Statement of Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the Ministerial meeting of V4 and EaP countries
Allow me to express my gratitude for a warm welcome and hospitality extended to us here in Bratislava.
We recently met in Luxembourg where we had the opportunity to refocus on the objectives of the Eastern Partnership and further consolidate our efforts in building a prosperous future against the backdrop of new geopolitical developments in the region.
The post-Vilnius period has unveiled the increasing difference of the will of partners in engaging with the EU as a whole and in relation to different policy sectors. In the case of Azerbaijan, EU integration goals have explicitly dwelled on joint interests with a view of promoting and ensuring equal level of ownership. Azerbaijan is ready to upgrade the contractual relations with the EU which will reflect on the elements of strategic partnership.
In this context, an enhanced political dialogue with V4 countries has been instrumental in drawing the new partnership agenda with the EU. The number of strategic partners of Azerbaijan within the EU has increased as a result of signing of the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership with Hungary last year. To date back, we have established a similar partnership framework with Romania (whose distinguished representative is here with us today) which inspired both sides to expand the scope of bilateral relations by concluding an Action Plan on its implementation at a later stage.
Our strategic partnership and growing relations with V4 group are largely predicated upon strengthening economic ties with these countries. Azerbaijan’s trade turnover with Hungary tripled last year, considerable increase was also registered in our trade relations with Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Certainly, there is a huge potential to boost and diversify bilateral trade by means of EU offered instruments and programs. In this regard, V4 countries are welcome to step up with more TAIEX and Twinning initiatives in order to support institutional reform plans in the relevant fields under the Comprehensive Institutional Building Program.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As we are going through the review process of the European Neighborhood Program we have to make clear how we want to proceed so that it becomes more tailored and adaptable to the needs of partner countries. We already shared our initial reflections on this important development during the recently held Ministerial meeting in Luxembourg. I am convinced that the high level deliberations during the Riga Eastern Partnership Summit will significantly feed in the ongoing joint consultations to be finalized by the end of June.
A couple of words could be spelled out in this regard.
1. Only partnership based on equal rights and joint ownership can bring tangible results.
2. The focus on areas of strongest common interest should not narrow its inclusivity. For example, improving connectivity with partner countries should not entail the progressive disengagement of the EU from the existing inter-regional transport initiatives, notably TRACECA which maintains its vast potential to link Europe with Central Asian market and beyond. Speaking of connectivity, I am also pleased to reconfirm that Azerbaijan is ready for the talks on the Common Aviation Agreement with EU.
3. We believe that strategic partnership in the field of energy will further strengthen our mutually beneficial relations with EU. We welcome the recent decision of the European Commission on the prolongation of exemption of TAP from certain requirements of third party access as well as the recent decision of the Italian government with regard to the TAP project. These positive developments encourage the Southern Gas Corridor countries to intensify their actions in close coordination with EU to meet the deadline for the first gas delivery from the Caspian Sea. Meanwhile, the recent quadripartite Ministerial meeting in Ashgabat emphasized the importance of diversification of energy sources, delivery routes and sales markets for the future of energy security of Europe.
As much as it offered opportunities for cooperation, the ENP in its current form has fallen short of addressing key security challenges in the Eastern Partnership geography, that is, the protracted military conflicts.
The ongoing occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan by Armenia and its continuous engagement in illegal activities in these territories clearly demonstrate that Armenia is not genuinely interested in the pursuit of peace in the region. These activities represent a serious barrier to the settlement of the conflict, the core elements of which are the liberation of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and the realization by the forcibly displaced people of their right to live in peace and dignity in the place of their origin.
Deployment of Armenian military units in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, their regular and routine inspections by the highest leadership of Armenia, military exercises are an unequivocal evidence of acts of aggression in accordance with the international law.
Only the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian occupying forces from all the occupied territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan as called for in relevant UN SC Resolutions will help build lasting confidence between the parties.
Now that we are in an intensive phase of discussions on the draft Joint Declaration of the Riga Eastern Partnership Summit, it is imperative that our partners in Europe once again voice their unweaving support to the settlement of the conflicts in the region on the basis of the principles and norms of international law as well as documents and decisions adopted in this format.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to announce that the torch of the 1st European Games has already been lit in Baku. We will transform this event that is as symbolic for the whole of Europe as it is for us, into a parade of peace, friendship and cooperation.