Ilham Aliyev and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso gave joint press conference

22 june 2011, 18:45

President Ilham Aliyev and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso held a joint press conference in Brussels. First, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev delivered press statements.

Statement by President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso

Press Statement of President Barroso

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,

It was a pleasure to receive President Aliyev today in Brussels. I remember my visit to Baku in January and the great hospitality I enjoyed there. I am grateful that President Aliyev could come to Brussels. We had a very open and fruitful discussion and followed up on various topics that we had discussed during my visit to Baku, and other visits of Commissioners. This reflects the very good spirit in the relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union.

Today, we took stock of the progress made on several fronts of our relationship, including the launch of negotiations on an Association Agreement a year ago. However, I believe we can speed up these talks and move forward towards a substantive deal. We had a very sincere and open discussion about the issues we should concentrate on so we can really achieve progress regarding this Association Agreement.

I am also confident that we can start negotiations on Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements this year. Enhancing mobility with our partner countries remains an important goal of the Eastern Partnership.

Preparations for the Eastern Partnership Summit at the end of September in Warsaw are ongoing. Today, we have exchanged views on the implementation of this Partnership over the last two years and the way we want to strengthen it in the future.

Events in our neighborhood have yet again shown how deeply Europe's own security and prosperity are linked to those of our neighbors. It is therefore a strategic imperative to promote democracy and development to our East and South.

In this regard, I also stressed the critical importance of modernization in the political field and progress on the political reforms and the respect for rule of law as a central theme in our relationship. We believe that the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are extremely important and must be addressed in the context of our relations. I want to thank President Aliyev for the very open way in which we discussed these sensitive but important matters.

Our shared commitment to common values – democracy, human rights and the rule of law – is a key part of our relationship and critical for progress. When I was in Baku, I saw the impressive modernization, of the country. President Aliyev told me today once again that he is committed to this modernization in all fields.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Energy was another key point of our discussions. As you know, in January, President Aliyev and I signed a Joint Declaration on the Establishment of the Southern Gas Corridor, which is key for the security and diversification of our energy supply and demand.

Realizing this corridor is a joint strategic goal. Strategic for Azerbaijan, which would gain direct access to the world's largest, and I can say the most reliable energy-market - the European market; And strategic for the EU, as it would allow us to have an alternative route of supply from the Caspian basin. We agreed today to continue our work and make this dedicated Corridor a reality.

Finally, we touched upon developments in the neighborhood region and the situation in the South Caucasus. I underlined the strong EU support for a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It is high time to make additional efforts to finalize agreement on the so-called "basic principles". Negotiations will resume in two days’ time to discuss the settlement of the conflict. I hope that the two parties will be able to move forward. As I have said before, the status quo is not an option.

So Mr. President, thank you very much for your visit to Brussels. We have indeed a very ambitious shared agenda to work on. I look forward to continuing our cooperation and to bringing Azerbaijan and the EU even closer together.

I think we can be inspired by Azerbaijan's impressive victory in the Eurovision Song Contest last month, which was a first step in that regard. The fact that a majority of the Europeans voted for Azerbaijan in this European contest showed the sincere good will there is in Europe regarding Azerbaijan. I know that this will be a year in which the international spotlight will be in your country, and I am sure that you will use this time to show commitment to the modernization of your country and also how committed you are on our European common values.

Thank you.

Press Statement by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev

Thank you very much, Mr.President,

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank you, Mister President, for invitation to visit Brussels and for opportunity to continue our active dialogue which already has a good history. And, our meetings are very important for future development of relations between European institutions and Azerbaijan. I also like to thank you for your congratulations and say here in the center of Europe how grateful Azerbaijanis are to Europeans for awarding our young singers the victory on the most important musical contest in the world. That was a day of happiness in Azerbaijan, the day of pride, and at the same time, may be the most important was that it was the reflection of the attitude of Europeans, European public opinion, the opinion of people in different parts of Europe to our country and culture. And I think that this important victory for us once again showed how close we are. And today here in Brussels, we are discussing important issues of our bilateral agenda once again we see how really close we are. The documents we are working jointly I think after signing will lead to the closer ties between European institutions and Azerbaijan.

We are in favor of these relations. European vector of our policy is one of our priorities. Our relations have the broadest agenda. Of course, political dialogue and the policy of modernization and democratic reforms in Azerbaijan are always part of our discussions. We are committed to continue the process of democratization and the establishment of the rule of law, all democratic freedoms in Azerbaijan. During the period of independence, I think that Azerbaijan has made enormous efforts for success in the process of democratization of our country and the best experience of developed European countries for us, of course, opens the new opportunities to continue political reforms which are supported by economic reforms. Economic performance of Azerbaijan in recent years was very impressive. We managed already to diversify our economy and support private entrepreneurship. So, today more than 80 percent of our GDP is produced in private sector. It shows that the liberal reforms in economic area lead to results. Of course, reforms in economic area will not be sufficient without political reforms. We are moving this process of reforms forward. I am sure that closer ties with Europe will help us to succeed more in this direction.

Today we also discussed as Mister President mentioned the regional security issues and the most important for us is the issue of resolution of Armenian-Azerbaijani, Nagorno Karabakh conflict. We want to put an end to the occupation of our territory. We are very encouraged by the statement of President Barroso today. Recent statements of leaders of Minsk Group co-chairing countries – United States, Russia and France – say that the status quo is not acceptable. Status quo must be changed. We are very encouraged by this statement because the change of status quo means the end of occupation. Internationally recognized territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored. Adoption of basic principles and sincere behavior during the negotiation process will help to find the soonest resolution. Our people are tired for almost twenty years our lands are under occupation. We want to allow our people to have this opportunity to return to their homes and homeland.

Energy security is always in the agenda of our relations. Since President Barroso visited Azerbaijan this January we moved faster in this direction. Before the visit, we also had a good communication. But this visit and the signature of Declaration of Southern Gas Corridor is an important milestone in that issue. Also I would like to say that during President Barroso’s visit to Azerbaijan, the working group was established between EU and Azerbaijan which works efficiently. It discusses important issues. We support Southern Gas Corridor. We hope by the end of this year to finalize the discussions with transit countries and potential consumers in order to start the implementation of huge gas project which will allow Azerbaijan to realize all its resources. At the same time, it will create a reliable alternative source of supply to European consumers. We have enormous gas reserves which will be enough for us and our consumer for more than one hundred years. Today we are on the eve of making an important decision in that respect.

Once again I would like to thank you, Mister President for hospitality. We had very frank and sincere and productive discussions as always. I would like to use this opportunity to invite you to visit us in the future and wish all Europeans all the best. Once again I would like to finalize my comments with words that I started. We are thankful to Europeans for your support in Eurovision.


Nasib Mukhtarov, Azerbaijani Television:

My question goes to both Mister Aliyev and Mister Barroso. Was the Visa Facilitation issue discussed during the meeting today?

President Aliyev:

Yes, it was discussed with Mister President. Mister President already mentioned about that in his comments. This issue was discussed. We hope that negotiations on visa will lead to the situation that some categories of Azerbaijani citizens will have easier access to European countries. I think that the level of today co-operation between EU member states and Azerbaijan is very high. EU member states are our major trade partners. We have very active bilateral relations with member states of the European Union. Opportunity for our people to travel easily to European countries also will lead to closer relations between EU and Azerbaijan because people to people contacts are as important as political ones.

President Barroso:

As President Aliyev said, we have discussed this issue. In fact, the Commissioners are working on draft regulating directives for the agreement which we expect to adopt early September. The European Council and member states will consider this draft agreement. I believe that this decision will also help to Azerbaijan and the European Union to be closer than they are in current time.

Radio Free Europe:

I have just one question to Mister Aliyev, if I may. Your Armenian counterpart just addressed today the Council of Europe and basically said that increased Armenophobia in Azerbaijan as well as questionable attitude of Azerbaijan to the Madrid principles may the problem in Kazan in two days. Could you give reaction to these comments?

President Aliyev:

Well, I did not hear it. I hear it from you. If it was said it is very pity because the person who personally participated in military actions against Azerbaijani civilians in Khojaly talks about Armenophobia in Azerbaijan. It is very ridiculous. Azerbaijanis are victims of aggression. Our lands are under occupation. Armenia conducted the policy of ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijanis and 700,000 Azerbaijanis were expelled from territories beyond the administrative borders of Nagorno Karabakh. Of course, this people want to return back. It is their fundamental right. Territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is not questioned by any country. United Nations Security Council adopted four resolutions demanding withdrawal of Armenian troops from occupied territories. Of course, the attitude to the conflict of Armenia and Azerbaijan is different because Azerbaijan did not occupy any centimeter of Armenian land while twenty percent of Azerbaijani territory is under occupation. We are the victims of this aggression. Therefore, the mood in our society is different from the same in the society of Armenia. That’s why when we hear from President Barroso and leaders of leading countries of the world that status quo must be changed, then it is an encouraging moment. Change of status quo means the change of situation and the end of occupation. Coming to Madrid principles, Azerbaijan announced a couple of years ago that we accept those principles as a basis for negotiations. We hope that Armenia will do the same. The principles which on one hand provide the restoration of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and at the same time, high level self-governance for people in Nagorno Karabakh, if adopted that will be the road to peace. We want to have peace in our region. We want our people to be able to use their fundamental right to return to their homelands. Then, the situation in South Caucasus will change. It will create absolutely new situation in the region: positive and dynamic one. It will lead to the prosperity of all countries and nations in South Caucasus.