Press conference of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

03 september 2010, 15:50

The signing ceremony of Azerbaijani-Russian documents was followed by a press conference of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

In his statement, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said:

- Dear Dmitry Anatolyevich!

Distinguished guests!

Ladies and gentlemen!

It is a very remarkable day in the history of relations between Russia and Azerbaijan. Important documents of political and economic nature have been signed today and I am sure they will determine very important directions in the development of our relations for many years, for decades to come. They include the Agreement on the state border, on delimitation and effective use of water resources of the trans-boundary river Samur, as well as an addendum to the contract on cooperation in the gas sphere. This is a graphic example of dynamic and effective development of our relations.

We view our relations as those of strategic partners, neighbors and good friends. The current visit by the Russian President, the documents signed, the exchange of opinions and the talks we have held are evidence of the dynamic, effective and positive development of our relations. We value these relations very highly and I am sure that they will continue to develop in all directions as they have been to this day.

There is very close political interaction, very frequent meetings and contacts between us. We value very highly the fact that the President of Russia, the President of a great state, is visiting Azerbaijan for the third time in the last three years. I also visit Russia - Moscow and other cities – very often. This is evidence of our mutual interest, of the fact that our relations have a broad agenda.

Our relations are not limited to cooperation in one particular field. They are multifaceted – political ties, economic cooperation, joint projects. A large segment of our relations is made up of cooperation in the energy sector, oil and gas operations, cooperation in electricity supplies, transport. We work jointly on projects of regional and global scale. The North-South transport corridor is already demonstrating its potential, while Russia and Azerbaijan are important components of this corridor. We cooperate in the Caspian as well. There is cooperation in building up security in the Caucasus. Military and technical cooperation between our countries is developing fast. There is cooperation in the humanitarian sector. We could talk about each of this directions with specific facts and projects for a long time.

I mentioned during the official reception in honor of the Russian President yesterday that we are attaching special importance to the cooperation in the humanitarian sphere. In this case, we have very good results. Today, our bilateral cooperation is going beyond bilateral frames and turning into an international humanitarian project. The fact that Baku hosted the Russian-Azerbaijani forum on humanitarian cooperation this year is already yielding fruit. We have agreed today that the Russian-Azerbaijani forum will have an international status next year. Therefore, our cooperation is getting beyond the bilateral format and will bring together the countries and peoples interested in cooperating in this sphere. We in Azerbaijan are interested in that. We want to see representatives of all ethnicities inhabiting our country live in peace, friendship and brotherhood, as is the case today. We are very pleased to see that the humanitarian cooperation between our countries is backed up by specific projects.

In other words, our relations are multifaceted and diverse. They cover almost all spheres. Most importantly, following the signing of the Agreement on the state border, there are no other unresolved issues in our relations. The fact that this Agreement was signed in an official ceremony in Baku today is further evidence of how sincere our relations and intentions are. This agreement is an important milestone in our relations. There are projects issues ahead of us. Today we exchanged views on how we can expand the economic component of our relations, what new projects we are going to implement and how we plan to coordinate our activities. Specific steps are already planned in the energy sector.

I would like to express my gratitude first of all to Russian President Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev for this visit to our country, for the joint work which has led to the agreements reached today, and express my confidence that our relations will continue to develop in the spirit of friendship, good neighborliness and strategic partnership.

In his statement, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said:

- Dear Ilham Heydarovich!

Dear colleagues!

Dear mass media representatives!

It is indeed a very important day in the history of Russian-Azerbaijani relations as independent states. Today we have resolved the last of the major issues between our countries. For Azerbaijan, this is the first agreement, the first agreement on the delimitation of borders. Therefore, it carries special importance for the future of our relations. The Azerbaijani President has just described these relations as friendly and warm relations of two strategic partners. Of course, I fully share this assessment. The essence of these relations can be tracked in almost all spheres of our cooperation. I could speak about economic ties, cooperation in security affairs, regional and humanitarian contacts. But I will provide only one example which characterizes the nature of these relations in the best possible way.

As you may know, the Russian Federation has experienced a disaster. Many residential settlements were burned, people were killed, many houses were enveloped in flames. Our Azerbaijani colleagues extended us a helping hand by participating in the effort to extinguish the fires in a large number of our settlements. This is indeed very important, especially since such disasters occur quite unexpectedly and often last long. Even now, although it is autumn, the fires keep on raging. In fact, two of our regions, settlements and people were affected yesterday. Of course, we will restore these areas. But it is particularly important in such difficult situations – and such disasters can happen even to such an economically developed country as Russia – that close friends can extend a helping hand. I would like to thank you very much again, Ilham Heydarovich, for everything that has been done.

As for the future, it seems very good to me. We have very promising projects. Today we have also signed agreements on joint utilization of water resources of the trans-boundary river Samur. This is our common asset, and we simply need to find out how we can use these resources in the best possible way. Our energy cooperation is certainly very important but it is not the only direction. We have agreed that we may actually dedicate a separate meeting to this issue, a separate summit of heads of state, to synchronize our activities in all directions, especially since we have already started developing certain relations, including those in the gas sector. Cooperation in the oil sector, commerce, electricity – these are also the directions we are paying special attention to.

Regional issues are always on the agenda. We talked about that a lot. Of course, we also spoke about security issues. I hope these questions are asked during the press conference because I think it is interesting. I will not go into detail now.

We also spoke about the need for preserving the positive achievements we have made lately in another common area for us – the Caspian area. I also hope there are opportunities ahead of us to deepen this cooperation.

The humanitarian sphere is very important. A symbolic conveyance of the icons smuggled onto Azerbaijani territory back to Russia has just been held. And it is very good that such cooperation between our law-enforcement agencies is developing. We would like to thank the Azerbaijani side again for the conveyance of Russian relics. This friendship gesture is certainly appreciated.

It is necessary to continue the communication between our specialists in the area of education, between people of culture. It is for this reason that I am welcoming the initiative made by the Azerbaijani President today to lend the forum in Azerbaijan an international status. I think it represents a good platform not only for the discussion of bilateral humanitarian issues or those pertaining to the development of political contacts, but also at the international level, especially since there are interested parties – our neighbors who are also ready to take part in it. I think it will be interesting. We will participate in such a forum with great pleasure if our Azerbaijani friends invite us.

So, this is a remarkable visit indeed. It is remarkable for both formal reasons, because a very important document has been signed to lay the groundwork for cooperation between our countries for decades to come, and from the standpoint of informal and personal communication – without such communication it is impossible to develop good relations. We meet and communicate a lot, we have friendly relations and I hope they stay the same in the future.


Then the heads of state answered questions from journalists.

- An additional agreement has just been signed whereby Gazprom will increase the purchases of Azerbaijani gas next year. At the same time, Azerbaijani gas is seen as the main source of the Nabucco pipeline which, in its turn, is the key rival of the Southern Stream. Isn’t there a conflict between these two issues: on the one hand, Russian-Azerbaijani relations in the gas sphere are strengthening, while on the other, Azerbaijan is not giving up participation in a competitive project. And in general, is there enough gas for all? This question is for both presidents to answer.

President Dmitry Medvedev: You know, we must heed attention to our economic interests. We must understand that there are interests of one side and interests of the other. These interests are always pragmatic. This is not a humanitarian sphere where everything is perfect. This is a sector where we earn money. It is normal. And we must proportion our opportunities with our wishes here. This is first. 

Second. The Azerbaijani President and I have said today that we are major players and our interests largely overlap because our countries produce and export energy resources. Therefore, on the one hand, we must be able to reach agreement, while on the other, we must cooperate. The example of this cooperation was demonstrated when our colleagues signed documents on expanding the gas trade.

Thirdly, there are different projects. Russia has always thought that we can’t and mustn’t hamper any projects. This is completely unnatural. I think we must simply identify the most interesting spheres of cooperation, thus showing the attractiveness of joint projects. As for future projects, we wouldn’t mind if the projects fetching profit for our partners won. No-one wants to impose anything on others. At the same time, these must be economically viable projects. This is what I would consider when building energy relations for the future.

President Ilham Aliyev: On my part, I would like to indicate that Azerbaijan started exporting gas to world markets in 2007. The volume of gas produced in Azerbaijan keeps on rising every year. We have quite impressing reserves. Only confirmed gas reserves in Azerbaijan constitute over 2 trillion cubic meters, while a realistic assessment of potential reserves is around 5 trillion cubic meters.

So we have enough gas for decades. Our cooperation in the gas sector is of a very open and sincere nature. We are viewing this sector as an opportunity to strengthen relations with our friends and partners. As for our cooperation with Russia in this sphere, as you may know, it started relatively recently. First documents were signed only last year, but over a short period of time, by signing an addendum to the contract today, we have actually increased Azerbaijani gas exports to Russia by four times. This is a mutually beneficial project which has a great future. One of the biggest pluses of the project is that there is no transit country between Azerbaijan and Russia. We are neighbors, we are linked by a gas pipeline system which is expanding. We are investing resources in the expansion of Azerbaijani gas transit to Russia.

As for as other projects you mentioned and the competition involved, we have never viewed our activities in the gas sector as the opportunity to enter into an unfounded competition. In this case, we do not proceed from political interests, but from purely economic and practical ones. We are satisfied with the conditions existing between Russian and Azerbaijani companies in the gas sphere today, and I hope Russia is too. Therefore, if all interested sides treat this from the standpoint of economic viability and if the artificial politicization of these projects is reduced to the minimum, I am sure that the interests of all interested sides will be taken into account. I want to reiterate that we view our energy cooperation with Russia as long-term and strategic partnership. It covers not only the gas sector, it includes oil, electricity and in the future, if we agree, we expect to increase the exports of all our energy components to Russia.

- I have a question to the esteemed President of the Russian Federation. The Azerbaijani public is understandably interested in your recent visit to Armenia and in the protocol signed there on the introduction of changes to the agreement on the Russian military base in Gyumri. How can you comment on that? 

President Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. Of course, I can comment on the results of my visit. Frankly speaking, we did discuss this issue with the Azerbaijani President, with Ilham Heydarovich. It is highly important for Russia to maintain stability here in the Caucasus. Russia is a country of the Caucasus, a Caspian littoral state. We proceed from this in building relations with Azerbaijan, our close neighbor and friend.

Therefore, we are interested in peace and order here. And this is how the decision made during my visit to Armenia, namely the prolongation of the agreement on the stay of the Russian military base in Armenia, should be viewed. There are no other or hidden interests. This base is intended to ensure peace and order, maintain stability, reduce the difficulties existing today. And this is what we will proceed from in using our capacities and exercising our authority under the agreement. There is nothing revolutionary in it and it means only one thing: the stay of this base has been extended by a certain number of years. And I am sure that we can thus further improve the overall situation here in the Caucasus, in Transcaucasia. These are the instructions I will issue to my subordinates – heads of ministries and departments dealing with the issue.

We have discussed this issue in detail with the Azerbaijani President. We will continue to closely coordinate our activities, exchange views on all security issues here in our region.

- I have a question for Mr. Aliyev. You have said that the Caspian theme is always on your agenda. Could you please say a few words about the status of the decision made at the Tehran summit of Caspian littoral states to conduct the next summit in Baku. Are there any obstacles in the way of conducting it in Baku?

President Ilham Aliyev: We discussed this issue with Dmitry Anatolyevich today. There are no obstacles in the way of conducting the summit in Baku. Our positions on the issue of demarcation of the Caspian Sea overlap. As you know, there is an agreement on delimitation of our national sectors between our countries. We think this is a very good format and it can serve as a solid foundation for a comprehensive solution of the Caspian status issue.

We have also discussed a tentative timeframe of the summit, and after relevant consultations with our partners, our Caspian neighbors, we will determine the schedule. I understand that there is an interest in conducting it in Baku before the end of 2010 without waiting for 2011.

- I have a question to both presidents. The unresolved status of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and the ongoing occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia pose a major obstacle to peace and security in the region. What are the prospects for the solution of this problem in your view?

President Ilham Aliyev: In our view, the issue requires the speediest settlement because the negotiating process has been underway for very many years. The Minsk Group dealing with the issue was established in 1992. In 1994, a ceasefire agreement was signed, but for all these years it has been impossible to achieve a comprehensive settlement. Azerbaijani territories are still under occupation. Azerbaijan has been subjected to a policy of ethnic cleansing resulting in the deportation of hundreds thousands of Azerbaijanis from Nagorno-Karabakh and seven districts around it.

There are resolutions of international organizations. The UN Security Council has passed four resolutions demanding withdrawal of occupying forces from Azerbaijani territories. There are decisions of the OSCE, the Lisbon summit, resolutions of other international organizations.

The conflict must be resolved on the basis of these decisions and resolutions and in line with the norms and principles of international law, as reflected in the Joint Declaration of Russian, Azerbaijani and Armenian Presidents signed in Moscow.

We think that the issue of linking the principle of territorial integrity with the right of a nation to self-determination is not irresolvable. The right of a people to self-determination must not envisage breach of a country’s territorial integrity and can be successfully realized within the framework of territorial integrity. Therefore, we think it is necessary to find a solution on the basis of norms and principles of international law, resolutions of international organizations. It is necessary to put an end to the occupation of Azerbaijani lands, allow the hundreds thousands of IDPs the opportunity to return to their native lands and live there in peace.

I hope that the Armenian side will demonstrate a constructive approach and we will reach a settlement on the principles I have mentioned.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Russian President for his active participation in this process. Dmitry Anatolyevich has initiated six meetings of Russian, Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents. This fact is unprecedented in itself. Never before have leaders of co-chairing countries been so active and, most importantly, effective.

Very important steps have been taken with the participation of Dmitry Anatolyevich to bring the positions of sides closer together. I would like to express my gratitude to the Russian President and hope that he will continue to make effort to this end. We discussed this issue today. I am convinced that the participation of the Russian President in the talks is playing a very positive role, and the talks being held in his presence are more effective.

President Dmitry Medvedev: I would like to indicate that the frequency of meetings between the Azerbaijani and Armenian Presidents has indeed been unprecedentedly high lately.

I had the opportunity to speak on this issue not long ago, and I said that I don’t feel ashamed of what has been done lately. There have been in-depth and thoughtful discussions despite the significant difficulties of the process. But in any case, these efforts are yielding fruit. The talks are ongoing and I think their intensity should not reduce. Russia is ready to meet its responsibilities within the Minsk Group framework, fulfill, if you like, its moral obligations as a neighbor of the countries continuing their discussions. I am personally ready for a continuation of such contacts, as I am to discuss the most complex issues that still remain on the agenda. I do hope that such consultations involving foreign ministries of our countries and ourselves will be continued in the near future.

I am grateful to Azerbaijani President Ilham Heydarovich Aliyev for the kind words that have been said.

Russia will continue rigorously fulfilling its obligations and facilitating achievement of the necessary result. This result is very important. This result can bring lasting peace and security to the region and the Russian Federation is, without a doubt, interested in that.