By Rashid Shirinov
President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly George Tsereteli has paid an official visit to Baku, where he attended the first conference of Silk Road Support Group of the OSCE PA as well as discussed the cooperation of the OSCE PA with Azerbaijan, the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and other issues.
At the meeting with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov later in the day, Tsereteli said that the OSCE PA will observe the presidential election in Azerbaijan proceeding from an unbiased and neutral position.
The sides discussed issues of cooperation between the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and Azerbaijan. They stressed importance of constructive dialogue and development of ties in the spirit of mutual understanding.
Mammadyarov and Tsereteli positively assessed the active participation of the Azerbaijani delegation in the work of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the initiative to develop cooperation.
The sides also exchanged views on the negotiation process conducted with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Mammadyarov stressed that attempts to change the internationally recognized borders of states with the use of force are unacceptable. The minister said that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be resolved within the internationally recognized territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan on the basis of the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and the Helsinki Final Act.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result of the ensuing war, in 1992 Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding regions. More than 20,000 Azerbaijanis were killed and over 1 million were displaced as a result of the large-scale hostilities. The 1994 ceasefire agreement was followed by peace negotiations.
Until now, Armenia controls fifth part of Azerbaijan’s territory and rejects implementing four UN Security Council resolutions on withdrawal of its armed forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions.
In an interview with reporters on March 13, Tsereteli said that Azerbaijan is an important member of the Silk Road Support Group. He said the OSCE PA has a big delegation from Azerbaijan, which makes good initiatives, including the development of a special group to support the Silk Road project.
“We see the first results of these efforts, which were supported by many members of the PA and by many delegations. Currently, 22 countries are members of this group,” Tsereteli said.
In 2013, China proposed the “One Belt, One Road” initiative that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries. The strategy consists of two main components: the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and the ocean-going Maritime Silk Road. The strategy envisages creation of a trade corridor for direct supplies of goods from the east to the west on preferential terms.
Considering the fact that Azerbaijan is located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and thus is a key link in the Silk Road Economic Belt, Baku initiated the creation of the Silk Road Support Group.
In his interview, Tsereteli also mentioned that peaceful settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the main goal of the OSCE, which is actively involved in the resolution of all conflicts in the region.
“Participation in the settlement and peaceful resolution of conflicts is one of the most important and priority tasks for the Parliamentary Assembly, and for the OSCE itself,” Tsereteli said. “Regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, we certainly support the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.”
The OSCE Minsk Group is co-chaired by France, the Russian Federation, and the United States. Although the Minsk Group deals with the issue for over two decades, its activities have brought no breakthrough results so far.
First Conference of Silk Road Support Group
Later in the day, Tsereteli addressed the first conference of Silk Road Support Group of the OSCE PA. Creation of a stable economic route is a common goal of the countries participating in the Silk Road, and Azerbaijan makes a great contribution to this route, he said.
Tsereteli noted that achieving economic prosperity requires cooperation between all participating countries of the route.
“Baku-Tbilisi-Kars is an ideal example of a corridor between east and west. Such projects are vital economic bridges between countries,” the OSCE PA president added.
Mammadyarov, in turn, noted that Azerbaijan is working to lure investments in development of new trade routes. “In particular, Azerbaijan held negotiations with Deutsche Bank and a number of other potential investors from countries interested in these routes,” he said.
The foreign minister stressed that Azerbaijan is expanding its investment potential by creating favorable conditions for foreign investors, as well as developing priority non-energy areas for attracting investments.
Mammadyarov noted that the development of international transport routes makes a significant contribution to the economic development of the OSCE region.
“The Silk Road route will serve as an important momentum for economic development of not only Azerbaijan, but all countries participating in the route,” he added.
President of the Montenegrin Parliament Ivan Brajovic, who also addressed the conference, said that his country will provide real support for the development of the Silk Road.
“Montenegro will work to provide favorable conditions for the participants of the route. The conference, being held in Azerbaijan, will not pursue virtual goals, and the sides of the Silk Road project will see the results of cooperation soon,” he said.
Chinese Ambassador to Azerbaijan Wei Jinghua, in turn, said that the cooperation between Azerbaijan and China within the Silk Road project as well as the “One Belt, One Road” initiative is an important factor in increasing the flow of cargo from China to Europe.
He noted that these projects will significantly expand China’s economic cooperation with the countries of Central Asia, the South Caucasus and Europe. “The routes supported by China will bring economic benefits to at least 80 more countries,” Jinghua added.
TRACECA Secretary General Mircea Ciopraga, who also joined the conference, noted that TRACECA offers close mutually beneficial cooperation to the Silk Road Support Group.
“The basis of partnership for all parties is to gain mutual benefit from teamwork, and active involvement in high-level international events, where there is room for exchange of experience and knowledge gained by our countries participating in the TRACECA corridor is very important,” Ciopraga said.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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