Opening speech by Ilham Aliyev at the trilateral meeting of Azerbaijani, Iranian and Russian presidents

08 august 2016, 20:00

Distinguished Presidents,

Dear guests,

Dear summit participants.

First of all, let me warmly welcome all our guests. Welcome to Azerbaijan! Today, Baku is hosting a trilateral meeting of the presidents of Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan for the first time in history. This is a historic event. A new format of cooperation among three countries is emerging today. I would like to express my gratitude to President Putin and President Rouhani for accepting my invitation to participate in the Summit.

I should note that in April of this year, foreign ministers of the three countries met in Baku at the initiative of Azerbaijan. I am sure that today's summit will give a new impetus to regional cooperation.

Our peoples have lived side by side for centuries and share a common history and geography. Azerbaijan has close ties of friendship with Iran and Russia. These ties have further evolved in recent years and reached the level of strategic partnership.

Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan successfully cooperate within the framework of international organizations. Our countries have always supported each other in the UN and other international organizations. Azerbaijan successfully cooperates with Iran within the framework of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), and with Russia within the OSCE, the CIS, the Council of Europe and the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation. In these organizations, our three countries consistently support each other.

Azerbaijan was opposed to the international sanctions imposed on Iran and Russia, and has repeatedly and openly expressed its position. Azerbaijan pursues an independent policy. This policy is based on the norms of international law, justice and national interests of our country. Close ties with our neighbors are in line with our national interests.

Iran and Russia respect the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Azerbaijan. Both countries have repeatedly expressed the need to resolve the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within the framework of international law.

The international community and international organizations recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and are in favor of a fair settlement of the conflict in accordance with international law. The UN, the Non-Aligned Movement, the OSCE, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other international organizations unequivocally support the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. The status quo existing in the conflict is unacceptable. The conflict must be resolved in accordance with international law and within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. To resolve the conflict, Azerbaijani lands should first of all be freed from occupation.

The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan has been violated for many years. Twenty per cent of our land is under occupation. This occupation affects more than a million Azerbaijanis. The UN Security Council has adopted four resolutions in connection with the conflict. They contain the requirement of an unconditional withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the occupied lands. Unfortunately, these resolutions have not been fulfilled for more than 20 years.

In recent years, the region we live in is faced with growing risks and threats. We should further unite our efforts against international terrorism. In fact, the whole world should unite its efforts. Only in this way can we defeat international terrorism. Azerbaijan's principled position against terrorism remains unchanged. In 2012-2013, Azerbaijan as a member of the UN Security Council initiated a discussion on important issues related to international peace and security. We launched the initiative to strengthen cooperation in the fight against international terrorism.

I would like to highlight the high-level meeting on the theme of "Threats posed by terrorist acts to international peace and security" held in the Security Council under the chairmanship of Azerbaijan in May 2012. After the meeting, a statement was adopted condemning all forms and manifestations of terrorism.

Dear colleagues! The Caspian Sea connecting us is our common heritage. The Caspian Sea is a sea of peace and cooperation, and should remain as such. Protection of the Caspian Sea ecosystem is a common cause for all Caspian littoral countries. Azerbaijan is making its contribution in this direction. The Caspian Sea has rich oil and gas deposits. Iranian and Russian companies have been engaged in the development of oil and gas fields in the Azerbaijani sector of Caspian Sea and making major investments for 20 years. In turn, the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan, SOCAR, is interested in participating in the projects carried out in Iranian and Russian sectors of the Caspian Sea.

The tripartite format will create a good opportunity for raising our economic cooperation to a higher level. Russia and Iran are our major trading partners. I am confident that this trilateral format would be beneficial for the businesses of our countries. Increased trade, mutual investment and expansion of mutual export opportunities are of great importance to economic cooperation. There are good prospects for cooperation in financial, banking and insurance sectors. Given the broad financial capabilities of our countries, we can participate in joint investment projects in other countries.

Azerbaijan has created favorable conditions for investments. Over the past 20 years, $200 billion has been invested in Azerbaijan. Half of this is foreign investment. There is great potential for investments in agriculture, travel and telecommunications spheres. The Global Competitiveness Index of the Davos World Economic Forum ranks Azerbaijan in 40th place globally.

There is successful cooperation in the electricity sector. Azerbaijan has joined its energy system with the power lines of Iran and Russia. The volume of energy exchange with the two countries is increasing every year. In accordance with the existing agreement with Russia, the energy system of Azerbaijan is functioning in parallel with the Unified Energy Systems of Russia. The energy systems of the two countries are connected through power lines "Khachmaz-Derbent" and "Yalama". With Iran, there is also an energy exchange through the power lines "Parsabad", "Astara-Astara", "Araz" and "Julfa". A few days ago, the power line between Imishli and Parsabad was connected. In the near future, we will fully commission the power line between the cities of Astara and Masalli.

Azerbaijan has turned from a country importing electricity into a country exporting it. Our export capacity is growing. I am confident that together we can achieve the formation of a reliable energy corridor that will provide for energy exchange among the three countries and access to new markets.

I am glad that reliable cooperation has been established in the area of border security. At the initiative of the Azerbaijani side, the heads of border services of Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan held a meeting in Baku this year. Deepening of cooperation in this field, joint exercises (including the Caspian Sea), joint activities and rapid exchange of information will further enhance the security of our countries.

Cooperation in the transport sector has a great future. Azerbaijan is the only country in the world to have borders with Iran and Russia. At present, there is a railway link between Russia and Azerbaijan. This year we decided that Azerbaijan would extend its railway to the border with Iran in the near future. I do hope that we will achieve this in the coming months. At the same time, the foundation-laying ceremony of a railway bridge over the river Astara on the Azerbaijani-Iranian border was held recently. These infrastructure projects are an integral part of the "North-South" transport corridor.

The "North-South" transport corridor is a transnational project of strategic importance. In the future, this corridor will benefit many countries. This corridor has a very high economic viability. This route is very favorable for the transportation of transit of goods from the point of view of time. I do hope that together we will achieve the realization of this project soon.

It is gratifying that our countries have no problems in religious and ethnic matters. This is a huge asset of our countries.

For centuries, Azerbaijan has been a place where different religions, cultures and civilizations merge. We are not only a geographical but also a cultural bridge between the East and the West. Throughout history, the representatives of different religions and cultures lived in Azerbaijan in peace and brotherhood. Multiculturalism is a way of life in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is a multinational and multi-confessional country. Year 2016 has been declared a "Year of Multiculturalism" in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan is one of a handful of countries represented both on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and on the Council of Europe. Our countries successfully cooperate in these organizations.

Dear colleagues! The new trilateral format of cooperation we have created has great potential. This is a very important geopolitical initiative. Trilateral cooperation will serve peace, security and stability in the region. Economic cooperation, trilateral cooperation in the energy and transport sectors improves the welfare of our peoples. The format we have created will take its rightful place in the international arena. Today, we are setting an example of good neighborly relations. Today we prove that if there is mutual respect and good will, if our dreams are sincere, we can protect our countries from risks, consolidate stability and enhance cooperation even in this unstable region which is full of crises and conflicts.

Thank you for your attention.