Settlement of Nagorno Karabakh conflict and opening of Turkish-Armenian border should go in parallel: Azerbaijani President
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, participating in Summit of CIS Council of the heads of states in Chisinau spoke with the Azerbaijan TV in an exclusive interview. AzerTaj presents the text of interview.
Azerbaijan TV: President, your regular meeting with the president of Armenia took place. At the summit of heads of the Turkish-speaking states in Nakhchivan You have noticed, that now negotiations are at final stage. From this point of view, what you can tell about results of the today`s meeting?
Ilham Aliyev: As you know, the negotiations continue for long years. And, unfortunately, without any result. I noticed that negotiations are already at final stage on which certain decisions should be made. Our position remains unchanged. The Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be resolved within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. The Armenian armed forces should be withdrawn from all our occupied lands. Our compatriots, who have become internally displaced people, should return to their native lands. Our position, at the same time, bases on the norms of international law. As you know the UN Security Council has accepted 4 resolutions on the question. There are decisions and resolutions of other international organizations as well. In short, from the point of view of international law our position is very strong.
As to negotiations, I can tell that there is positive dynamics. Otherwise, these negotiations would not continue till now. The main reason of our adherence to negotiations is that in negotiating process, though hardly, there is progress. For last 5-6 years, very important questions have been coordinated. First of all, the Armenian forces should be unconditionally withdrawn from all occupied territories around Nagorno Karabakh. I can tell that it is a big progress in the course of negotiations as 4-5 years ago it was a question of clearing of four, and then - five regions. However, as a result of the steps undertaken in negotiating process, today I already can tell that it was coordinated.
Peculiarity of negotiations is that as long as everything is not coordinated, it means nothing has been coordinated. It means that we have to solve all questions. Only in this case we can come nearer to the big peace agreement. Territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be completely restored, and Armenians who live in Nagorno Karabakh, and Azerbaijanis who will return to Nagorno Karabakh, in the future should live in the conditions of a high autonomy. It is the approach which includes the most positive world experience. It is very democratic approach, and the question can be solved only in this way.
In the world and region, there was very big interest to the Chisinau talks, as it is already clear for all that negotiations are at final stage, and especially if Armenians take a constructive position it can lead to positive result in negotiations. I reiterate our position remains invariable. We in all processes defended this position. But, unfortunately, the Chisinau meeting has appeared ineffectual. Yes, I should notice again, that on certain questions there is defined, but not such a big progress. But, unfortunately, the parties could not come to the consent on the major discussed questions. The reason of it, once again I would tell, is the non-constructive position of Armenia. In negotiations we base on principles of international law and we carry on negotiations constructively. We try to understand concern of the opposite side. We understand, that the population living today in Nagorno Karabakh, should receive safety guarantees. At the same time, the Azerbaijani population who after end of occupation will return to their homes, too, should receive safety guarantees. Azerbaijanis, who will return to Nagorno Karabakh, Shusha, should receive safety guarantees. That is, this process should go in parallel, safety of all people living in region, is equally important. In that case, once again I reiterate our position, our approach demonstrated at negotiations, base on international law. I hope, that the Armenian side, at last, will show constructiveness, will make very important steps and withdraw its armies from the occupied lands, and, thus, in region the peace will be provided, all communications will be open and begin cooperation in a broad sense.
Until the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not settled, any positive tendencies in region are not expected. If someone believes, that it is possible to solve easily some of problems existing in region, I concern it with doubt. As the main problem, the basic question of region is the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. First of all, this conflict should be settled. And then, all other questions can be solved.
Q: Mr. President, on October 10 takes place the signing of protocols providing settlement of relations between Turkey and Armenia. As known, these protocols don't include the Nagorno Karabakh question. What is the position of Azerbaijan in this connection?
A: Azerbaijan repeatedly stated its position. Azerbaijan has stated its position in April when this question has been included in the agenda. In my statements I also mentioned this problem. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs made official statement. Our position is that we do not interfere with the relations which develop or can develop between other countries. We consider it inadmissible. In the same way, we do not want and we do not allow that someone interfered with our internal affairs. Azerbaijan interfered neither with internal affairs of other countries, nor in relations between the countries. It is the first question.
For nobody is a secret, that occupation of Kalbajar region became the main and only reason of closing of the Turkish-Armenian border. That is, for this reason the Turkish-Armenian border has been closed and remains in such condition till today. Naturally, after elimination of this reason the border can be opened. This is our position. At the same time, heads of Turkey also repeatedly stated their position on the mentioned question. I hope that this position will prevail, and in protocols and their practical realization, the said factor will be considered.
You have noted and as provided, these protocols don't provide the settlement of Nagorno Karabakh question. But, at the same time, heads of Turkey in official statements and during personal meetings repeatedly said to us, that until the Nagorno Karabakh question is not resolved, the Turkish-Armenian protocols will not be ratified by parliament and, thus, borders will not open. It was stated by the President, the Prime Minister, the chairman of parliament, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, and we trust in it. We believe that so it will be. In this case, the peace can come to region. In this case, all countries of region can successfully take advantage of the said situation and solve all problems among themselves. Only in this case, large-scale cooperation can be established in region.
At times, there are opinions that normalization of the Turkish-Armenian relations, opening of borders in the future can promote settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. I do not share these opinions as I consider that if the Turkish-Armenian relations are normalized before settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, then the position of Armenia in negotiating process can become tougher. Armenia will try to present it as the political and diplomatic success and, most likely, will take at negotiations even more rigid and unacceptable position. There are enough bases to speak so. Process of negotiations and the events occurring at its various stages give the bases to speak so.
I am absolutely convinced that these two processes - settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and opening of the Turkish-Armenian border - should go in parallel. Between these processes, there is, let be not official, but informal, connection. This connection should be kept, and two questions should be solved in parallel and simultaneously. Otherwise, the status quo in region can change in a negative side. Status quo change is very important. Our lands throughout many years are under occupation. Till what time we will suffer it?! But if the status quo changes in a negative side, it can lead to the beginning of negative processes in region. We still hope that we can solve the Nagorno Karabakh problem by negotiations. If these hopes were exhausted, we would not participate in negotiations. However, processes occurring in region and inclusion of the big states in this question simultaneously should impact positively also on settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. I believe that so it will be.
Friendship and brotherhood relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan are at very high level, and I once again would tell, that I trust in the promise. I trust in statements of the heads of Turkey and am convinced that until the Nagorno Karabakh question will not be resolved, the Turkish-Armenian border will not open.
Q: Mr. President, making recently a trip on foreign countries, the president of Armenia has undergone to insults and pressure from the Armenian Diaspora. How do you think, what is the reason of it?
A: You know, once again I would notice, that we live in this region, and well know all its problems. We know both its history, and today`s realities, and, certainly, to predict and propose something easier for us, than to the politicians or the statesmen who are not living in region. As you have told, during his foreign trip, the president of Armenia has faced big pressure. To tell the truth, we do not understand the purpose of this trip fully, because, as you know, day of signing of protocols between Turkey and Armenia has been appointed for a long time, and this date has been coordinated by Turkey and Armenia. In that case, the meeting with representatives of Diaspora on the threshold of it, was, in my opinion, of formal character, as already is known date, the text of protocols and there is no any possibility to change them. It simply had formal character. But in fact, it is an indicator. Look, in what this process of normalization leads.
Armenia, possibly, undergoes political crisis. The coalition in Armenia falls apart, and connections of Armenia with Diaspora were undermined. For the first time, compatriots abroad meet the president of Armenia so. At the same time, this normalization, certainly, is ambiguously perceived also in the Azerbaijan society. Also it is the truth. The Azerbaijan society, its most part holds the opinion, that the Turkish-Armenian border should be opened simultaneously with the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh problem. In Turkey this question also has caused wide discussions which at times pass very tensely. That is, for the present, there is nothing concrete. But look, what negative consequences are already observed. In Armenia, they sharply protest against this question. We know also public opinion in Azerbaijan. In Turkey, this question is perceived ambiguously. But for the present, there is nothing concrete. There is no certainty also in the question of ratification by parliament of protocols to be signed. Therefore, each step to region should be thought over, the detailed analysis should be carried out, forecasts to be made. Forecasts should be made on the basis of realities. We should make so that regional problems were solved. But at times, we see that problems existing in region even more are aggravated. However, there is one more moment which consists in the following: articles about the normalization of the Turkish-Armenian relations for the first time, published in the Armenian press still in February, pursued one aim - to harm the Turkish-Azerbaijan relations. But today continuation of the Turkish-Armenian process leads to very serious consequences already in the Armenia. As I have told, the internal situation has become aggravated, and relations of Armenia with Diaspora have deteriorated.
Q: Mr. President, it is known, that Armenia has appeared in isolation because of its aggressive policy. If the Armenian-Turkish border is opened, how you think, whether it will lead to economic revival in Armenia?
A: As you know, the economy of Armenia even before crisis was in difficult situation. Economic prospects are not so joyful there. As because of limitation of the market, insufficient development of local manufacture, and from the point of view of investments, Armenia is not an attractive country. The geographical position, in particular, the closed borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey, certainly, have caused very big economic difficulties. And in crisis situation it is seen more convex. According to the official statistics, this year the economy of Armenia has reduced approximately to 20 percent. Therefore, to revitalize the economy which is not in the best situation, will be very difficult.
Opening of the Turkish-Armenian border has more likely moral character. At the same time, it, in certain degree, can lead to economy revival. But I would tell so: it is something like an oxygen mask. The oxygen mask can help, it is possible to breathe through oxygen mask, but it is impossible to live normally.
Q: Mr. President, this question though not on the theme, but arouses great interest. It is connected with cooperation between Turkey and Azerbaijan in gas sphere. As you know, the Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, being in May on a visit in Baku, has declared, that the prices existing today for gas are unfair. What was made that these prices became fair?
A: Yes, you are right. Esteemed Mr. Prime Minister, being in Baku, told this. He has told that the prices are unfair, and we aspire to bring them to normal level. Our wishes and position taken at negotiations are based on the international practice. As purchase and sale questions between other countries in region or in the world are solved, in the same way they should be solved also between us. Unfortunately, there is no result. At negotiations on purchase and sale and gas transit there are three basic questions. The first is the price which should be fair. We expect that the arrangement on the fair price will be reached in the near future. The second question is quantity of gas which in the future will be delivered to Turkey. As you know, this year to Turkey we have exported approximately 7 billion cubic meters of the Azerbaijani gas. Still under the unfair price.
What part of gas which will be extracted on the second phase of the project "Shahdeniz", and also gas which is extracted or will be extracted by the State Oil Company from other deposits, will be delivered on the Turkish market? We should define it, too. For us, as well as for any other country, it is very important the diversification of our export. We have managed to achieve it in oil sphere. Therefore, our oil is delivered on the world and European markets via various routes. In gas sphere, we also should use all gas pipelines available. Certainly, the Turkish market for us is very interesting.
As you know, Russia and Azerbaijan are starting cooperation in gas sphere, and I am convinced that in the future it can become very successful. Negotiations on the basis of the offers made by Iran are underway. The Iranian market also is very interesting to us. Efforts are made both from Azerbaijan, and the European countries for deliveries of the Azerbaijani gas to the market of the European Union through territory of Turkey. Very serious negotiations with EU member countries in a bilateral format are carried on. Negotiations with Greece, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and other countries are underway. That is, Azerbaijan has sufficient stocks of gas. This is our huge riches. The confirmed stocks of gas are at level, at least, 2 billion cubic meters. But the real quantity, at least, twice is more.
We should export this gas. Export of gas need huge investments. The volume of investments on the second phase of the Shahdeniz project is envisioned at level almost 20 billion dollars. Before to investments, we and our partners, members of consortium should know where we will sell this gas. What will be the tariff regulations, and what will be the price, in what quantity we will sell gas.
The third question - that is, the first question is the price, the second is quantity, and the third is tariff rates. Tariff rates, as well as the price, should be fair, and they should be coordinated with all other tariff rates existing in region. Here, on these three questions, unfortunately, we for the present have not reached any result at negotiations with the Turkish side. I once again would tell that we carry on goodwill negotiations. But, at the same time, questions discussed at negotiations should be solved according to the international practice. In this case, the Azerbaijani gas will be exported to Turkey in even great volumes.
Q: Thank You, Mr. President!