Ilham Aliyev, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg held a joint press conference in Brussels
14 December 2021, 19:00
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg have held a joint press conference at the Alliance`s headquarters in Brussels.
Moderator: Good afternoon, so we will start with the statements by Secretary-General and President, and then we will have time for a few questions. Mr. Secretary General.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg: President Aliyev, welcome back to the NATO headquarters. It’s great to see you again. This is actually my second time in the new building. But last time we had a bilateral meeting, it was in the old building. We just had a very constructive discussion, and you will now participate in a meeting of the North Atlantic Council with all 30 allies. This shows the importance of dialogue and mutual understanding in NATO’s partnership with Azerbaijan. Our cooperation has been strong over many years. Today it covers many areas from capability development to energy security. NATO allies have also assisted you in destroying redundant mines and ammunition from the former Soviet army. We discussed today what more we could do together. Azerbaijan made essential contributions to our former mission in Afghanistan. Azeri forces played an important role in providing security at Kabul airport during this summer evacuation. NATO allies managed to airlift more than a hundred and 20 thousand people to safety in a matter of days. So, thank you for all your efforts and your support. Security and stability in the South Caucasus are essential for all of us. To ensure a peaceful future for all people, we support the normalization of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which are both valued partners to NATO. President Aliyev, let me thank you once again for coming to NATO headquarters.
I look forward to continuing our work to deepen the cooperation between NATO and Azerbaijan further. So, please welcome once again.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary General. Thank you first of all for the invitation. It’s a big honor to visit NATO headquarters again. We discussed already, it’s my second time in this building, but it’s the seventh time I’m visiting NATO headquarters. This all actually shows the dynamism of our cooperation. Thank you for your words about our contribution to the resolute support mission. Azerbaijan proved to be a reliable partner of NATO. We started our peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan in 2002 and ended at the end of August this year, and Azerbaijan's military servicemen were among the last military servicemen of coalition forces who left Afghanistan. Of course, it’s a great experience of working together. Today we also discussed our future plans of cooperation. Azerbaijan participates in NATO’s military training, at the same time, with one of the active and leading NATO members, Turkey, we had seven joint military trainings only this year, and this actually is serving the cause of peace and stability in the region. We discussed with Mr. Secretary General the post-war situation in the South Caucasus. Azerbaijan is committed to peace, stability and predictability, and our efforts aim to minimize risks of any new war in the region. For that purpose, the best way is to open communications to establish active dialogue and learn to be neighbors again. Our policy is very open and straightforward, and I hope that if there is goodwill from the Armenian side, we can start as we proposed working on a peace agreement between the two countries and put an end to hostility. Also, with Mr. Secretary General, we discussed energy security issues in the region. I informed Mr. Secretary General that today Azerbaijan is a reliable natural gas supplier to four NATO members. I am sure that in the coming years the number of them may grow. It’s also crucial for regional stability, security because energy security is already a part of the national security of the countries. In general, we are very glad to have this high level of interaction with NATO, and we are very glad that NATO appreciates our efforts. We agreed today to continue joint efforts for the benefit of the region and security in the world. So, thank you very much for your invitation once again.
Moderator: Ok, I see Riko.
Rikard Jozwiak from Radio Free Europe. I have a question for both of you, starting with Mr. Aliyev.
Mr. Aliyev, you mentioned relations with Armenia, and one of the issues is the Zangezur corridor.
Would you accept Armenian custom checks in that corridor? Or what is the idea for Azerbaijan for this one? And also, can I also ask, you will meet with Mr. Pashinyan and Mr. Michel later today, have dinner with them. You're bound to sign some sort of declaration on connectivity. What does that mean exactly? Can you mention what sort of connectivity issues you can have with Armenia?
And for Mr. Stoltenberg. A Russian official today talked about the moratorium on missiles, intermediate missiles. Do you see this? Is this some sort of olive branch, or do you think it would be better to go back to the INF Treaty perhaps that Russia walked away from? Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: On Zangazur Corridor, I’d like to say that the proposal of the opening of this part of communication in the region is reflected in Trilateral Declaration signed on November 10 last year, by the President of Russia, Prime Minister of Armenia, and myself. So, it’s a kind of obligation for Armenia to provide all the necessary facilities. Though it was not easy during this more than one year to move forward. At this stage, we have achieved an agreement on building the railroad connection from Azerbaijan through Armenia to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and also an agreement on the construction of the highway. But the exact route of the highway has not yet been identified; it’s a matter of future discussions. And we will definitely discuss it this evening at a trilateral meeting hosted by Mr. Charles Michel. With respect to the legal regime of the Zangazur Corridor, it should be exactly the same as Lachin Corridor because in Trilateral Statement clearly says that Azerbaijan provides security and unimpeded access for connection between Karabakh and Armenia, and Armenia should provide the same unimpeded access and security for connections between Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. So, today there are no customs on Lachin Corridor there. Therefore, there should be no customs on Zangazur Corridor. If Armenia would insist on using their custom facilities to control the cargos and people, then we will insist on the same on Lachin Corridor. This is logical, and the decision is to be made by Armenia. We are ready for both options. Either no customs on both, or both customs on the two. With respect to connectivity, it’s really a big opportunity for the region to integrate the regional transportation links because Zangazur Corridor is not only for us to get access to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic but also for Armenia to get a railroad connection with Iran through the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. It’s for Armenia to get a railroad connection with Russia through the territory of Azerbaijan. Today they don’t have this railroad connection. So, it really will create a special positive atmosphere in the region and a win-win situation for everyone. Therefore, I think that the evaluation of these opportunities is very important. The proper evaluation is important in order to plan our peaceful future. But again, we are ready. We have already made several public statements that we want to turn the page of hostility and work on a peace agreement. Today’s meeting with Mr. Pashinyan and Mr. Michel will clarify a lot.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg: On the missiles. For many years, we had a ban on all intermediate-range weapons. Banning, also, of course, intermediate-range missiles in Europe. That was the INF Treaty agreed back in 1987.
But we have now seen the demise of this treaty because Russia violated the treaty by deploying new intermediate-range nuclear-capable missiles in Europe. They have done that for many years. And that led to the demise of the treaty banning all intermediate-range weapons.
So the proposal from Russia on a moratorium is not credible because we had a ban, and they violated that ban. So unless Russia, in a verifiable way, destroys all its SSC-8 missiles, those missiles that violated the INF Treaty, it is not credible when they now propose a ban on something they actually have already started to deploy.
And NATO has no intention of mirror what Russia does. So we have no intention of deploying nuclear capable missiles in Europe.
We continue to stand ready to engage in dialogue with Russia.
And we believe we need arms control, we need to engage in arms control to prevent a new arms race. But this particular proposal over moratorium is not credible, because actually Russia needs to prove that they remove or destroy those weapons that actually destroyed the agreement that banned all kinds of intermediate range weapons in Europe.
Moderator: We have time for the second and last question. Azeri news agency.
My name is Vugar Seidov and I'm from Azerbaijan State News Agency. And my question is to Mr. Stoltenberg. After the victory in the second Karabakh war, Azerbaijan as a winner country has repeatedly suggested to Armenia to work on the peace agreement on the basis of recognition of territorial integrity and sovereignty. But unfortunately, Armenia to this date has avoided this goal. Now, my question is, given the developing relations between Armenia and NATO, what role can NATO play in persuading Armenia to sign the peace agreement with Azerbaijan? Thank you.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, we welcome the fact that it was possible to end hostilities and actually reach an agreement that stopped the fighting. Second, we strongly believe that it is important to continue to normalize the relationship between Azerbaijan and Armenia. And NATO supports the efforts towards the normalization and dialogue between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
And the President and I discussed actually these issues in detail during our meeting today. And also welcome the fact that there will be a trilateral meeting later on today. And that highlights that dialogue is going on, normalization is moving in the right direction.
And, the important thing is to avoid actions that could result in resumption of violence and unresolved issues should be settled by diplomatic means.
NATO does not take side because we have Azerbaijan as a valued partner, but also Armenia is a valued partner of NATO. So we support the diplomatic efforts we support the trilateral efforts and we strongly support the normalization between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Moderator: Thank you very much. This concludes this press point. Thank you.