Azerbaijani Politics 23 july — 11:46

Ilham Aliyev about wonderful gesture of Charles Michel in Baku

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'I highly appreciate the visit of the President of the European Council Charles Michel to Azerbaijan. This is a visit that serves to develop political ties between the European Union and Azerbaijan. I must also note that our political ties are developing very successfully. I have made numerous visits to the European Union. The leaders of the European Union also made numerous visits to Azerbaijan. Two years ago, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk was on a visit to Azerbaijan. Two years later, Mr Charles Michel visited Azerbaijan as part of his new regional visit. This shows that we have created an excellent basis for cooperation.' This was stated by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in an interview with Azerbaijan State Television, commenting on the visit of the head of the European Council Charles Michel to Azerbaijan.

The head of state noted that both the volume of cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan and the spheres covered by this cooperation are growing over the years.

'At the initial stage of our cooperation, there were more energy issues on the agenda, which we solved. We have built the Southern Gas Corridor on the initiative of Azerbaijan. The European Union has also played a positive role. Because the chair of the Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council is Azerbaijan and the European Union. I must also note that it was I who put forward the initiative to hold an advisory council. I made an offer to the European Union and they accepted it. The meetings of the Advisory Council are held annually with great efficiency. If earlier active cooperation began with energy issues, now it covers a wider sphere. From a political point of view, Mr Michel's visit was of great importance. During the meeting, I also informed Mr Michel that documents have been adopted and signed - agreements and declarations on strategic partnership with 9 EU member states. This is a third of the European Union. This means that a third of the European Union considers Azerbaijan to be its strategic partner. Again, I do not want to compare Azerbaijan with anyone. But what other country can say that it has such cooperation and such a bilateral format with the EU? As for the EU-Azerbaijan relations in general, we are now, as you know, working on a new agreement. 90 per cent of the agreement has been agreed upon... and I think this agreement could be signed in the coming days, perhaps in the coming months, if the principles of realism prevail and our concerns on some issues are addressed. In the field of trade, our main partner is the European Union, which accounts for about 40 per cent of our trade. Our main export partner is the European Union. Our exports to the EU are $6.8 billion a year, and our imports are about $2.5 billion. And we have a positive balance with them,' said the President.

The head of state noted that recently the European Union has shown great interest in the transport sector.

'For example, I can say that Mr Donald Tusk was in Azerbaijan on a short visit two years ago. Despite this, he visited the Alat International Sea Trade Port. He went there, got acquainted with the situation, a presentation was prepared for him. This indicates a manifestation of interest. During the stay of Mr Charles Michel in Azerbaijan, he visited the city of Shamakhi and the Juma mosque. For the first time, the head of the European Union visited the regions of Azerbaijan. I appreciate it very much. It was a wonderful gesture, especially on the eve of Gurban Bayram. We must value this highly. The Azerbaijani people should also know about this. In Shamakhi, he was given with a presentation about the activities of the Alat International Sea Trade Port, the future activities of the Alat Free Economic Zone and the tourism opportunities of the region. That is, the transport sector is of great interest to Europe. The European Commissioner for Enlargement, Mr Várhelyi, who recently visited Azerbaijan, also visited the Alat Sea Trade Port.

The European Union already recognises Azerbaijan not only as an important transport and logistics centre, but also can count on our potential. But let's remember, when we put forward the initiative to build the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, Europe did not support us. America not only did not support, but also openly opposed. I remember all this. We have worked so hard to ensure that the United States of America does not derail this project. Because at that time America had great opportunities to influence Georgia. I know that Georgia was clearly told not to join this project. I remember history well. Why did it happen? Because of Armenia. The Armenian lobby, which even today does what it wants in the capitals of large countries, has mobilised all efforts to prevent this from happening. Since Armenia remained on the side-lines. But the reason why Armenia remained on the side-lines lies in Armenia itself. I said: we must end the occupation and communications will open... At that time, we even applied for loans. But nobody gave them to us. We ourselves - Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia - have implemented this project. And you know what a financial burden Azerbaijan has taken upon itself. But now the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, other infrastructure - a port, a free economic zone, and in the future - the Zangezur corridor are of great interest. Why? Because it is beneficial to them. Remembering all this, I do not want to blame anyone. What happened, happened. The main thing is that we managed to achieve our goal. But this story shows that our initiatives were put forward in a timely and correct manner. If someone does not understand this at the first, initial stage, then over the years he begins to see clearly. Today, relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan in the field of transport have a special agenda,' the President stressed.

'The fact that Charles Michel did not use the words "status" and "Nagorno-Karabakh" is, of course, a very wise step, this is a step of a statesman. We appreciate this, and Armenia must draw conclusions from this. There is no status or Nagorno-Karabakh,' the head of state said further, commenting on the journalist's words that Charles Michel never used the expressions "status" and "Nagorno-Karabakh" during his stay in Baku.

The head of state noted that the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region was created on July 7, 1923, as an artificial formation.

'In other words, the Armenians who were represented in the Soviet government at that time, one might say, made this illegal and unreasonable decision, and, of course, Soviet Azerbaijan at that time was forced to agree with this, to come to terms with it. They didn't even ask us. But it was an absolutely unreasonable and artificially created structure. The Parliament of Azerbaijan, a month after the restoration of independence - in November 1991 - abolished the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region. All of this is based on documents and has been legally cancelled. The parliament had enough powers to make this decision,' said the President.

Ilham Aliyev explained why after that the expression 'Nagorno-Karabakh' was still used: 'Because of the conflict. Both in international documents and at the negotiating table, I personally have repeatedly used the word Nagorno-Karabakh in connection with the conflict, but not in connection with the territory. I must also note that every time I touched on any issue related to the conflict, I always spoke about the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I have never used the word Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without pronouncing Armenian-Azerbaijani. And there is a reason for this, it is not so simple.

'After the end of the war, the settlement of the conflict, of course, it is inappropriate to talk about Nagorno-Karabakh. Therefore, I said that there is no such territorial unit in Azerbaijan. If someone likes this word, I do not mind, let them create a region in their country called Nagorno-Karabakh, or name a region, or create a republic, that is their business. That is, there is no administrative territory on the territory of Azerbaijan called Nagorno-Karabakh, and the fact that Charles Michel did not use this word, of course, should be perceived as a sign of respect for our position. The same goes for the issue of status. On November 10, after the end of the war, I indicated the place of status. It is still there, and it always will be. Therefore, there can be no other opinion on this issue.'

'And you know, let's put it this way, it was a provocation artificially undertaken by the Soviet government to create a permanent hotbed of conflict within Azerbaijan. The creation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region on our historical land, the relocation of the centre to the village of Khankendi and the assignment of the name of the executioner Shaumyan to it was a very negative step against the Azerbaijani people. This was an insult to us. History has put everything in its place. But as for the status, today 25 thousand people live there. We have a fairly large, multifaceted information about the processes taking place there. We knew before the war what was going on there. The real number of the population living there is 25 thousand people. Other figures were also announced that after the war more than 50 thousand people returned there, maybe, but returning does not mean that they remain there. They come back, they leave, they come back again. Second, we have various technical means and satellites. We also know about the number of cars. We observe the movement of people. As they say, there are other objective means, taking them as a basis, we know exactly how many people live there - a maximum of 25 thousand. We monitor daily how many cars enter through the Lachin corridor, how many cars leave. At the same time, we also observe cars coming from abroad. We said that this must end, this is not good, this is our territory. How can a foreign car enter there without our permission? And if someone thinks that we do not see this, he is making a mistake. In some cases, Armenian numbers appear on these cars. But we are there, we are in the corridor. We see everything - both Khankendi and the corridor. This must end. The number of cars that leave there every day significantly exceeds the number of cars that enter. What is the logic behind creating a status for 25 thousand people? I am asking a question. Today, when statements that do not reflect reality are heard in France and America, the Azerbaijani people rightfully express their discontent and demand a solution to this conflict.

'I asked, tell me, how should this be solved? I am the President of Azerbaijan, I say that I have solved this issue, that's all! No Nagorno-Karabakh, no status! There is Eastern Zangezur, which was created by my order along with the Karabakh economic zone on July 7, 2021. July 7, 1923 - a century ago, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region was formed, on July 7, 2021, the East Zangezur and Karabakh economic zones were created.

'And if someone, I repeat, wants to grant the status, then about a million Armenians live in America, more than 500 thousand in France, and more than 100 thousand in Marseille. Why isn't the status granted there? Why should a status be granted in Azerbaijan? What legal, political and historical justifications are there for this? No! Armenians began to live there earlier than on our territory. They began to move to our territory since 1828. They have no historical reason to live there. We are now just showing humanism, we say that we do not mind that they are our citizens. If these leaders of the junta allow, then I am sure that these people, as citizens of Azerbaijan, will continue to live, work, leave with great pleasure, come, including to work, in Aghdam, in Fuzuli, and they will also ask us. This is the price of the status issue. If not, let them create five Nagorno-Karabakhs in another place, I do not mind. I admit it. But not in Azerbaijan,' said the President.

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