Statement of President Ilham Aliyev
- Dear Mr. President,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen!
Mr. President, first of all, let me sincerely welcome you to Azerbaijan again – welcome to Azerbaijan!
This is the first visit of the President of Italy to Azerbaijan. It is a historic visit. The Italian President is visiting Azerbaijan for the first time. I am grateful to you for accepting my invitation. I am sure that the visit will be very successful and Italian-Azerbaijani relations will continue to develop successfully. We have multifaceted ties which cover many areas. Many issues were discussed in the negotiations and meetings today. Issues of regional development and regional security, the relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan, our bilateral political and economic relations – many issues have been discussed, and I can say that our positions coincide on all issues.
Italy currently presides over the OSCE. We hope and are sure that Italy, as a country presiding over the OSCE, will play an active role in the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I have briefed Mr. President on the conflict and outlined Azerbaijan's position on the current state of the talks. We want an early settlement of this conflict on the basis of norms and principles of international law and within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. The historical lands of Azerbaijan recognized by the international community – Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts – have been under Armenian occupation for many years. As a result of this occupation and a policy of ethnic cleansing, 20 per cent of our land has been captured and over a million Azerbaijanis have become IDPs and refugees. War crimes have been committed against our people. The historical and religious monuments on our occupied lands have been destroyed. The OSCE has sent two fact-finding missions to the occupied regions. The reports of these missions indicate that Armenia has destroyed all our historical monuments and infrastructure facilities. There is a legal basis for the settlement of the conflict. Twenty-five years ago, the UN Security Council adopted four resolutions. The resolutions state that the Armenian armed forces must withdraw from the occupied lands immediately and unconditionally. These resolutions are still in force and it is necessary to ensure their implementation. Unfortunately, Armenia has for many years ignored these resolutions, continues its predatory policy and is trying to maintain the status quo. The co-chair countries of the Minsk Group, which deals directly with this issue, have repeatedly stated at the level of presidents that the status quo is unacceptable and must be changed. We support this position and believe that it is necessary to take steps to resolve the conflict as soon as possible. Armenian occupying forces should withdraw from our historical lands.
The "Partnership Priorities" document initialed between the European Union and Azerbaijan a week ago reiterates the European Union’s support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan and the inviolability of its borders. The Declaration on the results of the NATO Summit adopted on the next day also supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan. So it is no secret for anyone that Armenia has illegally seized our historical lands and must vacate them. Only after that can peace and cooperation be established in the region. Only after that can there be large-scale cooperation in the South Caucasus.
We have discussed the relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan today. Italy has a very positive role and position on these issues. I do hope that a new agreement will be signed between the European Union and Azerbaijan in the near future. Work on the agreement is under way. We have signed and adopted declarations on strategic partnership with member-countries of the European Union. Such declarations have been signed with nine countries, including Italy. In 2014, Italy and Azerbaijan adopted a Declaration on Strategic Partnership. This is a very serious political document which essentially demonstrates our relations with each other and establishes a format for further cooperation.
As for bilateral relations, as I have already noted, we are strategic partners. Our political ties are at a very high level, and the official visit of the President of Italy to Azerbaijan is vivid evidence of this. Italy is our top trading partner. Azerbaijan exports large amounts of oil to Italy. There is excellent cooperation in the energy sector. I am confident that this cooperation will deepen further in the future. Azerbaijan is successfully implementing the Southern Gas Corridor project together with partner countries. It is a $40 billion project, and most of it has already been implemented. The official opening of the Southern Gas Corridor took place in Baku this year. The TANAP project, which forms a significant part of it, was inaugurated in the city of Eskisehir. So work in this direction is progressing fast, which also plays an important role in the development of relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan.
Italian companies successfully operate in Azerbaijan. They have taken an active part in the construction of the polypropylene plant due to open today. There are many Italian companies operating in Azerbaijan. We have talked about this, and I told President Mattarella that all doors are open to Italian companies in Azerbaijan. We are aware of their high level and the fact that these companies have advanced technologies. They have implemented numerous projects in the construction sector, in the fields of agriculture and heavy industry in Azerbaijan. And they have done that at the highest level. Of course, the meetings held and the Italian-Azerbaijani business forum due with our participation tomorrow will usher new opportunities, because the rapid industrial and economic development of Azerbaijan requires the import of new technologies. Of course, we would certainly like to import these technologies from friendly countries.
President Sergio Mattarella and I have also had an exchange of views on cooperation in the field of culture and education. By the end of our negotiations, we reached the conclusion that we do not have any disagreements on the issues on our agenda. Our opinions coincide on all matters. Azerbaijan is a very reliable partner for Italy, and so is Italy for Azerbaijan. I am confident that our ties will be further strengthened after this visit and we will continue to cooperate fruitfully for many years to come.
Mr. President, I welcome you and your delegation to Azerbaijan once again. You are welcome!