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President Aliyev says strong partnership between Europe and Azerbaijan should be continued

28 April 2014 08:30 (UTC+04:00)
President Aliyev says strong partnership between Europe and Azerbaijan should be continued

By Aynur Jafarova

The summit dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the European Union's "Eastern Partnership" program and attended by heads of state and government was held in Prague on April 24.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev addressed the summit, AzerTag state news agency reported.

Addressing the plenary session, President Aliyev firstly welcomed the participants.

The Head of State noted the last five years is regarded as a very significant period from the point of view of the establishment of a closer relationship with European institutions.

"In the past five years our country has conducted reforms in political, economic and other spheres. Our relations with member-states of the European Union have been very broad and constructive. The essence of these relations, of course, has changed for the better," President Aliyev said.

"We attach great importance to economic reforms and consider our cooperation with the European Union very important from this standpoint. Democratic development, protection of human rights, rule of law and fundamental freedoms are our top priorities. We are modernizing our country. The modern economic system should be complemented by a modern political system. From this standpoint, the European Union is a great example."

President Aliyev also noted that a lot have been done in the economic sphere.

"I can tell you that largely thanks to the economic reforms Azerbaijan has been the fastest growing economy of the world in the past 10 years. It has grown more than three times. We have managed to get rid of poverty and unemployment. Poverty is at 5 per cent in Azerbaijan. Our external debt accounts for only 8 per cent of the gross domestic product.

"According to the Davos World Economic Forum, the Azerbaijani economy is ranked 39th in the world for competitiveness. Our cooperation with European institutions is broad. It covers political, economic and trade issues, political reforms and, of course, the issue of energy security. 2011 was a very significant year from this point of view. In 2011, President Barroso and I signed a memorandum on strategic energy partnership in Baku, which paved the way for close cooperation. We have achieved a great success over this short period of time. In particular, a month after the Vilnius summit, we signed Europe's biggest infrastructure project worth $45 billion, which is regarded as the agreement of the 21st century. Most of the investment will be made by Azerbaijan and other partners. The development of the gigantic gas field of Shah Deniz and the construction of Trans-Anatolian and Trans-Adriatic gas pipelines will redraw the European energy map. Thus, Europe will obtain a new source of gas supplies in the next four to five years. I believe that this strong partnership between Europe and Azerbaijan should be continued, so that we could implement important and mutually beneficial project," he said.

President Aliyev also gave a strong answer to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, who dedicated his entire speech at the summit's plenary session to theories associated with the so-called "Armenian genocide". Taking advantage of Turkey's absence in the event, the Armenian president went completely beyond the subject of the summit's plenary session, raised the issue of the fictitious "genocide" and chose Turkey as the object of a scathing attack. On the one hand, Serzh Sargsyan accused Turkey of not taking a constructive position with regard to the so-called "genocide" issue and, on the other, of not opening the border with Armenia, adding that this country's membership in the European Union was unacceptable. In his speech, the Armenian president attempted to convince the audience that the European public should take a more assertive position on the issue of the trumped-up "genocide".

President Aliyev said unfortunately, the Armenian President has taken advantage of the opportunity to launch another attack on Turkey. "It is easy to do so because there are no Turkish representatives around this table. But I am here and I can tell you why the Turkish-Armenian border remains closed. The Turkish border with Armenia was closed after the occupation of Azerbaijan's Kalbajar region in April 1993. Prior to that, all the Azerbaijanis were driven out of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azerbaijanis accounted for 30 percent of the Karabakh population. Before Kalbajar, the Armenians occupied Shusha and Lachin. Then they occupied Agdam, Fizuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, Jabrayil, which are outside the administrative borders of Nagorno-Karabakh - a total of seven Azerbaijani regions which constitute 20 percent of Azerbaijan's internationally recognized territory. Our population has been exposed to ethnic cleansing," he said.

The Head of State further said the occupation continues to this day despite four resolutions of the UN Security Council, resolutions of the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Armenia flouts these resolutions and continues the occupation of a territory that does not belong to it both from a historical perspective and from the standpoint of international law.

"Also, they carry on accusing Azerbaijan of taking an unconstructive position. Our lands are under occupation. The principles of territorial integrity and self-determination are explicitly reflected in the Helsinki Final Act. The right to self-determination cannot be achieved at the expense of the territorial integrity of a country. In addition, the Armenians have already completed the process of self-determination, as there is an independent Armenian state. Just imagine what may happen if the Armenians continue pursuing self-determination wherever they live. They may display the same approach here in the Czech Republic, in Georgia, in Russia, in America and wherever they live. But they already have a state of their own and have already completed the process of self-determination.

"Azerbaijan is interested in the speediest settlement of the conflict. I am sure that so are the Armenian people. This is also in the interests of cooperation in the South Caucasus," he said.

President Aliyev said as far as Turkish-Armenian relations are concerned, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a statement several years ago, suggesting that the Armenian leadership open all the archives and historians review the historical aspects of the relations between the two nations again.

"However, this suggestion was not properly received. Yesterday, Prime Minister Erdogan extended his condolences to people of Armenian origin, but unfortunately the Armenian side did not issue a relevant reaction to that either. Although, as I know, the United States and the European Union have praised the position of the Turkish Prime Minister, it appears that this is not enough for the Armenian government. This clearly shows who it is that doesn't want peace in the region," he said.

President Aliyev emphasized Azerbaijan wants peace. "We want our lands to be returned. Armenia must start withdrawing its troops from Azerbaijan's occupied lands. It is very easy to do that. It only requires political will from the Armenian side."

"And finally, the last issue. The Azerbaijani people are asking one question: why isn't Armenia faced with sanctions? Why isn't the Armenian delegation deprived of the right to vote and to address the Council of Europe? They have occupied the territory of another country and are flagrantly violating the rules of international law and four resolutions of the UN Security Council, but are not faced with any sanctions and punishment. The fictitious representatives of the illegal and criminal regime in Nagorno-Karabakh receive visas to European capitals. This is unacceptable and must be stopped," President Aliyev concluded.

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