Ilham Aliyev and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made press statements

17 March 2024, 20:29
Ilham Aliyev and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made press statements

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg have made press statements.

The President of Azerbaijan made the statement first.

Statement by President Ilham Aliyev

- Dear Mr. Secretary General,

Dear guests,

Ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome, Mr. Secretary General. I am very glad to see you in Azerbaijan. Thank you for accepting my invitation and visiting us. I have very good memories of our last meeting in Brussels more than two years ago. And now we continue our dialogue.

The NATO-Azerbaijan partnership has already had a long history - more than 30 years of good partnership. Azerbaijan participated in peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan. That was a great experience for us. Our military servicemen were among the last of the coalition forces in Afghanistan to leave that country at the end of August 2021. So, this once again demonstrates our strong commitment to our cooperation.

Reforms in our Armed Forces have led to good results. We are modernizing our defense capability and can demonstrate a high level of professionalism today.

During many years of our discussions, we always talked about the occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenia. But now, for more than three years, these issues have been out of the topics of discussions. Because Azerbaijan restored its territorial integrity and sovereignty during the Second Karabakh War of 2020 and the last September's anti-terror operation. So, now full sovereignty over the territory of the country has been restored, and this is a good demonstration of how protracted conflicts can be resolved. The conflict was resolved by military-political means. We used our right for self-defense based on the UN Charter.

Today, we are in an active phase of peace talks with Armenia. During my last visit to Brussels, at the press conference, I raised that issue and said that Azerbaijan made such a proposal, and we expect Armenia to respond. Once again, I would like to say that it was our initiative to start peace negotiations. We have already had seven rounds of exchanges of comments with Armenian counterparts on a draft peace agreement. The recent meeting of the foreign ministers and also the meeting of the deputy prime ministers on the issue of border delimitation demonstrate that there is a good chance for settlement. As I said relatively recently, we are now closer to peace than ever before.

During the times of occupation, negotiations, unfortunately, did not lead to any result. Actually, for 28 years, the OSCE Minsk Group did not produce any result. But now, as a result of the restoration of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, we are very close, I think, and I hope, to a breakthrough. That will be a very serious change in the South Caucasus. It will mean that long-awaited peace will come to the Caucasus.

Today, we also discussed the issue of energy security with Mr. Secretary General. I informed him that since we met last time in Brussels, two more NATO member states became our partners with respect to natural gas supply. Today, Azerbaijan is exporting natural gas to eight countries, six of which are member states of NATO, and two are partners to NATO. I am sure that in the coming years, the number of our partners will grow. The European Commission calls Azerbaijan a reliable partner and a pan-European gas supplier. This is, of course, a big advantage and also a big responsibility.

I also informed Mr. Secretary General about our green transition agenda. Azerbaijan was unanimously selected as the host country for COP29. This is a sign of recognition of our efforts in the green transition. Having rich natural resources and fossil fuels, we invest largely together with our partners in renewable sources. I invited Mr. Secretary General to visit us this November in any capacity and to be part of our important conference.

Once again, Mr. Secretary General, thank you for being with us, and I wish you a pleasant stay in Azerbaijan.

***

Then, the NATO Secretary General made the statement.

Statement by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

- Thank you so much, Mr. President.

Mr. President Aliyev, it is great to be back in Baku. This is my first visit to Azerbaijan, to Baku as the Secretary General of NATO. But this is not my first visit to Baku because I had the privilege and honor of coming here several times in the 1990s as the Minister of Energy of Norway. I have fond memories of those visits, not least because I saw the vibrant and strong energy sector being developed in this country. It is therefore great to be back and also to have the opportunity to discuss energy security because energy matters for our security.

I welcome that Azerbaijan is developing closer and closer ties with several NATO allies and that your country is playing a more and more important role in delivering gas, but also, in the future, electricity to key NATO allies in Europe.

Therefore, you play an important role for the resilience of our societies. I also feel welcomed to be here in Baku as the Secretary General of NATO. Because as you mentioned, Azerbaijan is a longtime partner of NATO. We have worked together for many years. We appreciate very much your contribution to our KFOR mission in Kosovo, but also, of course, your presidency and your contributions to our mission in Afghanistan over many years were extremely important. You are absolutely right, one of the last troops to leave Afghanistan were actually Azerbaijani troops. Because you were responsible for the protection of the airport, which was a key task in the evacuation of the NATO presence in Afghanistan.

So, this demonstrates that our partnership is about political dialogue but also about practical cooperation, and we welcome that. Then, of course, peace in this region is extremely important for the people and the countries in the region, but it also matters for the Black Sea region and for the North Atlantic security. Therefore, peace and stability are not only important here but also for security more broadly.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have an opportunity to achieve enduring peace after years of conflict. I appreciate what you say about you being closer to a peace agreement than ever before. I can just encourage you to seize this opportunity to reach a lasting peace agreement with Armenia. Then, it is also important to highlight that, of course, when you look at the broader region, Ukraine is a Black Sea country. It is a country that is a partner of NATO, and Russia continues to conduct war aggression against Ukraine. NATO allies are extremely concerned about the consequences of the ongoing war, and NATO allies provide support for Ukraine. I welcome the much-needed support that Azerbaijan provides to Ukraine. Also, when it comes to humanitarian aid, which is much needed, more support is needed because the situation in Ukraine is extremely difficult.

Then, I will say that we very much look forward to Azerbaijan hosting the next COP meeting. Climate change matters for security, and therefore, it matters for NATO. Climate change is a crisis multiplier, and we see the effects of climate change all over the world, also here - in Azerbaijan. Therefore, the challenge is that the world needs energy, but at the same time, we need to fight global warming. We need to reconcile the need for energy and environment. Azerbaijan is not only exporting natural gas, but you are also now investing in alternative energy.

You updated me on the great potential of what you do when it comes to building hydropower, but also wind power and solar power, and also connecting your power production to the European market.

So, the COP29 will be an important milestone. It is important for everyone concerned about climate change, but also important for our security because those issues are closely linked. So, thank you so much for hosting me and my delegation here tonight and tomorrow. I look forward to the meetings and discussions.

Thank you very much.

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