President: Now is time for South Caucasus to demonstrate its commitment to peace, security, stability [UPDATE]
President Ilham Aliyev has said that now is the time for the South Caucasus to demonstrate its commitment to peace, security, and stability.
He made the remarks in a press statement with visiting Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda.
Reiterating Azerbaijan’s intention to see the South Caucasus as a region of peace, cooperation, and interaction, the president stated that after the second Karabakh war, opportunities are in place to create this format of cooperation.
“We have also exchanged views about that with our Georgian colleagues which also very positively consider this option but unfortunately Armenia is not willing so far to give a start, initial start to a trilateral format of interaction in the South Caucasus. I think that these opportunities should not be missed because now is the time for the South Caucasus to demonstrate its commitment to peace, security, and stability,” he said.
On the regional post-conflict situation, the president said Azerbaijan is optimistic to a certain extent and it is based on the fact that Armenia has officially accepted the five fundamental principles put forward by Azerbaijan to hammer out a peace agreement.
As soon as the second Karabakh war ended, Azerbaijan started to openly come out in favor of signing a peace agreement and the establishment of a joint commission on the delimitation of borders, the president said.
“This was not welcomed by Armenia. Then we clarified our position, these five well-known principles that are fundamental principles of international law, are in accordance with the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and good international practices,” the Azerbaijani leader highlighted.
Aliyev expressed the hope that Armenia remains committed to its initial position, which includes the adoption of these principles, adding that this serves as a basis for the signing of a peace agreement.
The president added that Azerbaijan called on Armenian to embark on the delimitation of borders.
“Because our state border with Armenia, including several districts of Azerbaijan which make up 20 percent of the territory, had been under occupation for about 30 years. Therefore, the need for the delimitation of borders is obvious. At a meeting initiated by President of the European Council Charles Michel in Brussels on April 6, it was agreed that both sides would establish a working group by the end of April and start their work,” the president added.
He emphasized that Azerbaijan set up its working group on time and was ready to send a delegation, adding that this was agreed with Armenia. In this regard, he added that it was the Armenian foreign ministry that proposed to hold the first meeting on the border issue.
“Azerbaijan accepted the offer and we were ready to send out a delegation. However, on the last day, on April 29, Armenia canceled the agreed meeting. This is very disappointing. Even more disappointing was Armenia's refusal to hold a different meeting on the border issue on 7-11 May, based on Armenia's initial proposal. So we are waiting for new dates from Armenia to start work. Because such an irresponsible position, of course, is worrying,” he said.
Aliyev stressed that Azerbaijan has always remained committed to its obligations. However, he underlined that Azerbaijan must see the same level of responsibility from Armenia.
“In other words, even though we have certain optimism, such maneuvers and fairly strange steps of the Armenian government actually undermine certain confidence,” he elaborated.
In remarks about the second Karabakh war, the president noted that Azerbaijan had fully exercised the right enshrined in the UN Charter, the right to self-defense. He recalled that Azerbaijan had remained committed to negotiations for about 30 years, but they yielded zero results.
“For a long time, I personally always called for the international community to impose sanctions on Armenia. If sanctions, serious sanctions had been imposed, there would have probably been no war. Unfortunately, Armenia took advantage of a very special attitude towards itself, and no sanctions were imposed on it even though it had flagrantly violated international law and occupied the territory of another country,” he said.
Moreover, the president mentioned that Azerbaijan is facing the issue of reconstruction and revitalization of its liberated territories, as everything there is destroyed and razed to the ground.
“International experts call Aghdam, one of the liberated cities, the Hiroshima of the Caucasus. However, as was the case in Hiroshima, the destruction here was not caused by an atomic bomb, but by barbarians and vandals during the occupation. I want to say again now that we are committed to peace and want to achieve it as soon as possible,” he said confidently.
Bilateral & EU-Azerbaijan cooperation
Speaking about the official visit of the Lithuanian president to Azerbaijan, Aliyev noted that it is considered a sign of friendship and partnership.
He underlined that Lithuania and Azerbaijan have been strategic partners for many years.
“The Declaration on Strategic Partnership signed between us really reflects the essence of our cooperation. Today, Mr. President's visit is further evidence of the strategic nature of our cooperation,” he said, emphasizing the strong political ties between the two countries, and the political dialog that helps to resolve various issues on the bilateral agenda.
“As you know, we will address representatives of the business communities of our countries later today. I am aware that there is a great mutual interest in working together. Today, we discussed various aspects of cooperation in economic, trade, transport, agriculture, education, energy, sports, and other fields, both bilaterally and in an expanded format,” he said.
Noting that the EU-Azerbaijan cooperation is developing very successfully, the president added that the European Union is Azerbaijan’s main trading partner.
Aliyev underlined that given the fact that Azerbaijan has started exporting natural gas to Europe and the fact that oil and gas prices are rising, the bilateral trade turnover has been certainly growing this year.
“We are grateful to Lithuania for supporting the nearing of positions between Azerbaijan and the European Union. Azerbaijan has already signed statements on strategic partnership with nine EU members. This is one-third of the member states. This shows that the European Union is as interested in cooperation as we are,” he said.
In turn, the Lithuanian President noted that Azerbaijan is a very important partner for Lithuania in the Caucasus.
“It is in our interest, Mr. President, to further develop bilateral relations in the spirit of the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership, signed in 2007. I fully believe that there is great potential for expanding our economic cooperation,” he said.
He also sounded Lithuania’s interest in exploring market opportunities and increasing bilateral trade, adding that Lithuania is in favor of more active cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan.
“Azerbaijan is a very important country in the context of the EU's Eastern Partnership platform, and also a strategic energy partner. We continue to support the progress of the new agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan,” he said.
Nausėda added that the EU is interested in strengthening cooperation with alternative energy exports, including Azerbaijan, in the field of natural gas and stressed that Azerbaijan is a reliable partner of the EU in the energy sector.
“We are seeing great potential for cooperation between our countries through European and other international development tools,” he said, recalling that Azerbaijan has set itself a goal of increasing the volume of renewable energy sources, and Lithuania has a strong position in the renewable energy sector, especially in the solar energy.
“Lithuanian companies can offer high quality and durable solar modules. Lithuania can supply Azerbaijan with many different food products, the main export market of which is the EU,” he said.
Moreover, emphasizing that cooperation between the two countries in the field of transport and logistics has great potential, Nausėda said that Lithuania is interested in exploring the potential of the Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor.
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