Press-conference of the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Austria was held
13 may 2013, 20:05
After the signing ceremony, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of the Republic of Austria Heinz Fischer held a press conference.
First the heads of state made statements.
Statement by President of the Republic of Austria Heinz Fischer
- Mr. President, I am exceedingly pleased to welcome you and your delegation here on an official visit to Austria.
I remember my visit to Azerbaijan, to Baku in autumn 2011. We had very fruitful discussions in Baku then and in Vienna now. There are many areas for our cooperation. The declaration we have just signed reflects the friendly relations and partnership between our two countries. For example, the declaration emphasizes our commitment to democracy, respect for human rights and the promotion of the rule of law in both countries. The document also notes the importance of a negotiated settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in accordance with the principles of international law.
I am very grateful to you for your opinion and information about the next possible steps to achieve improvements related to this protracted problem, to this conflict.
Of course, the main topic of our discussions was economic cooperation. It is very significant that one year after my visit to Baku, the negotiations we conducted and the Baku Business Forum, the export-import operations between the two countries have dramatically increased. This is a very good indicator. We are committed to the continuation of this. The Austrian side has provided the President and his staff with a list its companies have compiled, which covers various areas and proposals. There are proposals regarding the oil sector, healthcare, technology, the new airport, and cooperation in the field of tourism. Also reflected on it are railway equipment, infrastructure, the hospitality business, consulting and other issues. We have a lot of common projects and proposals for them. We are very pleased with that.
While in Azerbaijan, I informed the President about the Anti-Corruption Academy established on an international basis in Austria and Luxembourg. And I was very happy to receive information about Azerbaijan's accession to the Anti-Corruption Academy a few months later. This organization conducts training courses in public administration to conduct successful fight against corruption. All countries of the world to some extent feel the need to do so to ensure and improve the transparency of the economy. We are very pleased with our cooperation in this area.
We have reached agreement on the candidates within the UN framework. Austria supports Azerbaijan's candidacy for the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Azerbaijan supports a female candidate from Austria to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
Our meeting was held in a very positive, friendly and constructive atmosphere. Of course, we have also discussed the issue of "Nabucco". On this issue we share the same position, because we have common and shared interests. The next decision will be made in a few weeks. This may happen in June.
No matter what project will be given preference to, "Nabucco West" or TANAP, any decision will open up opportunities for our effective cooperation in the energy sphere.
This is all I wanted to say. Thank you very much.
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Statement by President Ilham Aliyev
- Thank you, Mr. President!
First of all, let me express my deep gratitude to you for the warm hospitality. We are very happy to visit your country and continue our dialogue.
We all remember your visit to Azerbaijan and the discussion we carried out. As you noted, we have experienced accelerated development in all areas of cooperation since then. I believe that the signing of the Declaration has been an important milestone in our bilateral relations. It holds a special place among all the documents signed between the two countries, as it reflects the essence of our cooperation and the history of our relations, and covers many areas. This is a very important declaration. This document confirms that our relations and partnership are at an excellent level.
In fact, these words describe the level of our cooperation. We have established strong political connections and are constantly in contact. We support each other and, as Mr. President has said, we will continue this support in international organizations.
At the same time, as far as economic cooperation is concerned, we have very good results. The turnover is growing and there is great potential. At the present time, many Austrian companies act as contractors performing major projects in Azerbaijan. These are projects in the fields of the tourism infrastructure, arts and architecture. Austrian companies are highly respected in Azerbaijan. They help us with many infrastructure projects Azerbaijan is currently implementing.
After a while today, we will have a meeting with representatives of the business community. I believe, Mr. President, that this event will also provide regular support for our cooperation. We also want even more Azerbaijani companies to work in Austria. We do hope that this will happen too.
From the point of view of investments, Austria is a very attractive country for Azerbaijani companies.
The State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan, which is one of the most transparent oil funds of the world, is looking for opportunities to invest. It is starting investment projects in Europe, hopefully, in Austria too.
As the President has said and as is mentioned in this declaration, we have discussed the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The conflict should be resolved on the basis of international law, decisions and resolutions of international organizations. Among them I would like to highlight four UN Security Council resolutions calling for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijani territories. Unfortunately, these resolutions have not been executed for 20 years and the occupation continues. More than a million Azerbaijanis have become refugees and internally displaced persons, subjected to a policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Unfortunately, Armenia ignores the statements by the presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries regarding the unacceptability of the status-quo.
The change of the status quo means the start of the liberation of Azerbaijani lands from the occupation. I believe that the sooner this happens, the faster the negotiation process will go and the atmosphere observed in the process of negotiations can change from negative to positive. The immediate commencement of the liberation of Azerbaijani lands from the occupation is the moment we are waiting for. We hope that the international community will play a more active role in this.
Of course, we have also discussed energy cooperation. This cooperation has good prospects.
Azerbaijan is a country which has not only supported the construction of the Southern Gas Corridor. In fact, we have started it. Since the last meeting with Mr. President in Baku we have made an important achievement. I am talking about the agreement reached with Turkey on the construction of the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline. This opens the doors for the Azerbaijani gas to the European continent. The discussions conducted with the European institutions and the European Union on the subject are always in the focus of our attention.
Azerbaijan has signed an Agreement on Strategic Partnership in the energy sector with the European Union. It describes Azerbaijan as the main force and initiator of the Southern Gas Corridor. I think that the Southern Gas Corridor will be successfully implemented.
Currently, the "Shah Deniz" consortium is evaluating the commercial aspect of the proposals. We do hope that the decision will be made in the near future and Azerbaijani gas will be delivered to the European continent as a result.
As we can see, both sides have a desire to expand the excellent relations, the relations of mutual understanding, and to strengthen high-level cooperation. I think that from this point of view this visit will play a role.
Dear Mr. President, thank you very much for your hospitality. I want to say that I loved the city of Vienna and this majestic palace, which reflects the rich history and heritage of your people.
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Then the heads of state answered questions from journalists.
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Austrian journalist: Mr. President, Azerbaijan is considered to be a friend of Turkey. There were explosions in Turkey at the week-end. Do you fear that the war ongoing in Syria may spread onto Turkey? My question is to both Presidents. In this case, should the international community react to this and, if so, how?
President Ilham Aliyev: Of course, it bothers us. I have expressed my deep condolences to the President and Prime Minister of Turkey in connection with such brutal acts of terrorism. Innocent people have been hurt again. Of course, we are concerned that terrorism continues to cause suffering to people. The fight against terrorism should be waged more actively. As a matter of fact, during Azerbaijan’s presidency at the UN Security Council, we put forward the issue of the fight against international terrorism and the need for consolidating the efforts of the international community. I think that on the whole the international community understands our position.
We should not make any distinction between terrorist organizations. Terrorist acts can have no justifications or valid reasons. Terrorism must be condemned by the international community. The international community needs to step up its efforts and exchange information to prevent terrorism.
Of course, Turkey is a friend of Azerbaijan. We have a great relationship and are concerned that the terrorist attacks could spread and bring suffering to innocent people.
President Heinz Fischer: My answer to your question lies in the fact that we have just touched upon the situation in Syria in our meeting. As you know, Azerbaijan is a member of the UN Security Council. Personally, I am convinced that the current government of Syria has aggravated its situation by creating an additional front against Turkey. I would even say that they have significantly exacerbated it.
Among the interesting developments of recent days I can point to the negotiations between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia and the US Secretary of State. If Russia and the United States reach an agreement on the suspension and termination of the conflict, it will be a big step forward. A positive decision of the Security Council is possible only if Russia and the United States reach an agreement on some fundamental issues related to the Security Council resolution.
My personal opinion is that such conflicts should always be resolved by political, not military means. If someone wants to resolve a conflict by force or stand-off, it may lead to serious consequences. In my view, the example of Iraq speaks volumes.
Vugar Seidov (Azerbaijan State Telegraph Agency AzerTAc): My question is for the President of Austria. What specific areas of the non-energy cooperation between the two countries could be expanded?
President Heinz Fischer: First of all, I am pleased to note that Austria is applying high technology to various fields. I am talking about the spheres of infrastructure, railways, construction, healthcare and construction of hospitals. We, as a friendly country, want and provide these technologies to Azerbaijan. Secondly, there is a sphere of tourism. This is a characteristic feature of Austria. Tourism is developed at a very high level here, it is known internationally. Azerbaijan is a beautiful country. Tourism is the second sphere and culture is third. There is close cooperation between universities.
The Academies of Sciences are very interested in cooperation. This is another area. Austria also works in the field of preservation of cultural heritage. We know that Austrian architects are involved in the restoration of key cultural heritage sites in Baku. All these are good examples. If we had time, I would note other areas too. That is the answer to your question.
Journalist: My question is to President Aliyev. Regarding the decision on the Southern Gas Corridor: do you expect this decision to be adopted at the end of June? And my second question is: if the "South Stream" project is implemented, how it will affect the implementation of "Nabucco"?
President Ilham Aliyev: We also expect the adoption of this decision in the near future. This will be a joint decision of the "Shah Deniz" group.
As Mr. President and I noted today, we hope that this decision will be made solely on the basis of commercial viability. As I said, we have made a big step towards realization of the Southern Gas Corridor. In particular, I mean the agreement on the TANAP project reached between Azerbaijan and Turkey. This will greatly facilitate the implementation of the project.
In short, we are ready to take on the major technical and financial liabilities. We are making a concrete contribution to the implementation of the strategic route, because as a result of its implementation Azerbaijan will become an important exporter of gas to the European continent. This will give us the opportunity to realize our huge gas potential and ensure the economic independence of our country in the coming decades and centuries.
We are very pleased with the level of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the European institutions and, as a partner, are doing specific work. As far as the projects being implemented in the region and those planned for the future are concerned, we are not worried about the competition. On the contrary, I believe that fair competition is a fundamental condition for success. It is also important for consumers as they will have more choice. It is profitable for producers, as they will work more efficiently. Therefore, we are not worried. But when it comes to diversification, I think that we all need to take into account that the main diversification is not the diversification of routes but of sources.