President Ilham Aliyev, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a press conference
21 january 2015, 23:25
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Angela Merkel have given a press conference.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Ilham Aliyev first made statements for the press.
Statement by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
- Thank you, Madam Chancellor. First of all, I want to thank you for the invitation to visit Germany. I am very glad to come to your country again. As you noted, the agenda of our bilateral relations is very broad. It covers various fields, and we have discussed these issues in a very open and sincere manner.
Our political relations are developing successfully. I am confident that my visit will give an impetus to the development of our political ties. Political relations have a positive impact on all other areas. Of course, economic cooperation is also on the agenda today. There are numerous German companies in Azerbaijan. We support their activities. I think that in the future German companies, both as contractors and investors, will be able to do even more work in Azerbaijan. If we consider that the Azerbaijani economy is developing dynamically and we are implementing numerous infrastructure projects, of course, the successful activities of German companies in Azerbaijan will be continued.
As noted by Madam Chancellor, we have also touched upon the issues of regional security, first of all, the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh which is our priority. This conflict is a source of great threat both to Azerbaijan and the region as a whole. As you know, the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan has for many years been occupied by the Armenian army. Twenty percent of our land is under occupation. This occupation has affected one million Azerbaijanis who have become refugees and IDPs. International organizations, primarily the UN Security Council, have adopted resolutions on resolving the conflict. The UN Security Council has adopted four resolutions. These resolutions express the requirement for an unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied lands. Unfortunately, Armenia ignores them and tries to maintain the status quo as it is. This conflict must be resolved on the basis of norms and principles of international law and within the framework of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. There must be a common approach, as is the case with all other conflicts.
Of course, energy security today is perhaps the main focus of the talks between Europe and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is playing a role. The Azerbaijan-proposed projects are changing the energy map of Europe. In the future European energy security will be provided, among others, by Azerbaijan. In 2012, the TANAP project was launched and in 2013 the TAP project was chosen as the main export route. At the end of last year the foundation of the "Southern Gas Corridor" was laid. Azerbaijan is the initiator of all these projects. At the same time, Azerbaijan has assumed a great financial burden over these projects, and I am sure that all work will be done in a timely manner. The TANAP project will come on line in 2018 and TAP a year after that. To achieve this, of course, the European Union and Azerbaijan should cooperate even more closely in this area. I must also inform you that the first meeting of the "Southern Gas Corridor" advisory board will be held in Baku on our initiative next month, and I am sure that it will discuss all these issues.
I want to say again that I appreciate my visit today. German-Azerbaijani relations have great potential. The decisions made today and these discussions will contribute a lot to the development of these relations. Thank you.
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Then questions from the media were answered.
Question (AzerTAc correspondent for Germany Vugar Seidov): My question is for Mrs. Merkel. Mrs. Merkel, the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been ongoing for over 20 years. As Mr. President has noted, the UN Security Council has adopted four resolutions demanding an unconditional withdrawal of Armenian occupying forces from the occupied Azerbaijani territories. Moreover, other international organizations have adopted relevant decisions as well. However, Armenia ignores these resolutions and decisions and continues its occupation of Azerbaijani lands. Under such circumstances the world introduces sanctions against countries, but no sanctions have been introduced against Armenia. Don’t you think that this is a manifestation of double standards?
Chancellor Angela Merkel: We have talked about the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. I have mentioned that. As you know, we are a member of the Minsk Group. France, Russia and America are its co-chairs, and we support the ongoing negotiations in this context. We see President Aliyev meeting with his Armenian counterpart, holding discussions and negotiations. We believe that there is only one way to resolve this conflict – a peaceful one. The frequent violation of the ceasefire is, of course, a negative fact. I believe that a certain role here is played by Russia. I just wanted to mention that. I think that Russia and Armenia are jointly implementing certain factors associated with this conflict.
Question: Madam Chancellor, you have also mentioned the conflict in Ukraine. A meeting of foreign ministers will be held here today. In your opinion, what can we expect from this meeting at the level of foreign ministers? Can Poroshenko, Hollande and Putin reach an agreement? What do you expect from this meeting? Do you think the territorial integrity of Ukraine will be restored? Madam Chancellor, what can you say in connection with the freedom of the press?
Chancellor Angela Merkel: The political situation, of course, is extremely difficult. I am glad that all four foreign ministers are meeting today. It would be nice if a meeting of representatives of the four countries were held in Astana, i.e. the summit were held and the presidents met. Of course, it will be unpleasant if it does not yield any positive results. I can’t talk about anything with certainty, i.e. what results the meeting of foreign ministers will bring. According to our data, the ceasefire is occasionally disrupted. The Minsk agreement is not observed. The Minsk agreement, of course, is the basis for negotiations. It would be nice, of course, if Russia began to follow the rules of the Minsk agreement.
Question: Do you think the territorial integrity of Ukraine may or may not be restored? And the second question: in your opinion, how can the freedom of the press be restored in Azerbaijan, while your rating remains high?
President Ilham Aliyev: There is no problem with my rating. According to the surveys commissioned in Azerbaijan, my rating is close to 90 per cent. This is probably due to the reforms ongoing in Azerbaijan in recent years. I can say that in the last 11 years Azerbaijan has been the most dynamically developing country of the world in economic terms. The economy has grown by more than 3 times, unemployment is at the level of 5 per cent and poverty is also at 5 per cent. The Davos World Economic Forum has honored the economy of Azerbaijan with 38th place in the world in terms of competitiveness. Such results, of course, increase the rating of any leader. Therefore, there is no such problem in Azerbaijan.
As to the question relating to freedoms, I can say that all freedoms are guaranteed in Azerbaijan. The freedom of speech is fully guaranteed. There are hundreds of press organs in Azerbaijan. In addition, there are no restrictions on the Internet in Azerbaijan: the Internet is free and there is no censorship. The number of Internet users in Azerbaijan is approaching 75 per cent. So there are no problems. Therefore, freedom of the press is fully guaranteed.
The same applies to the freedom of assembly. Rallies of various political groups are regularly and freely conducted in Azerbaijan and no restrictions are introduced. In general, Azerbaijan has achieved great democratic development in recent years. This, of course, is very important for us, as I am absolutely certain that political reforms should be carried out in parallel with economic ones. Only in this case can a country achieve sustainable success.
As far as the issue of territorial integrity is concerned, we recognize the territorial integrity of all countries. Of course, we want all countries to recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan too, because Azerbaijan's territorial integrity has been violated by Armenia for over 20 years. In a vote on the territorial integrity of Ukraine conducted by the UN General Assembly we openly supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine. We believe it is a fundamental principle of international law. Territorial integrity can’t be changed without the consent of countries. If it is violated, then, of course, it must be restored.
Question (correspondent of "Trend" news agency Sevil Mikayilova): My question is for Mrs. Merkel. Azerbaijani-German relations have a rich history. Today our bilateral relations are developing successfully in various fields. Given the central role of Germany in the global economy, as well as the fact that Azerbaijan has the most powerful economy in the South Caucasus, what can you say about the prospects for a further expansion of our relations and how do you assess them in terms of strengthening the regional cooperation?
Chancellor Angela Merkel: I believe that we have the potential for the development and deepening of economic relations. Our trade with Azerbaijan accounts for 2.5 billion euros. At the same time, I think that we can work together in restoring the infrastructure in Azerbaijan. We can also make a contribution to the diversification of the Azerbaijani economy. In addition, German companies, of course, comply with legal security. President Aliyev has met with representatives of the German economy here and talked about that. I think that Azerbaijan has a chance and the potential for further investment.
Question: Madam Chancellor, you mentioned that human rights play an important part in the development of bilateral relations between the two countries. Mr. President, you said that there are no problems in this regard in your country. At the same time, I believe that violations of human rights largely direct cooperation, if I may say so, into a negative direction. At the same time, reports have been circulated about the arrest of a representative of the media.
Chancellor Angela Merkel: We attach great importance to the development of bilateral relations, political and economic relations with Azerbaijan and other countries, and this, of course, forms the basis for the protection of values in a civilized society. Democracy and the rule of law are among the most important factors. We have exchanged views about that too. Of course, there are certain critical points related to the exercise of human rights, and I think that we are unanimous with the President of Azerbaijan in our intention to intensify our cooperation and further strengthen communication with the German Academic Exchange Service, GTZ, KfW and other organizations. True, there are differences of opinion on certain issues, and that is normal.
With regard to the second question regarding the acquisition of securities of the European Central Bank and banks, I would like to note that the Central Bank is an independent body and discussions in this regard have been held as part of New Year events in Frankfurt. Political reforms in this area are an important factor for European countries. I believe that we will still have a lot of talks with European countries in connection with the Central Bank, as well as reforms.
Question: Mr. President, Madam Chancellor spoke to you on the issue of human rights. I would like to know your opinion on this issue. In other words, are you ready and open to cooperation with representatives of the media criticizing the government?
President Ilham Aliyev: Of course! Azerbaijan has been a member of the Council of Europe since 2001 and honors all its obligations to the Council of Europe. Numerous laws have been adopted in Azerbaijan to bring the national legislation closer to European standards. We see that in real life. I want to say once again that all human rights are guaranteed in Azerbaijan. These issues are discussed within the framework of international organizations. I have told Madam Chancellor that no country can claim to be perfect in the field of human rights. Every country has problems, including Azerbaijan. What matters more is how these issues are being resolved and what is the intention of the government. No-one is prosecuted or arrested for a critical opinion in Azerbaijan. I want to say again that freedom of speech in Azerbaijan is provided in full. There are hundreds of media outlets. I would like to reiterate that where there is a free and independent Internet, freedom of speech can’t be stifled. At the same time, I believe that our greatest achievement lies in the fact that Azerbaijan has fully secured the freedom of religion. Azerbaijan protects multicultural values at a very high level, and from this point of view Azerbaijan's experience is studied in other countries. In Azerbaijan, representatives of all religions and ethnic groups live like one family. There are no confrontations and misunderstandings. I want to say again that we have consciously chosen this path. We are committed to universal human values and are protecting them. If we look at the real situation in Azerbaijan, you can see that there is nothing but the truth in my words. Of course, a further discussion of these issues will, I am sure, give an even greater impetus to the work being done in this area. Additional steps will be taken in this direction and reforms will be expanded. I would like to note once again that political reforms are complemented by economic ones. Azerbaijan is building an independent state. We have entered the 24th year of our independence. I think that over these years Azerbaijan has already asserted itself in the international arena as a reliable and highly respected country.