Ilham Aliyev and Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz held joint press conference

26 April 2024, 14:45
Ilham Aliyev and Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz held joint press conference

Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, held a joint press conference.

The Chancellor of Germany made the statement first.

Statement by Chancellor Olaf Scholz

- Dear Mr. President, welcome to Berlin.

I would like to thank and welcome you to the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, which we both just participated in.

You have visited Germany four times in the last 14 months. The last time you came to the Munich Security Conference was in February. This shows that we have a lot of topics to discuss, as we are doing today. Of course, we have also talked about the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We both agree that this conflict should be resolved only by peaceful means. There are opportunities to do that. Therefore, it is a very positive factor that you are currently in direct contact with Prime Minister Pashinyan. During our last meeting in Munich, you both assured me that the outstanding questions would be resolved only by peaceful means. This makes me happy.

With your permission, I would like to reiterate that Germany is ready to support you in finding a long-term and lasting solution, if you both want it. I would encourage both sides to show the willingness and courage to make the necessary compromises. I think that 2024 can and should be a year of peace in the region. It brings with it ample opportunities and responsibilities.

Let me also mention that we are pleased with the preliminary agreements regarding demarcation. In other words, we have heard that you have reached an agreement. Now I urge you to maintain this momentum and take courageous steps in this direction. I call on both you and Prime Minister Pashinyan, who is your counterpart.

The next topic of our meeting is Russia's attack on Ukraine and the impact of this war on Azerbaijan and the South Caucasus. We all know that Russia has caused hundreds of thousands of people in Ukraine to suffer through its violation of international law. This merciless carnage must end. Putin must end his war, withdraw his soldiers, and fully recognize and respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Mr. President, your visit today is primarily focused on climate policy, and Azerbaijan has assumed the presidency of COP29, meaning it will be hosting this event. Important decisions were made in Dubai during COP28. Therefore, by 2030, renewable energy generation should triple, energy efficiency should double, and methane emissions should be reduced. I would also like to note that the plan to increase the share of wind, solar, and hydroelectric power in Azerbaijan's energy sector by 30 percent by 2030 is very encouraging news. Germany is aiming for 80 percent.

I believe that there is great potential in the region for cooperation in the fields of green and hydrogen energy, and German companies are interested in cooperating with Azerbaijan, mainly, as I mentioned, in the fields of hydrogen and renewable energy. Of course, there must be appropriate framework conditions for this.

The World Climate Conference to be held in Baku will usher ample opportunities for the region. By jointly discussing and reassessing climate policy questions and decisions made in Dubai, we can formulate new climate goals and targets until 2035 and, of course, at the same time, advance the issue of climate financing.

As you may know, Germany makes a significant contribution to this cause. In terms of climate finance, we have allocated 6 billion euros from our budget. Germany thus remains a reliable financier and contributes its fair share.

Now, of course, we must bring the issue of investment demand into the spotlight. We must create opportunities for the private sector to invest in climate protection. At the same time, the parties that have contributed so far should contribute more. But besides this, other countries should also contribute more actively to the issue of climate finance. I would like to make sure that we will be able to reach some agreements on this within the framework of the COP29 event.

Azerbaijan plays a major role in the energy security of Europe and is an important partner. I would like to thank you for this cooperation and for your important contribution to the stability of energy supply.

We have also discussed civil society and free media. I would say that an integral part of democracy in a civilized society is the presence of lively criticism. Freedom of thought and freedom of the media must exist. Mr. President, I would like to express my gratitude to you for our negotiations in various fields during this challenging period. We both agree that we will be able to continue and deepen the existing cooperation. Thank you.

x x x

Then, the President of Azerbaijan made the statement.

Statement of President Ilham Aliyev

- Dear Mr. Chancellor.

Dear ladies and gentlemen.

First of all, I would like to thank you for the invitation. As you mentioned, my visits to Germany have become regular of late. I can say that German-Azerbaijani relations have been going through a period of rapid development. I was here in March last year, and two months ago Mr. Chancellor and I met in Munich. The bilateral agenda is quite broad. The development of German-Azerbaijani relations is of great importance both for our countries and for the development and stability of the South Caucasus as a whole.

This morning, while participating in the Petersberg Climate Dialogue forum, we once again expressed our intentions. I want to thank you for your support of Azerbaijan in relation to COP29. Members of our teams are in close contact with each other. It is both a great honor and responsibility for us to host COP29. We are ready for it, and Azerbaijan's green agenda is already known to the world.

In my speech this morning, I stated that nine solar and wind power plants would be put into operation by the end of 2027. Their energy potential is equal to 2 gigawatts. By 2030, an additional 10 wind and solar power plants will be built, the potential of which is up to a further 5 gigawatts. We are now working hard to export green energy to Europe, and I believe that Azerbaijan, which is currently a supplier of natural gas, will also be a supplier of green energy to Europe.

With regard to natural gas, the Energy Commission of the European Union considers Azerbaijan as a pan-European gas supplier. Our gas supply to Europe is carried out on the basis of strategic partnership. In 2022, the European Union and Azerbaijan adopted a corresponding memorandum. By 2027, we are determined to increase the volume of gas we will export to Europe to 20 billion cubic meters. The demand for natural gas – gas from new sources – is growing in Europe. Whereas in 2021 we supplied 8 billion cubic meters of gas to countries of the European Union, this year the figure has already reached 12 billion. We are making additional investments and allocating more funds to support European countries in this matter. Thus, Azerbaijan, a country rich in both conventional and renewable energy, will be an important partner for Europe for many years to come.

In relation to regional security, we are assessing the ongoing peace negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia positively. Mr. Chancellor, at your invitation, the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia recently met in Germany. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Mrs. Baerbock, also showed her support. The next meeting will be held in Kazakhstan, and thus we are taking further steps towards the signing of the peace agreement.

In 2020, Azerbaijan liberated a large part of its sovereign territory from occupation. We fully restored our sovereignty in September last year. Today, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan has been fully restored. Of course, this is a historic achievement and shows that the people and the state of Azerbaijan were never going to come to terms with the occupation of our lands. Based on the norms and principles of international law, based on Article 51 of the UN Charter, we secured our territorial integrity through military and political means.

Today, as a result of the ongoing process between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the process of border delimitation and even demarcation has begun. Four Azerbaijani villages that were occupied in 1990 and 1992 have been returned to us. I should also inform you that the Russian-Turkish Joint Monitoring Center located in Azerbaijan ceased to operate this morning. It is no longer needed.

In other words, there are very good opportunities for achieving peace. We are ready to cooperate with countries that want to assist us in all this work. We hope that positive steps will be taken in this direction soon. We particularly appreciate Germany's support in this area and are grateful to you for it.

x x x

Then, President Ilham Aliyev and Chancellor Olaf Scholz answered journalists’ questions.

Question: Mr. President, I would like to know your opinion about human rights and press freedom in Azerbaijan. A journalist named Imran Aliyev, who has a critical approach, has been arrested. Imran Aliyev's family says that his rights are allegedly were violated and he is currently in prison. What can you say about that?

Mr. Chancellor, did you have a detailed talk about human rights with Mr. President?

President Ilham Aliyev: Media freedom is ensured in Azerbaijan. There is no censorship in Azerbaijan, there is free internet, and hundreds of media outlets. This is why it would be unfair to accuse Azerbaijan of taking steps allegedly blocking the development of the media. If there is free internet, what kind of restriction can we talk about?

As for individual issues and incidents, of course, law enforcement agencies investigate all these matters. Some time ago, representatives of certain media organizations illegally financed from abroad were detained by investigative agencies. This was done in full accordance with the legislation of Azerbaijan. Any country must defend its laws.

If a media representative who has received illegal funding from abroad is investigated, it does not mean that our media is not free. Simply put, everyone should act within the law. We, like any country, must protect our media landscape from outside negative influence and everyone must follow the law. In a nutshell, I would like to note that there is a free society in Azerbaijan, people live, build and create completely freely, including media representatives.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz: I will also answer the question. Of course, we also touched upon this issue in our conversation and talked about it in detail. As you know, we are a federal republic, we generally contribute to the protection of human rights around the world. Of course, every country should have a free press, and human rights should not be violated. This is common knowledge. It is no secret that there is a need to improve this situation in various countries.

Question: I am Fatima Karimova, co-founder of Microscope Media. I am an Azerbaijani journalist. My colleague has already asked the bigger part of my question, so I will ask you another. Mr. President, after the war, reconstruction and restoration work started in Karabakh and many projects are being implemented. During this period, billions of manats have been invested there. But details related to those projects are not transparent, i.e. both the public and journalists have insufficient access to this information. Details such as tenders, selection of companies participating in these tenders and so on. I would like to find out the reason, why some issues are closed and why these details are not transparent, not open to us. Thank you.

President Ilham Aliyev: Your question is actually quite surprising, because all restoration and reconstruction work in Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur is carried out in the most transparent manner. The public, including representatives of the media, are regularly updated about the funds allocated. This is not a secret. The information disclosed recently shows that the scope of work is truly extensive. Before the end of this year, a total of 12 billion manats, or approximately 7 billion dollars, have been and will be invested in Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur since the end of the war. All the work is visible. Tender procedures are strictly followed. I honestly don't know where you got this information from. You are probably getting it from some unverified sources, but media tours to the liberated lands are organized on a regular basis. Foreign media representatives are also familiar with the situation. If you had an opportunity, you could have seen how Armenia has devastated our lands and the feelings of joy experienced by our people who have returned to the liberated lands.

Only three and a half years have passed since the end of the war, but 6,000 former IDPs have already returned to their ancestral lands, and this process continues. By the end of this year, 20,000 formerly displaced persons will return home, and every person returns there with a sense of gratitude to the Azerbaijani Army and the leadership of Azerbaijan and prays for God's mercy on our fallen martyrs. This is a nationwide issue for us. Just as the liberation of our lands was a nationwide issue, so is the restoration of our lands today. I know that the absolute majority of the Azerbaijani media likes, supports and praises our activities.

Question: Dear Mr. Chancellor, I have a question about climate issues. For the second time, the international Climate Conference is to be hosted by a country that produces fossil energy. Why is this so? What is the reason for this? My second question: you made some comments about Mr. Macron's speech yesterday. We would like to know your comments exactly. You made some comments about the European Joint Fund, could you please clarify?

Mr. President, I have a specific question for you. I don't know if you have talked about the developments in the Middle East – in the Gaza Strip. There are opinions that there is an arrest warrant against the prime minister of Israel. Is there such an idea? Would you support such an idea? Thank you.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz: Regarding the first part of the question, I would like to mention that I see it as an opportunity for fossil energy producing countries to host the climate conference. Because there are opportunities here, and we should also take into consideration certain financing issues. Germany has also made a big financial contribution once. I think it is a great chance for such countries to join and organize the conference, and show their support. Why not? In other words, of course, at the same time, reducing the amount of residual energy, so to speak, is one of the topics in the context of climate protection. Energy security issues should also be taken into account, but renewable energy also remains in the spotlight. In other words, I think that this is a symbiosis that gives us certain opportunities. In short, it is a difficult path, a rough path, but a smart one. The last COP was also very good. Therefore, I think that the upcoming conference will be successful. I am also happy for the upcoming event. There should be a broad debate and discussion there.

President Ilham Aliyev: Today, Mr. Chancellor and I discussed German-Azerbaijani bilateral relations and regional security issues more, including preparations for COP29. Other international issues were not discussed.

As for the situation in the Middle East, Azerbaijan's position has always been unequivocal. Azerbaijan has always supported the freedom and independence of the Palestinian people. Azerbaijan has always advocated immediate cessation of hostilities and military operations in the Middle East.

As far as the other part of the question is concerned, I would like to note that countries that are rich in oil and gas should not become an object of criticism. There should be no discrimination on this issue in the world. Oil and gas are a great gift from God, and countries should appreciate this gift accordingly. Azerbaijan is using its oil and gas revenues correctly. Therefore, the percentage of people living in poverty in Azerbaijan has dropped from 50 to 5 percent over the last 20 years. This is why Azerbaijan has been able to unlock its economic potential. Our direct foreign debt accounts for only 7.9 percent of our gross domestic product. Our revenue from oil and gas is fairly distributed in society and today, primarily, they are channeled into the reconstruction of Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur.

Therefore, certain myths should not be created about countries rich in oil and gas. These countries, including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, countries that hosted COP summits before us, have made great efforts to address climate issues, and the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan and Brazil – as you may know, natural resources in Brazil are also quite large – operate in the format of a Troika. This is our intention. We want to spend the obtained income on green energy, we are taking steps in this direction, and COP29 will not be an arena of confrontation. Azerbaijan will create bridges as the host country. Azerbaijan intends to act as a bridge between the West and the Global South, including the transition to green energy and climate change.

Question: Vugar Seyidov, Azerbaijan State News Agency (AZERTAC). My question is to the Chancellor. Mr. Chancellor, according to the report of the society of experts on Islamophobia released by the Federal Ministry of the Interior of Germany in June 2023, about half of the participants of the survey held in the country expressed Islamophobic views. How can you explain the dangerous trends of xenophobia and racism in German society, and in general, what measures does your government take in this direction? Thank you.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz: As you may know, the government takes this issue very seriously. We act within the framework of law and carry out other political awareness activities. In general, we take the issue of racism against Muslims very seriously and do everything we can to prevent it. If you compare globally, you will see that there is a lot of effort here. Germany is a country where members of many nationalities live in peace with each other and where religious affiliation and religious differences do not play any role.