Azerbaijani TV channels in Prague interviewed President Ilham Aliyev

06 October 2022, 20:35
Azerbaijani TV channels in Prague interviewed President Ilham Aliyev

The Azerbaijani TV channels in Prague have interviewed the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.

President Ilham Aliyev: Please, go ahead.

- Mr. President, first of all, thank you for making time for this interview. You have had quite a busy day today. The first meeting was with the President of the Council of the European Union, Charles Michel. The latest meeting was another step towards peace and was held with his mediation. Are we getting closer, and how would you personally assess the European Union and Charles Michel's role in this process?

- I hope we are slowly getting closer to peace, and I highly appreciate Charles Michel's efforts to that end. Because as you know, several trilateral meetings have been held in Brussels, and we are getting closer to peace every time. Charles Michel and Emmanuel Macron organized this quadrilateral meeting, and this meeting addressed important issues. I believe that this meeting will be of tremendous importance in reaching a peace agreement.

The contacts are still ongoing. We have agreed to come together again after dinner. In any case, the peace process has already been kick-started. As you know, the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia have held their first meeting, and in our opinion, these meetings should not be interrupted. The ministers should meet for the second time soon, and we suggested that both countries’ working groups come together to prepare the text of the peace agreement, perhaps not in one meeting, but over a few days. So, this is our intention. I think that the Prague meetings – we had an hour-and-a-half meeting with Charles Michel this morning, addressed a number of issues, this current meeting and the meeting that will be held in the evening – pursue the same goal of a peace treaty being signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan soon.

- Mr. President, the invitation of Azerbaijan to this event is further evidence of the growing importance of our country for Europe. What are the directions in which Azerbaijan-European Union relations can develop shortly?

- Very active cooperation is underway in several directions –first of all, in the energy field. For example, I can mention the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the President of the European Commission in Baku this July. Today, Azerbaijan's energy resources are in greater demand in Europe. The importance of the projects we have implemented is even more evident today.

Other directions, of course, include political dialogue. The European Union is an essential partner for us, and work is underway on a new agreement. The more significant part of the agreement has already been agreed on, and the outstanding issues are not very significant. There are new opportunities for cooperation in the field of transport. Because Azerbaijan’s geographical location and advanced transport infrastructure are of tremendous importance to Europe, I mean both East-West and North-South transport corridors. European Union countries are our main trading partners. Of course, the growing role of Azerbaijan in the geopolitical space manifests itself in the economic sphere and the sphere of investments. In other words, many fields – education and humanitarian- are essential. In the past several months, the number of contacts between the European Union and Azerbaijan has dramatically increased. At the same time, their substance has reached a new level, and mutual trust has increased. I appreciate that very much.

As for Europe’s invitation of Azerbaijan to this event, we highly appreciate it, of course. This is a new platform, and discussions have just begun. It is still impossible to say anything explicit about the future of this initiative. Still, the fact that Azerbaijan was invited to this European family by the European Union and the host of the event, the Czech Republic, suggests that our relations have very good prospects.

- Mr. President, you have touched upon the issue of energy. How would you assess our country’s role in European energy security today? What does Azerbaijani gas promise to Europe in the current geopolitical circumstances, and what should Europe do to increase our gas volumes?

- I can say there is a very clear and open agenda here because we have been implementing our energy projects for many years. The current geopolitical situation in the world has dramatically increased the demand for our resources. I could put it this way – it has so happened that when all our projects are ready, the demand for gas in Europe has further increased. Recently, at the opening ceremony of the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria in Sofia, I mentioned that we increased our gas exports by 40 percent last year compared to the previous year. This year we will increase them by about 30-40 percent. Of course, this requires significant investments, and we are ready to go for it and are already going for it. According to the Memorandum signed with the European Union, this is why we plan at least double our gas exports to Europe in the coming years. In other words, whereas last year, the figure was 9 billion cubic meters, in 2027, it will be at least 18 billion cubic meters, perhaps even more. Now new gas fields are being put into operation, and production from existing gas fields will be increased. At the same time, the use of renewable energy in Azerbaijan will free up large volumes of natural gas. Also, as a result of increasing the efficiency of the energy industry, losses will be reduced to a certain extent, and we will not have so many losses.

Therefore, it is somewhat difficult to imagine our possible gas export capacity today because it could be even more. We provide a very conservative assessment of these volumes, of course. We are only voicing the figures we are sure will come true. But I am sure there will be more. Both our gas and oil, as well as electricity, will be exported to the European continent. Specific programs are now being developed to achieve this; perhaps it is too early to discuss it. But I hope there will be very serious progress in this area in the next six to seven months. Therefore, Azerbaijan will be a vital strategic energy partner for Europe – in fact, for Europe and the rest of the world.

- Mr. President, we would also like to learn about the details of your meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, especially considering that there are still illegal Armenian armed groups on the territory of Azerbaijan and the main priority for Azerbaijan is the issue of mine clearance. Armenia continues to stage provocations. What issues were touched upon during the meeting? We would appreciate it if you could provide detailed information.

- Yes, this issue is raised in all meetings. I have a stand-up discussion with the Prime Minister of Armenia on the sidelines of the event today, and there will be more. The Azerbaijani side always says that these steps by Armenia harm the peace process. At the quadrilateral meeting today, I indicated that Armenians had planted at least 1,400 landmines since the end of the Second Karabakh War, another crime against us, another act of terrorism. I also stated that more than 250 Azerbaijanis were killed or seriously injured after the war. In other words, Armenian terrorism against us continues and must be stopped. Landmines are not the only crime.

You have also mentioned that the Armenian armed forces are yet to withdraw from our lands. We demand that. Some of them have indeed been removed, but they are still present in our lands, and I hope this will also stop. Because the entire international community clearly understands one thing now: Karabakh is Azerbaijan! We have been saying this every time – during the occupation, war and after the war. The world community understands this truth and openly states it today. The Armenians are living in Karabakh – I said this in Aghdam yesterday – are our citizens. We will not discuss their fate or future life with any country, including Armenia. This is our internal matter, and Armenians will enjoy the same rights as citizens of Azerbaijan. In any case, they can rest assured that their lives integrated into Azerbaijani society will be much better than their present life.

- Mr. President, speaking about the meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, it was announced that the next such meeting would be held in November. Can a peace agreement be concluded next month? In general, what stage is the agreement of this document currently at? Given that the article on the opening of transport routes is included in this document, how significant is it for the region?

- In principle, I said some time ago that if Armenia is interested, the peace agreement could be signed by the end of the year. As time passes, our initiatives do not progress easily at all. Although the first meeting of the foreign ministers did not produce specific results, I think it has been a positive step. I think that if a decision is made soon, the working groups of the two countries will start dealing with the text of the peace agreement, and we can reach an agreement by the end of the year. I must say that no one - neither the Armenian side nor the European Union – has questions about the five principles we have declared. Today, during the meeting with the President of France, I saw that these five principles are being accepted. This is natural because we did not invent anything new. These principles are based on relations between states interested in normalizing relations.

Regarding our internal issues, of course, they cannot be discussed in the peace treaty. As for how to organize the life of the Armenian population of Karabakh, this is a separate issue. We plan to step up consultations within the framework of our foreign policy agenda and continue informal relations with representatives of the Armenian population of Karabakh. I must say that such interaction has been ongoing for some time now. I think this will lead to a complete understanding with the population still living in the area of ​​responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent because there is simply no other option of integrating into Azerbaijani society. If people believe that they need to live as citizens of Azerbaijan, I think they will not regret that. But if this is not suitable for someone, they can choose another place of residence for themselves.

Therefore, the five principles of the peace agreement should be initialed as soon as possible and work on the text of the peace agreement should begin based on these principles. I am sure that this can be achieved quickly. I don't think it should be a multi-volume document; it should be a reasonably compact document consisting of several articles defining the parameters within the framework of international law and international practice. This will close the page of war and enmity. Of course, the opening of communications is not part of a possible peace agreement; it has more to do with the issue’s essence. Because this is the commitment that Armenia took upon itself on 10 November 2020 but did not fulfill. Today, when I again asked the Prime Minister of Armenia to finally give us a route for the highway, unfortunately, I still did not get an answer. It is not funny anymore because it is not that large of an area. Everyone knows where the railway and the road should pass. It is not understandable that we are not being voluntarily afforded a passage to Nakhchivan. Breaking one's commitment is, of course, an extremely shameful fact. However, we are still patient and restrained. I am sure we will achieve this sooner rather than later. Therefore, in my opinion, these questions will dominate the agenda of the Brussels meeting at the level of the country's leaders in November, the meeting of foreign ministers, the date of which has not been confirmed yet, and the delimitation meetings to be organized in Brussels on our proposal this month.

- Mr. President, with your permission, we would like to thank you again for two issues. You mentioned that another meeting is now planned. First, thank you for making time for us in your busy schedule. And secondly, a joint photo of the leaders was widely circulated today. It was extensively discussed on social networks, and it noted that our position is in the center and front. So thanks again for this position of Azerbaijan.

President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you too. Thank you very much.