Statement by President lham Aliyev
- Distinguished Prime Minister,
Prime Minister, I cordially welcome you to Azerbaijan – welcome to our country! We attach great importance to your visit. If it is possible to say so, we are opening year 2018 in Azerbaijan with your visit. The first foreign guest this year is the Prime Minister of a friendly country, Mr. Boyko Borisov.
Our relations are developing successfully. We actively cooperate in the political sphere. High level mutual visits are paid. I have repeatedly paid visits to Bulgaria. This is Prime Minister’s third visit to Azerbaijan. Mr. Borisov last visited Azerbaijan in 2015. Then the Prime Minister attended the opening ceremony of the first European Games. We appreciate your participation in that ceremony, remember it and thank you again for that.
Today we have broadly discussed various aspects of our relations. We have reaffirmed that Bulgaria and Azerbaijan as two friendly countries will continue to cooperate successfully. In the economic sphere, we need to try to increase the volume of trade between us. At present, it is not at the desired level. Relevant instructions have been issued so that specific measures are taken in a short time to increase our trade. I believe that there are also good opportunities for mutual investment, and we will also work in this direction.
Of course, the main topic of today's talks was related to the energy sector. As you know, we are partners in this field. Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, along with other countries, provide for the implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor. Azerbaijan has rich gas fields. We have confirmed gas reserves of 2.6 trillion cubic meters. The construction of the Southern Gas Corridor will be yet another contribution from our side to the energy security of Europe. At present, Azerbaijani oil provides for the energy security for many European countries, and the same function will be performed by Azerbaijani gas in the near future. The implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor is progressing well. The progress of the Shah Deniz-2 project has reached 99 per cent. Shah Deniz-2 is the main resource base for the Southern Gas Corridor. At the same time, there are plans to complete the TANAP project this year. The progress of this project has also reached 90 per cent. Thus, the entire work is progressing on schedule, and this giant project is being successfully implemented. After the implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor, European energy security will have an even more sound basis, and we are pleased that Azerbaijan is contributing to that.
Taking into account the fact that 1 billion cubic meters of Azerbaijani gas will be transported to Bulgaria in a few years, the Prime Minister and I today asked the heads of relevant agencies to study the issues related to the gasification of Bulgaria by the Azerbaijani company SOCAR and to provide information on the opportunities available.
Gasification in Azerbaijan is going well. At present, 93 per cent of our country has been gasified, and this figure will reach 95 per cent by the end of this year. In parallel, SOCAR operates as an investor in the gasification of other countries, including Georgia and Albania. A relevant memorandum has been signed on the gasification of Albania. I believe that the activities of SOCAR as an investor in the gasification of Bulgaria can become an important event for both SOCAR and for Bulgarian consumers. Relevant instructions have been issued, and I am sure that negotiations will begin soon.
I have informed the Prime Minister that the official opening ceremony for the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway was held in Baku in October last year. This railway has redrawn the transport map of Eurasia. It will become the shortest transport route between Europe and Asia. At present, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is operational and is the shortest route between Europe and Asia from the point of view of distance. From the point of view of time, cargoes from Asia can be transported along this corridor to Europe in a matter of two weeks. Of course, Bulgaria is also located on this corridor, so we have told relevant agencies to discuss this issue and do the necessary work to increase the freight traffic.
As you know, the first Baku-Sofia flight will be performed tomorrow. The first flight will be operated by the Azerbaijani airline Buta Airways. This is a very significant event. Of course, this flight will attach our peoples even closer together. The relations between our people will further strengthen, an impetus will be given to the development of tourism. In other words, it will further strengthen the Bulgarian-Azerbaijani friendship.
I should also note that we are deepening our cooperation in the humanitarian sphere as well. There is a huge interest in Bulgarian culture, history and literature In Azerbaijan. There is a center of Bulgarian language and literature at Baku Slavic University. Of course, cooperation in the humanitarian sphere and contacts at the level of our people further strengthen and will continue to strengthen our friendship.
I have also conveyed to Prime Minister Borisov our congratulations on the occasion of Bulgaria's presidency in the European Union. This is a great success and a great responsibility of Bulgaria. I am confident that Bulgaria will successfully fulfill this honorable mission. At the same time, new opportunities will be created for the development of relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan during Bulgaria’s presidency. In particular, we are currently working on a new agreement with the European Union, and the negotiations are progressing very successfully.
In short, dear friends, guests, we attach great importance to your visit. Bulgaria is close to us. It is a friendly country. Your visit further strengthens this friendship. Thank you.