An international conference under the motto “Along the Middle Corridor: Geopolitics, Security and Economy” has been held at ADA University, Baku.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attended the conference.
In his opening remarks, Rector of ADA University Hafiz Pashayev said:
Distinguished participants of international conference. It is already the third time that ADA University and Center for Analysis of İnternational Relations are jointly organizing an international conference in which President Ilham Aliyev honors us with his participation. This conference has become an important platform for the discussion of regional developments, with a special focus on post-war peace building process and reconstruction. Messages from this room became valuable agenda points for global analysts and researchers, as well as for publications in world renowned journals. We thank President Aliyev for his valuable time, which he spends with us today. This time, we have decided to focus on the issue of Middle Corridor which is a highly relevant and timely topic of today's regional focus. Azerbaijan’s geo strategic location, has always attracted attention from the times of the ancient Silk Road to modern times, when national leader Heydar Aliyev has masterfully crafted the new energy map of the greater Eurasia and successfully built energy corridors. It was not easy at all. It's a crossroad both commercially and politically for all major issues facing the region. Azerbaijan has always resisted efforts by those who wish to dominate it, regardless of where the efforts come from. I want to bring to your attention that back in 2010 ADA university together with Central Asia Caucasus Institutes at the Johns Hopkins University has published a research study on how to make Azerbaijan and the Caspian region a transit hub of the continent. President Ilham Aliyev’s long term vision and tireless efforts to create a better synergy between Europe and Asia via Azerbaijan and the Caspian region have significantly contributed to this course. Azerbaijan’s 44-day Patriotic War and the liberation of the occupied lands have opened new opportunities for the regional transport corridors including Zangazur corridor and several other initiatives in this regard. We strongly believe that this discussion today and tomorrow will further enhance regional transport and connectivity agenda and bring more sustainable peace to the region. Please allow me to thank all international experts for their participation in these discussions. And now with great appreciation to President Aliyev for his valuable time, I turn the floor to his Excellency. Please Mr. President.
The head of state made a speech at the conference.
Speech by President Ilham Aliyev
-Thank you very much. First of all, I would like to express gratitude to our guests, international experts for being with us and to address this important issues. Of course, special gratitude to ADA university for hosting this important event. As Mr. Pashayev already said, it’s for the third time in recent history we gather here. I think the discussions which we had previously and this time will contribute to better understanding about regional realities, plans of Azerbaijan, and also our interaction with the neighborhood. Today’s topic covers a particular issue of middle corridor but, of course, when I see how it is called, “geopolitics security and economy”, of course, their coverage will be much broader and this is natural. Because in order to implement such a large-scale project as middle corridor, the issues of security and economic capability, of course, must be addressed. Because without security and economic potential it will not be possible to achieve the goal of full commissioning of the middle corridor which will be beneficial to all the countries in the region. Of course one of the important elements for implementation of any large-scale project is the stability. Azerbaijan is a country which enjoys stability for many, many years, and this was one of the main factors of our economic development and the role which Azerbaijan plays now on international arena also generated by our internal politics. Because strong economy, political economic stability and predictability of the policy of our government, all these factors, along with building bridges and establishing closer relations with as many countries as possible led to today’s reality. Therefore, political stability, security, economy all these factors are very important. Along with that, of course, what every country which is part of the middle corridor have done internally, in other words, what was the level of accomplishment of their homework in order to build physical transportation and logistics infrastructure. Azerbaijani geography is very well known. We are a landlocked country. We don’t have a direct access to world oceans.
Therefore, whether it’s our energy project, or transportation project we needed to work very hard in order to achieve our target. At the same time, advantage of our geographical location is just we are situated between Europe and Asia, actually, in the middle between the two continents and this allows us to play an important role in connectivity issues. But, of course, physical availability of infrastructure was most important and we invested in that sector for many, many years. And now, when we look at our railroad connections and highway infrastructure, we see that everything in Azerbaijan is ready. Five years ago we inaugurated together with our partners Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad project and now when we see the growing volume of cargo crossing our country we started to invest in the expansion of the Georgian segment of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars. This project will cost us more than hundred million US dollars and we plan to accomplish it within a year and maybe in a year and a half. At the same time, other transportation projects like the North-South corridor will add synergy to the East-West corridor. So, Azerbaijan actually is the participant of both corridors and most of the transportation and logistics infrastructure with respect to these corridors in Azerbaijan is ready. What we are doing now, we are just modernizing, we are building new railway lines in order to increase the speed of the trains and cargo trains. At the same time, we are investing in transportation infrastructure particularly, air cargo transportation infrastructure. Our trade sea port which is a relatively new element of transportation connectivity projects is going to be expanded. From today’s 15 million tons up to 25 million tons because of the necessity, because of the new geopolitical situation in the world and necessity to transport more cargo through Azerbaijan. And also we are in a process of completion of our airports projects. After Lachin airport is ready, which will be the third airport on the liberated territories, the number of international airports in Azerbaijan will be equal to nine. Of course, this is not only for passenger transportation, but also a cargo transportation. So we expect rapid growth of cargo transportation through Azerbaijan and we are ready for that. If we add our potential with respect to the shipping infrastructure and the availability of the brand new shipyard in Baku, we will see that we will definitely achieve what we planned. And in order to transport additional cargos from eastern shores of the Caspian through Azerbaijan, of course, we will need to have new tankers and ferry boats and cargo boats. So, probably now I will conclude this introduction to leave more time for our discussions. Once again, welcome. I know that you will be visiting one of the liberated cities, Aghdam, and also I am grateful for that. You will see with your own eyes the results of 30 years Armenian occupation. Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev then responded to questions from the conference participants.
Former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Board Member of the Jamestown Foundation, Matthew Bryza: Hi Mr. President, Matthew Bryza from the United States. In terms of the East-West corridor, Middle Corridor and specifically an energy, how are things going in terms of Turkmenistan, its gas getting incorporated maybe via Iran through swaps and also across Turkiye where there are some intense discussions of maybe private companies getting involved in the gas transit across Turkiye. Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Yes we are, of course, addressing this issue of looking at the very broad prospects of cooperation. I think these transportation routes which already are functioning will allow all the countries of the Caspian region to be more integrated. Our cooperation with Turkmenstan has a very good history, and today we provide important transit for cargos from Turkmenistan, and even in our Trade Sea Port in Alat we have allocated a special place for particular cargos from Turkmenistan. We started swap operations with respect to Turkmen gas. And the reason is that we are now facing a growth in our industry, and the big need for additional volumes of gas. Industry is growing, population is growing. We are now in the process of active reconstruction of Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur. Therefore, the demand for the natural gas definitely will grow. What is necessary to be done, of course, we will continue our cooperation with foreign oil companies which plan to increase gas production from existing fields and also the new fields which will be operational starting from next year, particularly, huge gas condensate Absheron field will start production next year and the first phase of production will be 1.5 billion cubic meters. Of course, there is a potential to increase several times the production. At the same time, we need to expand the existing pipeline system which also is brand new. We just completed less than two years ago the final segment of the Southern Gas Corridor Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) but already today, we see the demand to expand the capacity twice from ten to twenty bcm. That will need, of course, a consolidated position and investments of all shareholders. Azerbaijan has only twenty percent share in TAP. Therefore, we hope with partners we will get to that point, and also expansion of TANAP from 16 to 32 billion cubic meters. Because capacity of TANAP is almost fully engaged. So, all that will need, of course, additional investments. Of course for that we will need to have the arrangements of transit with our Turkish colleagues. Without that it will not be possible to satisfy the needs of European consumers and also growing needs of Turkish consumers. There is an opportunity now without losing time to engage Trans-Balkan pipeline, especially, after interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria was inaugurated last month, and we are ready. The capacity of that pipeline is 3 bcm. So, we are ready to supply necessary volumes maybe within one month. But for that we need a transit arrangement with Turkiye, unfortunately, we did not get to that point yet. Negotiations continue. They last more time than we anticipated but hopefully we will come to that agreement. Because if it is not reached due to some reasons then all our plans to supply additional gas to Turkiye and to Europe will be under threat. You know that this July we signed a MoU with the European Commission to increase twice the supply. There is a potential, because of first, as I said, new gas fields which we plan to commission in the coming years, I mentioned Absheron, I can mention Umid-Babak, I can mention Asiman, Shafag and many others. Second, serious reforms in our energy company SOCAR-new management, corporate management. Transparency and efficiency will save us additional volumes of gas. And also our projects which already started with international investors with respect to renewables. Two projects are already in the pipeline. 470 megawatt of wind and solar energy will be available probably by the end of next year. Plus, 230 solar megawatt plant in Jabrayil will be added to that. So, that will save us additional gas. In other words, we will be able to implement fully the MoU with the European Commission which we signed in July, but for that we need to finalize our arrangements with our Turkish friends and I hope that it will be the case sooner than later.
Executive Director of Center for Global and Strategic Studies of Pakistan Khalid Taimur Akram:
-Mr. President, my name is Khalid Taimur Akram and I am from Pakistan. First of all, thank you very much for inviting us. I am here for the third time and in the last one and a half year we have seen very intense diplomatic efforts by yourself in cooperating Central Asia, in cooperating Pakistan and other Asian countries. You were there in Samarkand also and in fact you attended almost every reasonable platform in last one and a half year. Before I move on to my question, first of all, I would like to thank you for exempting Pakistani guys from any kind of taxes for next five years. So, we are very grateful for that, and your gesture has been taken in a very, very positive for bringing up the trade between Pakistan and Azerbaijan. I would now like to ask you that how do you think you have been going around in all this inflation in other Asian countries. In your opinion, do you think that in times to come the dream of connecting Southern Asia, Central Asia and Azerbaijan is going to accomplish? Do you think that Iran and Armenia will be creating any kind of problems in times to come? Or will they be going along with in whatever the resident countries are doing? Because all these countries are making lots of efforts and we have practically seen you going around everywhere talking to the world leaders and especially the regional country leaders. So, your comments on that.
President Ilham Aliyev: I met twice Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Shehbaz Sharif during the last couple of months. We discussed broadly the agenda of our bilateral relations and this an agenda of friendship and brotherhood. We are very grateful to Pakistan for continuous support which the country demonstrates with respect to Azerbaijan-Armenia relations. During the times of occupation, during the war, and after liberation of our territories, Pakistan was always with us. And this political and moral support is highly appreciated by the people of Azerbaijan.
We discussed also with Prime Minister how to intensify the economic and trade cooperation and the decision which you referred to special regulations for rice from Pakistan is a reflection of that. Because we decided to make this step in order to stimulate the growth of mutual trade, and as we discussed with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif we need to see what kind of goods we can provide to each other and why should we buy rice from some other place if we have high quality rice in the brotherly country. So that decision was clearly based on our brotherly relations. With respect to my contacts with leaders of the region with context we have a very great level of dynamism especially now, after pandemic, when international travels again become part of our life. I spent a lot of time in Central Asian countries. I visited Uzbekistan three times since this April, on an official visit and for international events, I visited Kyrgyzstan on a state visit. President of Kazakhstan was on an official visit here this August, and also, before that I visited Turkmenistan. I am planning to visit Tajikistan next year. I have an invitation from President. Also on the sidelines of international events we always use time to talk, because a lot of things are happening and we must be ready for that. Speaking at the Summit of the Organization of Turkic States, I pointed to the issue of security, because now security becomes maybe more important than ever before. And countries which have traditional ties must address this issue on their bilateral track and also multilateral and see how we can support each other, because world has changed, international law is not working, or working selectively. Therefore, if you have a power, if you have a strong army, if you have good allies then you can feel yourself on the safe side. Therefore, I think that the connectivity projects which we are implementing will lead to more regional security and stability and there is a great chance to accomplish them. Again, as far as we are concerned in Azerbaijan, all the transportation projects whether it’s East-West or North-South, railroad or highway airports of lead, or sea port, everything is ready. So, the same level of readiness must be in all the countries on route of the corridor. Is it the case? No. But we see the positive dynamics. For instance at one of the international events which I participated relatively recently, there was an agreement signed on construction of railroad between China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. This project was on hold for many years. But now everybody understands that there is a need to bring cargoes towards the Caspian, to engage Trans Caspian opportunities to a large degree. Therefore, this project which is, as far as I know, financed by China has a great chance to contribute largely to transportation. We have excellent relations with Pakistan and I know that the Gwadar Port of Pakistan is transforming into a big international hub. And to connect Gwadar Port with our infrastructure is not a difficult thing, just to properly address the issue of tariffs, legal framework, coordination on regulation and to have a team work. For instance, we have started the trilateral format of active cooperation between Azerbaijan, Turkiye and Kazakhstan. The first meeting of foreign ministers and transportation ministers took place several months ago. Now the second meeting and our neighbor Georgia is invited. It will be a meeting of four countries, because we are all interconnected and we need to have a single policy. Because if any country will try to achieve more than it can then it will not work. What else we have done here. We have accumulated the synergy of our transportation entities, because previously there was a kind of a more corporate policy of these companies. I mean Azerbaijan Railroad, Sea Port, Caspian Shipping and some others. So, now we have full coordination, and the Ministry of Transport and Digital Development is coordinating this process. Therefore, there will be a single window in Azerbaijan, which will make very easy for companies which want to use this route in order to have minimum bureaucracy. And, of course, efficiency of our transportation companies. In all the transportation companies we have already introduced the corporate management criteria. So, it is already bringing results. You asked about whether Iran and Armenia will be able to disrupt this process. I don’t think so. First, Armenia have neither geographical nor any other capability or advantages in the region. It’s actually a deadlock country. No transportation route crosses Armenia. Their transportation network is outdated and do not belong to them. Their railroads belong to “Rossiyskie Jeleznie Dorogi”, RJD, Russian railroad company. Actually our discussions on the Zangazur corridor we have with Russia not with Armenia, because Armenia is a satellite country it’s a dependent country. Its independence is very symbolic and we are not going to waste time negotiating with them, we are negotiating with Russia. By the way, during my recent communications with Russian officials we discussed the Zangazur corridor, and I don’t think that Armenia will be able to block this project. As far as Iran is concerned, I also don’t think that will be the case, because Iran itself should be interested in regional connectivity projects. Because these projects are not against anyone. They are for the benefit. So, again if we manage to establish a platform of sincere cooperation and a shared benefit approach with all the players, it will work. If not then it will probably work partially. So, it will depend, of course, on our interaction with our partners. But again Azerbaijan as a geographical center of this project, and as a country which already, as I said, has full infrastructure in place and a country which has good relations with different international actors understands its responsibility and will do everything in order to move the project forward.
Chairman of the European Union-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, former member of the European Parliament Sajjad Karim:
-Mr. President, thank you very much. Sajjad Karim, former member of European Parliament and Chairman of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with Azerbaijan:
May I firstly thank you, of course, for your time yet again. This dialogue is extremely useful to say the least for those of us that are engaged on relations with Azerbaijan. And may I just start of firstly by congratulating you on your decision to establish an Embassy in Tel Aviv. As a British conservative, I find myself in a position to very much welcome that. And as a country support that decision that you have taken. Mr. President, your developments following liberation of the territories or preceding exactly as you stated they would do in terms of a vision not just for Azerbaijan but for the entirety of the South Caucuses. What I am interested in exploring a little more is digital connectivity and how that fits into your overall plan not just for Azerbaijan’s liberated territories but for the South Caucasus. We are seeing at the global level basically three different versions emerging when it comes to data protections. US model, European model and then the Chinese model. Where do you see Azerbaijan fitting in terms of data prospections? Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much, the decision which was made to open the Embassy in Israel and also representative office in a Palestine is a decision made based on our national interests and it reflects long-lasting cooperation with Israel and Palestine. And I’m sure that this decision will serve the cause of peace and actually it is a formalization of long-lasting, very friendly cooperation. And thank you for your support to that decision, because as we clearly understand not every country in the region is happy about that. But our task is not to make happy those who have some prejudice, our task is to make happy our people. And to do what is right for Azerbaijan and we are doing that. With respect to issue related to digital connectivity, yes, we understand the trends of the modern world. By the way, when we decided to change the name of our former Ministry of Technologies and Transport to Transport and Digital Development, that was a reflection of the reality. Because now this is one of the most important elements of development and of security. Which model we will chose probably is difficult to say for me. I think the experts and specialists will give me the advices about that, because I am not a specialist in this area. But we will make a choice based again on the best practice, on best technology, and best protection. Because we need to take care of cybersecurity, because we see that the more and more countries become very vulnerable with respect to cyberattacks even the countries with much more sophisticated technologies, and we are. Therefore, of course, we will seriously address this issue. But coming to your comments about the liberated territories, I’d like to say that we are applying in the liberated territories the latest technologies. And when I was saying two years ago right after the war that we will rebuild Karabakh and we will demonstrate the good example of reconstruction, I meant exactly that. And now it happened. We are building and reconstructing our citizens’ villages based on smart technology platform. And the first village in Aghali is already inhabited. And everyone who visits can see what will be a model for the reconstruction of Karabakh. Because not only it should be the kind of reflection of our moral duty in front of the former refugees who suffered for thirty years from Armenian occupation and they deserve to live a decent life and fully protected but also we consider reconstruction of Karabakh and Zangazur as a model for the whole country. We will then or may be already now steadily transfer technological experience and also administrative management. Because in the liberated areas we have a different administrative structure rather than in other part of the country. The Institute of President’s Special Representatives is already installed in three areas and it proves to be very efficient. So we are testing the model not only of technological development and how then to transfer but we are also testing the model of management. Therefore of course, we will be very, very attentive and committed to digital transformation and we will make the best choice, which is suitable for our people.
Ahmed Taher, Al-Hevar Center for Political Studies, Egypt
-Your Excellency, thank you very much for attending this meeting. You participated in the Arab League Summit in Algeria. We listened to your speech with pleasure. You emphasized the deep relations between Azerbaijan and Arab countries. My question is: How do you see the future of relations between Azerbaijan and Arab countries, in particular Egypt in general? Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: It was a big honor for me to be invited to attend the summit of Arab League and I consider it as a sign of friendship, and a sign of respect. Earlier this year, I hosted the Secretary General of Arab League, Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit and we discussed our future cooperation. Also, we are now in the process of discussion and also probably realization of the idea to establish the office of Arab League in Baku. We are ready to undertake all the necessary arrangements and to support this process, because this will reflect the substance of our cooperation. We are grateful to member states of Arab League for continuous support to Azerbaijan within the framework of the Non-Aligned Movement and Islamic Cooperation Organization. During the times of occupation, several resolutions have been adopted in our support, and accusing Armenians occupational policy and after the liberation also. Therefore, we consider it as a very obvious sign of support. We also actively work on strengthening the solidarity between the member states of Islamic Cooperation Organization. We held several international events here. During the times of pandemic, we provided financial and humanitarian assistance to more than 80 countries, including countries of Arab League and Islamic Cooperation Organization. We know that there is a big potential but we need to identify the main areas of economic cooperation because as far as political interaction is concerned, everything is clear. We are friends and my participation at the Summit once again, reflects that. But in trade and economic area our performance of course, cannot be satisfactory. And coming to our relations with Egypt, these relations also have a good history since the early years of Azerbaijan’s independence. We are actively communicating in different areas, and political economic, trade, tourism. I visited Egypt on an official visit and the President of Egypt also visited Azerbaijan on an official visit many years ago. So, we also had this format of cooperation and I think that the potential of this cooperation is really very, very big. Thank you.
Energy Security Expert from Scotland John Roberts:
My question is a follow-up to Matthew Bryza’s question. How far advanced are your talks with BP on developing the deep level of Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli field and expanding production in Shah Deniz? I will be cheeky perhaps than ask you: What keeps you awake at night?
President Ilham Aliyev: Well, at night I sleep well. I don’t wake up. No, this is true. There is no reason for me to wake up at night, especially now, in this peaceful environment Azerbaijan lives for more than two years. Already without the burden of occupation, without the risk of escalation. Because you probably heard that even during the times of occupation, Armenian high-ranking officials were threatening us that they were planning a new war for new territories. That was a quote of former Armenian Defense Minister who is now imprisoned by Mr. Pashinyan. But that was an open threat to Azerbaijan. There were other very arrogant comments like “if the war starts, Armenian tanks will be in the streets of Baku”. But actually this arrogant comment became a reality. Armenian tanks were in the streets of Baku but they have been in the military parade and now they are in the Military Trophy Park. So, after this glorious victory, there is no reason not to use night for sleep.
With respect to our plans with bp, of course, we are continuing our cooperation. bp is a strategic investor in Azerbaijan, and as you know an operator of ACG and Shah Deniz. It has plans to expand its activity. The projects like deep gas from ACG is now needed more than ever before. I know that negotiations between bp and SOCAR on this particular projects are moving very successfully. There have been certain delay in previous times due to some miscommunication of SOCAR management with Azerbaijani governmental officials. But now everything is clear. So, gas is needed for the market, and it is time to engage this huge potential. Because deep gas from ACG is really a big separate gas field. Also you know about the energy transition of energy companies. So, bp is also leading the process and their decision to invest in solar plant in liberated Jabrayil is highly appreciated. So, it is not only a sign that their leading the process of international companies in Azerbaijan with respect to renewables, but selection of liberated territory for us has a special meaning. Therefore, we are very grateful. 230 megawatt solar plant will be the first renewable facility on the liberated territories. We already have preliminary, accurate analysis of the potential of Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur. So, solar and wind potential is minimum 9.200 megawatt, and hydro potential is minimum 600 megawatt. By the way, more than 30 small and medium hydro power stations are to be built on the liberated territories. Five of them are already commissioned. So, really this is a big potential. As I said previously, more energy we produce from the renewables, more gas we will save for international market. So, it is a win-win situation. So, I am sure that other major energy companies will concentrate not only on the Caspian Sea potential, because we found out that the Caspian Sea has the second potential after the North Sea with respect to the wind energy. But energy companies will also turn their eye like bp did to Kalbajar, to Lachin where we have a huge wind potential, and to Jabrayil where it is probably the sunniest part of our country.
Director of Middle Eastern Studies Center (ORSAM) Turkiye, Ahmet Uysal:
-Thank you Mr. President. I see it’s very obvious that Azerbaijan shows good diplomatic activity recently in energy, security areas, especially on the Organization of Turkic States. What can you say about Azerbaijan's activity with Africa, third world countries, including East Asia? Thank you. Also, any hints about Azerbaijan-Turkiye relations. We must strengthen and expand our relations in the future. Your views on this would be interesting.
President Ilham Aliyev: If I start to talk about Azerbaijani-Turkish relations we will need several days to spend here. Vision is absolutely clear. We are brothers and friends, we are allies. Last year in Shusha we formalized actually what has been already achieved. We officially became allies signing the Declaration on Allied Relations. Once again it was just a formalization of the reality, because for many years Azerbaijan and Turkiye act like allies. We highly value this level of cooperation, partnership and brotherhood. We are absolutely sure that our cooperation will only strengthen in all the areas. This is a very important factor of regional stability, because Turkish-Azerbaijani cooperation and actions in the region aim to strengthen regional stability and this factor must be taken into account by all. Because we, two countries, combine our potential and together we are stronger than when we are separate. This is clear. Potential of Turkiye is growing. Potential of Azerbaijan is growing. Not only economic, industrial, but also military. Today’s world demonstrates that this is the factor number 1 for every country. If don’t have strong military forces you will probably suffer bitter days. So, investments in defense infrastructure, joint initiatives, joint military trainings. We regularly have more than ten joint military trainings with Turkiye during one year in Turkiye, in Azerbaijan. So, this is an important factor of regional stability and our security. All those who have bad plans against Azerbaijan or Turkiye should know that the Turkish army is not only the Turkish army but it is our army, and our army is not only our army but it is the Turkish army. All those who plan provocations on our border trying to frighten us should never forget it. With respect to countries of Africa, we are now more actively working with countries of African continent. Decision to open the embassy in Israel and representative office in Palestine also was a component of decision to open an embassy in Albania and in Kenya, in an African country. We have an Ambassador to the African Union, who is at the same time the Ambassador to Ethiopia. And our interaction, of course, is much more dynamic since we have undertaken chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement back in 2019. And at the summit which was held in Azerbaijan I said that we will be defending the national interests of member-states, justice and international law. And a unanimous decision by 120 countries to extend our chairmanship until 2023 is a reflection of support and respect from countries, including African countries, shown to us. During the time of the pandemic, as I said, we provided assistance to more than 80 countries, most of them countries of the African continent. We, at the same time, provided a donation of 10 million dollars US to the World Health Organization apart from the donations to African countries. So, I think that they also understand that Azerbaijan is a friend. So, the fact that we are supported in the Non-Aligned Movement and, by the way, we plan to organize another summit in Azerbaijan in the spring of next year, demonstrates that there is big potential for that.
Senior Policy Analyst at European Policy Center, Amanda Paul:
-Thank you, good morning, Mr. President. I would like to ask you to elaborate a little bit on your relationship with the European Union. I mean what are the priority areas? How do you see the role of the EU in the mediation process with Armenia, particularly of Charles Michel? And maybe a second question also related to the EU. You were at the recent summit in Prague launching the European political community. What is your perception of this new initiative? Because it still seems to be unclear to many people. And last but not least, how do you see the future of the Eastern Partnership? Is there life left in it or is it dead?
President Ilham Aliyev: Many important questions, so I will try to address all of them. First, our relations with the EU. This is one of the priorities of our foreign policy and I have publicly spoken about that many times. We consider the EU as our very important partner. We are now in the final stage of consultations with respect to the new agreement, which is almost 90 percent ready. Several unresolved issues still remain but that by demonstrating mutual goodwill we can achieve that and sign a very important document with the EU. You know that Azerbaijan did not join the association format. We did not sign the association agreement, as some other countries of the Eastern Partnership did. We gave preference to the bilateral format.
With respect to the Eastern Partnership, from the very beginning of this initiative we supported it, but our position was very clear. We consider it as one of the elements of our cooperation with the EU but not as a platform for cooperation with other member-states. Because six member-states of the Eastern Partnership have different geopolitical priorities, a different geography and a different, how to say, situation. And two of them, Azerbaijan and Armenia, were at war. With respect to the future of the Eastern Partnership, I am not very optimistic, frankly speaking. I recently received a big group of European representatives traveling here and to Armenia and discussed our future ideas. So I think that every initiative is good for its time. The Eastern Partnership started in 2009, if I am not mistaken. So it is almost 15 years now. It is not for granted that it should continue like that. Because especially now, if you look at these six countries of the Eastern Partnership, you will see even more differences between them than ever before.
The European political community platform is new. We have been invited and I actually participated. I was satisfied with how it was organized. I think it was organized in a very professional way. There was an opportunity to have a very sincere discussion off the record and address important issues. So as a platform I think it was successful. With respect to its future, my impression from the Prague meeting is that even the initiators of this platform do not know what the future will be. I think it is in the process. And this is probably natural. Because you can expect that everything is already pre-organized and you have these directives what will happen next. The good thing is that the decision was made to hold these summits every six months. So this, I think, is a good sign. Because if it was yearly, you know, you come, you meet, you forget, you go home and everything is stuck. So every six months will allow to have more dynamism. The next meeting is due to be held in Moldova, which I also see as a very wise decision to have this meeting not in an EU member-state. So we will see. Anyway we are glad that we were invited and if we are invited to the next summit, of course, we will participate.
With respect to the mediation of the European Union and personally Mr. Charles Michel, we supported it from the very beginning. Because we thought that after the funeral of the Minsk Group, there must be some platform. Because we need to have some institution to help us and Armenia to come to certain agreements. And the initiative of President Charles Michel was a timely initiative. And you know that we have had several rounds of meetings in Brussels. And I think that all of them were successful. We adopted a press-release after the meeting and it actually helped us to formulate the formula for a settlement. Because after the second Karabakh war there have been certain illusions in Armenia that they will continue to talk to us about Karabakh. And we said from the very beginning that this was absolutely out of the question. We are not going to talk about Karabakh with any country or international institution. The Karabakh conflict has been resolved. It is our territory recognized by all and it is our internal matter. So we needed to formalize that, and it happened. If we go back to the Prague meeting and look at the communique of the meeting, we will see that Armenia officially recognized the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan for the first time, which means sovereignty over Karabakh. Also in the Prague press-release, there was a reference to the Almaty declaration of 1991, which actually formalized the administrative borders of former Soviet republics. That means that any speculations about some kind of a status or whatsoever for the Karabakh Armenians is out of the question. So, coming back to the EU format, it was important, because we also managed due to the interactions in Brussels to agree that we separate two tracks. One is the Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations on the peace treaty and the other track is our communications with representatives of the Armenian minority in Karabakh with respect to addressing only two issues: rights and security. And that was agreed. What I am trying to say is that this event produced a result. The meeting in Prague had a little different format, because President of France Macron joined our group. And, well, I would just end my comments here. But again, the result of the Prague meeting was successful for us because, again, Armenia recognized the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. I can tell you one more thing which has not yet been disclosed but it probably will be. The next meeting in Brussels was supposed to be held on 7 December. Because at the last meeting we agreed to meet in November but then we had a meeting in Sochi organized by President Putin at the end of October. So it was supposed to be held on 7 December, but yesterday I got information from Hikmat Hajiyev that he was communicated from the office of Charles Michel and informed that Prime Minister Pashinyan agrees to the meeting on one condition – that President Macron also should participate. Of course, that means that this meeting will not take place because of what happened after Prague. The Prague meeting was on 6 October, and then less than one week later President Macron in his interview attacked Azerbaijan and accused us of what we hadn’t done. After that there was this famous French Senate resolution, which was absolutely unacceptable and insulting. Now there will be another resolution of the National Assembly of France of the same anti-Azerbaijani origin. And then there was an attempt by France to attack us through the Francophonie summit, which is absolutely unacceptable because Francophonie is a humanitarian organization. It never dealt with issues like that. We have the initial text, a draft text of the France-Armenia tandem, which is full of insinuation, accusations and insults. But we have friends not only in the Non-Aligned Movement. Some of them, by the way, are members of Francophonie and also in Europe. So this anti-Azerbaijani resolution was actually canceled or they adopted something very formal. So taking all that into account, it is clear that under these circumstances and with this attitude France cannot be a part of peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia. And it wasn’t us who cut them from this format. It was them, because neither Russia nor the United States, other former Minsk Group co-chairs, never took, officially I mean, sides in the post-war period – only France. So that means that the meeting in Brussels on 7 December will not take place. We will see what alternatives we have, who will be a kind of a mediator or facilitator, or where the platform will be. I also consider this decision of the Armenian Prime Minister – because they could have imagine that we will be against it – as an attempt to undermine the peace process. Because the peace process will lead to the signing of the peace agreement in which they will have to admit that there is nothing about Karabakh. And in all the press-releases – whether adopted in Sochi or in Brussels – there is no reference to Karabakh. That’s why the Armenian side probably decided to use the old tactic which they used during the occupation to make this process endless without any result-oriented scenario. So if it is their choice, what can we do? We cannot force them to sign it. That means that there will be no peace treaty. That means that there will be no peace. And if there is no peace, then what do we have? So I think I have covered all your questions.
Senior fellow and director of the Center for Peace and Security in the Middle East, Hudson Institute, United States, Michael Doran:
Thank you very much, Mr. President. It is a great pleasure and honor to be here. I wonder if I can ask you about the relations with the Azerbaijanis in Iran. You recently made some very interesting statements about your concern for the Azerbaijanis both at home and beyond your borders. You have made statements about the power of the Turkish-Azerbaijani relationship. I can see as this alliance between Turkiye and Azerbaijan develops, how it can bring great benefits to Azerbaijanis beyond your borders. It can bring great benefits even to my own country. I am not sure that the people running the country recognize that. If you could talk about any of that and how you see that developing, the relationship with the Azerbaijanis beyond your borders, I would be very interested. And, I was struck by your comments just now that the peace process being stalled. But you also said that you were negotiating with Russia about the Zangazur corridor. Can you imagine the Zangazur corridor proceeding without the peace agreement with Armenia? And what do the Russians want in return? Thank you.