|Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov speaks in this undated photo. / Embassy of Azerbaijan|
The following is the Q&A with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea and Azerbaijan's foreign policy this year. - ED.
Q. What are the results of the ongoing negotiations on the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict? How do you see their prospects, especially against the background of recent encouraging statements?
The position of my country regarding the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been repeatedly stated at the highest level within all platforms. The conflict must be resolved on the basis of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan within its internationally recognized borders. Coming to the legal basis of the settlement, it is necessary to recall that this basis consists primarily of the four resolutions of the U.N. Security Council, a body responsible for ensuring peace and security worldwide, adopted in 1993, numerous resolutions and decisions of other international organizations, including the OSCE, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement, NATO, the European Parliament and etc, as well as joint documents adopted in bilateral and multilateral formats.
Unfortunately, negotiations held over the years haven't yielded any results. But the recent developments taking place in Armenia, the conversations that took place between the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, as well as four meetings with my Armenian counterpart create certain grounds for advancing the negotiation process. The press statement by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs released on the latest meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Paris on Jan. 16, 2019 expressed appreciation for the ongoing efforts of the sides to maintain an environment conducive to intensive results-oriented negotiations. It stated the agreement of both sides upon the necessity of taking concrete measures to prepare the populations for peace. The statement also outlines that the sides considered next steps toward a possible summit between the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia in order to give a strong impulse to the dynamic of negotiations. Here I would like to be clear that Azerbaijan stands for tangible results of the negotiations, not talks for the sake of talks and this is our principled position.
In general, I would like to note that the current leadership of Armenia should demonstrate the political will to resolve the conflict and, in accordance with good-neighborly philosophy, act in the name of achieving peace, stability and sustainable development in the region.
We hope that this year certain progress will be achieved in terms of withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and the normalization of relations between the two countries. Progress in the conflict resolution, creating conditions for peace, security and stability in the entire region, opens up opportunities primarily for economic growth in Armenia itself. Our country, in the same way as it ensures the safety of its citizens of different ethnic groups, in accordance with its international obligations is ready to do so with respect to its citizens of the Armenian origin in Nagorno-Karabakh and to grant them the right of high-level self-rule within the internationally recognized borders of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijani Community of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of our country is ready to return to their homes, and this issue was again stressed in the recently released statement of the Community. Some time ago there were contacts between the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, but, unfortunately, due to the "efforts" of the previous leadership of Armenia, these contacts were interrupted. You know, it is impossible to take the land and move with it to another place. After the settlement of the conflict, of course, these two communities will have to live together. That is why it is important to promote and restore contacts between the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Q. What are the prospects opened by the agreement on the legal status of the Caspian Sea signed this year by the Caspian countries from the point of view of development of new oil and gas fields and the construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline?
The Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, signed by the leaders of the "Caspian Five" in August of this year, opened up new, unique opportunities for cooperation among states. The Convention regulates the rights and obligations of the parties regarding the use of the Caspian Sea and its rich natural resources. It defines the delimitation parameters in the Caspian Sea.
The signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea was a truly historic event that marked the goodwill of the five littoral states. The main significance of this document for our country is that it defines the sovereign and exclusive rights of coastal states to use the rich natural resources of the sea. Thus, the Convention ensures the consistency and safety of the implementation of various projects in the field of oil and gas industry, as well as the implementation of other economic activities at sea. It creates conditions for freedom and safety of navigation, which plays an important role in terms of development of trade in the Caspian Sea and growth of the economies of our countries. In general, the implementation of the Convention's provisions will ensure the achievement of its announced goal - the transformation of the Caspian Sea into a zone of peace, good neighborliness, friendship and cooperation.
Azerbaijan, as a country that has historically been a pioneer in the implementation of large projects in the Caspian Sea, plans to continue and expand cooperation with coastal states here. Due to a successful energy policy, Azerbaijan has managed to guarantee its economic security, as well as to gain the image of a reliable partner, producer and transit state, contributing to the energy security of Europe. Currently, by the initiative and with the participation of Azerbaijan, the construction of the largest infrastructure and energy projects like, for instance, the Southern Gas Corridor is going on. This project plays a great role in terms of transporting natural gas from the Caspian Sea region to Europe, and we are always ready to provide our capabilities to neighboring, friendly countries wishing to use transit routes through Azerbaijan.
Q. What are the priorities of Azerbaijan's foreign policy for 2019?
As in the current year our country will continue its independent, diversified, balanced and active foreign policy based on the national interests of our country and will defend our national interests in the international arena during the upcoming year under the direct leadership of the President Ilham Aliyev. Today, Azerbaijan is the initiator and participant of large-scale projects promoting regional cooperation and an influential state in the international arena.
Today, the foreign policy achievements of our country, which is regarded as a reliable partner, are of course based on establishing balanced relations with neighboring countries and other countries of the world, as well as implementing equal dialogue and cooperation based on mutual interests. Of course, our foreign policy priorities in 2019 will include the strengthening of sovereignty and independence of our country, elimination of consequences of military aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan and restoration of territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders, as well as, the continuation of large-scale infrastructure projects implemented with the initiative and participation of Azerbaijan, further development of mutually beneficial cooperation with all international actors, including states, associations and international organizations.