Baku, Azerbaijan, Mar. 15
Armenia shouldn’t avoid negotiations on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in a joint press statement with French President Francois Hollande.
“First of all, Mr. President, I would like to express my gratitude for your invitation, the hospitality extended to me and the delegation,” Ilham Aliyev said to Francois Hollande. “I am very glad to be back in France. You visited Azerbaijan twice. This is the indicator of the French-Azerbaijani ties.”
“The political dialogue developing between us has entered a very active stage,” the Azerbaijani president said. “We continue this dialogue today. We see that our positions coincide on many issues. Strong political relations, of course, have a positive impact on the ties developing in all spheres.”
Ilham Aliyev noted that France, as the co-chair country of the OSCE Minsk Group, is making efforts to settle the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“We highly appreciate these efforts,” Aliyev said. “In particular, I would like to note the meeting I held with the president of Armenia at the end of 2014 on your initiative in the Elysee Palace. This was a very constructive and positive meeting. Unfortunately, certain stagnation was observed in the negotiation process after this meeting.”
“We want the soonest resolution of the issue on the basis of the norms and principles of international law,” Ilham Aliyev said. “Armenia has been long occupying the Azerbaijani lands recognized by the international community. Armenia has been holding the Nagorno-Karabakh region and the seven adjacent districts under occupation. All of the Azerbaijani population, hundreds of thousands of people were expelled from these regions. All the infrastructure and buildings were destroyed there.”
“The OSCE fact-finding missions twice visited the occupied lands and reflected it in their reports,” the Azerbaijani president said. “The UN Security Council adopted four resolutions related to the [Nagorno-Karabakh] conflict, and these resolutions openly state that the Armenian Armed Forces must be immediately and unconditionally withdrawn from the occupied lands. These resolutions were adopted in the early 1990s. Armenia, as it seems, doesn’t feel like implementing these resolutions.”
“Therefore, at the first stage, the negotiations should be resumed as soon as possible,” he noted. “As Mr. Hollande noted, the status quo is unacceptable. The presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries - France, Russia and the US - have repeatedly stated that the status quo is unacceptable. We say the same thing, we want the status quo to change and the conflict to end as soon as possible, so that peace would be ensured in our region, and the Azerbaijani IDPs could return to their native lands.”
Speaking about the bilateral agenda, the president said it is very extensive.
"Visiting MEDEF yesterday, I saw a great mutual interest once again. Our economic ties are developing. French companies have invested more than $2 billion in the Azerbaijani economy and are involved in many important projects in Azerbaijan," he said.
"French companies support us in the development of the space industry of Azerbaijan. At the same time, projects are being implemented in the field of municipal transport, transportation, infrastructure, water, drinking water, environment, etc. We are very pleased with this cooperation," he added.
"In the meetings held with French companies, I convinced them again that Azerbaijan has a wonderful climate for foreign investment. At the same time, Azerbaijan's economic potential is growing. Thus, even more French companies can work in Azerbaijan as contractors," President Aliyev said. He went on to add that cooperation in humanitarian sphere between the two countries is also very successful.
"Mr. President has noted this both in the sphere of culture and education. I simply want to emphasize that immediately after the decisions that we made with President Hollande, projects began to be implemented. We are seeing this on the example of the French-Azerbaijani University. In a short time, just a few months after the decision was made, the university opened its doors to students. There is a huge interest in the university," Ilham Aliyev said.
The president went on to add that Azerbaijan and France very actively cooperate in other spheres as well.
"The president has noted that the relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan are of great importance. Last month, negotiations started on a new partnership agreement with the European Union. Countries of the European Union are our main trading partners. The vast majority of our products are exported to Europe. In addition, the European Union is the biggest investor in Azerbaijan," President Aliyev said.
Saying that various projects are being implemented, he touched upon the Southern Gas Corridor.
"This strategic gas pipeline being built on the initiative of Azerbaijan will contribute to the energy security of Europe. The total cost of the Southern Gas Corridor project is $40 billion, and Azerbaijan is heavily involved in the realization of this project as an investor country, as an implementing party and as an initiator," the president said.
He expressed confidence that French-Azerbaijani relations will become even stronger in the future.
" We want these ties to reach an even higher level so that the people of France and Azerbaijan have could get even closer to each other," the president said, once again thanking President Hollande for hospitality.