Following a document signing ceremony between Azerbaijan and Latvia, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Latvian President Valdis Zatlers held a joint press conference.
The Presidents made joint press statements.
Statement by Latvian President Valdis Zatlers
It is my delight to welcome my friend, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, here in Rīga. The atmosphere of his visit was very good, and we have very fine intentions in terms of strengthening economic and cultural co-operation between our countries.
The relationship between our countries has developed very positively. We can see, for instance, that during these years of economic decline, the level of economic co-operation between Azerbaijan and Latvia has nevertheless increased by 10%. The business forum that is taking place today and the one which took place during my visit to Baku represent another step toward closer economic relations between us. The Azerbaijani-Latvian Business Council is being established today, and that means that stronger links between the two countries will be ensured not just by governments and heads of state, but also by businesspeople themselves.
As we look into the future, we see that we can use the Eastern Partnership project to improve our bilateral relations, as well as to facilitate closer co-operation between the EU and Azerbaijan. We had a very good discussion about co-operation in education, information technologies and national governance. We also talked about the partnership that could be established between our countries when it comes to border guards and customs issues. I believe that it is of key importance for the Eastern Partnership programme to be successful. It is important for Azerbaijan to speak about this partnership very clearly in terms of the context in which it sees the partnership and the way in which Latvia can make an investment in promoting the relationship between the EU and Azerbaijan. Of course, we also talked about energy issues, because Azerbaijan performs a specific and important role in the delivery of energy resources to Europe. On both sides we will be doing everything possible to increase this role even further.
There were many other questions that we discussed. I would be happy now to answer your questions.
Statement by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
Mr President, dear ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to point out that I am very glad to be again in a friendly Latvia. Mr President, I would like to stress my gratitude to you for having invited me to Latvia. I am confident that my visit will play important role for the development of Latvia and Azerbaijani relationship. Mr President, we remember your visit to Azerbaijan in 2009 and the agreements reached during the visit are being implemented successfully. Important documents, signed today, I am confident that these documents will define our relationship in a years to come. Among the signed documents I would like to highlight the joint declaration, because it is very important document, which covers all the future trends of our cooperation in the future. We can say that Latvian President has some aspects issued we have discussed today. I would like just to add both, in political, economical and culture fields we have broad perspective and opportunities for cooperation. Our countries are friendly countries. Our political relationship is at the highest level, and I am sure that should be done in economic spheres will also help to bring these relationships up to the level of political relationship. For those reasons we will have business forum. That is very important for us, and together with me more than 50 business people came from Azerbaijan to Latvia to take part in that event and to conduct the exchange of point of views with themselves.
As for an energy issues are concerned I would like to say that Azerbaijan is a very successful cooperating with the European Union. On January 13, President of European Commission Mr José Manuel Barroso has been visited out country, ending it we have signed the dual declaration managing issues between Azerbaijan and European Union. And of course this declaration is defining the trends of our future cooperation. I am confident that the issues covered in that declaration will be able to be started to implement in 2011. Azerbaijan has rich oil and gas resources, and our country is supplying the oil and gas to various suppliers and our country is ready to give its contribution to energy security of Europe.
Today we have also exchanged our views on regional issues. In particular, we have touched upon the Armenian – Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I have briefed President Zatlers about the latest status of the talks about Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This issue is pending still over the years, and I think that it should be solved in accordance with international law norms, in a frame of a territorial integrity of the Republic Azerbaijan. International organization like United Nations, OSCE, the Council of Europe, European Parliament and other organizations have adopted their resolution, and this should be solved at a base of these resolutions.
As far as for Eastern Partnership is concerned, Azerbaijan expresses great hopes to the implementation of this programme. I am confident that the implementation of this programme will bring us closer to Europe. Thank you.
Then, the Presidents took questions from journalists.
- My question is for both heads of state. You spoke about the chance to work together in the area of the economy. Could you perhaps sketch out the specific sectors in which this might happen? And could you also tell us a bit about the plan to attract Azerbaijani cargoes to the port in Rīga?
President Zatlers: There are quite a few directions for economic co-operation. We are accustomed to the fact that Latvia exports food products which are popular in a great many countries, including Azerbaijan. We also have a great deal of interest and many opportunities to export Latvian IT solutions to private companies and government institutions in Azerbaijan. We also talked about ways in which we can work together in the field of education, because education, too, is an export product to a certain degree. We talked about the mutual interests of Azerbaijan and Latvia. We also talked about transport and the energy sector.
The business forum, I might add, will present us with even further opportunities. I might mention one project that I think is very positive – the “Language Shore” project. It is a translation project which we could digitise, because it allows small nations to use their language on the Internet, to translate things, understand things and become more accessible. There are a great many opportunities here, because both Latvia and Azerbaijan are modernising their societies and their economies.
President Aliyev: I have to note that in economic sector our relations are still not at the level of our political relations, and I am confident that thanks to the events, taken by us, will also have brilliant results in this sphere, too. Among the areas of cooperation I would like to note the information and communication technologies issue. You know that Azerbaijan gives an importance to this area. I am confident that Latvia has done a lot in this sphere. In the field of agriculture we have also broad prospective for interaction, in the field of energy, in the field of the mutual investments – I think that we have to be more attentive to this. Today Azerbaijani companies bring already their capital to the foreign markets, and we are making large investments in foreign markets. The business forum, that we will have today, the companies, that will take part in business forum, are the leading companies of Azerbaijan, they have great experience in that and they have already financial capabilities. I am sure that these issues will be addressed in a multilateral format and will be also discussed by the Intergovernmental Commission. The next meeting will be held in Riga in several months, and all proposals, I think, can be analyzed and be inserted in the agenda of our future economic cooperation.
President Zatlers: To allow you better to understand how popular the business forum is in Latvia, I can tell you that more than 250 businesspeople from Latvia are taking part.
- My question is for both presidents. What do you think about the promise of investments on the part of companies from both countries?
President Aliyev: I have noted already in my statement that this area can be absolutely promising and we welcome Latvian investments in the economy. I am confident that these investments will help to diversify Azerbaijani economy. Today in Azerbaijan we pay big attention to all sectors of Azerbaijani economy. We have to strive to reduce to the minimum level our dependence on oil and gas sector, and we are already successful in that. In order to diversify the economy, the attraction of investments is very important for us. I would like to point out that only in the year of 2010 15.5 billion US dollars have been invested in Azerbaijan, among these figures 9.3 billion are national investments, the rest is the foreign investments. We have very favourable investment climate. Investments of foreign companies are protected. Azerbaijani companies in their turn have started already to make their investments in foreign markets. These investments have passed already several billions of dollars. Of course, to make an investment in a friendly country like Latvia can be very interesting for us. I am confident that the business forum, that we will have today, should play its role definitely.
President Zatlers: The foundation for economic co-operation in the future will unquestionably be mutual investments. I believe that both sides will be interested in investing in Latvia and in Azerbaijan. We will be able to meet decades from now and see the positive result. Our trade volumes will be much, much broader, and our national economies will be much more closely linked while supplementing one another at the same time.
- How serious is the Azerbaijani commitment to be supplier of energy for Europe, especially for the pipeline which bypasses Russia?
President Aliyev: We started our energy project back in mid90th. Azerbaijan was the first country which invited foreign oil companies to work in the Caspian Sea. Therefore the history of our energy projects goes back to 15 -16 years. We managed so far to implement all the necessary infrastructure projects to transport our gas and oil to the international markets. At the moment we have free oil for gas pipelines which transport Azerbaijani oil and gas to different directions. As far as production profile is concerned the last year more than 50 million tonnes of oil, and close to 30 billion m3 gas was produced in Azerbaijan. Absolute majority of this quantity was exported. Today we supply all our neighbours with natural gas. We have contracts with Turkey, Georgia, Russia, with Iran. And we want to expand our production, capabilities and, of course, export facilities. Therefore, we need to work in both directions. First, to increase gas supplies to the markets which already we have. I mentioned those countries. And, second, is to find new markets. And here we see a very serious approach from European countries and the EU, and the reflection of the serious approach was a joint declaration which was signed as I mentioned before between President Barroso and myself several days ago in Baku. We have a huge gas reserves - trillion m3. We have already modern and very efficient diversified infrastructure – gas pipelines. And we have a big market in Europe which needs more gas. For us it is not a matter to avoid someone or to bypass someone. We never did anything in our energy strategy against someone. For us the most important is to be able to realise our gas potential to full extent. Our production profile of gas can be increased at least twice. Therefore, of course, we need markets for that. Those markets which need our gas, those markets which are competitive, which are open, which are regulated by legislation and which are long-term. Therefore, I think the interests of European consumers - Azerbaijan coin side. And now it is time to work how we can work together long term in order to provide interests of consumers, producers and of course transitors.
- My question is for both presidents. From the perspective of regional economic co-operation, what can you say about the importance of economic relations between Azerbaijan and Latvia?
President Zatlers: There must be an unambiguous appreciation of the fact that Latvia is a member state in the European Union. Because of this, 70% of our trade volume relates to the European Union. By promoting bilateral economic relations with Azerbaijan, we are also promoting Azerbaijan’s economic relations with the European Union and vice-versa. We would like to see greater economic integration in specific in the Caucasus region. By shaping bilateral relations with each of those countries, we will promote economic development in the whole region. The economy today is a global economy. No longer is it the case that we can only talk about what we will give to you and what you will give to us. There is always a regional context, and quite often there is also a global context.
President Aliyev: I would like to point out that we have a lot of things to be done in economic sphere. Both sides have a key interest to do this interaction. In economic field there is some animation between both countries and the trade rising, but still it does not reflect our full potential. Of course, in bilateral format the economic relations with Latvia are important for us and at the same time, taking into the consideration the membership of Latvia into EU. Azerbaijan is very attractive country for Latvia, and of course we have to say that there is a strong political will from both sides. Our countries are the friendly countries. I have said that the political context and relations are being developed on a regular basis. Of course, in these conditions we have to look for economic potential of both countries and to demonstrate this potential to each other. We have to definitely reach successful economic cooperation in years to come, and, of course, this base will bring its contribution to the cooperation in the future.