Azerbaijani, French presidents mull cooperation

By Aynur Jafarova

French President Francois Hollande, who is on an official visit to Azerbaijan, was officially welcomed by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on May 12.

Azerbaijani state and government representatives were introduced to President Hollande, and the members of the French delegation were introduced to President Aliyev.

Following the official welcoming ceremony the presidents of the two countries had a one-on-one meeting.

During the meeting the parties noted Azerbaijani-French bilateral relations are successfully developing in politics, economy, energy industry, transportation and other fields.

It was also noted that the French president's official visit to Azerbaijan is significant in terms of expansion of bilateral ties between the two countries.

The parties also expressed confidence that the relations between the two countries will continue to further develop.

During the meeting, the parties exchanged views on issues of bilateral, international and mutual interest.

Later, President Aliyev and President Hollande had an expanded meeting with the participation of delegations of the two countries.

The Azerbaijani president sincerely welcomed his French counterpart, and noted yesterday and today the parties had an extensive exchange of views.

"Today we continue these negotiations with the participation of the delegations. Bilateral agenda is quite large, it covers many issues, there is a mutual understanding in each direction and mutual support is being provided," President Aliyev said.

The Azerbaijani president also expressed confidence that the visit will give excellent results.

The French president, in turn, said Azerbaijan continues to develop further.

"We can say that we have witnessed this in all areas," Hollande noted.

Later, the sides signed several bilateral documents.

The signing ceremony was followed by a joint press conference where the presidents answered the questions of journalists.

In his remarks President Aliyev said the documents signed between Azerbaijan and France today determine the future cooperation between the two countries in many areas.

President Aliyev expressed confidence that it will play a positive role in the development of friendly relations between Azerbaijan and France and this friendship will continue.

President Aliyev also said of course, a joint statement has a special place among these documents.

"The reason is that this document describes the basic features of our future political ties," the president said. "Our political relations are at a high level. The French president's official visit to Azerbaijan once again confirms this. I have repeatedly been in France and regularly conducted the consultations. Of course, negotiations, consultations on many international issues further strengthen our political relations."

Answering the question about human rights situation in Azerbaijan President Aliyev noted the human rights situation in the country is positive, all fundamental freedoms, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly are secured.

"No one is persecuted in Azerbaijan for their political views. There is free internet in the country, there are no restrictions, and 70 percent of the population uses the internet," Azerbaijani president stressed. "That is, political transformations are very important for us, because we are improving our country. We are building a modern, strong Azerbaijan. We always hold discussions on these issues with France - a country having such great democratic traditions.

President Aliyev also praised Azerbaijan's economic relations with Europe. He said the economic ties with Europe are on the focus, because the European countries are Azerbaijan's major trade partners.

President Aliyev also noted Azerbaijan closely cooperates with France in the energy security area.

"Azerbaijan makes efforts to support Europe's energy security. The documents signed late last year will help to deliver Azerbaijan's gas to Europe and I am sure our relations with Europe will be even closer after realization of this project," President Aliyev stressed.

The president also said the Shah Deniz, Trans-Anatolia and Trans-Adriatic projects are Europe's biggest infrastructure projects, adding that the investments intended to be made stand at the level of about $45 billion.

"All parties - Azerbaijan, transit countries and European consumers will only benefit from the realization of this project. Because, this project meets the interests of all parties," Azerbaijani president said.

The president went on to add that Azerbaijan retains its leader position in the Caspian Sea region in the delivery of energy resources to the world markets as well as to Europe and of course, the energy security has become the matter of national security for each country.

"Azerbaijan's rich oil and gas recourses, the existing transport infrastructure and the one that is being created have greatly changed Europe's energy map," President Aliyev underscored.

President Hollande, in turn, noted France makes efforts for the existing conflicts to be solved through negotiations.

"You are already aware of the position of France and Europe - Europe and France always greatly assess and support Azerbaijan's territorial integrity," President Hollande said. "We make efforts for the existing conflicts to be solved through negotiations. This is also the main goal of our visit to the Caucasus."

French president also said he will visit Armenia tonight.

"Why? Because, 20 years passes since the date when the ceasefire agreement on the Karabakh conflict was signed and entered into force. Great steps have not yet been achieved throughout this period," President Hollande stressed.

"As an OSCE Minsk Group co-chair France also has a great responsibility. We should also take certain efforts for the settlement of this conflict, as well as restoration of confidence."

Francois Hollande stressed that these talks will also continue in Armenia in the second half of the day.

France always makes efforts to settle this conflict, he added.