Opening of Turkish-Armenian borders now contradicts Azerbaijan's national interests: FM (INTERVIEW)
The United States, New York, Sept. 29 / Trend , K.Pashayeva/
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov spoke with Trend in an exclusive interview
Trend : How do you assess your visit to the U.S.? With whom were the meetings held, and what the main issues were discussed at them?
Elmar Mammadyarov: The UN General Assembly, which is in the focus of the world community and international organizations, provides good opportunities for the various meetings and discussions of bilateral relations. As part of my present visit to New York, besides the events within the framework of the UN General Assembly, I met with representatives of the United States, Austria, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Portugal, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Slovenia, Cuba, Switzerland, the European Commission, Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), and also took part in the activities of several organizations such as GUAM, BSEC and the OIC. At the meetings, I discussed the current bilateral relations with these countries, as well as prospects of cooperation.
During the visit, I had an opportunity to meet with Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and twice with Foreign Minister of this country, Ahmet Davudoglu. The meetings focused on the bilateral relations between the two countries in all fields, including the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Q: You were scheduled to meet with representatives of the OSCE Minsk Group so that to organize a meeting between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Chisinau. How do you assess this meeting?
A: Right, I met with the representatives of the OSCE Minsk Group to discuss the current state with the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as well as to prepare the forthcoming meeting between the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Q: In an interview with Vesti TV channel, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said that the refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh have the full legal right to return to their homes, but only after determining the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan takes the opposite position - definition of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh is possible only after the repatriation of the refugees and internally displaced persons.
A: We have repeatedly expressed our position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Armenian troops must be withdrawn from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. It is necessary to create favorable conditions for the repatriation of internally displaced persons to the lands, liberated from the occupation, including to Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as to restore communications. Only after this, the issue of status can be considered.
Q: The U.S. President's new administration has made some changes in regional policy in the South Caucasus and the Middle East. In which manner could it affect the strategic relations between Azerbaijan and the United States, as well as the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
A: As part of my visit to New York, I met with U.S. Secretary of State. This has been the second meeting with Hillary Clinton this year. Friendly and constructive talks have focused on the Azerbaijan-U.S. relations in all directions, and the strategic partnership between the two countries was appreciated. The resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has become one of key issues of the discussions. Mrs Clinton re-emphasized the inadmissibility of preserving the status quo in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, noting the importance of resolving this conflict to ensure peace and security throughout the region and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the speedy settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Q: The world's leading countries, especially the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries, are showing great interest in the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border. What do you think, how can opening of the border affect the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
A: We have an unambiguous attitude on this issue. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 after the occupation of Kalbajar by the Armenian troops. Until now, the Azerbaijani lands have not been liberated. Opening of the border under such circumstances is contrary to the national interests of Azerbaijan. The Turkish senior officials on this issue have repeatedly made clear that these two issues are inter-related and the border with Armenia will not open until the liberation of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
Q: The U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group has changed. Can one expect any new initiatives by Robert Bradtke?
A: As I have already noted, in New York, I met with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs. At this meeting, I met with the American Co-Chair, Robert Bradtke. He also took part in my meeting with U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
As I said, at the meeting, the Secretary of State reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the speedy resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and noted the inadmissibility of preserving the status quo and the importance of the conflict resolution for peace and stability throughout the region. I believe that Bradtke's diplomatic experience will contribute to the resolution of the conflict.
Q: During your speech at Columbia University, you spoke about the significance and an important role that Azerbaijan has in the region, as well as the US-Azerbaijan strategic relations. How do you assess the current state of relations between the two countries?
A: There is a strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and the U.S. The US-Azerbaijan cooperation, covering many fields, successfully developed both bilaterally and multilaterally.
Q: Does Azerbaijan have a target to join NATO? If not, why is the defense system being created in accordance with the standards of the alliance?
A: As the country, sharing the European and Euro-Atlantic values, Azerbaijan has become one of the first states joining the NATO Partnership for Peace Program. Currently, we are developing cooperation with NATO through the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.
Cooperation with this organization is also continuing under the Individual Partnership Action Plan activities. This cooperation has contributed greatly to raising the level of training of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, law enforcement, border guards, the agencies, involved in prevention and liquidation of consequences of emergency situation.