Format of Azerbaijan-EU Cooperation in context of Full Membership Still Problematic: Azerbaijani Foreign Minister
Latvia, Riga / corr Trend N.Kuznetsova / Trend's exclusive interview with Elmar Mammadyarov, the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister.
Question: What do you expect from the ongoing international conference on the Baltic countries and the EU New Neighborhood Policy and to what extent do you speak about Azerbaijan's membership at this organization?
Answer: This conference on the EU neighborhood policy and such events becomes more and more traditional. A similar conference was held in Brussels before, but now Latvia has undertaken the organization of this conference. The EU New Neighborhood Policy provides a basis for interrelations between the EU and South and East region countries. The South region mainly includes the Mediterranean countries and the East region covers the South Caucasus, Ukraine and Moldova.
The Baltic countries are closer to us [ Azerbaijan], because we all come from one large family. We have a larger understanding of the Baltic countries than any other part of Europe with respect to our desires, intentions and opportunities. In this context, there appears a question concerning the format of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the EU. We understand well that a format of cooperation with EU in the context of full-scale membership is problematic and it is not worth it to raise this ceiling because this should be a bilateral will by Azerbaijan and EU countries, portraying to what extent they regard us as part of their family.
Therefore, we find this formula to establish good neighborhood relations as interesting. It enables many reforms in the country to take place and raise and guide the subsistence wage in European countries. They have many interesting experience in the sphere of education and information technology. There is also a great interest with respect to developing democracy, human rights and superiority of the law. These all are important constituents that we should apply in the country, as well as reforms in the court system. These are elements of our interest and in this context the cooperation with the EU is crucial.
Question: What interests does Azerbaijan have with respect to Baltic countries? What are your views on cooperation between the Baltic countries and Azerbaijan?
Answer: As we come from one large family, we understand well our will and progress. In this context we realize that the EU is not a unified body, but is comprised of 27 different countries and nations, and it is necessary to work separately with each of them.
The Baltic countries have close contact with Azerbaijan on the level of presidents and heads of these countries. During my visit to Riga to attend the conference I had a meeting with the Latvian Foreign Minister, Maris Riekstinsh to discuss the development of economic component of our relations.
In its part Azerbaijan also has its interests in the Baltic countries and we have held energy security summits in Krakow and Vilnius, enabling energy resources to this region to be delivered and oil portals to be placed in the Baltic market. We find it interesting the cooperation in the flow of oil products and energy resources to the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea, and the issue with the Baltic sea is also being primarily discussed.
At the same time, interest exists in the sphere of tourism, banking and infrastructure projects. Azerbaijan is developing intensively and the Baltic countries have much to offer us. For instance, capital now invested by one of Latvian banks in Azerbaijan comprises US $150mln and other banks also wish to cooperate with Azerbaijan.
Question: What countries are the major strategic partners and allies of Azerbaijan?
Answer: In the context of the EU these are the Baltic countries. Moreover, we have close relations with Poland and Romania. We have a concept on cooperation of the three seas, the Baltic, Black and Caspian Seas. We had a meeting with the Bulgarian Prime Minister in Moldova and the mural relations develop intensively. Generally, these are former socialist countries.
I cannot say that the level of mutual relations with major EU players, France and Germany, are worse. I have just arrived in Paris, where the Azerbaijani President held bilateral meetings at the invitation of his French counterpart Sakozy. Contacts are developed effectively in all spheres in Germany and the German companies work closely in the Azerbaijani market. With the consideration of economic development of Azerbaijan, more and more opportunities appear. Indeed, definite opportunities open for the Azerbaijani company in their entrance to the EU market.
Question: The possibility of establishing a unified economic zone by Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey is being actively discussed. How do you assess this initiative?
Answer: Here it is dealt with unified energy, but not an economic component, because the latter is larger than the first. There is the international energy project of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan main export oil pipeline. At the beginning of this week [last week -Trend] a new section running via Greece and Turkey was commissioned for the gas pipeline. In fact, Azerbaijani gas began running to EU markets through the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey gas pipeline and now to Greece. There are further plans to supply gas to the Italian market. Afterwards, there is a very interesting project for entrance to five more EU countries via the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey pipeline to Bulgaria, Romania, Austria and Hungary. All these projects imply the importation of energy resources from the Caspian sea interesting enough, but it is necessary to study many components, such as tariffs and transit. Indeed, politics plays a considerable role here and due to political issues we cannot call energy projects just energy projects.
We also have a very interesting oil project, running to Poland via the Black Sea and Ukraine and onwards to the Baltic market. So, all these variants are on the table of talks and these projects are under consideration. To figure out which will become reality, the talks should be continued, because this issue has political and commercial peculiarities. At any rate, these projects are of much interest and delivery of energy resources from the Caspian Sea will be a new element for the energy security of Europe.
Question: I want ask a question on a painful theme for Azerbaijan. Is the silence in the issue of a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict related to the upcoming elections in Azerbaijan and Armenia?
Answer: The question should not be put in a more conceptual way. Firstly, the leadership and people of Armenia should understand that a rapid resolution of the Karabakh conflict meets Armenia's national interests. Armenia reached a deadlock as a result of its shortsightedness on Karabakh. In terms of its economic development, this country missed out on important energy and economic projects within the region. And so, this country is beginning to stew. Therefore, soon they will understand that this hampers their interests to better Armenia first of all and for the region as it impedes development in general.
Secondly, if Armenia wants to develop partnerships and cooperation with the EU through integration to the organization, a question will arise: if you want to integrate into Europe, you should share the same views. I do not think Europe will approve the principles of occupation of other country's territory and ethnic cleansing. These are the facts that we witness in Karabakh, and this is the absolute thinking of the 20th century. What was the result of ethnic cleansing? The world began developing in absolutely different directions. Many countries of Europe, which had tremendous difficulties in bilateral relations with us, could realize the reality after World War II, draw a conclusion and overcome all these problems. It ended in a European Union, which is based on economic constituents, mutual understanding and the development of society. The leadership and people of Armenia must come to the same conclusion. It is difficult to expect that any principle of international law can help Armenia to add Karabakh to its territory.
Question: Do you expect any changes to the situation after the elections?
Answer: Firstly, everything depends on them succeeding in holding normal elections. Secondly, the Armenian President should realize that he has another level of responsibility and the country should have its future. First of all, they ought to realize that it meets their national interests and in their favor. It does not mean that anyone wants to push them out of the region, because it is impossible to take the land and to another place or build a wall around it. Irrespective of their will, they will have to find a common language. So will we too. We will also have to find a common language irrespective of our desires. Therefore, the problems should be resolved not only through a peaceful principle, but also in economic and constructive dialogue.
Next week a ministerial meeting will be held at OSCE, where we will have a meeting with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.
Question: Addressing the conference you said that Europe applies 'dual standards' with respect to 'lingering conflicts'. What did you imply by this saying?
Answer: The issue on dual standards stipulates that a principle of territorial integrity should be identical for all. Ethnic cleansing acts, by naming some countries and hiding others, lose their disproportion. Thirdly, it is necessary to explain that there are principles of international law and all must follow them. It is so important for the EU to explain why inadmissible principles should be abandoned.