Statement by President Ilham Aliyev
- First of all, Mr. President, I want to express my gratitude for the invitation, the hospitality extended to me and the delegation. I am very glad to come to France again. You have visited Azerbaijan twice. In fact, this is an indicator of the level of French-Azerbaijani relations.
The political dialogue that has developed between us has entered a very active stage. We continue this dialogue today. We see that our positions on many issues overlap. Our strong political relations, of course, have a positive impact on all spheres.
France as a co-chair of the Minsk Group is making efforts to resolve the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We appreciate these efforts. In particular, I want to emphasize the meeting I held with the President of Armenia on your initiative at the Elysee Palace at the end of 2014. It was a very constructive and positive meeting. Unfortunately, after that meeting there was certain stagnation in the negotiations. We want to resolve the issue on the basis of norms and principles of international law as soon as possible. Armenia has for many years occupied Azerbaijani lands recognized by the international community. It occupies Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts. The entire Azerbaijani population, hundreds of thousands of people have been driven out of these regions. All infrastructure and buildings there have been destroyed. The OSCE fact-finding missions have visited the occupied territories twice and confirmed this in their reports. The UN Security Council has adopted four resolutions in connection with the conflict, which unequivocally state that Armenian forces must withdraw from occupied lands immediately and unconditionally. These resolutions were adopted in the early 1990s. Armenia, as it appears, is not inclined to implement these resolutions. Therefore, at the first stage, negotiations should resume as soon as possible. Armenia should not try to evade talks. As Mr. Hollande has noted, the status quo is unacceptable. The presidents of Minsk Group co-chair countries – France, Russia and America – have repeatedly stated that the status quo is unacceptable. We say the same thing. We want an early change in the status quo and an end to the conflict, so that peace could be guaranteed in our region and Azerbaijani IDPs could return to their native land.
Mr. President has said that our bilateral agenda is very extensive. Visiting MEDEF yesterday, I saw a great mutual interest once again. Our economic ties are developing. French companies have invested more than $2 billion in the Azerbaijani economy and are involved in many important projects in Azerbaijan. French companies support us in the development of the space industry of Azerbaijan. At the same time, projects are being implemented in the field of municipal transport, transportation, infrastructure, water, drinking water, environment, etc. We are very pleased with this cooperation. In the meetings held with French companies, I convinced them again that Azerbaijan has a wonderful climate for foreign investment. At the same time, Azerbaijan's economic potential is growing. Thus, even more French companies can work in Azerbaijan as contractors.
Cooperation in the humanitarian sphere is also very successful. Mr. President has noted this both in the sphere of culture and education. I simply want to emphasize that immediately after the decisions that we made with President Hollande, projects began to be implemented. We are seeing this on the example of the French-Azerbaijani University. In a short time, just a few months after the decision was made, the university opened its doors to students. There is a huge interest in the university.
We cooperate very actively in all other spheres. The President has noted that the relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan are of great importance. Last month, negotiations started on a new partnership agreement with the European Union. Countries of the European Union are our main trading partners. The vast majority of our products are exported to Europe. In addition, the European Union is the biggest investor in Azerbaijan. We are implementing various projects, among which I want to highlight the Southern Gas Corridor. This strategic gas pipeline being built on the initiative of Azerbaijan will contribute to the energy security of Europe. The total cost of the Southern Gas Corridor project is $40 billion, and Azerbaijan is heavily involved in the realization of this project as an investor country, as an implementing party and as an initiator.
I am confident that French-Azerbaijani relations will become even stronger in the future. The talks held today give grounds to say expect that. We want these ties to reach an even higher level so that the people of France and Azerbaijan have could get even closer to each other.
Mr. President, I want to thank you for your hospitality again.