After the signing ceremony, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Federal President of the Republic of Austria Heinz Fischer held a press conference.
First the heads of state made statements.
Statement by President Ilham Aliyev
- Dear Mr. President!
Dear guests, ladies and gentlemen!
Mr. President, let me salute you in Azerbaijan. Welcome to our country! We are attaching great importance to your visit. This is the first visit of the President of Austria to Azerbaijan in the history of our relations. I am very pleased that the visit has been successful. I am sure that your visit will produce very good results.
Today we have discussed a broad agenda of our bilateral relations. This discussion shows that Austrian-Azerbaijani relations are at a very high level. Political ties are strengthening, and your visit to Azerbaijan is a good example of that. Political consultations are ongoing, there is cooperation at different levels. In short, the high level of political ties certainly gives an impetus to the development of relations in all other areas.
Today we have also discussed issues of regional cooperation. Regional security issues are very important to us. I informed you about the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and the current situation. I want to reiterate that the Azerbaijani side hopes that the conflict will be resolved soon and Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity recognized by the international community will be restored. As a result of the conflict, 20 per cent of our land has been occupied. Nearly one million Azerbaijanis became refugees and IDPs in their native land. We have been exposed to a policy of ethnic cleansing.
International organizations, in particular the UN Security Council, have adopted very important resolutions. There are four UN Security Council resolutions calling for an unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied lands. Similar decisions have been passed by the OSCE, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and other international organizations. I hope that the conflict will be resolved in the near future and Azerbaijan's territorial integrity will be restored.
Today we also touched upon economic issues. Cooperation in this area has also been successful. There are 40 Austrian companies operating in Azerbaijan. Their activities are very successful. We are very pleased with their work. The upcoming Austrian-Azerbaijani business forum will also contribute to the development of ties in this area. I have no doubt about that. Austrian companies are involved in various projects here, and the Azerbaijani side is very satisfied with their participation.
We have also touched upon energy cooperation. There are good results in this area too. Particularly important among the documents signed is the one between OMV and SOCAR. Azerbaijan is successfully pursuing its energy policy. Our oil and gas fields serve the energy security of both our own country and partners.
Earlier this year, the European Union and Azerbaijan adopted a very important declaration on the Southern Gas Corridor. As a result of this declaration favorable conditions and opportunities will emerge for energy cooperation between the European continent and Azerbaijan. We have rich natural gas deposits. Our proven gas reserves constitute 2.6 trillion cubic meters. I am sure that this figure will increase even more in the future. Currently, there are excellent opportunities for the implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor project. The source, i.e. Azerbaijan’s gas resources, and the attention of European institutions to the issue are at a high level. This issue has a special place on the agenda of relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan. I do hope that all the other issues, including transit, will soon be resolved. Thus, new major markets will open for Azerbaijani gas.
There is excellent co-operation in the sphere of culture. Today we will conduct a wonderful event. A statue of world famous composer Mozart will be unveiled in Baku. This will have a positive impact on our cultural cooperation and contribute to the communication between people.
In other words, Mr. President, your visit is very important for a further development of Austrian-Azerbaijani relations. Let me warmly welcome you to Azerbaijan again and wish you and your delegation a good mood during your visit to Azerbaijan.
Statement by President Heinz Fischer
- Dear Mr. President!
Dear ladies and gentlemen!
First of all, I want to thank you again for this hospitality and for the invitation. During this visit I am accompanied by many government members. I have come here with a large delegation. The delegation includes scientists. This shows that we are paying a lot of attention to relations with your country and that the development of relations is in our interests too. Thank you again for your hospitality. I also want to thank you for an open and interesting exchange of views. You have created these conditions. We have held negotiations in both bilateral and expanded formats, face-to-face and then with the participation of delegations.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you on the 20th anniversary of the restoration of Azerbaijan’s state independence. You will celebrate this anniversary on 18 October. I am sure that every observer and visitor of your country can witness the progress you have achieved, especially in the last decade. These achievements are obvious. They can be clearly seen in the streets of Baku. This rapid development is evident. During the visit this was shown and explained to us.
Austria was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with you, to recognize your country. The path of independence, this 20-year road also means 20 years of our diplomatic relations. We have made certain progress in recent years.
Economic issues, as you have pointed out, were in the foreground of our negotiations. These were issues relating not only to bilateral relations but also to our relations with Europe. For example, Nabucco. In this project, we see the expression of important interests and positions of both the European Union and Austria.
We want to be sure that European energy security is in safe hands. A reliable cooperation with you contributes to that and covers different areas. The implementation of various projects is a great foundation. During our conversations we were further convinced that Azerbaijan attaches great importance to these relations. We consider your thoughts about this very important and we want to interpret them correctly. Nabucco is not the only project in this cooperation. We are witnessing a collaboration with a number of companies and there is no need to enumerate them. But I must say that you support their activities. There is excellent cooperation particularly in the areas of construction, laying of streets and the technological sphere. Cooperation in the areas of health, infrastructure and management is also at a high level. These are the topics we have exchange views on, and the good cooperation with you is showing itself.
Thank you very much again for the information provided and for your opinion.
We are in favor of a negotiated settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We are urging all parties to be ready for talks and return to the negotiating table. We support the activities of the OSCE Minsk Group, so that it shows a strong will to resolve the conflict.
We also talked about human rights, freedom of the press. I am pleased with some fair remarks and the discussion of our attitudes to this area. We have assumed certain obligations within the UN framework to demonstrate good things in the right areas and offer our services. Let me also note that UN resolutions in this area must also be executed.
We have exchanged views on the current developments, in particular the development of the European Union. We have expressed optimism and confidence that our political and economic relations will develop, that the European Union will secure its own future in the political and economic terms. Our relationship and cooperation, our proximity have a positive impact on the relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union. And Austria supports that.
Mr. President, thank you very much. If there are any questions, we will be happy to answer them. We are open for questions.
Х Х Х
Then the Presidents answered questions from journalists.
Х Х Х
Markus Muller-Schinwald (Austrian TV and Radio company ORF): President Aliyev, President Fischer, can you please say after your negotiations what three consortia will win the project on the transit of Azerbaijani gas and what project you are giving preference to?
I must say that the European Union and Azerbaijan adopted a Declaration on the South Gas Corridor earlier this year. The declaration was signed in Baku by European Commission President Mr. Barroso and myself. The declaration states that both sides will make effort to implement the Southern Gas Corridor. Simultaneously, the European Commission and our Ministry of Industry and Energy set up a joint working group. The activities of this working group are positive. All these options and projects must certainly be analyzed. Proposals have recently been made. These proposals will be considered. The most acceptable option for Azerbaijan, our partners and major investors will be chosen.
Azerbaijan possesses a huge gas potential. I have already talked about that and provided some figures. Of course, we are interested in realizing our gas potential to the maximum extent. Shah Deniz, our primary gas project, is now in the foreground. But at the same time, the Umid field, recently discovered by SOCAR, is very reassuring. The Absheron field, discovered by Total and Gaz de France of late, also has large gas reserves. I can say that over the past year Azerbaijan’s proven gas reserves have increased by about 600 billion cubic meters. Therefore, the commercial terms of the three projects, their timing and technical parameters will play a major role. This must be a decision that would enable us not to lose time and allow Azerbaijan to maximize its gas exports. We are discussing ways of combining these two components. Let me repeat that this is a decision we must make together. The volume of investment envisaged under the second stage of the Shah Deniz project is expected at about $20 billion. Of course, the opinion of key investors should be taken into account and the interests of Azerbaijan ensured.
Thus far, our energy cooperation has been built on these principles. The interests of investors, Azerbaijan and now also the interests of European countries should play a role in this matter. Mr. President and I have had a broad exchange on this today, and as Mr. President has said very accurately, it is a win-win situation for all parties – for Azerbaijan as the owner of resources, for transit countries and for consumers. This can be done. So I think the right decision will soon be made, a decision that will satisfy all our potential customers.
President Heinz Fischer: For my part I can say that, according to my information, consortia have made their proposals. They submitted their proposals a few days ago. The proposals are under consideration now. The Austrians and Europeans, I believe, adhere to a special and good position towards Nabucco. We take a special interest in this project. For Austria it is especially good because this pipeline would lead right to Austria. And we have the opportunity to access other consumers. There are 100 million Europeans living around us, they have the opportunity to use this gas. These are Germany, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia – they are our neighbors. This will be intended not only for our neighbors, but for the whole of Europe. I think this project is also important for Azerbaijan. It is important for us to achieve confidence in planning.
Jeyhun Guliyev (Azerbaijan television): I have a question for the President of Austria. Mr. President, as you know, Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan has continued for more than 20 years. As a result of Armenia's policy of ethnic cleansing, one million of our fellow countrymen have become refugees and IDPs. But Armenia does not stop its aggressive and expansionist policy. This conflict poses a threat to peace and security in the region. We would like to find out Austria’s specific position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Thank you very much.
President Heinz Fischer: During our one-on-one meeting I expressed our position to Mr. President. We have exchanged views on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We have sincerely tried to reconcile our opinions. We too are interested in a settlement of the conflict. I understand you perfectly well. It is an important issue for Azerbaijan. It is a disaster for Azerbaijan. Certain events have taken place, there are refugees who cannot return to their homes. The potential for conflict remains. From this standpoint, such conflicts should be resolved peacefully in the 21st century. This is Austria’s position. Austria is categorically opposed to a military settlement, no matter what continent this may happen on. Because the use of force is not an option and leads to a further use of force. Austria is in favor of a negotiated settlement of this conflict. This territorial conflict should be resolved with the aid by other states, through the efforts of the Minsk Group.
Ivan Novak (Austrian Press Agency): President Aliyev, I want to ask you a question about the economy. Austrian company OMV is trying to be actively engaged in gas production and imports in Azerbaijan. They believe that SOCAR will enter the Nabucco consortium. What is your assessment of such a possibility? Can SOCAR join the Nabucco consortium?
President Ilham Aliyev: We have repeatedly met with the esteemed president of OMV, Mr. Roiss, both in Baku and in other capitals, and conducted a very frank exchange of views on this issue. The relations between OMV and SOCAR are at a high level, and the document signed today is a good example of that. There may be and there are different proposals, and they are being considered. Of course, we must choose the most acceptable option for all parties. I think that among the important achievements at this stage we should note the presence of good opportunities for the Southern Gas Corridor project. I can also say that Azerbaijan is the only country among owners of gas reserves that officially supports the Southern Gas Corridor, and this support is not limited to the document between the European Union and Azerbaijan signed earlier this year. Back in 2009, when energy issues were discussed at the European Union summit, Azerbaijan signed a similar document. So this is our conscious choice, we want to deliver our gas resources to world markets by various routes, and at present Azerbaijani gas is delivered to consumers in different ways. In the future, after our major gas field has been developed, we will certainly need new markets. At the same time, we intend to export our gas to existing markets even more. Being part of a project is, on the one hand, huge responsibility, but, on the other, it is a great advantage. After weighing up this responsibility and the advantages involved, we must make the right decision. If Azerbaijan and investors give preference to the Nabucco project, then, of course, specific proposals to become a member of Nabucco will be considered. These proposals will be analyzed in order to find out what our financial obligations will be. Will SOCAR want to become an investor in this project? Or will it simply provide its gas? So all these issues must be discussed. Of course, in the first place we must carefully analyze the commercial aspects and choose the most commercially viable option.
Albina Atlikhanova (Azerbaijan state telegraph agency AzerTaj): I have a question for the Austrian President. Mr. President, what is your assessment of mutual investment opportunities between Austria and Azerbaijan? Thank you very much.
President Heinz Fischer: In recent years we have proved that we are moving upwards and deepening our trade, economic and investment relations. I think this is good for both sides, and we will continue this course. From the standpoint of this exchange policy, from a geographical point of view and the size of our countries, and from the standpoint of population, we have the same parameters and we understand each other very well. Mr. President has mentioned that Austrian companies are successfully operating in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani side is aware how well they work, build hotels and share in the events taking place here. To do this, they bring the workforce, the construction of these hotels further enhances the exchange of experience. We have even signed a memorandum of cooperation in this issue. If Mr. President comes to Austria, and I would like to take this opportunity to invite him to our country, we can provide information about our opportunities in terms of this investment, in the area of exports and imports, and in relation to gas. I hope you will pay a visit which will be crowned with good news about Nabucco.
Х Х Х
On the same day, President Ilham Aliyev and President Heinz Fischer participated in the Azerbaijani-Austrian business forum and a ceremony to unveil a statue of great Austrian composer Wolfgang Mozart.