that at all.
Another issue I would like to touch upon is related to transport. This sphere represents value not only for us. In projects such as the development of energy resources, it is difficult to achieve success without cooperation in the field of transport at the regional or continental level. So our goal is to turn Azerbaijan into an important regional transport hub. To this end, we already invested heavily in the past. We have modernized all the highways connecting our country with neighboring countries. We have built six international airports and upgraded the aircraft fleet to transport both passengers and cargo. We are in the process of actively modernizing the railway infrastructure. Azerbaijan has the largest commercial fleet in the Caspian Sea – we have about 300 vessels. In Baku, we have a modern shipbuilding plant capable of building all types of ships. We are actually doing this work. Next year we commission the largest international seaport in the Caspian Sea. The port’s maximum volume of cargo handling and cargo shipment will be 25 million tons a year. All this is being done to establish links with our neighbors – close and not very close ones. The East-West transport corridor will be in operation very soon. It represents a route from Asia to Europe passing through the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan. It will be the shortest transport route from Asia to Europe. Another route passes from the south to the north or from the south to the west – it also passes through Azerbaijan, which has invested in it.
Of course, this will allow us the opportunity to receive more money from the non-oil sector in the future. This will multiply the geopolitical significance of the country, because if a landlocked country that does not have access to open markets and open seas creates a transport center that represents an integrated system consisting of rail and air, road and sea communications, I think this is a major asset.
I would also like to touch upon the last issue related to our cooperation with the European Union. In February of this year, I had a very successful visit to Brussels. A day after the visit, we started official negotiations on a new agreement between the European Union and Azerbaijan. According to the information available to me, the negotiations are proceeding successfully. We do not want any delays. We want a speedy conclusion of these negotiations. We want to mark the opening of a new page in our relations with the European Union. Europe is our main trading partner. We have traditional ties with Europe. In the 19th century, European capital was invested in Azerbaijan. there is a cultural heritage of European culture in Azerbaijan. This is reflected in the fact that the first ballet in the Muslim world was staged in Azerbaijan, the first theater was created in Azerbaijan and the first democratic republic was founded in Azerbaijan in 1918. All this has experienced mainly European influence. The republic existed for only two years, after which we were deprived of our independence. But in these two years the Azerbaijani people demonstrated that they were moving towards modernity and modernization. One of the most important achievements of that time was giving women the right to vote – in fact, it happened earlier than in many European countries. So European heritage has always been present in Azerbaijan. We hope that with the new agreement, which includes all important issues such as security, political development, trade, energy, transport, multiculturalism, we will achieve a successful development of relations with the European Union. At the same time, we wasted no time and worked hard in a bilateral format with member-countries of the European Union. Today Azerbaijan has a format of strategic partnership with more than a third of the member-countries of the European Union – either in the form of an agreement or a declaration. Thus, we are considered strategic partners for more than a third of the member-countries of the European Union. I think this is a good basis for a further agreement between the European Union and Azerbaijan. As I said, we expect a lot from my successful visit to Brussels. The results were very good. Thank you for your attention!
x x x
Then chairman of the Political and Security Committee of the Council of the European Union Walter Stevens, France`s Permanent Representative to the Political and Security Committee of the Council of the European Union Nicolas Suran, Belgium`s Permanent Representative to the Political and Security Committee of the Council of the European Union Gergana Karadjova, Germany`s Permanent Representative to the Political and Security Committee of the Council of the European Union Michael Flügger made speeches.
Closing speech by President Ilham Aliyev
- First of all, I want to thank you for your assessment of the development of our country. You noted that you were last here in 2006. Great changes have taken place since then. This shows that the country is developing dynamically. This applies not only to Baku. In order to create ultimate opportunities for residents and business communities in all the regions of Azerbaijan, we have implemented ambitious projects related to infrastructure and development. At present, the situation is such that the regions are developing very successfully. The diversification of our economy has mainly been made possible through the creation of regional infrastructure and regional development. Major investment has been made in this sphere. At the beginning of the presidential term, in 2004, I said that we must turn black gold into human capital. Since that time, we have invested heavily in education and healthcare infrastructure. Appropriate work has been carried out to accommodate refugees and internally displaced persons. A total of 250,000 of them have been provided with new houses and apartments, and this process continues. Some of them still live in harsh conditions, but you probably also understand that these projects require large funds. We have spent billions of dollars for these people to live in better conditions.
The French Ambassador has touched upon the Nagorno-Karabakh issue here. It seems to us that Armenia is returning to the process of negotiations, which is an extremely important issue. Their policy aimed at boycotting the negotiations was, firstly, unintelligent and, secondly, ineffective. As far as I know, the Armenian leadership has received messages from various sources, including Europe, suggesting that this country cannot behave like that. Along with the occupation of territories, they have carried out ethnic cleansing and ravaged the occupied territories. After all this, they still put forward conditions for a resumption of talks. At the same time, I think today that the negotiating format should be renewed. In a few days, I will meet with the ambassadors of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries, and we will discuss further negotiations, as well as a possible meeting at the level of presidents. As for the approach to the conflict, our expectations, in particular, from the Eastern Partnership Summit, are that the European Commission should demonstrate a unified approach to all conflicts in the post-Soviet space. Otherwise, we will quite justifiably perceive this as an approach from the standpoint of double standards. Therefore, it is very important that the issue of territorial integrity be clearly stated in the text of the final declaration related to Nagorno-Karabakh. In general, when such issues are discussed in all international formats, our position is that there should be a unified approach to all conflicts. As for the issue of the territorial integrity of all countries, we recognize the territorial integrity of all states. We openly express this position in the elections held in the UN General Assembly and the Council of Europe. This is not a question for us – we respect the territorial integrity of any country. In addition, we believe that without the consent of the leadership and people of the country, its borders cannot be changed. Today we see what is happening in Spain and Iraq and, finally, the international community is beginning to pay more attention to issues related to separatism because separatism poses a serious threat. I believe that it is very easy to establish a balance between territorial integrity and self-determination. If we pay attention to the Helsinki Final Act, we can see that everything is stated quite clearly there. While arguing that both principles are equal, Armenia is trying to manipulate public opinion. Self-determination should not violate territorial integrity. As for the future of Nagorno-Karabakh, our position has always been that the Azerbaijanis must return to Nagorno-Karabakh, to their ancestral lands in the future, and Armenians should live in Nagorno-Karabakh together with them.
Azerbaijan is a multiethnic and multi-confessional country. You have also indicated that. It is known that religious and ethnic tolerance in our country is at a high level. We are known as one of the centers of multiculturalism. Last year was declared a "Year of Multiculturalism" in Azerbaijan. Representatives of all ethnic and religious groups live in Azerbaijan in the conditions of peace, like one family. I view this as an important element of our successful development. In fact, I think that this issue should become a topic of discussion and be included in the agreement. Along with the role of a geographical bridge between Europe and the Muslim world, Azerbaijan plays the role of a cultural and to some extent even a political bridge. In 2008, we launched the "Baku Process". In that year, we invited relevant ministers of the member-countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to attend a meeting of the Ministers of Culture of the member-states of the European Council. Representatives of more than 100 countries met for the first time. Today this is called the "Baku process".
This process continues to evolve and is supported by the UN. The role of Azerbaijan as a modern and secular Muslim country is growing, and I would say that the work we are carrying out to support the status of secularism in our country is of great importance not only for us, but also for the whole region.
As for the issues related to international terrorism, what I said earlier is directly related to this. Our position is that it is impossible to achieve success in the fight against international terrorism by military means alone, because it is first of all necessary to defend oneself from ideological threats. It is necessary to provide people with adequate standards of living and comfort, so that people were satisfied with life. They must receive education. As I have already noted, the level of literacy in Azerbaijan is close to 100 per cent.
Gradually, more and more well educated young people work in various senior positions in Azerbaijan. This is the main obstacle to extremism. Terrorism is the end-result of a process. Manipulation, illiteracy, propaganda, discontent, social inequality, poverty, unemployment and, finally, terrorism. In other words, all these factors must be eliminated. Unemployment is at 5 per cent in Azerbaijan. It could actually be even less, but some people want not to work and just receive donations from the state. We have practically eliminated poverty. In 2003, this indicator was at 49 per cent, but today it is at 6 per cent. It should also be taken into account that, in contrast to Armenia, our population is growing. Their population is declining. Our population increases by more than 100,000 people each year. Therefore, it is a very serious achievement that unemployment is kept at a low level. Of course, we are making our contribution to international efforts in the field of combating terrorism. In this sense, there are no internal threats in our country. All threats come from outside.
The Bulgarian Ambassador noted the issues of energy and transport. Bulgaria is our good partner in the development of the energy sector. I do hope that Bulgaria will receive Azerbaijani gas in three years. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the development of the energy sector in Azerbaijan is not limited to our borders. As for our energy security, all the work has been done. We are exporting oil, gas and electricity in various directions. We have seven pipelines. Three of them transport oil – two go to the Black Sea and one to the Mediterranean. The number of gas pipelines is four. Through them we can transport gas in all directions – to Georgia, Turkey, Iran and Russia. The latest and largest gas pipeline stretches from Baku to Italy. Its construction is under way. We have done all the work to create a modern transport infrastructure. Our stocks are known. The market is fixed. The largest market for us is Europe, which will increasingly need gas. We know that the demand for natural gas in Europe will increase, and Azerbaijan is the only new energy source for Europe. At present, all other sources supplying Europe with gas are in use. Azerbaijan is a new source located nearby. Our reserves are large and have the potential to last for decades to come. We closely cooperate with the European Commission. We have been hosting meetings of the Advisory Council of the Southern Gas Corridor in Baku at the beginning of the year for the third time. These meetings are attended by vice-presidents of the European Commission.
As for the issues related to freedom and democratic development in Azerbaijan, I always recommend our colleagues and friends to pay attention to the essence of the matter. Azerbaijan is subjected to harsh media attacks. Certain circles that are not happy with our development or want to dominate in Azerbaijan are trying to tarnish our country. They are trying to present it as a totalitarian and authoritarian country where rights and freedoms are violated. This is a certain trend. Since I was elected president, this trend has accompanied our government. There are various reasons for that. One of them is the Armenian lobby and diaspora, which has deep political, public and media roots in the West. They account for a significant portion of the slander campaign. But they are not alone. This list also includes certain NGOs, certain external circles that cannot get what they want from us and are not pleased with the fact that Azerbaijan pursues an independent policy, does not interfere in the affairs of others and does not allow others to interfere in its internal affairs.
There may be other factors here, but the main thing is that a campaign of slander and disinformation is being conducted against us. But if you look at the essence, you will see that Azerbaijan is a democratic country. We have been a member of the Council of Europe since 2001. It is possible to say that our legislation fully corresponds to European standards. All freedoms are guaranteed in Azerbaijan. More than 70 per cent of our population is Internet users. The government invests heavily in broadband Internet in all our cities and towns. In other words, there can be no talk of us restricting the freedom of the press. We have no such intention. Otherwise, we would not do all this. Another freedom is the freedom of assembly. This freedom is also fully ensured. There are no restrictions, and the opposition holds rallies on a regular basis. The fact that these rallies are attended only by about a thousand people is the topic of a separate conversation. These are mostly party members and their relatives. These rallies do not attract normal and ordinary citizens, and this is not our fault. These rallies are held in the city center, not far from a metro station, there are no restrictions and the latest rally, I think, took place just a week ago. So there is no talk of any kind of intention and action connected with the restriction of freedom. As for arrests, they occur in any country. As for police violence, I can say that you will not see that in Azerbaijan because there is no such thing here. Sometimes we see police violence in the countries you represent. At the same time, no-one accuses you of the lack of democracy and violence. We remember only too well the scenes of dogs attacking peaceful demonstrators. We see on television horses and batons being used. In other words, the approach should be objective and uniform from this point of view. It is wrong to undermine the authority of Azerbaijan for something it did not do. At the same time, while the actions of states that are considered to be symbols of democracy are perceived normally, we should not be criticized for similar steps. However, there is no doubt that issues related to human rights and democratic development will become an integral part of our agreement with the European Commission.
The issue of withdrawal from the Council of Europe was also touched upon here. You are familiar with our media. I do not have information related to the fact that a certain Azerbaijani official expressed such an opinion. However, the media are at liberty to write whatever they want. We, of course, react to public sentiments, and any government should, first of all, take public opinion into account. Unfortunately, public opinion related to the Council of Europe is not particularly positive. There are a number of reasons for that. First, when we joined this organization, our expectations were related to the fact that it would help us with the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. However, the Council of Europe did not succeed in this. This did not work, and it will not work. Secondly, at the beginning of our membership I was the first head of our delegation. At that time, I was a member of the Azerbaijani parliament and in 2001-2003 led the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In other words, I know what this organization is and how it treats Azerbaijan. The attitude was extremely negative. We joined this organization on the same day with Armenia and could compare the extremely negative attitude towards Azerbaijan with a positive attitude towards Armenia. Armenia, where elections are constantly falsified, where politicians are killed in the parliament, where terrorism has been adopted at the level of official policy, a country which occupied the territory of another state and caused suffering to millions of people as a result of war crimes, was always cared for by lobby groups in PACE. At the same time, Azerbaijan was always subjected to attacks. Unfortunately, some official representatives of the Council of Europe have recently organized new attacks on Azerbaijan. They threaten us with the abolition of membership and introduction of sanctions against us. Naturally, our politicians, MPs, journalists and citizens demonstrate an adequate response. First of all, let them ensure the implementation of more than 10,000 decisions taken by the European Court of Human Rights in connection with their member-countries. Only after that can they talk of the expulsion of Azerbaijan from the organization or sanctions. If this happened, this would become a celebration of double standards. While more than 10,000 decisions of the European Court are not executed for various reasons, Azerbaijan executes these decisions, pays compensation if necessary and behaves very constructively in general. Therefore, targeted attacks on Azerbaijan are rather disappointing and lead to thoughts such as "why do we need such an organization after all?" In order for such thoughts not to prevail, we should work constructively. I believe that one of the ways is to strengthen our relations with the European Commission and the European Union. This is a priority for us. For 16 years now, we have been a member of the Council of Europe.
Let me tell you frankly, as a friend – if Azerbaijan leaves the Council of Europe, no-one will pay any attention to that. Nothing will change in our lives. We will not become any better or worse, richer or poorer. Human rights and democracy will continue to be in our spotlight. We are doing this not to please the Secretary General of the Council of Europe who is currently at the center of unfounded attacks on Azerbaijan. We are doing this for the development of our country. As for European institutions, I would like to note once again that the European Union is our priority, and your visit proves that Azerbaijan is also considered an important partner for Europe.
Thank you for the invitation to participate in the Summit on Eastern Partnership. I received this invitation from President Tusk in February and said that I would definitely take part in the summit. I think it is very important to be there. Azerbaijan has supported the "Eastern Partnership" program from the very beginning. I personally attended the first Summit on Eastern Partnership and took part in all the summits except for the last one. You probably know why I was absent. Today there is no reason to bypass this important meeting. In other words, we have high hopes for it. At the same time, my disagreement from the very beginning was due to the fact that it is necessary to adopt a completely different approach to member-states because these countries are different. We live in Azerbaijan. We are a modern and independent country that has broad capabilities, lives at its own expense, and provides itself in terms of politics, security, economic and financial resources. This is why we were invited to this group. However, since that time, two countries in the group are now members of the Eurasian Economic Union and three countries have signed an association agreement. The remaining country Azerbaijan is currently working on a partnership agreement. Therefore, the application of a more individual approach to countries has been the backbone of our position from the very beginning. Unfortunately, previous European commissions did not perceive our approach positively. On the contrary, we were sometimes attacked. We were accused as a party requiring some kind of a special arrangement. This is not true. In fact, we wanted to establish a special contact with the commission. The start of active negotiations on the agreement actually shows that this approach begins to prevail. This is good. The Eastern Partnership, of course, is an important framework. However, the most important issue in this framework, it seems to me, is a separate agreement between Azerbaijan and the European Commission.
As for the last point I wanted to touch upon, I must tell the Ambassador of Germany that this year marks the 200th anniversary of German settlements in Azerbaijan. They laid the foundation of two or three cities in the western part of our country. First Germans came to Azerbaijan 200 years ago. We are preserving this heritage in the western cities of Azerbaijan. We have restored the German church and the famous wine barns. They produced good wine. The houses built 200 and 100 years ago are still preserved.
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