An international conference under the motto “South Caucasus: Development and Cooperation” has been held at ADA University.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attended the conference.
Rector of ADA University, Ambassador Hafiz Pashayev said: Your Excellency Mr. President. It is our great honor and immense pleasure to welcome Your Excellency at our annual international conference. It also gives me pleasure to welcome 40 participants of the conference, who traveled to Azerbaijan from 23 countries. Last year during our first forum which was devoted to the great victory, and the liberation of the Azerbaijani lands, you Mr. President have kindly supported proposal of professor Ahmad Uysal to make it annual event and invite international experts and think tank representatives to discuss regional peace, security and development. You instructed us to do it and we are glad that this year we are able to fulfill this task under the new brand name- Shusha International Forum. Yesterday, our foreign participants traveled to jewel of Azerbaijani culture-city of Shusha. On the way they were able to get to know some important reconstruction and development projects in the liberated Karabakh, including airport in Fuzuli and a new road-Zafar Yolu. This is the road along which our brave soldiers went and liberated city of Shusha. Our guests on their way were also able to see some part of barbarian destructions which have been left after Armenian occupation. Now, this is important goal of our nation, and well articulated personal mission of the President Ilham Aliyev to turn Karabakh into the most prosperous and peaceful region of the world. I believe, our participants came back from Shusha full of joy and impressions. History of Karabakh, consequences of liberation war, regional integration, security, and challenges to the development issues, these are some topics which are under forum’s discussion. We hope that the messages and points coming from panel discussions will spread all over the world through articles, social media networks. During the Shusha session, a number of speakers made some suggestions and recommendations which I guess, participants might raise up today to get your, Mr. President, reaction. On behalf of all participants, I would like to extend our sincere gratitude to you, Mr. President, for your strong support to this forum and for your visionary leadership in building sustainable peace in the region. Mr. President, taking this opportunity, I want also to thank you for support you always extend to ADA university. Now, giving floor to Your Excellency, we look forward and are delighted to hear your introductory remarks. Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev said: Thank you very much. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, dear guests. First of all, I would like to express gratitude to ADA University for hosting this event. It’s already a tradition. We met last April here and discussed broad range of issues related to post-conflict situation. Of course, having these traditional meetings is very important for us, I think for international community to understand better our plans, our intentions and to look what has been done. I am glad that ADA University took this very important initiative. As you know, this is one of the leading universities in Azerbaijan with already very high-level of education, very good international contacts and also a university which is growing. Relatively recently, a new international partnership format on education was established and soon, I am sure the Italian-Azerbaijani University here under the ADA umbrella will open its doors for students. I would like to express gratitude to all the participants, to our guests, for visiting us and for travelling to Shusha. I am sure it was an interesting journey, to see the beauty of Karabakh, and at the same time, the devastations on route to Shusha and in Shusha also. Well, what you’ve seen is I think, the best illustration of what we had to experience during the 30 years of occupation. These mass destructions and devastations was not a result of the first Karabakh war, that was a result of barbarism and vandalism committed by Armenia throughout the 30 years of occupation. So, all our villages, most of our cities have been destroyed, knocked to the ground. In some regions like Kalbajar, Lachin, and partly Zangilan, and Shusha, there have been illegal settlement programs officially sponsored by Armenian government which is a brutal violation of international conventions. You have been informed about our plans to rebuild Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur. The plans really are large-scale and we are implementing with our own resources allocating the financial resources of our budget and with the support of international companies. But apart from that, the last year since we have met and discussed last April, one of the important tasks in front of us was to strengthen the new realities and to work with leading international organizations to present our case, to present our vision for the region and also it was very important that the international community, the leading international organizations accept the new realities on the ground, and it happened. And also in the meantime, we’ve been actively advocating for the new era in the Caucasus, era of peace and cooperation. And finally, we got a positive response from Armenia just recently, and their government accepted five basic principles which Azerbaijan put forward, the principles which should be a foundation for peace agreement with Armenia. At the same time, also, based on Azerbaijani proposal Armenia agreed finally to establish joint working groups with Azerbaijan to start process of delimitation of our border. I think these are important signs of recent development and also it shows that now after a year and a half passed since the second Karabakh war, Armenian leadership and I hope population understands necessity of peace. And if peace agreement is signed and those basic principles are known, then, the peace in the Caucasus will be long-lasting and sustainable. This is what we want, and I think that what we demonstrate and what we announce is a clear example of our will to contribute to the peace in the Caucasus. We are rebuilding Karabakh, we are mobilizing our resources to strengthen our economy because without that it will be not very easy to allocate substantial funds. At the same time, we advocate for peace agenda in the Caucasus, and I think on all the tracks, initiative is in our hands. This initiative serves and should serve the cause of peace. So, probably, I would conclude my introductory remarks here and maybe leave more time for our discussions. Once again, thank you for being with us and I am sure that this traditional format of gathering will continue maybe as one of the ideas I heard from Hafiz Pashayev that there will be some proposals from the participants. I just want to add to that saying that maybe there could be also some time of interaction in-between the Shusha international fora which will take place regularly. Maybe we can think about some other forms of meetings and conferences in- between maybe in other cities, in Aghdam, Zangilan, in other cities which have been liberated. So, to make I think, our interaction more efficient, because for us importance is that international community knows what have happened, knows the full truth about the years of occupation and knows about our plans and intentions to build peace. For that reason, I think there should be a permanent line of contact between participants and those members of expert society who didn’t manage to be with us today. So, that’s my proposal for maybe the next round of working program but of course, all the proposals which will be represented by you will be very carefully addressed. So, once again, thank you and wish you a pleasant stay in Azerbaijan.
Rector Hafiz Pashayev: If you allow me, I have to add to what I have said already about the visit to Shusha. There is already one proposal to make next one in Lachin.
President Ilham Aliyev: Agreed.
In Lachin, you know, we are now in the phase of construction of international airport, and in Zangilan the airport will open this year. In Lachin, probably in 2024 but we will find the way to get there in an easier and comfortable way.
Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan, Head of Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the Presidential Administration, Hikmat Hajiyev: Thank you, Mr. President. And with your permission we can start our question and answer session. Quite substantial number of our participants have subscribed for the questions. And I would like to start our first question with your permission with Mr. Svante Cornell. I will ask just our participants, please present the country that you are presenting an institution that you have come from. Thank you.
Svante Cornel, Director of Institute for Security and Development Policy, Sweden
Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. President for the invitation to this conference. It's an honor to be here. And it was particularly an honor to see the liberated Shusha for the first time. I am Svante Cornell with Central Asia Caucasus Institute in Washington and the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Sweden. My question follows up on your point about an era of peace. We understand especially I think, after seeing Shusha you know, studying something for 25-30 years is one thing, seeing it with your own eyes is very different. And we understand the difficulty of looking forward in view of the devastation that was imposed on these lands. But for an era of peace, my question to you regards whether you believe in the need for developing institutions to support on a regional level, a new era for the Caucasus. My perspective is that the liberation of Karabakh could be a changing point for the whole region, providing a historic opportunity to reverse the processes of division and conflict that really started with the separatism that led to the occupation of Karabakh in the late 1980s, and replaced this with a different process, a different era but not only in Karabakh, but in the broader Caucasus the process of cooperation and development that is truly regional. For this to develop it seems to me institutions would be needed and Azerbaijan is the only country that has the credibility and the resources to lead a process of creation of such institutions. Do you see the possibility of yourself taking the lead in creating regional institutions for the South Caucasus particularly financial ones, such as regional development funds and the like? Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Yes, it’s a very interesting issue which you touched upon. We need to consult with the expert society and also in the government what kind of a regional financial package we can put forward but of course, it’s obvious that for the time-being our main concentration is how to rebuild Karabakh and how to return the former refugees as soon as possible. At the same time, our peace agenda and initiatives which have been publicly articulated and were supported by international community is aimed at regional development, new opportunities for regional development in the South Caucasus. Not only between Azerbaijan and Armenia, of course, this is one of the most important element of regional cooperation, but in the Southern Caucasus in general. We lost this opportunity for thirty years because of separatism, because of Armenian aggression, and the South Caucasus was not integrated. Yes, there is a very close cooperation between Azerbaijan and Georgia, which on bilateral level and on international level already presents its importance. At the same time, I think that there should be also understanding in Armenia that they cannot continue to live like an isolated island in this region. They need to normalize relations with us, they need to put down territorial claims to Azerbaijan and to Turkiye and not to be hesitant in any kind of interaction on trilateral level in the South Caucasus. Why am I saying that? Because there have been already several times proposals from Azerbaijan supported by leading international organizations to organize trilateral meetings on different levels. We suggested on the levels of foreign ministers. Armenia refused. Then, there was a suggestion to have this meeting on the level of experts, again Armenia refused. Then we suggested to have this meeting on the level of representatives of civil society, and again Armenia refused. This is known by our partners and we do not understand why. Because we think it is counter-productive if we looked to the future of South Caucasus as integrated area of security, cooperation, and shared prosperity then this policy of Armenia is beyond any logic. Probably, they need some time, probably, they need to evaluate risks which they think may occur from that. But I think it’s inevitable, and we are ready and our Georgian colleagues are ready. So, I think that could be a first step and with respect to financial package for the region you know how Azerbaijan and Georgia have integrated taking into account the energy and transportation routes you are a good expert on that. And I think there are also opportunity to invite Armenia to be a part of regional development and they will benefit from that. They will benefit from getting access to our energy resources. They can be to a certain degree a part of the international transportation corridors. So that in itself will generate additional wealth. And also, normalizing relations with Azerbaijan will open such opportunities for Armenia that probably today it is difficult even to predict. So these are our plans. Building institutions I think should be in different directions. First, we need to start, I think from kind of a political dimension, because this is the most important. To what degree Armenia is willing to go forward? Because during the times of occupation, during my numerous contacts with Armenian leaders we always saw that when we came to a very decisive moment to have a break-through they always made a step back. There was very little trust and still, I can say that there is not much trust with their behavior if I may say so, because sometimes they make very contradictory statements. So, political dimension I think, important contribution will be also a kind of engagement of their representatives in our discussions. We, for instance will support that. We also think about some contacts, people-to-people contacts on the level of NGOs. As I said before, we can have some regional dimension, and also to look at a regional development broader. Because you know that European Union already announced very big financial package for Armenia 2.6 bln euros and also, later for Azerbaijan. So part of that resources can go to build connectivity and to create better opportunities for people. Taking into account a very small population of Armenia I think, that will be more than enough if it is used for the cause of peace but not again try to take revenge or to possess a threat to its neighbors.
Chief Executive Officer of Haider Global BVBA Brussels and London Sajjad Karim: Mr. President, Sajjad Karim former member of the European Parliament and chair of the South Caucasus delegation. Thank you very much. It’s good to be back in Baku. Since we last met the situation has changed considerably and I certainly find it possible to congratulate you personally and the people of Azerbaijan for this very significant achievement to put an end to this long-lasting injustice that had existed for far too long. One of the things that stays with me Mr. President, of all of the meetings you had with my delegation is that you never limited your vision for development to Azerbaijan. You always spoke about peace and development for the entire South Caucasus. With the current progress being made both in negotiations for a peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia with the EU facilitation and Turkiye-Armenia relations. Is it now reaching the time for Azerbaijan with its friends and allies to help create political space for Prime minister Nicol Pashinyan so that within Armenia and with the Armenian diaspora in Europe and USA he can really push for his people’s backing for peace? Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you. We hope that will be the case. Of course, every government has its own agenda and we heard that the Armenian government also announced a peace agenda. This is a very positive statement but at the same time, we need to see actions. And now I think, we see these actions, we see statements coming from Armenian government, which are aimed at peace, which are based on the new realities in the region, and which are based on international law. That’s what we always were advocating for. The realities have changed and this has been acknowledged by even the mediators. Even before Russian-Ukrainian war, there was a kind of frustration among the co-chairs of the Minsk Group what they should do. Because Azerbaijan itself implemented the Madrid principles. When I met the representatives of the Minsk Group just after the end of the war, I told them to give a proposal what they are going to do, what will be their agenda. And I know that it was difficult for them to put forward some practical proposals. But after the Russian-Ukrainian war it was already announced that Minsk Group co-chairmanship is no longer functional. It is dysfunctional. In this respect it shows that the new realities, of course, have their impacts. So, it is important that Armenian government and Armenian political spectrum fully realize the new realities and totally refrains from any kind of attempts to take revenge. First, it will be counter-productive. The result of that, if that happens will be even more painful for Armenia and second, it will be contradictory to the demand of the region and demand of international community to finally achieve a long-lasting piece. From our side, we do everything in order to support the positive trends. If you look at the history of long-lasting wars, occupations, and devastations we will see that in our case, the move from finalizing the hostile stage towards peace was very rapid. And that was again based on our proposal, because it was us and me personally, who was telling for more than one year that we need to have peace agreement with Armenia, and just finally they agreed, just finally. It was just weeks before. Before that, there was silence. And there were statements again about, statements related to contesting our territorial integrity. And at the same time, it was us who said let’s start work on border delimitation. Again, there was silence on Armenian side for more than one year. Finally they agreed and soon I would say, very soon, the joint working groups will meet. Why should they lose one year? It’s not understandable. Therefore, all our efforts will be aimed at strengthening the positive trends. But we cannot do it unilaterally. We need to see in Armenian government a partner, which we can trust and which we can agree on a long-term peace. So, I think that it is possible, but of course, it will depend on the internal political development in Armenia. Because it’s understandable that all the ideological basement have been seriously damaged. Because all their ideology was based on aggression, on attempts to legitimize occupation. Everything what they’ve done starting from erasing of Azerbaijani cultural heritage, ending with changing the names of our cities including Aghdam and Shusha and others, all was aimed at turning de facto occupation into de jure legitimization of secession. So now this ideological basis no longer exists and we understand it is not easy for them to find a new goal. In our case, our goal was very clear, to strengthen independence, and we always, during the times of occupation were thinking not only how to return Karabakh but also how to strengthen independence, make it irreversible and not to be dependent on anyone, whether it’s political, economic, financial, energy whatever. And we achieved that. We achieved both, full independence, ability to conduct independent policy and we achieved the return of Karabakh. Armenia lost its chance to be a really independent country. Don’t want to go in much details. Everybody knows the real political configurations there. They lost lands which did not belong to them. So, they need to understand it and find for themselves a new goal. And I think that will be peace and benefits of cooperation and putting down territorial claims to Azerbaijan and to Turkiye. And you know, it is absolutely irrational to put territorial claims to Turkiye which is one of the leading economies and one of the very few leading armies in the world. We support Turkish-Armenian process, and I think it’s a chance for Armenian government and politicians to think thoroughly about their future, how they want to see themselves in the region. I think that they don’t have a clear understanding and put down all the illusions, put down all attempts to rebuild the army, become stronger, to have five million population which they announced as their state program and then to take back the territories. That will be the end of their statehood, official end. We are ready to support positive tendencies and we are doing that. So, we have hopes, but we need to test Armenians, because we never had negotiations with them on peace. So now, it’s time when we start. As I said, on the border it will start very soon, on talks on peace agreement, we are ready and we are waiting for the date from Armenian government and we will start.
Professor of Political Science and International Relations of Turkiye’s Maltepe University Hasan Unal: Mr. president, Your Excellency, you were with us last year, and I was here, and I congratulated you in particular on your great victory, a victory of an unprecedented scale last year which basically changed the whole political landscape here. The Azerbaijani armed forces under your great leadership did a very very good job indeed. You not only put a sharp end to the irredentist dreams of Armenia but also you managed presumably to wake them up to the reality that they can’t basically get what they want with impunity. This year, I would like to congratulate you particularly on two things, your concerted efforts for the reconstruction in the liberated territories, a large part of which we saw yesterday both in Fuzuli, as well as in Shusha. And also for your relentless efforts for a diplomatic solution to the conflict region-wise both between Azerbaijan and Armenia, of course, but also between Turkiye and Armenia. Here, what I would like to ask you is about Russia, because I think it’s quite timely as in the west there is so much Russia-bashing. You seem to be dealing with Russia quite professionally and from a quite professional point of view, and last year you concluded a defense pact with Turkiye you called it, you know, quite nicely Turkish-Azerbaijani NATO pact, about which we were quite happy in Turkiye. This year, you seem to have signed an agreement, a declaration with Moscow, by which you have agreed on a number of schemes on cooperation including defense matters, and the political solution to the conflict in the Southern Caucasus and all that. And it seems as if there is a triangle now, which seems to be working in good order between Ankara, Baku and Moscow. Now. Would you comment on that first? You know, at the time when there is so much Russia-bashing across the western world, and would you also please, comment on how your handling of Russia impacts on Armenia’s behavior, if any? Thank you very much.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. Thank you for your kind words about what we are doing on the liberated territories, and thank you for being with us last year and this year. With respect to the question you asked, I think what you said also demonstrates what I have said before, the independent character of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy, which is based on our national interests, and which is based on maximum level of achievements. And in our region, we need to think about security and cooperation as an integral part of our today and our future. Because without security there will be no cooperation, there will be no economic benefits. Economic performance of Azerbaijan which is also based on our own resources, also was generated by stability, long-lasting stability, which is part of security. Therefore, these important events which you mentioned, Shusha Declaration signed last june with President Erdogan in Shusha, of course, reflects the character of our brotherly cooperation with Turkiye. Today we are just officialized the substance of this cooperation. We have been allies any way in all the forms, including in the area of military cooperation and defense industry. So now, by signing Shusha Declaration, in this historical city, we demonstrated to the whole world that we are together by word and by signature. Signing a declaration on strategic interaction with Russia, also was based on our strategic interest, because it’s our neighbor. It’s a country which actively participated to put an end to second Karabakh war and whose peacekeepers are in Azerbaijan, in Karabakh. Plus, there is a big range of issues which we worked on with Russia for many many years, economic, energy, transportation, cultural, humanitarian side, and of course, we were purchasing a lot of military equipment from Russia. Yes, true, we were purchasing it at a market price, unlike Armenia which got it free of charge. It was covered by the so-called loans but these loans have never been returned. So, that’s a difference. But at the same time, I think it was also a kind of message to the regional players that there should be peace and Turkiye and Russia, both of them, participated in the new configuration of the region after the war. You know that the Turkish-Russian monitoring center to observe the situation is based in Aghdam. So this is I think, for the first time in the history this kind of arrangement is possible, and also, Turkish-Russian relationship. Now we see the efforts of President Erdogan to facilitate a ceasefire in Ukraine. So, all that is serving the regional security and stability, at the same time, as I said, demonstrates once again the independent character of our cooperation. We do what is in the interests of Azerbaijani people, which the people who want peace after so many years of occupation. Of course, economic and political dialogue should continue and we are in favor of that. You also mentioned about a kind of triangle between Turkiye-Russia and Azerbaijan. It didn’t happen yet. We didn’t have any formal engagement at any level. But at the same time, there are a lot of issues which are interrelated. Particularly, transportation and energy. And we have active dialogue with both of these countries on separate tracks. They have it on their own track, but it has never been a kind of a trilateral format. Today I think, it’s a little bit premature to talk about that. Basically, we are satisfied with the regional configuration. We have good relations with all our neighbors, not only with Turkiye and Russia but also with Georgia and Iran. We hope to have good relations with Armenia and thus, we will be surrounded by the area of stability. That’s what we want in order to concentrate on peace agenda, on economy in order not to spend billions of dollars every year for purchasing arms, but to divert it into economy and reconstruction.
A question: Do you think that Russia can influence Armenia's behavior?
President Ilham Aliyev: Well, it’s difficult to say but we all know that there have been a lot of expectations in Armenia that Russia will interfere into war in Karabakh. It didn’t happen. Because we fought on our territory. And Armenia was trying to manipulate with this Collective Security Treaty Organization’s obligation. But Collective Security Treaty Organization has a mandate to support member states on their territory and we were fighting on our territory. So that did not happen. But at the same time we all know, and we publicly said many times during the 44-day war regularly there have been several days cargo planes carrying weapons from Russia to Armenia. We traced all the routes from Rostov, from Mazdok. We asked our Georgian friends to block the airspace and they did. Also, we asked our Georgian friends to block the land route from Russia to Georgia to transport weapons to Armenia and they did it also. And we are grateful. We send letters to all Caspian littoral states not to allow Russian cargo planes carrying weapons to Armenia. We send it to Kazakhstan to Turkmenistan and Iran. But unfortunately, these planes were using the territory of these countries entering Armenia. So that was how it was and we should not hide this part of 44-day war. But Armenian expectations were much bigger. They thought that Russian army should come and fight and defend separatism. It did not happen. There was a kind of frustration there, but because in the years of occupation, we know how Armenian government and diaspora work. They think that the whole world owes them everything. And someone will come and defend them, someone will come and fight for them. Someone will come and give them money, give them everything and they will sit and just exploit their questionable and very doubtful so-called tragedy. Every country, and every nation had tragic moments in its history. But their problem is that they made their main ideology this very doubtful and fake historical facts rather than to look to the future. So now taking into account that Prime minister Pashinyan paid an official visit to Russia on 19 April, just almost two months after the war between Russia and Ukraine and it was an official visit. So, it demonstrates that relations between these two countries are excellent and we always want relations between countries who surround us to be good. That’s part of our peace agenda.
Professor Brenda Shaffer from US Naval Post Graduate School Energy Academy:
Hello Mr. President, thank you for hosting us especially in the beautiful Shusha. I’m currently a professor at the US Naval post-graduate school and I’m very happy to be here in Azerbaijan. So you talked about exceptional behavior of Armenian and of the conflict. One issue that there seems to be almost uncontested agreement in the international system is the use of mines. You can hardly find any country that you know sometimes with terror, we see different interpretations one man has its liberation and another man has its territory right. We did not find anyone that says that use of mines have something that in any way is legitimate. And in this conflict the use has been exceptional and not just in the military zones but I think something like asking for ten days reprise for humanitarian reasons before leaving Kalbajar and then using that to throw thousands of additional mines, placing mines on the bodies of the shahids of Azerbaijani soldiers. So that, medical doctors and nurses were injured and killed when they were preparing the shahids for the burial with their families. Unprecedented in our modern era. But should the international community enable this behavior? I can even think about the US congress almost every year gave earmarked funds for Karabakh for demining, which it seems they were using that for mining. As you said that the EU throws 3 billion dollars with no strings attached of saying maybe you should use this for demining. Shouldn’t the international community be obligated to enable this behavior, to provide funding for this important work to demine the regions?
President Ilham Aliyev: Yes, I fully agree with you, and thank you for raising this issue. It’s one of the big problems and big tragedies, because after the war ended more than 200 people, military and civilians were killed or seriously injured because of the mines. As you correctly mentioned they planted mines after the war ended and we had tragic events and two journalists were killed in Kalbajar on the newly-planed mine. It is very difficult now to demine the area, because physically we don’t have a capacity. And now demining agency was created many years ago. Now we are increasing the number of personnel, we are purchasing the new equipment, new machines, including, very sophisticated like drones which can detect the mines contaminated area, but it takes a lot of time and efforts. So far we had groups of Turkish specialists who helped us to demine but, of course. we will need a broad international cooperation. Armenia unfortunately, was not even reprimanded for that terrible behavior. We find mines now which are newly-planted and in the area which makes them to find is very difficult. So, this is another demonstration of their behavior as we correctly mentioned we gave them from ten to twenty days to leave the territories which they had to leave based on the agreement signed on 10 November. But they used it for planting mines, for burning houses which they did not built, but they settled for cutting trees and for doing other ecological disaster. So, it demonstrates the behavior. And it’s not only the behavior of the government, and we must be very open, the level of hatred against those who did not do anything bad to you, who came only to return their territory and to be able to live on that land. With respect to international support, unfortunately we did not get any support from any international organization so far. What we do, we do it at our own expense. We wanted to contract several international companies which can help us to speed up the process, but unfortunately the price they want to charge is several times higher than the cost we pay for our demining agency. So, they look at it from commercial point of view. Well, we can to a certain degree understand it, because they are private companies. But that means that we will not be able, because it’s an astronomic figure which they want to charge for one meter of demining. When EU announced 2.6 billion euros support to Armenia and 140 or 160 million to Azerbaijan, of course, we raised our voice and on the very high level. That was another demonstration of double standards. Because I said that there is not a single house demolished in Armenia. Why you give them 2.6 billion? And a big part of that, will not be a loan, will be a grant, just a gift. And only hundred something million to Azerbaijan, the country which ten thousand square kilometers totally destroyed, and there was no answer. But it was good that later EU started to address this issue. During my last conversation with President of the European Council Mr. Charles Michel, he told me that they will allocate five million euros for demining. We are grateful for that but of course, it will not make big difference. We need a serious support and also from international NGOs who deal with the mine problems. None of them so far turned their eye towards Azerbaijan. We know that several NGOs, foundations, which help countries to get rid of the mines, but in our case, nobody is helping. And everything what is done on the liberated territories is done with the financial source of Azerbaijani budget only. Not a single dollar we got from any country or any international organization. And of course, it is not fair. It is double standards but what to do we live in this world. But anyway, no matter who will help us or not, we will clean the area. Of course, it will take more time. We will resettle former refugees and will build Karabakh that will be an example for the world. Thank you Brenda, very glad to see you again.
John Roberts energy security specialist (UK): First of all, thank you very much for being here and for organizing conference, because winning a peace is always every bit as hard as winning a war and very often a lot harder. I’ve got two sort of related questions, both concerning energy, because that is my field. The first is what’s the situation regarding the supply of oil and gas both to Karabakh and to Armenia as a peace-building mechanism. And the second is how other plans developing for a tripartite summit with Turkiye and Turkmenistan and what energy issues will be discussed.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you, with respect to oil and gas delivery to Karabakh, it did not start yet. But of course, we have plans to build gas lines, I mean to that part of Karabakh where we are now implementing the reconstruction works. And of course, we built power stations and already, not a big number but more than 20 megawatts of new power stations have been built last year. And 25 megawatts will be built this year. So, all Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur is already connected with electric lines and sometimes we had to bring these lines in the high mountains of 3.500 m which have snow 6 months a year. So, that has been done. Now, we have electricity. With respect to the area which is now under control of the Russian peacekeepers, we do not supply any energy there. But the gas pipeline which goes from Armenia to Khankandi is going through the territory which is under our control. There was recently an explosion there and for several days there was no gas and unfortunately, we were immediately accused of causing humanitarian catastrophe. Again, double standards, because when the first Karabakh war started, Armenians cut the gas supply from Azerbaijan mainland to Nakhchivan and for fifteen years Nakhchivan, the population of at that time more than 400 thousand people have been living without natural gas. And the winter there is much severe. It goes beyond 30, and nobody was accusing Armenia for causing humanitarian disaster for Nakhchivan. Only in 2005, we agreed with Iran to build a pipeline and now Nakhchivan is 100 percent gasified. But what we did, we restored the pipeline which was going from Armenia to Russian-controlled part of Karabakh, and now the supply has been restored. What it will be in the future, I don’t know. If there is a need to use our energy, I think it will be possible. It will be much easier and less costly to deliver electric energy, natural gas from Aghdam to Khankandi rather than to bring this gas from Russia, Georgia, Armenia and then Azerbaijan and Khankandi. But again, if there is such a request we will look at that. With respect to trilateral meeting between Azerbaijan-Turkiye and Turkmenistan, yes, there were the plans to organize such a meeting but so far the dates have not yet been fixed, and we are waiting for our partners to give us. It was Turkmenistan who was initiator and it will take place in Turkmenistan. Therefore, we are waiting for the dates.
Hikmat Hajiyev: We have on our list also Amanda Paul. Amanda.
European Policy Center, Belgium Amanda Paul: Good morning Mr. President.
President Ilham Aliyev: Good morning.
Amanda Paul: Thank you very much for the invitation. It was a real pleasure and honor to come here and to have the opportunity to visit Shusha and that's something that I wanted to do for a very long time. So a dream come true. If I can put it that way. I'm from the European Policy Center a think tank that's in Brussels. So coming from the EU, I would like to ask you a question about the EU. Charles Michel has been very proactive in terms of trying to facilitate dialogue between yourself and Prime Minister Pashinyan and progress the agenda forward. How would you characterize the role of the EU so far in this process? I mean, there's been two meetings so far, if my memory serves me correctly. Could you elaborate on how you see the role of the EU? Is it doing the right thing? Could it do more? And what would you like to see the EU doing more of?
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. Thank you for this question. It is really very important for understanding better our plans and prospects for regional cooperation. We highly appreciate the role of EU in the post conflict normalization, and particularly President of European Council Mr. Charles Michel. He visited the region, Azerbaijan and Armenia last year when we had very long and very constructive discussions with him about our plans about EU position. Also, we are grateful that they seriously addressed our concern which I already mentioned that there was a big disproportion between the financial package to Armenia and Azerbaijan, and that was corrected. Now we are only waiting for some more specific details. Because our position was and it was delivered to European Union leadership that Azerbaijan wants to get as much as Armenia in the same proportion. As much loans with the same interest rate from European banks and as much grants. I think that is a very fair position. Then we had as you know, several sessions of interaction in Brussels. December and April trilateral meetings were organized by Mr. Charles Michel. There was a video conference in February and with the participation of President of France. We also regularly communicate by telephone. And there is a plan to organize a follow up of our Armenian-Azerbaijani representatives in the beginning of May, again in Brussels. So we highly welcome this efforts. For us, European Union is a very important partner. And we have a very broad agenda with EU. Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict was never part of that, because it was dealt with Minsk Group and EU was a little bit distant. But now, it is also on our agenda along with the issues like trade, energy, transportation, and humanitarian issues and issues related to democratic development. So we consider EU as a fair broker and welcome the efforts. So I think that's now when the Minsk Group co-chairmanship is dysfunctional, I think EU can play and it plays a very active role in the normalization process. So we support it, and we see the benefits. And by the way, my recent contacts with the Armenian colleague were in Brussels. So Brussels now became my main destination of travels. And one more thing to add that we are now in the final stage of agreeing some issues on our new agreement with EU which is according to our and EU’s assessment is ready more than 90%. There was a war there was a COVID that a little bit put it on standby. But I think that we can finalize it pretty soon. We have an agreement, but it was signed many years ago. So new agreement is very comprehensive. It absorbs the new realities after second Karabakh war, and definitely will also address the new situation in the world.