President Aliyev to Vucic: “We are strategic partners” & “our cooperation has strategic goals”
By Fuad Muxtar-Aqbabali
Azerbaijan’s foreign policy course has been yielding fruits and dividends in the true sense of the word, and President Ilham Aliyev’s foreign visits are vivid illustrations of my statement, where his opposite sides keep stressing his integrity, loyalty to his words, and willingness to extend a helping hand to nations under global economic crisis, coupled with soaring energy prices.
Visiting Serbia on November 23, 2022, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev got red-carpet treatment by his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, who welcomed the Azerbaijani leader at the nation’s key airport soon after the presidential Air Force One, accompanied by three Serbian jets in the sky as a sign of deep respect, landed.
In Belgrade, Azerbaijan and Serbia signed a memorandum to establish a Strategic Partnership Council, Aleksandar Vucic said, adding that he is very happy to be able to host “a true friend of our country, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev”.
In a statement for the media after the signing ceremony, President Ilham Aliyev also praised relations with Serbia.
"We are strategic partners in the true sense of the word because we successfully cooperate in many fields, and our cooperation has strategic targets."
Since no foreign meeting of the Azerbaijani leader goes by without discussing currently pressing vital energy issues, Aliyev and Vucic also mulled regional security and energy cooperation among others. Fresh opportunities for cooperation in natural gas and electricity sectors are opening, the leaders underscored and the host emphasized the pivotality of Azerbaijan’s mission to extricate several European nations from gas shortage amid declining gas volumes from Russia.
“Azerbaijan is a superpower when it comes to the production and export of gas. And in seven, eight, or ten years Azerbaijan will be exporting more than 35 billion cubic meters of gas to date and export is around 22 billion cubic meters of gas. Out of that more than half goes to the European countries and that is why we work on establishing an interconnector between Serbia and Bulgaria so that we could provide in advance important amounts and quantities of gas from our friends in Baku,” Vucic said.
Ilham Aliyev in his speech brought to the fore Azerbaijan's "rich gas resources that play a role in ensuring the energy security of many countries" as well as Baku’s intention to deepen cooperation in this field and all other fields “first of all with friendly nations". Azerbaijan will also take "additional steps" to deepen "military-technical cooperation" with Serbia, according to the president.
Compartmentalizing Aleksandar Vucic as "a true friend," Ilham Aliyev added said that their friendship had "played an important role" toward the "rapid development" of bilateral relations, adding that the two countries "always defend and support" each other on international platforms. Azerbaijan and Serbia support each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity and "this position is unequivocal and unchanged and will remain unchanged", he added.
Simultaneously, the Serbian leader’s point about his guest shed light on a plethora of issues expressly.
“Ilham Aliyev is the most popular man in Europe now. It’s incredible, how phenomenal changes happened in Europe. They usually didn’t have time for him. Now they have all the time in the world for him. It’s all reserved for Ilham Aliyev since they need his gas and everything that Azerbaijan can offer, now, he is quite loved over there. But I know that he is a smart guy. He sees everything, he understands everything, and I am a bit jealous to tell you the truth,” Vucic said openly and sincerely, laying bare a stark truth that there are invaluable things money cannot buy such as wisdom, true friends, integrity, a good name, satisfaction, purpose, trust, just to name a few.
As the author of this report, I cannot but also quote another excerpt from Vucic’s speech, which once again persuaded me of my probity to devote today’s lead article to the topic in question.
“President Aliyev and Azerbaijan are absolutely a reliable partner not only to us but to everybody. I told President Aliyev, because of all transparent protocol matters to sign some things, but for us, his word is enough because we believe in his word more than in any signature whatsoever. That’s quite enough for me. When he says something, I know it’s going to be like that. So, for us this is really important,” Vucic added.
Amid Azerbaijan’s growing role and presence in Europe and other regions, certain negative developments cannot but highlighted by pundits tracking the processes. Both Armenia, Russia, Iran, France, as a whole, and all the actors who want to secure their interests in the region have built their games around Karabakh, which has turned into a pear for bears and it would be naive to expect these games to stop.
The rhetoric of war has lately increased again and I think that this is the only logical option against the background of the illogicalities that are happening in the region, in particular, in Karabakh and Armenia. Under no circumstances, Moscow has sent Ruben Vardanyan to Karabakh to do ordinary work and official Baku has already branded Ruben Vardanyan as a project of Moscow though he has strengthened his position in Karabakh and latest provocations, shelling of Shusha and other regions by separatists inside Karabakh and Armenia’s armed forces along the nominal state borders are an indication of exasperating of the situation in months to come.
The appointment of Ruben Vardanyan as the state minister of the so-called regime has completely changed the situation in Karabakh. We know that Russia sent him there and it is the Russians, who are increasing the tension. On the one hand, there is tension between Azerbaijan and Iran, and on the other hand, with Russia. On top of that, the French factor is in place. Russians do not want the restoration of peace.
Armenia is by no means reconciled to the Karabakh defeat. Pashinyan was trying to gain time and allies, who would seriously support him by making various contradictory statements about Karabakh. Actually, he managed to do it. France at the level of its Senate, and Russia on the field are trying hard to make Armenia's non-realized dreams come true.
We can clearly see that Armenia’s steps are calculated for a long time and it is preparing for long-term revenge.
Addressing a parliamentary session, Nikol Pashinyan said that next year, the defense sector expenditures in the state budget of Armenia are planned at the level of 509 billion drams, which means that compared to 2018, the increase in military expenditures will be 113 percent.
In the meantime, on November 23, Armenia refused to sign a declaration of the CSTO summit on "joint measures on providing assistance to Armenia". Pashinyan said that the document did not address Yerevan's concerns regarding the lack of CSTO's political assessment of Azerbaijan's "aggression" against the territorial integrity of Armenia, yet another sign of his interminable efforts to involve members of the Kremlin-led military alliance in the conflict with Azerbaijan despite refusals he keeps receiving.
"Under these conditions, the lack of a clear political assessment of the situation and the failure to make the above-mentioned decision may not only mean the CSTO's refusal from allied obligations but may also be interpreted by Azerbaijan as a green light from the CSTO for further aggression against Armenia," Pashinyan claimed at the summit in Yerevan.
The Armenian premier did not suffice with his fresh defeat by his allies in the military bloc, claiming that the lack of reaction to "Azerbaijan's aggression" against Armenia "triggered huge damage to the CSTO's image" inside Armenia and abroad.
At this point, I cannot but quote Armenian experts, who are often annoyed and disappointed by promised all-out assistance, telling the truth when nothing of the promise comes true.
France has quite a rich experience in flirting with Armenians, pundit Argishti Kiviryan told a discussion on the topic "The impact of the processes taking place in the world on Armenia".
“Let's remember the year 1920 when the Cilician Republic was proclaimed on July 4 and the Armenians there hoped that France would protect them. Everything was over in one day. The next day, the French agreed with the Turks and liquidated this declared political association, as well as the Armenian armed forces formed there. Now France will turn it into a bargaining chip with Azerbaijan. Moreover, the decision of the Senate is advisory in nature,” he said and once again admitted that their hopes were dashed to the ground.
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