Statement by President Ilham Aliyev
- Thank you very much, dear Madam President!
First of all, Madam President, I want to express my deep gratitude to you for the invitation to visit Croatia and for the hospitality extended to me and the delegation. As you noted, I feel very much at home in Croatia. I am very pleased to visit your beautiful country again.
Our political dialogue has been very active. As noted by Madam President, we meet quite often. Two years ago, Madam President was on an official visit to Azerbaijan. The visit was very successful and produced very good results. Last year we met on the sidelines of an international conference. And today I am visiting Croatia. This shows that the political dialogue is very active. This shows that Croatia and Azerbaijan are indeed strategic partners. As noted by Madam President, a declaration on that was signed in Zagreb five years ago.
Our relations of strategic partnerships are expanding and intensifying. Many issues were discussed today. Madam President has spoken about that. For my part, let me note that we intend to carry out trade operations with Croatia in an even larger volume. We can’t be content with the volume or structure of our trade. I think that the intergovernmental commission will do very serious work in connection with this issue. In the near future, not only can we increase trade but also implement joint investment projects.
Of course, our cooperation in the energy sector is very significant. Azerbaijan is very actively involved in the implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor. We initiated this giant project. This project unites seven countries, envisages the construction of a 3,500-kilometer gas pipeline from Baku to Europe and the development of the giant Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan. This project consists of four segments and is being successfully implemented. The official opening of the Southern Gas Corridor took place in May this year. In June, we celebrated the opening of the TANAP project. Thus, I am sure that Azerbaijani gas will be delivered to Europe for the first time in the next two years. In this way, we will make yet another contribution to the energy security of Europe and Azerbaijan can unlock its gas potential to the world and Europe in an even greater volume.
Of course, cooperation with Croatia in this area is very important. The meetings of the Advisory Council of the Southern Gas Corridor have been consistently held in Baku for four years. Croatia is represented at a high level at these meetings. We have also signed a memorandum in connection with this issue. Very important negotiations are under way in connection with the construction of the Ionian-Adriatic gas pipeline.
Azerbaijan has very large gas reserves. Confirmed gas reserves constitute 2.6 trillion cubic meters. This indicates that we will take additional steps to increase gas production and also plan on expanding the geography of our exports.
The European Union-Azerbaijan relations are developing successfully. The "Partnership Priorities" document was signed between the European Union and Azerbaijan in Brussels in July this year. This is a very important step for the signing of a new Agreement. At present, the European Union and Azerbaijan are working on a new Agreement. Things are going well. Croatia has always supported our cooperation with the European Union and made its valuable contributions. Our relations with the European Union cover many areas – political reforms, economic cooperation, energy cooperation, cooperation in the field of transport. Azerbaijan also contributes to this sphere.
In October last year, the official opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway was held in Baku. This road not only connects Azerbaijan with Turkey. It is a new road linking Asia with Europe, a new transport artery and the shortest path. This road is already in operation. The volume of cargo being dispatched increases on a daily basis. Azerbaijan has also made a valuable contribution to the transport map of Eurasia. I hope that our Croatian partners can take advantage of this railway as well because it is a wonderful project in the field of transport and economy.
Azerbaijan's cooperation with NATO is at a high level. I have had numerous official visits to NATO. Quite recently, Azerbaijan decided to increase the number of its military contingent in the "Resolute Support" mission in Afghanistan. Already 120 Azerbaijani military personnel serve in Afghanistan. At the same time, Azerbaijan provided its airspace and transport infrastructure to support the "Resolute Support" mission. This is a very important issue for the successful continuation of the mission.
In a word, both our relations with the Euro-Atlantic structures and the work carried out on a bilateral level demonstrate that Croatia and Azerbaijan are strategic partners in the full sense of the word. As Madam President noted today, an exchange of views took place on further cooperation in many areas. I am sure there will be good results in the fields of pharmaceuticals, agriculture, processing of agricultural products and shipbuilding. Relevant instructions have been given. I am sure that the joint intergovernmental commission will carry out all these instructions in a timely and high-level manner.
Dear Madam President, let me once again thank you for the invitation and for the hospitality. I wish the people of Croatia continued progress and happiness. Thank you.