The following article was contributed from the Embassy of Azerbaijan for the understanding regarding the results of the ongoing negotiations on the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. -Ed.
Interview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov to local media outlets on the results of 2018 year
1. What are the results of the ongoing negotiations on the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict for current year? How do you see their prospects, especially against the background of recent encouraging statements?
First of all, I would like to note that the position of our country regarding the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been repeatedly stated at the highest level within all platforms. The conflict must be resolved on the basis of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan within its internationally recognized borders. Coming to the legal basis of the settlement, it is necessary to recall that this basis consists primarily of the 4 resolutions of the UN Security Council, a body responsible for ensuring peace and security worldwide, adopted in 1993, numerous resolutions and decisions of other international organizations, including the OSCE, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement, GUAM, NATO, the European Parliament and etc, as well as joint documents adopted in bilateral and multilateral formats.
Unfortunately, negotiations held over the years haven’t yielded any results. But the recent developments taking place in Armenia, the conversations that took place between the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia on the margins of the CIS summits in Dushanbe and St. Petersburg, as well as my 3 meetings with my Armenian counterpart give grounds for a certain optimism regarding advancing the negotiation process. In a joint statement by the Heads of the delegations of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chair countries and the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia dated December 6, adopted in the framework of the OSCE Ministerial meeting in Milan, the agreement to continue negotiations towards a just and lasting peaceful settlement of the conflict is noted. Hence, the format of negotiations remains unchanged. The document also reflects the call for implementing the understandings reached in Dushanbe at the level of the leaders of the two states and for taking concrete measures to prepare the people of the both countries for peace. Another important issue is that the joint statement reflects the idea of the need to conduct intensive results-oriented negotiations in the near future at the level of leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia in order to promote a just and lasting settlement of the conflict. I would like to point out that this approach is fully supported by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.
In general, I would like to note that after the elections held in December of this year the current leadership of Armenia should demonstrate the political will to resolve the conflict and, in accordance with good-neighborly philosophy, act in the name of achieving peace, stability and sustainable development in the region.
We hope that in 2019, certain progress will be achieved in terms of withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and the normalization of relations between the two countries. Progress in the conflict resolution, creating conditions for peace, security and stability in the entire region, opens up opportunities primarily for economic growth in Armenia itself. Our country, in the same way as it ensures the safety of its citizens of different ethnic groups, in accordance with its international obligations is ready to do so with respect to its citizens of the Armenian origin in Nagorno-Karabakh and to grant them the right of high-level self-rule within the internationally recognized borders of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijani Community of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of our country is ready to return to their homes, and this issue was again stressed in the recently released statement of the Community. If you remember, some time ago there were contacts between the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, but, unfortunately, due to the “efforts” of the previous leadership of Armenia, these contacts were interrupted. You know, it is impossible to take the land and move with it to another place. After the settlement of the conflict, of course, these two communities will have to live together. That is why it is important to promote and restore contacts between the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh.
2. Which important achievements of Azerbaijan can you mention in its relations with international organizations?
2018 is remembered with a number of achievements of our country, which pursues the goal of cooperation and active representation within the international organizations. In this regard, the UN and its specialized organizations, as well as other regional organizations can be mentioned. Thus, at a number of events and meetings held and speeches made in the framework of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly on 25 September – 1 October of this year the support and understanding to the Azerbaijani position was demonstrated with regard to the issues of concern to Azerbaijan, as well as the current issues of the international agenda. On December 17, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution entitled “Missing persons” initiated by Azerbaijan which draws attention of the international community to respect of the provisions of international law and prevention of the cases of persons reported missing in connection with the armed conflicts, taking all appropriate measures with respect to the search for the missing persons, as well as the cooperation in accordance with their international obligations in the field of determining the fate of missing persons. This important initiative once again stressed the humanist character of Azerbaijan's foreign policy, its commitment to the international law and its obligations, as well as the resoluteness of achieving the implementation of these rules by the UN Member States.
On April 3-5, the Mid-term Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement member states was held in Baku with participation of the representatives from 117 countries and 16 international organizations. The final document and the Baku Declaration adopted at the end of the event unambiguously supported Azerbaijan's position on the peaceful settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Furthermore, I would like to emphasize the resolution on “Annual report on the implementation of the common foreign and security policy of the European Union” adopted by the European Parliament on December 12 of this year. Thus, this resolution reiterated the settlement of the existing conflicts on the basis of the principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of internationally recognized borders.
Our chairmanship to the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation during July 1 – 31 December was very useful and during that period 4 ministerial meetings and more than 20 thematic working group meetings were held, as well as the gap analysis document was adapted upon our initiative.
I would like to especially emphasize the ever-growing unequivocal support of the international community towards the resolution of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As a result of our continuous efforts, the notion of the support to territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders has become more widely used in our diplomatic lexicon. The support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan within its internationally recognized borders in numerous documents and statements accepted as a result of bilateral and multilateral meetings, including the final document of the Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Alignment Movement, final statement of the NATO Summit, the abovementioned resolution of the European Parliament, joint trilateral statements and several joint bilateral statements has served to further strengthening of the existing legal basis of the conflict settlement.
This year the membership requests of Azerbaijan to electoral bodies of several international organizations were successful as well. As an example, on June 6 Azerbaijan had been elected a member to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee; a day later in New York to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, in November in Dubai became the member of the International Telecommunication Union Council for 2019-2022, as well as the representative of our country became member of the ITU’s Radio Regulations Board. Apparently, in 2018, Azerbaijan continued its efforts of further advancing its interests within different international organizations.
3. What are the prospects opened by the agreement on the legal status of the Caspian Sea signed this year by the Caspian countries from the point of view of development of new oil and gas fields and the construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline?
The Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, signed by the leaders of the “Caspian Five” in August of this year, opened up new, unique opportunities for cooperation among states. The Convention regulates the rights and obligations of the parties regarding the use of the Caspian Sea and its rich natural resources. It defines the delimitation parameters in the Caspian Sea.
The signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea was a truly historic event that marked the goodwill of the five littoral states. The main significance of this document for our country is that it defines the sovereign and exclusive rights of coastal states to use the rich natural resources of the sea. Thus, the Convention ensures the consistency and safety of the implementation of various projects in the field of oil and gas industry, as well as the implementation of other economic activities at sea. It creates conditions for freedom and safety of navigation, which plays an important role in terms of development of trade in the Caspian Sea and growth of the economies of our countries. In general, the implementation of the Convention’s provisions will ensure the achievement of its announced goal - the transformation of the Caspian Sea into a zone of peace, good neighborliness, friendship and cooperation.
Azerbaijan, as a country that has historically been a pioneer in the implementation of large projects in the Caspian Sea, plans to continue and expand cooperation with coastal states here. Due to a successful energy policy, Azerbaijan has managed to guarantee its economic security, as well as to gain the image of a reliable partner, producer and transit state, contributing to the energy security of Europe. Currently, by the initiative and with the participation of Azerbaijan, the construction of the largest infrastructure and energy projects like, for instance, the Southern Gas Corridor is going on. This project plays a great role in terms of transporting natural gas from the Caspian Sea region to Europe, and we are always ready to provide our capabilities to neighboring, friendly countries wishing to use transit routes through Azerbaijan.
4. As it is known, from the next year Azerbaijan will chair the Non-Aligned Movement for three years. What will be the promises of this important event to Azerbaijan?
As you might know, Azerbaijan joined the Non-Aligned Movement in 2011, aiming to develop the international cooperation. This organization is one of the largest international organizations that unite 120 member countries, 17 observer countries and 10 observer organizations. The Non-Aligned Movement is an organization which has a rich history and has been traced back by many well-known historical state leaders like Josip Broz Tito, Jawaharlal Nehru, Fidel Castro and others. It is praiseworthy that in a very short time our country was not only able to introduce itself within the organization but also to chair the Non-Aligned Movement for the term of 2019-2022.
As you might know, several initiatives of Azerbaijan was supported in the final document of the Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement member states which was held in April of this year in Baku and the importance of the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within the territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan in accordance with the UN Security Council’s four resolutions was reiterated in this document. The Azerbaijani chairmanship to the Non-Aligned Movement will be built on the 3 main priorities which aim to further increasing the reputation of the organization and it includes the promotion of Bandung principles, strengthening of the unity within the Movement and increasing the effectiveness of the Movement.
I am confident that our chairmanship to the Non-Aligned Movement will create additional opportunities for us to present our country's position at international level. The Movement has 120 members which make up two-thirds of the UN member states and which means the ability to influence any decision-making process. Our chairmanship to the Movement will also create appropriate opportunities for the implementation of various initiatives of our country. In its turn the implementation of these initiatives will serve to further enhancing our country's international reputation.
5. Would you please comment on signing a new strategic partnership agreement, including facilitation of visa regime between Azerbaijan and the EU in 2019? What dividends will it bring to Azerbaijan?
Azerbaijan is interested to develop equal and mutually beneficial partnership relations with the European Union. The last year of our partnership was very useful in terms of furthering the agenda of cooperation with the EU. In this regard, I would like to emphasize the document on Azerbaijan-EU Partnership Priorities initialed with the participation of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of the European Council Donald Tusk in Brussels on July 11 and adopted in the framework of the Eastern Partnership Ministerial Meeting held on October 15 in Luxembourg. It is worth mentioning the new comprehensive agreement and ongoing negotiations between the EU and Azerbaijan, which will open an important stage in our bilateral cooperation. The negotiation process is still ongoing and it is natural that will take a while, because we and our EU partners, need a serious, quality agreement. This agreement will serve as a legal basis of bilateral relations and will strengthen our bilateral sectoral co-operation for a long time. We believe that this agreement will be a strategic document based on equal partnership and shared interests. This agreement is important not only for us, but also for EU member states. The visa facilitation agreement is in force already for several years. The logical continuation of the agrement is a complete cancellation of the visa regime with the EU. That means liberalization of the visa regime. But it requires some time.
6. What are the priorities of Azerbaijan's foreign policy for 2019?
As in the current year our country will continue its independent, diversified, balanced and active foreign policy based on the national interests of our country and will defend our national interests in the international arena during the upcoming year under the direct leadership of the President Ilham Aliyev. Today, Azerbaijan is the initiator and participant of large-scale projects promoting regional cooperation and an influential state in the international arena.
Today, the foreign policy achievements of our country, which is regarded as a reliable partner, are of course based on establishing balanced relations with neighboring countries and other countries of the world, as well as implementing equal dialogue and cooperation based on mutual interests. Of course, our foreign policy priorities in 2019 will include the strengthening of sovereignty and independence of our country, elimination of consequences of military aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan and restoration of territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders, as well as, the continuation of large-scale infrastructure projects implemented with the initiative and participation of Azerbaijan, further development of mutually beneficial cooperation with all international actors, including states, associations and international organizations.