New economic-political situation in the region will make a positive impact on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict Azeri FM

An interview of Trend with the Azerbaijani Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elmar Mammadyarov

Question: How do you estimate the successes achieved by Azerbaijan in its foreign policy in 2005 and what are the plans for 2006?

Answer: In 2005 the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs carried out large-scale and successive work in the sphere of foreign policy to boost the international authority of the country, including the protection of rights and interests of the Azerbaijani citizens.
The resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh through diplomatic methods on the base of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan within the framework of the international legal norms and principles remained the priority issue for our country. Our stable position on the definition of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh after the peaceable and secure repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons, peaceable co-resistance of the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of Nagorno-Karabakh, common economic development of Azerbaijan and regional integration, rehabilitation of socio-economic relations and communications in the region as part of liberation of all occupied territory of Azerbaijan, remains unchanged.
Two meetings held on the level of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as regular meetings between the foreign ministries of the two countries enable us to continue talks in 2006.
An initiative by Azerbaijan on the consideration of the situation in the occupied territory of Azerbaijan at the UN General Assembly gained an open support and boosted international attention towards the conflict. OSCE fact-finding mission, dispatched to the occupied territory, revealed Armenias policy of illegal settlement in the territory.
The mission prepared a proper document rich with facts. It once more showed that the occupied territory of Azerbaijan is settled by those who have never lived in these areas. Information, included in the report, coincided to data submitted by Azerbaijan. A report by the mission also represents detailed information reflecting infrastructure changes in the occupied territory.
2005 was an important year in the definition of the Council of Europes position on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. After the consideration of the results of the activities of PACE co-rapporteur on Nagorno-Karabakh the January session of the PACE adopted a relevant resolution, which represents basic conclusions by the European parliamentarians on the issue. The document reflects unilateral statements on occupation of Azerbaijani territory and ethnic cleansing held in the territory, as well as demands for implementation of relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council on the issue, and especially, the withdrawal of troops from the occupied territory, violation of CE commitments by Armenia.
In general, our efforts directed at peaceable resolution of the conflict continue. In 2006 it is planned to continue discussions on the level of Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. I hope that the discussions will yield positive results and the peaceable process will pass from the stage of discussions to the adoption of concrete resolutions. Some large-scale transport and energy projects to be implemented in 2006 will make our country more powerful from the economic viewpoint. Thus, new economic-political situation formed in the region will make positive impact on the resolution of the conflict.
Azerbaijan continues integrating into the international community, as well as adjusting the life standards to the world advanced criteria. Last year our country took an active part in fighting with the international terror. An individual action plan on cooperation between Azerbaijan and NATO is being successfully implemented. Its preliminary estimation has been prepared.
In 2005 the countrys foreign policy was successfully implemented through the cooperation under the UN, OIC, BSEC, GUAM and different international and regional organizations.
As foreign policy plans for 2006, such plans are based on political provision of the large-scale economic-energy and transport projects in the country (the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum, the Baku-Tbilisi-Akhalkalaki-Kars pipelines), consolidation of Azerbaijans leading position in the region through the implementation of some economic, political and democratic reforms, continuation of our work over the priorities.

Question: What do you think about opportunities for achievement of progress in the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in 2006? How do you estimate the role of mediators in the process?

Answer: In reply to the previous question I have already shared my visions in connection with the achievement of the progress in the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2006. Concerning the role of mediators, I hope that as a result of the negotiations under the OSCE Minsk Group and efforts by the co-chairs and their member-countries we can achieve successes in the settlement of the conflict.

Question: What are the perspectives for expansion of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the European Union? What does the State Commission do for integration of Azerbaijan into Europe, in particular, for implementation of the European Neighborhood Policy initiatives?

Answer: Our relationships, which was developed after the signing of an Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation in 1999 and played a role of legal basis in relationships between Azerbaijan and the European Union, entered a new phase following Azerbaijans joining to the European Neighborhood Policy in 2004. The policy offers more opportunities to Azerbaijan for consolidation of political dialogue and cooperation with the EU countries, entrance to the European market, attraction of investments with the help of new financial sources and intensification of integration to Europe.
At the recommendation of the European Commission, which calls the Council of the European Union to intensify the relationships with Azerbaijan, the EU Council of Ministers took a resolution to compile an Action Plan under the European Neighborhood Policy with Azerbaijan. Official opening of discussions over the Action Plan on European Neighborhood Policy was set up in mid-December 2005. With this respect a 14-member expert group arrived in Baku to hold exchange of opinions on 3 groups of issues, including political, economic, infrastructure and energy. Next round of discussions will be organized in Brussels in February 2006.
Strengthening of the security and economic integration, which are major priorities in the Azerbaijan-EU relationships, and the participation in the regional energy and transport projects will enable once more intensify the political, economic and cultural dialogue, and offer wider opportunities for cooperation between Azerbaijan and Europe. In its turn such tendency promises perspectives for proper integration into the spheres of unified security, as well as economic transport, political, legal and cultural areas.

Question: What is the position of Baku on possible disposal of peacemaking forces in the region and which mandate is acceptable for Azerbaijan?

Answer: Disposal of peacemaking forces in the region is one of the components of discussions held under the peace process. However, our country does not regard the issue apart from the implementation of other components discussed within the peace process, liberation of Azerbaijani territory under the Armenian occupation, repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons. This is a complex issue. The question that interests you was on focus at the Budapest summit of OSCE in 1994.

Question: What are your visions on the perspectives for transformation of the GUAM [Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova] into an international organization? How could it contribute in the successful implementation of Azerbaijans foreign policy?

Answer: As you know, the GUAM is a regional organization which unites the countries with similar economic, public-political system and democratic processes and similar threats and challenges. The countries also have identical interests in the European processes and Euro-Atlantic integration. Over many years our countries guided by the processes and successfully moved towards the integration.
GUAM appeared in the area where economic and democratic reforms are held, principles of free market were laid, and economic cooperation is expanded. GUAM is a bright example of effective cooperation in the sphere of communications and transport. I hope it will promote further integration and provide for transformation into bigger and authoritative organization.

Question: Armenia has repeatedly stated on negative position of the EU on the construction of the Kars-Akhalkalaki railway road. What is the true position of the international organizations on the project and what is the term of implementation of the project?

Answer: Armenias aggressive policy in regard to Azerbaijan has continued for over 15 years. By this way Armenia isolated itself from the participation in some large-scale energy and transport projects, which are implemented in the region. Now Armenia realizes that it is on the way of economic collapse and instead of intensifying the efforts in the direction of resolution of the conflict, it put artificial obstacles on the way of implementation of such projects, favorable from the regional viewpoint, and attempts to break the economic isolation, which itself laid. Concerning the position of the international organizations I should say that they admitted the economic efficiency of the Kars-Akhalkalaki-Baku route and voiced their positive political support to the project. The Turkish side also undertook the feasibility study of the project. So, a meeting under the project on construction of the Kars-Akhalkalaki-Baku will be held in February 2006 with the participation of the heads of the railway departments of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

Question: In what countries Azerbaijan finds necessary to open its diplomatic missions, or strengthen work in this direction in the countries such representations exist?

Answer: The policy pursued for the opening of new diplomatic missions is based on a principle of expanding the geography of representations. I think boosting its economic power our country will resolve the issues linked with the opening of new diplomatic missions and respectively, expand a set of representations. At present the work over the technical, financial and personnel matters is underway in connection with the implementation of a resolution taken by Milli Majlis [parliament] on the opening of new diplomatic missions.

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