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Official visit of the President of Azerbaijan, Dr. Ilham Aliyev Brdo pri Kranju, 28.08.2006

Brdo by Kranj, 08/28/2006  |  press release

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At the invitation of President of the Republic Dr. Janez Drnovšek, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Dr. Ilham Aliyev, is making an official visit to Slovenia. At a joint press conference after their meeting today at Brdo Castle by Kranj, the Slovene and Azerbaijanian presidents said the following (unedited):

Dr. Janez Drnovšek:
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to host today the President of Azerbaijan on his first official visit to Slovenia. The first official visit at the highest level is always a very important milestone in relations between two countries. Slovenia and Azerbaijan gained independence at approximately the same time and has each since then developed in its own way. We have now together arrived at the conclusion that we can also do more than to date in terms of mutual cooperation, that possibilities exist to develop better cooperation in both the political and economic spheres and in the sphere of culture and that we are also cooperating together in building the future of Europe.

Click to enlargePresident Aliyev and I have exchanged views on bilateral questions, Azerbaijan is also interested in the European perspective and sees such perspectives in cooperation with the European Union and, I am personally sure, also membership of such a union or of a united Europe. We also discussed the situation in Gornje Karabah, whereby I expressed the wish and the hope that a peaceful solution would be agreed as early as possible to this problem that has already for some time burdened both Azerbaijan and Armenia, and that they could then function in the future and cooperate without such a burden. It is also in the interests of the European Union for a solution to be found as soon as possible and I also expressed our willingness, the willingness of Slovenia, if we can help in any way in this, to do so with the greatest of pleasure. Thank you very much.

Dr. Illham Aliyev:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would first like to thank you for the hospitality that you have shown to me and my delegation. This is my first visit to Slovenia. It is very important both for us and for Slovenia and this relation between our countries is very important. I am sure that we can cooperate as dynamically as our discussions have been dynamic and I am also sure that these discussions will bring success. I am grateful for your willingness to help in resolving the conflict in Azerbaijan. We discussed various aspects of bilateral relations and the talks that we had have shown that there exists between us excellent cooperation and the desire for its continuation. In the bilateral framework, our cooperation with Slovenia is very important, and Slovenia's membership of the European Union is also very important, so Slovenia is also a very important country for us, since our relations are quickly developing. We are already included in the European Good Neighbours Programme, we are opening new talks on energy sources with the European Union and Azerbaijan is one of the countries that is developing its oil and gas sources. This will of course be important for European energy independence. In both bilateral and international spheres, our cooperation has exceptionally promising perspectives. I would like to stress at the same time that our bonds are also historical bonds; Mehdi Huseynzadeh, who is an Azerbaijanian hero, fought against fascism together with the Slovenes. He died a hero and is buried in Slovenia. We have also cooperated in various ways in later years and share a number of points in common.

Click to enlargeWe both lived as a part of other larger states and gained independence at approximately the same time. It is more important for us now that we strengthen our independence and we must therefore exploit the economic potentials that we enjoy. Azerbaijan has here achieved exceptional results in recent years, since in the first six months of this year it increased its gross national product by 36%, in comparison with 26% in the previous year. Our greatest wish is to deepen our relations with Slovenia still further, also in the economic sphere and it is therefore important that we organise numerous bilateral visits, including business delegations, since this will enable us to get to know the possibilities that exist in both countries and possibilities of further cooperation. A large part of our talks focused on resolving the conflict in Gornje Karabah, we discussed possibilities of resolving this conflict and I presented the Azerbaijan position. As far as Azerbaijan is concerned, our territory was attacked as a result of Armenian policies, a million Azerbaijanians became refugees in various refugee camps and Azerbaijan wishes to solve this conflict in accordance with international norms and standards. We insist that Armenia withdraws its armed forces unconditionally. In January of last year, the Council of Europe adopted a resolution in which it clearly characterised Armenia as the aggressor. In such cases, solving the conflict depends on respect for international law and we now have a unique opportunity to resolve this conflict. Azerbaijan will uphold the principles of international law, and processes are now unfolding gradually, that is to say, we are attempting to arrive at a solution of this conflict gradually, by steps. The Armenian side has shown a constructive approach and said that it will certainly strive for the earliest possible solution of the conflict. I would like to stress, very clearly, that the conflict in Gornje Karabah must be solved in accordance with international principles, since this conflict is a very great threat to the development of the entire region, and if we can resolve this conflict speedily, we can cooperate even better.

Click to enlargeOnce again, Mr. President, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to visit Slovenia, I am very pleased to be here and would like to say that Slovenia also has an interest in our country because we have seen at the conference that is currently taking place in Bled that it is in the interests of Europe that the Caspian region is a subject of this conference in Bled, at which the entire international community is taking part. I am sure that our relations will be further enhanced as a result of this visit and I am also sure that you will visit Azerbaijan, too, and these relations between our countries, between our peoples, will thus be further strengthened, and this will further reinforce the friendship between our countries.

I am interested as to whether you discussed the conflict in Gornje Karabah, and what threat, in your opinion, this is to the entire region. What is your position, as a member of the European Union in relation to this conflict?

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: Any conflict situation, especially if it lasts an extended period, is a threat to peace, and there are always two options: to resolve it by peaceful means, through dialogue between two countries, between their politicians, or to solve it by violent means. I have always myself advocated the peaceful option, an agreed solution, and it is my view, also after discussions with President Aliyev, that possibilities exist for a peaceful solution of this problem in the near future. I think that it is necessary to make use of these possibilities. It would certainly not be good to allow this unresolved situation to continue to smoulder and always bear within itself the possibility of potentially greater conflict. I consider that the two leaderships, the two presidents, are capable and constructive enough to find a solution, to find a way out of the present situation. President Aliyev also presented his point of view to me, how he would start, at least with small steps, which could then establish mutual trust for a continuation of this process and I must say that his views and proposals seem to me sensible.

Dr. Ilham Aliyev: Resolution of this conflict will thus take place in the context of relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union. Azerbaijan, in other words, is known for its large reserves of both oil and gas. Azerbaijan has already built the longest gas or oil pipe in the world, which will also enable transport of these Azerbaijanian natural resources to European markets. The question of the relevant infrastructure is, of course, here crucial, and I am sure that Azerbaijan will cooperate very well with the European Union in the area of energy sources and I think that this is also the wish of the member states of the European Union, since this will be a new source of energy for European consumers.

Questions concerning economic cooperation between Slovenia and Azerbaijan

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: Cooperation between the countries is currently comparatively small, which is also understandable since we did not have a great many contacts in the past and did not know each other well. President Ilijev and I today concluded that there are considerably greater opportunities for the future and that today's visit can give significant impetus to mutual economic relations. President Aliyev has already said that there are major opportunities for Slovene companies to cooperate in the future economic development of Azerbaijan. This development will clearly be very good and a great deal will happen. As a member of the European Union, Slovenia is of course prepared to mediate to Azerbaijan in the best possible way its experiences in establishing permanent links with the European Union and in building institutions that are comparable with those of Europe. Thank you.

Dr. Ilham Aliyev: In terms of current numbers, our economic relations are certainly not very large, but our economic relations have recently begun to develop. We are not currently satisfied with the level that we have achieved and I agree with Mr. President that we must first get to know each other better. I am sure that, after this official visit, this will not be difficult, that cooperation in the economic sphere between our countries will accelerate and that we will also be able to organise the exchange of visits of business delegations, which will allow us to discover the various opportunities that exist, mutual familiarity, and, of course, the economic sphere has a brilliant future.