President Ilham Aliyev and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen have held a joint press conference.
First, the President of Azerbaijan and the NATO Secretary General made statements for the press.
Statement by President Ilham Aliyev
- Dear Mr. Secretary General!
Ladies and gentlemen!
I want to welcome you to our country again. I am very glad that you are paying a visit to Azerbaijan. We attach great importance to your visit to our country. It is a symbol of our partnership and friendship. I also recall our meeting in Brussels in February. We had a very frank and open discussion on issues of mutual interest. This active dialogue between NATO and Azerbaijan is very important for regional stability and cooperation. Azerbaijan is a reliable partner of NATO. I also recall a meeting with the ambassadors of the North Atlantic Council and their comments after our discussions. All those comments formed a positive attitude associated with our country. This indicates that we have very good relations with member-states and at a bilateral level. The relations between Azerbaijan and NATO member-states are very broad, predictable and friendly. This, in turn, further enhances the current relations between NATO and Azerbaijan.
We are working on many issues. One of these issues is the situation in Afghanistan. Azerbaijan has participated in the peacekeeping operation and contributed to the International Security Assistance Force mission from the first day. We have doubled the number of our troops in Afghanistan. We also make a contribution by supporting the deployment, transit and logistics, including the use of air space. Today, over 30 per cent of nonmilitary cargo sent to Afghanistan is transported via Azerbaijan. We are ready to continue our work. As Mr. Secretary General noted today, this work will be continued after 2014. We are ready to participate in the development process beyond 2014. We also participate in training and nonmilitary assistance programs. We have helped the trustee fund of the Afghan national army and made a statement for further assistance. In other words, this is a very sincere and open cooperation based on common values.
We will do everything possible to ensure that our Afghan friends are able to eliminate all the difficulties arising in front of them.
Today we also discussed the situation in the region, regional security and the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan aims for an early resolution of the conflict based on the principles of international law and territorial integrity. We are very grateful to NATO for its support of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. This is reflected in the documents of the Chicago summit, as well as the previous Lisbon and Bucharest summits. Azerbaijani lands have been under occupation for practically 20 years. We must put an end to this injustice, remove this regional threat.
One of the topics we discussed was energy security. Azerbaijan is working closely with NATO member-states on this issue. We have discovered vast energy reserves, have a modern transportation infrastructure, pipelines. We plan to build a new TANAP pipeline through which we can transport our resources to European markets. As a reliable partner in the field of energy security, Azerbaijan is ready to continue its efforts and strengthen this partnership. I am sure that this partnership will be continued, and considering the fact that we are already working with member-states on issues of energy security, it will be successful. The share of Azerbaijani oil in the energy balance of some member-countries exceeds 30 per cent. I am sure that there will come a time when our gas will also play a major role in gas consumption in Europe, for our friends and neighbors.
Mr. Secretary General! I want to sincerely welcome you to Azerbaijan again. This is your first visit to our country. We are very happy that you are paying this visit. This visit will allow us to build even better relations and a better cooperation between NATO and Azerbaijan. Thank you.
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Statement by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
- Mr. President!
I express my deep gratitude for your kind words and warm welcome. I am very satisfied with my first visit to Baku. This indicates that NATO is committed to the South Caucasus region and will remain as such. Azerbaijan is an important partner for NATO. Our relations are developing steadily and positively. We appreciate the strong support of your troops in Afghanistan. They are providing exemplary service. You can be proud of them.
We also appreciate your political support for NATO through the use of air space and transit routes. We are grateful for your significant financial contribution to the training of Afghan security forces. Together we came to an agreement to continue our support to the Afghan side after the mission of International Security Assistance Force in 2014. I was pleased to hear from President Aliyev that Azerbaijan will participate in this process. This is vital to the stability in Afghanistan and the region.
NATO supports Azerbaijan in the areas of defense and security reforms. We want you to keep up the momentum in these important areas. We also assist in the removal of numerous unexploded shells and clearing hundreds of acres of land from them. This is the largest project among similar ones in the world and it serves the interests of the people. So our dialogue and cooperation have strong frames. We are determined to continue our success, enhance the practical experience of our armed forces which they acquired over the years of joint operations in Afghanistan, joint removal of security challenges faced by all in the globalizing world in the 21st century. In other words, Azerbaijan is a valuable partner for NATO and NATO is for Azerbaijan. We have the opportunity to build a strong, long-term partnership, and I am sure we should try to use this opportunity. Thank you.
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Then the head of state and the NATO Secretary General answered questions from journalists.
AFP: Mr. Rasmussen, after the pardoning of Ramil Safarov, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan told the Armenian Security Council meeting: “Azerbaijan has only itself to blame now.” Then the Armenian terrorist organization ASALA made threats against citizens of Azerbaijan. As Secretary General of NATO, what is your attitude towards the Armenian President’s appeals for terror?
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Naturally, NATO allies condemn terrorism in all its forms. We call on all responsible political leaders to refrain from encouraging terrorism. As for the local, regional situation, there is a strong need for reducing tension, promoting cooperation and peace. I am very concerned about the situation. We hope to see a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. NATO defined its position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at the Chicago summit. NATO is not an organization that is directly involved in the search for a solution to this conflict, we support the Minsk process. Based on this, we hope to see a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev: Allow me to add a few words. I would like to say a few words on the issue of Ramil Safarov. In response to the reaction, let me say that the decision on Ramil Safarov was made in accordance with the European Convention and the pardon decree of the President is in line with the Constitution of Azerbaijan. Therefore, from a general point of view the situation is quite clear. Those who try to accuse Azerbaijan of violating the convention or don’t know the reality seek to mislead public opinion. I also want to note that Armenia should not use this as an excuse for inflicting damage to the peace process with Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is committed to the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the basis of international law. The statement made by the Presidents of Minsk Group co-chairs countries encouraged us very much. The statement said that the status quo is unacceptable. This status quo must be changed. Armenia is trying to maintain the status quo.
The Kazan meeting in July last year was the latest attempt to find a peaceful solution. At present, the peace process is in a state of stagnation. I think that the international community and, above all, the Minsk Group should not allow Armenia to use this as an excuse for completely “freezing” the negotiations.
On the issue of Ramil Safarov, I want to say again that the decision was made in accordance with the norms and rules of international law. I just want to remind the Armenians. The man who committed an act of terror at the Orly airport in France in 2001, which led to the death of citizens of European countries and America, was extradited from France to Armenia. Although he was not a citizen of Armenia, the President pardoned him. I would not want to draw a parallel between the terrorist and our officer. Our officer has already served nine years of arrest. He was punished and the decision on his pardon is right from a legal point of view. The decision was made by the President and it is right.
Azerbaijan has returned its officer to his homeland.
“Azad Azerbaijan” TV: Mr. Secretary-General, as you know, Azerbaijani lands, including Nagorno-Karabakh, have been under Armenian occupation for almost 20 years. This conflict has led to the destruction of Azerbaijani villages and towns. More than a million of our citizens are still in the situation of refugees and IDPs. However, the negotiations within the OSCE for a peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have not yielded the desired result. What contribution can NATO make to a just settlement of the conflict?
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: As I mentioned in my previous response, NATO as an organization is not directly involved in the search for a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We support the process that is carried out by the Minsk Group and aims to settle this complex conflict peacefully. We stated our position in a declaration at the Chicago summit. We want to encourage the reduction of tension, cooperation and peace in the region.
President Ilham Aliyev: I want to take this opportunity to thank NATO for its position. As I noted earlier, it was reflected in the documents adopted at the Chicago and previous summits. We highly appreciate this position. I want to reiterate that an early settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict would serve the interests of all countries. It is in the interests of Azerbaijan, as it will allow us to return those affected by the occupation to their native lands. It is in the interests of Armenia, as the reduction of tension and normalization of relations between neighbors will serve their interests. So we hope that the position of Armenia will change, that they will resume active and constructive negotiations with Azerbaijan in order to find a solution to the conflict as soon as possible.