Azerbaijan-initiated projects change Europe’s energy map
By Sara Rajabova
Azerbaijan and Germany have discussed the prospects for the development of bilateral ties during President Ilham Aliyev’s working visit to Berlin.
President Aliyev met Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel in Berlin on January 21, the Azerbaijani presidential administration reported.
Highlighting the importance of president Aliyev’s visit, Chancellor Merkel said Germany was interested in expanding cooperation with Azerbaijan. She noted that Azerbaijan is playing a profound role in the diversification of European energy supply routes, execution of large-scaled projects such as TAP and TANAP, and the Eastern Partnership initiative.
Merkel said more German companies were interested in participating in the diversification of Azerbaijan`s economy and implementation of infrastructure projects.
Noting that Azerbaijani-German relations were successfully developing, President Aliyev said his visit created good opportunities for discussing the development of the bilateral ties.
President Aliyev further noted with satisfaction active participation of many German companies in the diversification of Azerbaijan`s economy, adding that there was good potential for enhancing the cooperation.
He also touched upon Azerbaijan-EU relations, saying they were successfully developing. Regional, international and other issues of mutual interest were discussed at the meeting.
Following the meeting, President Aliyev and Merkel have given a press conference.
“The political relations have a positive impact on all other areas. Naturally, today the economic cooperation is also on agenda. Many German companies operate in Azerbaijan. We support their activities,” President Aliyev said.
He noted that in the future, the German companies will be able to do in Azerbaijan even more, both as contractors and investors.
“Given the dynamic development of Azerbaijan’s economy, the realization of numerous infrastructure projects, then, of course, successful activities of German companies in Azerbaijan will continue,” he said.
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict great source of threat for region
Touching upon the issues of regional security, President Aliyev said the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a priority for Azerbaijan, stressing that this is a great source of threat, both for Azerbaijan and the region.
“As is known, the internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan have been under occupation of Armenian army for many years. Some 20 percent of Azerbaijani lands are under the occupation, over one million Azerbaijanis suffer from the occupation and have become refugees and internally displaced persons,” President Aliyev said.
He noted that the UN Security Council adopted four resolutions on the settlement of the conflict, which demand the unconditional withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories.
“Unfortunately, Armenia ignores them, willing to keep the status quo. This conflict must be settled on the basis of principles and norms of international law within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. As in all other conflicts, there should be a single approach,” he said.
Chancellor Merkel said conflicts, including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be solved peacefully.
She regretted the frequent violations of the ceasefire along the line of contact between the Armenian and Azerbaijani troops, noting that Armenia and Russia adhere to certain common stance on this issue.
Merkel also said Germany supports the work of the OSCE Minsk Group, which is tasked to broker peace talks over settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
She further praised the role of Azerbaijan in energy security of Europe and expressed support for the ‘Southern Gas Corridor’ project.
As Merkel noted, the negotiations also focused on the issues of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the EU, and expansion of relations within the Eastern Partnership.
Projects, initiated by Azerbaijan changes Europe’s energy map
President Aliyev further said the energy security was among the main topics of the talks, adding that the projects, initiated by the Azerbaijani side, change the energy map of Europe, the energy security of which will be further secured with help of Azerbaijan as well.
“The TANAP project started in 2012 and the TAP project was selected in 2013 as a main export route, and late last year the foundation for the Southern Gas Corridor was laid. Azerbaijan is the initiator of all these projects. At the same time, Azerbaijan undertakes large financial commitments for the implementation of these projects,” President Aliyev said.
The president expressed confidence that all the work will be done in a timely manner.
“The TANAP project will be realized in 2018, and TAP a year after it. In order to achieve this, of course, it is needed to have closer cooperation in this area between Azerbaijan and the EU,” he said.
President Aliyev noted that next month Azerbaijani capital of Baku will host the first Advisory Council of the Southern Gas Corridor at Azerbaijan’s initiative, and expressed confidence that it will discuss all the issues.
“Once again I would like to say that I greatly assess my visit today. The relations between Azerbaijan and Germany have great potential. The decisions made today, the negotiations held, will greatly contribute to the development of relations,” President Aliyev further said.
All freedoms secured in Azerbaijan
While responding to the questions of journalists on human rights issue, President Aliyev noted that all the freedoms are secured in Azerbaijan.
He said Azerbaijan has, in the last 11 years, been one of the most rapidly developing countries in the world in terms of economy.
“According to surveys held in Azerbaijan, my rating stands at about 90 percent,” he further said, adding that this is related to the reforms that have been in recent years conducted in Azerbaijan.
“The economy has grown by over three times, the unemployment and poverty stand at the level of five percent. In terms of competitiveness, Azerbaijan’s economy ranked 38th in the assessment of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Naturally, with such results the rating of any leader should be high,” President Aliyev said.
Speaking about the freedom of speech, Azerbaijani president said that it is provided in the country by 100 percent.
“Hundreds of media outlets operate in Azerbaijan,” he said, adding, “At the same time, no restriction is put on the internet in the country. The internet is free, there is no censorship.”
President Aliyev also noted that the number of the internet users is about 75 percent.
“The freedom of press is provided in full,” he said, noting that the same can be said about the freedom of assembly.
President Aliyev noted that in recent years there has been great progress in Azerbaijan regarding the development of democracy.
“It is of course very important for us. I am sure the political reforms should be carried out simultaneously with the economic reforms. Only this way the sustainability of reforms can be ensured,” he said.
President Aliyev further spoke about the cooperation with the Council of Europe, saying the country has been a member of the CoE since 2001 and has been timely and properly fulfilling its commitments to the organization.
He said Azerbaijan has adopted many laws that meet the European standards. He also underscored that human rights in Azerbaijan are secured.
“These issues are being discussed within international organizations. There are problems in every country, including in Azerbaijan. The main thing is how they are solved and what the government’s intentions are,” the president said.
President Aliyev also stressed that the representatives of all religions, all ethnic groups live in Azerbaijan as one family, adding there is no confrontation and misunderstanding.
“I believe our achievement is that religious freedom is fully secured in Azerbaijan. The values of multiculturalism are protected in the country at a high level,” President Aliyev added.
He also said Azerbaijan’s experience in this context is being explored by other countries. He went on to say that Azerbaijan has consciously chosen this path and the country is true to universal values.
President Aliyev expressed confidence that the discussion of these issues in the future will bring even greater contribution to the work in this area, additional steps will be taken in this direction, and reforms will be deepened.
“I would like to once again note that political reforms are being complemented by economic reforms,” the president said.
He added that a modern state is being built in Azerbaijan, which marks the 24th anniversary of its independence.
President Aliyev wrapped up his two-day working visit to Germany on January 21.
Following the visit to Germany, President Aliyev paid a working visit Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos.