Kazakhstan, Astana, / corr. Trend K Konirova / Interview of Trend Correspondent in Astana with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov
Question: When and where is it planned to hold the next meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia? Could you inform us of the format of the talks and the issues to be discussed?
Answer: At the moment this is dealt with a proposal by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs on arrangement of a meeting in Geneva on 13-14 March. Azerbaijan has given its consent, while Armenia's position is still unknown. Indeed, he could refuse to meet with me. So, I cannot say anything in this respect.
We plan to hold a meeting within the framework of the ' Prague format'. There is a saying that territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is not the topic of talks. In this case we are speaking of a resolution of conflict by stages. It implies to the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territory of Azerbaijan, repatriation of Azerbaijanis, de-mining of areas, rehabilitation of infrastructure and economic co-operation. Thus, we set aside all issues, reserving the major one, definition of the political status of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan. It remains a topic of talks, but the Azerbaijani population should return to their native land is that to define a status of Nagorno-Karabakh. It will be either autonomous republic or autonomous region within the territory of Azerbaijan.
Question: How much time could the resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict take?
Answer: Good question. Taking into consideration the character of the conflict, we will hardly resolve it at first glance. It requires neither a year, nor two ... It is important to achieve mutual confidence amongst the nations. Still there are very painful feelings towards the problem both in Azerbaijan and in Armenia. Definite ties are required to consolidate the confidence. We do not have another outlet as we are neighbors and should find a way for reconciliation. I am not pessimistic, but the situation 'neither war, nor peace' would lead to a good end.
Question: Within the framework of Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) with НАТО you are expected to visit Brussels this May. What could you report about the new level of partnership and targets of your visit?
Answer: Azerbaijan has been implementing IPAP for almost 2 years. It was first presented and signed by the Azerbaijan President during his visit to Brussels. Therefore, an intergovernmental commission under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister has been established. In this context my visit to Brussels targets summarizing interim results to define whether we act correctly.
Co-operation with NATO is a great experience. We acquire the standards that NATO offers. We find them very interesting. Part of them has been applied in the Azerbaijani Army. So, we will discuss a complex of issues including political ones. It is very important for us to hear our partners' opinions on the way of creating architecture of security in our region.
Question: Moscow voices its concerns on the intensification of military co-operation of Baku with NATO and USA? How realistic is it to see the placement of NATO military bases in Azerbaijan?
Answer: With respect to the placement of military bases, I should say that it is impossible. It contradicts the Azerbaijani legislation. Moreover, Azerbaijan supports consolidation of its security with its own forces. It would be favorable for us to improve through reforms, conducts of exercises and education so that to mobilize internal reserves not of the Defense Ministry, but also the entire security system, and to respond all obvious threats existing in the region. Azerbaijan Government attaches great importance to this issue. Judge for yourself: the budget of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry is equal to public of Armenia. Obviously, all funds are used for armaments. Should we undertake a role of regional leader, the role of army must be relevant.
Azerbaijan pursues a policy of mutual relationships with NATO and with the United States within the framework of its national interests. I cannot urge we leave behind other post-Soviet countries. We are very open in our relationships with this organization. Azerbaijan participates in NATO operations in Afghanistan and it has a contingent in Kosovo. NATO helps Azerbaijan in the implementation of reforms in the military sector. It would be so silly and a shame to lose the opportunity of benefiting from this experience offered by such organizations.
Question: At the present time Azerbaijan is keen on integration into the West, using very skillfully its 'transit card'. However, some experts urge that the close neighbors are not so happy with the policy on strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and the West.
Answer: I want to stress that Azerbaijan's foreign policy is built exclusively with the consideration of national interests. I do not deny that deepening the co-operation with the West and European organizations is one of our priorities. At the same time, Azerbaijan tries to build equal relationships with every one. Russia is our great neighbor. This is a Caucasus country. It was and will be in Caucasus. Our relationships are based on partnership with equal rights.
Question: Some political specialists state that the relationships with Russia have deteriorated...
Answer: I would not agree. Although this opinion was sounded by some political specialists, I cannot confirm it. Following a resolution on migration by Russia, Azerbaijan closely worked with the Russian Government and solved a range of problems. In 2006 goods turnover between our countries reached US $1 bln. At the present time there is no restriction on any type of business.There is only a mutual interest. With our party it clarified several factors. Firstly, Russia is a big market for fruitful co-operation. For instance, Azerbaijan uses the Baku-Novorossiysk oil pipeline for delivery of its oil to world markets. There are colossal opportunities for the development of relationships in the agrarian sector. Secondly, many Azerbaijanis are residing in Russia. Indeed, there are problems that must be clarified, but this is normal for two neighboring countries and can be resolved through talks. As for Iran, this is our southern neighbor and we have inter-related with historical and ethnic ties. Too many Azerbaijanis are residing in this country and even there is higher that the original population of Azerbaijan. Thirdly, one should not forget that almost 20% of the Azerbaijani territory has been occupied by Armenians as a result of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and a direct communication with Nakhchivan Autonomic Republic of Azerbaijan with a population of 300,000 people has been ceased. So, Azerbaijan has to carry out all land contacts with this region only through Iran. And so we try to maintain good neighboring relationships with this country.