Ilham Aliyev gave interview to Ukrainian jounralists
25 october 2010, 17:18
President Ilham Aliyev gave interview to Ukraine’s National Telecompnay, “Profile-Ukraine” magazine, and “Den” newspaper.
- Mister President, your visit to Ukraine is expected. Eyeing strategic partnership between Ukraine and Azerbaijan, what are the points that you intend to discuss?
- Our bilateral relationship evolves successfully and dynamically, and our mutual political ties are at the highest level. Throughout long years and practically immediately after gaining independence, our countries maintain the closest mutual relations. Reciprocal co-operation in economic field is broadening, and it has a very good prospective. Considering these traditions and the bilateral relations formed already, I think that my visit will play an important role. I am sure that we will review wider agenda of bilateral relations and define future development ways of our ties in the framework of the visit. It goes without saying that issues related to reciprocal economic activities have tremendous importance particularly in post-crisis period and we can complement and support each other so actively by using the potential of both countries. Our economies do not compete with each other. I do hope that the course of active co-operation both in bilateral and regional formats between countries, including the course of our joint activities within international organizations will be affirmed.
- Early October, Ukraine-Azerbaijan Intergovernmental Commission held its first session during last four years. Is activation of economic ties linked to the new political team which came recently to power in Ukraine? Can we talk about start-up of a new stage in relations between two countries?
In your opinion, how real could seem the idea of Eurasian corridor for oil transportation? Once Odessa-Brody pipeline will run in obverse mode, what volumes can make the hope of Ukraine?
- Firstly, I should say that the new team as you stated is not new either for Ukraine or for us because we have been co-operating actively when Viktor Fyodorovich Yanukovych when he was the head of Ukrainian government and we had in mind the very important moments for our future economic interaction when he was on the visit to Azerbaijan with a big delegation in 2006. We know each other since long time and therefore, there is nothing new for us in our co-operation with new authorities in Ukraine. I am confident that relations formed between us in previous years will create today conditions to fill it with concrete content. When Viktor Fyodorovich was in power we have already met three times and had an opportunity to discuss thoroughly prospective of bilateral relations. Therefore, we would like to see our relations to be filled with concrete practice content in co-operation issues in the field of economic development and energy. As far as our relations and reciprocal political ties are concerned in the framework of international organizations, these ties are at the highest level. Ukraine has supported always Azerbaijan and vice versa either in United Nations or in other international organizations. This means that strong foundations exist for bilateral relations. It seems to us that indeed now there are good opportunities to concretize economic aspects of our relations, discuss issues on agenda and define the fields where there is a necessity for mutual investments. We consider very seriously possibilities of Azerbaijani companies to make investments to the Ukrainian economy. There are already some plans which envisage international companies enabling our companies to participate in the various infrastructure projects of both countries.
Of course, the issue you noted – the issue of co-operation in the field of energy and oil, as you know, has been always on agenda. On our side, we are ready to take part in this project because we work actively on the issue of diversification of energy resources either oil or natural gas. It is obvious that if Ukrainian side would wish such issues can be solved in more rational and soonest way. I have to say that some issues have found already its resolution. Sarmatia Company is founded; feasibility study is conducted and Azerbaijani oil is practically sent to the refineries in Ukraine. Therefore, it is necessary to discuss it once again in comprehensive manner and adopt some decisions to bring a new impetus to these issues and systematize these projects which are still heterogeneous. On our side, we are ready to participate in this project because as I stated already, we have the intention to diversify further our export.
- Can we talk now about some volumes?
- In principle, I can say that all of our today’s oil export potential is being realized by various pipelines – Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Supsa and Baku-Novorossiysk. This means that the entire oil exported by us is being delivered by these pipelines. Thus, today, there is no need to talk about some additional volume that is pending out of this line. Even if we increase the production which we intend to do the current capacity of all those pipelines will allow us to transport oil in all three directions.
As far as the co-operation issue with Ukraine in this field is concerned, there is no pipeline linking Azerbaijan to Ukraine. Therefore, today, oil from Azerbaijan flows to Ukrainian refineries from Ceyhan, and saying it in general, there is not the short way. This means that if oil will be delivered to those refineries from Black Sea ports, the economic viability of project will be even higher. Therefore, economic aspects of that project should be calculated very seriously. From political point of view, there is such a support from Azerbaijani side.
- According to the outcomes of meeting held by intergovernmental commission, Ukrainian side expressed its opinion about the necessity to elevate the level of trade turnover between our country up to USD2 billion. In your opinion, which goods and services can help us to increase trade turnover and how real do seem such ambitious plans of Ukraine?
- I think that if we will start an active co-operation in such a systematic way in the field of energy, then we can attain such result in the shortest period of time on the basis of long term contracts by taking into account issues discussed in the framework of intergovernmental commission. This could become the easiest way. Due to quite higher oil price, the volume of transported oil can be also increased very swiftly. This means that it would not require any particular efforts except political will and simply, correct feasibility study of the project. For the time being, it would be more interesting for us to increase our trade turnover at the expense of fields in economies which do not have active mutual reliance. First of all, this is related to communication means and ICT. We know that a particular attention is paid to this field in Ukraine and a lot is being also done in Azerbaijan in this direction. Co-operation in the fields of agriculture and food processing industry as well as mutual investments, participation of Azerbaijani companies in various investments projects in Ukraine related to energy or other fields, mobilization of our business resources can be named as examples. I think that business community of both countries should study better the potential of our economies in order to build this relationship in right way. It means that we are going to say in a way we like in Azerbaijan if we will be able to elevate the level of mutual trade turnover to USD 2 billion at the expense of non oil sector, I think that this will be a great service done by our governments.
- Let’s pass to the topic of gas which linked to oil. As known, Azerbaijan will supply a compressed gas to Romania, and currently, active discussions are underway on building the relevant plant in Odessa to liquify the natural gas and purchase compressed gas from Azerbaijan. Often times, foreign press reports that there is simply no enough volume of gas in Azerbaijan. What can you say about that?
- There were times when issues related to our oil reserves have been actively discusses in some mass media of foreign countries, and people were saying that there is no oil in Azerbaijan and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline will never be constructed and this pipeline will not run at full capacity without the oil of third countries. Of course, we knew at that time that such suggestions were not in conformity with realities. Today, we have constructed the pipeline which is the only energy corridor linking Azerbaijani reserves with world markets and shores of Mediterranean Sea. Today, oil reserves of Azerbaijan allow us to use fully the potential of this pipeline. When we have been starting the construction of this pipeline, the level of oil production in Azerbaijan was around 15-16 million tons. Today, following 4 years after the commissioning of this pipeline, over 50 million tons of oil is being produced in Azerbaijan. Therefore, it is obvious that the existence of reliable export routes paves the way for making investment in the field of oil and gas. As far as gas issue is concerned, it is more linked to the market, and therefore, oil can be sold at any corner of the world via pipeline or a place having access to the world ocean. Gas is linked directly to consumers. Today, our gas reserves approved at global scale make us to feel ourselves very comfortable in spite of some sponsored articles. I should point out that the volume of minimal proven gas reserves in Azerbaijan is equal to 2 trillion cubic meters while the volume of real reserves based upon the estimations of our geologists is almost 5 trillion cubic meters. It will allow us to export natural gas in big quantities during decades and even more than hundred years. Today, the level of gas production in Azerbaijan totals almost 30 billion cubic meters, and more exactly it is equal to 28.5 billion cubic meters. Internal gas consumption is around 10-11 billion cubic meters. This means that the remaining part is either exported or stored in subterranean warehouses or pumped back in oil strata to maintain the pressure. We can increase the level of gas production up to 40 and even 50 billion cubic meters in a short period of time, but we need contracts for that step. Therefore, we direct our main attention at defining new sales market. Today, we export our gas practically to all our neighbors – Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Iran and we dispose a possibility to increase the level in this direction. We do always search for new routes as well as those you have mentioned now.
- This August, petrol stations under the name of Azerbaijan State Oil Company were created in Odessa. How wider is the scope of projects in this direction? As known, Azerbaijan is one of the biggest customers of weaponry of Ukraine. Which projects you intend to implement in military industries in nearest future?
- I am very pleased that the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan – SOCAR makes already investments in this field. To the best of knowledge, there are already over 10 such stations. I know also that our company plans to extend its activities not only in Odessa, but also in other cities of Ukraine. Obviously, the future development of this field of our co-operation will depend on how successful will be the implementation of that project. Taking into account the transportation of Azerbaijani oil to refineries in Ukraine, we intend to develop this co-operation. In my opinion, the prospective of this field of our relations is promising. Having already a good image, SOCAR is the international company and investor in several countries. Investments made by this oil company in foreign countries have reached already several billion dollars, and it is absolutely obvious that we go to those countries where we have good bilateral relations. This constitutes the reason which stands behind our wish to work in Ukraine. This is a mutual wish. Therefore, I think that everything is on right track in this field. We expand already our co-operation in the field of energy.
There are also good traditions in the field of military industries. There are several years that Azerbaijan purchases military hardware and weaponry from Ukraine. We are very please with the level of this co-operation. There is a prospective to expand it because our current financial capabilities are very significant out of comparison with first years of independence. Next year, defense expenses of Azerbaijan will be higher than 3 billion USD. The larger part of these funds will be spent to purchase military hardware and produce such hardware in the country. There are already four years that we create military industries in Azerbaijan. Today, military products produced in Azerbaijan are demonstrated already in international exhibitions and exported. I should also says that some part of our created assets in Azerbaijan is done with the assistance of our Ukrainian partners. There are joint ventures established between our companies in this field, and we intend to develop this co-operation. In Azerbaijan, we plan to have our own production, purchase some needed products from Ukraine and have an access to the markets of third countries at some stage.
- The problem of Nagorno Karabakh. This problem is discussed very much. There are talks about Madrid principles and solicitations related to international mediation, but the conflict is not solved yet. Which reason stands behind pending resolution of this conflict? Which ways of settlement can be offered by Azerbaijan in near run and what role can be played by Ukraine in this issue?
- We commend the support of our partners extended to the settlement of this conflict. I am absolutely sure that the conflict settlement can be aided only by joint efforts of international community. We are thankful to Ukraine for its consistent and principal position related to the conflict settlement. This position is in full conformity with international law norms and principles, including UN Security Council resolutions. I would like to reiterate in particular that the support of Ukraine extended to us during the voting on the resolution on the status in occupied territories initiated by Azerbaijan in 2008 at the session of UN General Assembly earned a deep respect of in Azerbaijan. As far as the reason which stands behind still pending resolution is concerned, we can say that the main reason is non constructive position of Armenia, its unwillingness to solve the conflict and its false perception that the maintaining of status quo serves to the interests of Armenia. Armenian side tries to linger this settlement process by any means. Sometimes, Armenia initiates already agreed issues as a subject to discuss it again. Thus, attempts to make this process as an infinite one are visible clearly. It means that Armenia presents itself as a country participating in talks while the moment comes to adopt decision and demonstrate a principal position, Armenian side prefers to delay the process and attempts to renegotiate already agreed items. This is the main reason.
The second reason is explained by the fact that international community, I would say, treats very indifferently the decisions adopted by itself in the form of international organizations. First of all, four resolutions of UN Security Council demanding the withdrawal of Armenian occupying forces from Azerbaijani territory, decisions of OSCE Lisbon Summit and others, including resolutions of European Parliament, the Council of Europe and Organization of Islamic Conference describe this issue explicitly within international law norms. Armenia violates grossly international law norms. There are almost 20 years that the territory recognized by international community as an integral part of Azerbaijan is under occupation. War crimes were committed in occupied territories. Khojaly city was destroyed fully. Azerbaijanis were subjected to genocide. 613 innocent civilians, including over hundred children were killed. Thus, the larger part of these bloody military crimes is left out of attention of international community. This increased the appetite of aggressor to occupy further Azerbaijani lands. As far as the history of this issue is concerned, Nagorno Karabakh was historically a part of our territory. The word of Karabakh has Azerbaijani roots. In Armenian language, this name does not have any meaning.
Under Soviet times, the capital of Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast was the city of Stepanakert. This city was named after Stepan Shaumian in 20-ies of the past century. The city does not have an Armenian historic name. Previously, it was called as Khankendi. The history of this issue is quite clear. This was the result of mass moving of Armenian population to Karabakh from territories adjacent to Azerbaijan early XIX century. But, today, the historical background is certainly important and we should never forget it. But, the most important thing is the settlement of conflict in the framework of international law norms and principles. To say it concretely, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be restored and all occupying forces should be withdrawn from occupied territories. These territories do not mean only Nagorno Karabakh, but also seven regions located around it. Hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis used to live in those regions. All of them were expelled. No single Azerbaijani is left there. As far as the self-determination issue of people is concerned, this can be solved successfully within territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. The part of Helsinki Final Act that deals with territorial integrity and self-determination principles says the same. It means that these principles do not contradict each other. Political will of Armenian side and active position of mediators in this issue are very important. I would comment this issue in that way and would like to say once again that Azerbaijan will never accept the losing of a part of its territory. We will restore our territory. We would like very much to have the soonest resolution of this issue and settle it without resorting to military operations.
- Mister President, during last four years, Azerbaijan gained a very important economic growth of 96%. This is a very significant figure. How you have obtained it?
- I think that the main factor which ensures such an active development is firstly the political stability in Azerbaijan. First of all, foreign investors know that the political course of country will continue in consistent way and secondly, foreign investments will be protected in reliable manner. Therefore, foreign investments played the main role for us in the first stage of economic development. In our turn, we have created a very favorable regime for foreign investments and ensured the protection of those investments and the flow of preliminary capital into the country. As far as the current stage is concerned, I should say that during last six years, GDP in Azerbaijan has practically tripled or more exactly rose by 2.8 times. Obviously, this impacted on the economy and social protection of the population. Poverty level dropped from 49% to 11%. Almost 900 thousand jobs were created in the country. To put it in other words, during first years of my presidency there were very different advices or suggestions to accumulate oil generated funds outside the country in order to avoid economy overheating. We did not follow these advices and started to put investments very actively firstly to the regions and infrastructure by creating a very strong social and industrial infrastructure in regions. Thus, the flow of population into capital was halted. We started to establish enterprises in remote regions out of Baku. We pursued a very active energy policy and converted our power and gas importing country into energy exporting one. Till 2006, we had to import these products. But, now, we export it. In general, all these issues helped us to have minimum losses after crisis. Even, in the year of 2009 characterized by crisis, when oil prices dropped by 4 times, our economy still grew by 9.3%. In any case, oil is our main source of income. This means that the diversification of economy is primarily the political stability and of course, unity of authorities and economic reforms. We implemented very comprehensive economic reforms. According to assessment of World Economic Forum, Azerbaijan is the most competitive country in CIS territory. We left aside energy factor as a priority. It means that we focus our attention to the issues assisting entrepreneurship and agriculture. We ensure practically ourselves by the larger part of food products. It was the case never before. Under Soviet times, food products were transported to Azerbaijan from aside, including Ukraine. Azerbaijan used to export wine, fruits and vegetables. For the time being, we have created a strong food processing industry. In this regard, we provided jobs for hundreds of thousands of persons both in agricultural and food processing enterprises. We implement the program of preferential loans for private sector. Each year, hundreds of millions of manats (over USD120 million) are allocated on the very preferential rates. We established the State Investment Company. This company attracts investments to the fields which are necessary for us. Previously, all resources were directed to the field of oil and gas. Of course, this was important. However, this is not the main issue for us now. It means that the State Investment Company holds 25% of shares in the projects which are strategic for Azerbaijan. Thus, it stimulates the flow of foreign investments. At some stage, this share will be sold at market by ensuring fully the principles of market economy. I would like to point out these factors as the main ones. Thanks to those factors, our economic growth was higher and secondly, as the stable one. While GDP growth was roughly 20-30-35% in previous years, it was equal to 9.3%. Even this year, in spite that our economic growth is slightly more than 4%, this figure is very much significant than 35% of 2006. In my opinion, this constitutes probably the main reason.
- What about the conflict settlement in Transdnestria? Can it be a stimulus for the resolution of Nagorno Karabakh conflict?
- Undoubtedly. If one of conflicts in post-soviet territory will find its resolution, I am confident that it can stimulate the resolution of other conflicts. There is a plenty of similar features – aggressive separatism, ethnic cleansing, violation of territorial integrity and occupation. Though the history of conflicts and the past of mutual relations of peoples involved in conflicts are differing, there are commonalities anyway. But, of course, we want the resolution of all issues. I am confident that if this will happen so, all countries will only benefit from that. The Nagorno Karabakh conflict is the problem number one for us. It means that today I do not see any other problem in front of our country both in medium and long terms. Therefore, economy develops in stable way. Our country is dynamic, modern and has already some influence not only at regional level, but also at global issues. Therefore, this is the main problem and in spite of that, Nagorno Karabakh conflict has not slowed our economic development. We have obtained such successes in the country which has one million of refugees and IDPs out of nine million of Azerbaijani citizens. You can imagine what could be achieved by us if we wouldn’t have this problem. The talk is not just about the defense. We spend so much resources to provide normal houses and flats for refugees. We build settlements, schools and hospitals. We construct roads. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars for these issues. The same can be said about Armenia. This country could be also attracted to regional co-operation projects and economic integration. This will not happen till the settlement of Nagorno Karabakh conflict. They also pin absolutely empty, in my opinion, hopes to settle the relationship with Turkey by dreaming about the opening of Armenian-Turkish border. But, it did not happen. Firstly, it was linked to the fact that it is not possible to normalize relations with a country which puts forwards its territorial claims against you and tries to blackmail you by false genocide within all international organizations. On the other hand, Karabakh conflict exists still and it is the main factor which delays co-operation in the region. Therefore, today, there is only one perspective in front of Armenia – either to continue its policy of occupation and isolated more itself by violating international norms or reject this policy, build normal relations with Azerbaijan and other countries, give up its territorial claims. In fact, Armenia does not put forward territorial claims only against Azerbaijan and Turkey, but it conceives still such claims also against other countries in the region. Therefore, they should give up those claims. We live in this region after all and nobody will move out of here. It is better to have a friendly and not hostile wealthy neighbor.
- Which was the most important lesson you took from your father? What innovation you have brought to the policy of Azerbaijan?
Another question: How you evaluate the geopolitical location of Azerbaijan?
Next question is about your spouse. Your Presidential pair is one of the most brilliant not only in CIS territory, but also the world. Are you jealous to each other in front of politics? How you get along?
- All we have achieved today in Azerbaijan are based upon the foundations established by my father Heydar Aliyev. Till his comeback to power in Azerbaijan, our country was about to fail. The history of our country tells that as a result of breakdown of the Russian Empire in 1918, Azerbaijan became an independent country but this independence lasted only two years. Afterwards, due to objective reasons and unpreparedness of both politicians and political institutions to a independent life, Azerbaijan was deprived of this independence. Roughly the same situation could happen again. In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and Azerbaijan became independent. In 1993, we could lose our independence. All such things as Armenian aggression, civil war in Azerbaijan, very difficult political process as well as economic crisis led in principle to this end. At that time, Azerbaijani people demonstrated its wisdom. In spite of reactionary, extremist and I would say bandit forces were in power, Azerbaijani people shown a great courage and supported openly Heydar Aliyev. In 1993, he returned from Nakhchivan and started to head the country. He laid the foundations of statehood and current Azerbaijan. Therefore, his memory is cherished by our people. The respect of Azerbaijani people to him after his death is a good example. He was an extraordinary, very courageous, far seeing and principal man. He loved his people so much and wish the day to come when we will be the true owners of our destiny. This dream came true. Today, my main task – I declared it when I started my presidency in 2003 – is to continue this policy, lead in Azerbaijan by the way of development, modernization and progress and turn this country into a modern, dynamic and free state. The life of people in this country should be prosperous. They should be proud of being the citizens of Azerbaijan. They should live in abundance. There should not be poor and unemployed people. I am pleased that we could do a lot. I said on many occasions that independence does not simply mean only the flag or state attributes. The independence depends on your skills to pursue an independent policy. It is particularly linked to the fact that throughout the centuries, this country was a part of other states and empires and did not have any independence. The generations of Azerbaijanis were following each other and they passed away by dreaming about independence. Our generation was quite lucky in this respect. We do not have a right to miss this chance. We have to establish strong foundations for statehood, self-sufficiency and economic effectiveness which will enable us to develop as an independent state in the course of hundreds of years.
If we shall glance at the pathway passed by Azerbaijan and position of our country in the current world geopolitical map, I can very surely say to you that we have a special place. Today, Azerbaijani society has already a principal understanding about the way we develop. There are no discussions in our society about the way of development which had to be follower by Azerbaijan. The unanimous position of our people is the following: first of all, to maintain an independent course, ensure interests of Azerbaijani people and primarily, have good relations with neighboring countries. We can also add a modernity, fostering of secular character of Azerbaijani society, economic and political freedoms and security. I would like to note in particular that today we can walk in leisure time in Baku day and night time, and this is one of the biggest achievements of our country. Criminality level is the lowest one. Social problems, some domestic conditions and some negative trends inside the society may cause crimes. Indeed, such negative moments are not present in the Azerbaijani society. Therefore, if I am asked sometimes that after 10 or 20 years how will Azerbaijan look like, so I answer as follows: our country will be roughly the same, but wealthier, more reliable, developed and seeing its future not in confrontation, but in co-operation.
As one of important moments I would note that we did not allow our country to become an arena of confrontation. By geographical position and natural resources of Azerbaijan, interests of countries bigger and stronger than our country have always been confronting here throughout the centuries. As a result, we have been losing our statehood and falling into dependence. Today, we have attained the goal that Azerbaijan is only an arena for co-operation and in the worst scenario, can be an arena of competition and not confrontation.
As a reply to your last question I have to say that women were always respected in Azerbaijan both in family and society. I am delighted that Mehriban participates actively in some important issues in Azerbaijan. The status of first lady is assigned due to the post of husband. But all other things that stand behind it are the wish, will and content of a person who holds this status. I am very pleased that the Heydar Aliyev Foundation does a lot of things. Indeed for this reason, Mehriban heads this Foundation to better the situation of people in need in Azerbaijan. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation is the last pin of hope for those who do not find answers in public agencies. It means that the Foundation is the last window used by people who hope to be listened. And, so it goes.
- As a man and political personality, what does Ukraine mean for you?
- Of course, such things as political and economic ties, investments are important and it defines future development of our countries and peoples. When I hear such words as Ukraine and Kiev, it causes very position emotions of mine. First of all, this is Ukrainian music, Ukrainian culture and the face of Ukrainian people that we love so much. There is a deep respect to Ukrainians and Ukraine in Azerbaijan. Throughout the history, our peoples have been co-operating both in Soviet period and after the restoration of independence. Ukraine is one of our key partners. The monument of Taras Shevchenko was erected in Baku which gathers Ukrainian community of Azerbaijan. When someone is talking about Ukraine, it causes my perception that Ukrainians are freedom loving people. We respect your country and people very much and wish prosperity to Ukraine. There is each possibility and condition for that. We will be always pleased to see your achievements and victories.