he 4th international conference on “Shaping the Geopolitics of the Greater Eurasia: from Past to Present to Future” organized by ADA University to mark the 100th anniversary of National Leader Heydar Aliyev has been held in Shusha.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attended the conference.
Opening the conference, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said:
– Good Morning. Dear guests, welcome to Karabakh. Welcome to Shusha. Very glad to see you here.
First of all I want to express gratitude to ADA University for organizing this conference dedicated to the memory of the architect of independent Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev. I was invited, and decided to meet here in Karabakh.
I’ve been at many events organized by ADA University, meeting with international experts, public figures in Baku, and first time here. I hope you will enjoy your visit to Azerbaijan, your trip to Shusha. Shusha has a special place in the history of Azerbaijan. And now Shusha is being rebuilt almost from scratch.
This year was announced the “Year of Heydar Aliyev” in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of our Great Leader. And throughout the year, we organize numerous events, conferences in Azerbaijan and abroad, paying respect to the memory of the founder of independent Azerbaijan, and at the same time addressing the important issues of our domestic politics, regional development, international affairs. We wanted to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Heydar Aliyev not by kind of a formal events, but by addressing real issues, which need a special attention, because the geo-politics in the region has changed, and the topic of the conference also is covering this issue.
Heydar Aliyev was always a person who was protecting the interests of the people of Azerbaijan. Regardless of the time, regardless of the political situation, during the times of Soviet Azerbaijan, when he was for more than ten years the leader of the Soviet Azerbaijan even in the framework of those ideological barriers, he was defending the interests of the Azerbaijani people. He was trying to do everything so that we keep our identity. And many steps he took during the times of 1970s and beginning of 1980s. Now we see that they were targeted to the time when Azerbaijan would be independent. So, throughout the year, and of course the events dedicated to his memory will continue until the end of the year. We wanted to fill this space with practical steps, with exchange of views, ideas, mainly with respect to the future development of Azerbaijan and also regional development. Because we cannot ignore situation in our region and though, we don’t have any risks anymore after liberation of Karabakh inside the country, but we are not living on an island. Meeting here in Shusha, has of course a special meaning for all of us. Last year, by the way, I announced the “Year of Shusha”, because it was the 270th anniversary of the foundation of the city by Karabakh khan Panah Ali, and Shusha always was the Azerbaijani city. Only during the times of occupation, for more than 28 years, Shusha was under foreign domination, but I know that you will be making a city tour after our meeting and you will see that during the times of occupation Shusha was almost totally destroyed. Though it once again demonstrates that Shusha has never been a native city for Armenians.
If it was, they would have kept it, they wouldn’t have destroyed it. They would have developed it. All what you’ve seen or what you will see, most of what you will see – the buildings are either been renovated during the last two years and a half, or built from scratch. Heydar Aliyev’s biggest dream was to see Shusha free and we made his dream come true. So, we are proud of that. We are happy, all Azerbaijanis, not only citizens of Azerbaijan, but all Azerbaijanis of the world are proud of our victory. That was a victory of justice, historical justice, victory of international law. So, once again, thank you for making a trip here. The weather is not very friendly, but this is how Shusha is, as we can never predict. It can be storming, raining and then sunshine comes all of a sudden and I hope you will enjoy your trip. Thank you.
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Rector of ADA University Hafiz Pashayev: Mr. President, thank you very much. We yesterday had very fruitful discussion in Baku in our University. Actually, more than 60 scholars and politician, political practitioners came to Baku to discuss this topic and commemorate our national leader`s anniversary – the 100th anniversary. We had very good discussion and we were, including myself, very much excited that we have opportunity to be in Shusha, magnificent city, cultural capital of Turkic world. So, we’re now here and we’re happy. Among 60 participants of the conference, at least half of them are first time participating in our conference. So, if you allow me, we will come to discussion. First, I would like to ask Michael Reynolds from the United States Princeton University. He has a question.
Michael Reynolds, Associate Professor of Near Eastern Studies, the Princeton University, the US: Thank you, Mr. President. In April last year, you were speaking here in Shusha. I think it was the 5th Congress of the World Azerbaijanis. And you said that negotiations do not result in a treaty. Negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, do not result in a treaty wherein Armenia recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan will not recognize the territorial integrity of Armenia either, and will officially declare that. Now, today, although many of us are hopeful that a peace treaty of some form will be and the solution will be found between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Soon, perhaps even as we speak in Washington, DC. It has already been two and a half years since the end of the Second Karabakh War. And still there’s no final solution to this conflict. If Armenia continues to refuse to come to an agreement with Azerbaijan, what options are on the table for Azerbaijan? And are there any options not on the table?
President Ilham Aliyev: Well, I several times elaborated on that. Saying that, if Armenia doesn’t want peace, there’ll be no peace. And there are countries, which didn’t sign peace agreement. We know it from history, but that will not be good either for Armenia or for the region and of course not for Azerbaijan. Therefore, we still hope that they will be reasonable. And they will not use the same tactics as they used during the times of occupation, when former Minsk Group was in the picture, and for 28 years, did nothing by the way from the point of view of results. And main reason for that was because Armenia didn’t want to liberate the territories. Yes, Minsk Group was not very popular in Azerbaijan during the times of occupation. Now when it actually resigned, probably we should not go too far on it. But the main reason why we could not find the peaceful settlement of the conflict was because Armenia didn’t want it. They were just using these tactics delaying and making one step forward, two or three, maybe five steps back, and they wanted to seal the situation to freeze it. They thought that they will be able to legitimize occupation. They thought that we will agree to kind of a compromise on our territorial integrity. They thought that their international sponsors will always stand behind them, and will fight for them. But that was miscalculation, they were wrong.
So, now, what can happen? The same thing can happen. They can delay, they can use negotiation format, which already has been established not in order to come to an agreement, but in order to make the process endless, waiting for something, waiting for a miracle, waiting for changes. And I think they will miss opportunity, because almost thirty years of occupation did not give them any advantage. On the contrary, they have been isolated from the regional development. They lost the chance to become the really independent country, not formally but in fact. They are looking now for the new master or masters. But the history, the recent history should teach them a lesson. So, we hope that they will understand it. In my communications with the Armenian counterpart, I tried to explain that a peace treaty, first of all, is in their interest, opening of communications is in their interest. They will be able to have access to different markets. And of course, it will be beneficial for us, because we want this chapter to be closed. And actually if you follow the chronology of statements and events, you will see that it was Azerbaijan, which offered to start talking about a peace agreement.
Because when Second Karabakh War ended, not many actors knew what will be next. Because the trilateral declaration, it is not a ceasefire agreement, but it is also not a peace agreement. So, what should happen next was under big question mark. So, it was us who made the initiative. It was us who put forward the vision for the future, for integrated Southern Caucasus, for regional cooperation, for normalization of relations. Therefore, we put an initiative to start peace talks, there was silence from all directions. Then waiting for some time, we put forward these famous five principles, which are totally in line with norms and principles of international law and Armenia formally had to either reject it or to accept it. Rejecting it would have demonstrated them again being unconstructive, because there was nothing in contradiction with international law in these principles. Accepting it, probably it was difficult for them from a psychological point of view and from point of view of agreeing to normal behavior. So, then we a had long, how to say, break again, because of Armenian unwillingness to engage in serious negotiations.
We’ve sent them four copies, four new variants of a draft of peace agreement. They return their comments. We’ve been waiting for more than 40 days for the last comments, which we received just a week ago, just prior to the Washington meeting, because they realize that without that the Washington meeting will be absolutely useless. But what we’ve seen in these comments is again territorial claims against Azerbaijan. It was absolutely clear for Armenia, for international players during my numerous communications with the US and EU officials that there should be a two track approach. One is Armenia-Azerbaijan normalization and another communications between Azerbaijan`s authorities and Armenian community in Karabakh. Therefore, any attempt to put so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which does not exist, into the text of the peace treaty is counterproductive.
Therefore, we hope that they will be constructive. If not, well, we are not planning to undertake any other measures rather than diplomatic. We had enough of that. Therefore, there’ll be just no peace, no communications. They will be isolated again. And they will have to find the place for them in this new geopolitical configuration. Because all geopolitical situation, not only in the region, but globally have changed. We have our place there, which is very stable and which is becoming more and more solid. But for them, it will be a big challenge. So, I hope that Washington negotiations will produce – if not results, but at least kind of signs of progress.
Hafiz Pashayev: Next, Vladimir Socor, the Jamestown Foundation.
Vladimir Socor, Senior Fellow, the Jamestown Foundation, the US: Mr. President, Azerbaijan has established bilateral alliance outside NATO’s framework with a NATO member country and regional power Türkiye. This is a unique achievement of Azerbaijan in the entire post-Soviet context. This relationship amounts to a military security alliance. It is closer than most strategic partnerships. And it is rooted not only in personal relationships, important as these are, but more deeply in the shared national interests. Many of us would like to be confident that this alliance will continue regardless of the results of Turkish elections and will become a permanent feature. Also, with Türkiye involved in a number of contested theaters simultaneously, all making claims on Turkish resources at the same time, many of us would like to be reassured or rather feel that there is a strong case to be made for Azerbaijan, to hold the top priority among Türkiye’s own national interests. Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. I fully share your views on this issue. By the way, the Shusha Declaration, which made Türkiye and Azerbaijan officially allies was signed here in Shusha in several metres from this building. And that was the historical event. Though de-facto relations between Azerbaijan and Türkiye were relations between allies. And we’ve demonstrated it, especially during the last 20 years. During last 20 years, when President Erdogan has led Türkiye, our relations transformed by our joint efforts with him into relations not only between brothers, but between allies, and we’ve demonstrated it many times. Therefore, of course, this is an important factor of regional development, and you’re absolutely right. Azerbaijan, becoming a military ally to Türkiye, indirectly becomes also, to a certain degree, a military ally to NATO. And by the way, there was, for several years, a kind of misperception of the road to Euro-Atlantic integration and cooperation by different countries of the former Soviet Union, whether it’s NATO, whether it’s EU. Yes, Azerbaijan did not engage formally in any form of agreements. We even did not sign an association agreement with the EU, unlike some of the members of the Eastern Partnership Program. But that was not because we didn’t want to be closer. We don’t want to have a kind of a unilateral format of cooperation. To my mind, I’m absolutely sincere with you, the association agreement is not an agreement in a normal sense of the word. It’s just a list of instructions, which have been presented to those countries which joined this format. It is their choice, we will respect it, but this is not our choice. We have chosen the different path. And we signed strategic partnership agreements and declarations with nine members of EU. So, this is one third of member states. And strategic partnership declarations, which have been signed or adopted, do not make difference and have much higher value than association agreement.
The same with NATO. Some countries may seem to be very close. Some countries announced, I mean the countries of the Eastern Partnership, their target to be a NATO member. Some countries announced it for more than 15 years. By the way, NATO promised Ukraine and Georgia 15 years ago to become member states. I remember that, I was present at the Bucharest NATO Summit, when Ukraine and Georgia were denied by some leaders of some leading European countries from the Membership Action Plan. But instead, it was announced that they will become a member. When? Nobody said. 15 years have passed. So, we’re there where they are. But we signed an agreement with the second NATO member state with respect to the potential of the army and this is serious. So, we always have chosen the paths of practical steps rather than declarations, which then did not transform into tangible results. With respect to relations between Azerbaijan and Türkiye in the future, I’m absolutely sure that both countries will not only keep the format of this alliance, but will strengthen it. Because in this new geopolitical realities, this already became an important factor of regional stability and regional security, whether it is military component, energy, communications, trade, etc. So, I’m very optimistic and I think that nothing will change the fraternal character of relations between Türkiye and Azerbaijan.
Hafiz Pashayev: Margarita Assenova, The Jamestown Foundation.
Margarita Assenova, Senior Fellow, the Jamestown Foundation, the US: Thank you very much, Mr. President for taking the time and coming to Shusha to meet with us today. I have a question, which concerns security and potential developments in the region. A potential collapse or disintegration of Russia could have serious security implications for Azerbaijan and for the Caucasus. Would Moscow try to stir up trouble problems between Azerbaijan and its neighbors – Dagestan, Chechnya – in order to deflect attention from its rupture? That’s one of the possible scenarios. My question is how can Azerbaijan prepare for such scenario? And who would be Baku’s partners in such case?
President Ilham Aliyev: First of all, I think that we will not see the time, when as you put it, Russia will be disintegrated. We don’t foresee this scenario for Russia. We support the territorial integrity of Russia and all the countries. And I think any disintegration of any country, especially your neighbor, of course, can possess a potential threat to you. With respect to our neighbors – our historical neighbors and brothers in Dagestan and Chechnya – we have relations based on our history, common history and brotherhood. And Azerbaijan in the Southern Caucasus was always – throughout all the times, during the times of Soviet Union, during the times of Czarist Russia and before – has always been the closest to the peoples of Northern Caucasus by historical ties, by religious ties, by a lot of ties, like relative ties. So, we always wanted our brothers in Dagestan and Chechnya to be able to fully realize their great potential. And today we have a very active format of interaction on different levels. A lot of delegations come from these two republics to Azerbaijan and from Azerbaijan. We’ve signed agreements of cooperation, and just recently agreement, a kind of a program, for several years with Dagestan. So, Caucasus is a complicated area. Unfortunately, like Balkans. I think one of the most beautiful areas of the world – Balkans and Caucasus – but the most complicated and with a tragic history. And we know the tragic history of our brothers in the North of Caucasus, they know tragic history of Azerbaijanis in the Southern Caucasus. We will never forget this history, because if we forget it, then we will not have future and we will not be able to properly measure our steps in time and in actions. But that also is something, which unites us. And of course, in relations between Azerbaijan and Russia, communications between Azerbaijan and republics of the Northern Caucasus were always an important factor. And it is well understood in Moscow and in Baku and during numerous high-level contexts, we always reflected the importance of stability and peace in the Northern Caucasus and in Southern Caucasus, particularly in Azerbaijan. Although there are dividing lines, administrative borders, state borders in the Caucasus, but Caucasus is one organism and you cannot divide the body in two. And I think today’s level of mutual understanding of threats and of potential, I think, is more visible, because of the change of geopolitical situation and because of the growing importance of Azerbaijan, also, for stability in the Northern Caucasus.
Hafiz Pashayev: Next, John Roberts, Energy Security Specialist, Methinks Ltd., the United Kingdom.
John Roberts: Mr. President, thank you very much for coming here today. I have a question, which is how serious do you think Kazakhstan’s problems are regarding its energy export routes through Russia? And what can Azerbaijan do to help Kazakhstan find alternative export routes?
President Ilham Aliyev: Well, according to my information, there is no problem for Kazakhstan to export its hydrocarbons through traditional routes. And I know that there have been some technical problems in the pipelines or terminal, but they’ve been fixed. And then today again, the oil from Kazakhstan is going through traditional routes. But at the same time, during my official visit to Kazakhstan last month, we also discussed the prospects of cooperation in the energy area. And there been several delegations from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan and backwards to discuss this issue. And the agreement was reached to start transportation of oil from Kazakhstan through Azerbaijan’s pipeline infrastructure. So, the process has started just recently, and the agreement was signed to deliver 1.5 million tonnes of oil and to ship it through Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline to the Mediterranean coast. Also, there are plans, and the negotiations are continued. Now in order to increase the volume of Kazakhstan’s oil through for Azerbaijan, our pipeline infrastructure allows that. With respect to the increase through Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, the problem can be the quality of final product, because Kazakhstani oil is different from Azeri Light. And if big volume is shipped through Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, so, we will lose quality, how to say, premium. Because Azeri Light oil, which we export through Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan is more precious even than Brent. But there are other options, of course, we can work on some commercial terms. If the quality of the final oil in Ceyhan changes or we have a pipeline, which is now empty, goes from Baku to the Georgian Supsa Sea port and can be also engaged, because there is a big market in the Black Sea – I know that Kazakhstan owns refinery capacity, facilities in some Black Sea countries – so, we always were supportive to the plans of our neighbors across the Caspian to use Azerbaijan infrastructure for their exports. By the way for many years, oil from Turkmenistan is being shipped through Azerbaijan, through Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. So, these are all, you know, commercial issues. And I think that we should not look for some geopolitical changes, some political preferences. You know if Russia decides to ship its oil through Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan because it’s more beneficial, of course, they will do it. So, today we are a transit country for oil from Russia, from Turkmenistan, from Kazakhstan. If the volume of oil grows, we will be only happy. Who would not like to have more transit fees? So, in the future and not only oil by the way. We are providing important transportation for Kazakhstan with respect to uranium exports. And this is very important not only for Kazakhstan, but also for those countries – two countries – which are recipients of uranium and many other cargos, petrochemicals, fertilizers from Turkmenistan. We are, by the way, expanding capacity of our trade seaport, waiting for more cargoes from Asia.
Hafiz Pashayev: Next, Vasa László, Research Professor, the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs.
Vasa László: Thank you very much, Your Excellency. Thanks again for being here, and for being invited. My question is rather focusing on economic issues of the region. There are some thoughts of the Central Asian countries to form a kind of cooperation among their markets and economies. For sure it is not another development of the next year, but at least they are thinking of it. If it will be realized, Azerbaijan would join such an economic community with Central Asian countries? Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: It’s always difficult to answer the question, which has this if. You know, if something happens what would you do. If that happens, we will see what we will do. Therefore, I think we should not, how to say, run in front of the train. So, Azerbaijan is not a Central Asian country, but is closely linked by historical and cultural links to Central Asia and now much more linked by political contacts. I visited this year, last month, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan on an official visit. In March, the presidents of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan visited Azerbaijan. I also visited Kyrgyzstan on an official visit in the end of last year. And last year I visited Uzbekistan three times. So, you can see how active the dialogue is between Azerbaijan and Central Asian countries. And it has very positive dynamics. We think in general, regardless of what may happen, if something happens regardless, I think the Central Asia and Azerbaijan in the future can be more integrated because, of course, first of all, transportation, security issues, because today issues of transportation security and access to export markets for Central Asian countries become more important than a while ago. It’s understandable why. And here is a friendly country with already modern transportation infrastructure whether its railroad, sea ports, biggest fleet in the Caspian, also, by the way, growing number of vessels in the Black Sea. We actively now started to increase our transportation presence in the Black Sea with the biggest air cargo company in the region and with access to corridors like East-West and North-South. Of course, it is a big asset and definitely we are doing everything in order to contribute to regional cooperation between the Central Asia and Azerbaijan. What kind of partnership that will be from formal point of view is not so important. With countries of the Central Asia like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan – we are together in the Organization of Turkish States together with Türkiye. As I said, we have very active political and economic dialogue with Tajikistan. So, this is a kind of a reality of today’s time. And of course, it’s important to activate even more. Though I can tell you that my interaction and mutual visits with my Central Asian partners during the last two years are unprecedentedly high. So, this actually, I think answers also partly to your question, what will happen if something happens.
Hafiz Pashayev: Brenda Shaffer, the US Naval Postgraduate School, please.
Brenda Shaffer, Professor, the Naval Postgraduate School, the US: President Aliyev thank you for meeting with us. And it’s an honor to be here in Shusha. It’s still a dream, I think for all of us. And as you said, international law was very clear about the status of Shusha, about the status of Karabakh. But Azerbaijan under your leadership had to implement the UN resolutions on its own. And so, I have two questions on this. One – you know that principle of territorial integrity. We hear, it unequivocally apply to Ukraine, apply to Georgia, even the most recently released US National Security Strategy mentions that the US must promote territorial integrity of Ukraine and Georgia and must promote peace in between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The words explicitly don’t promote your territorial integrity. Explain to us why is this principle applied to certain countries and not applied to other countries and what are the implications? And if I can be a bit greedy and have a second question? Energy calculations, energy policies are very difficult, right? There are technology, geopolitics or economics, laws and figuring this out is very difficult. But Azerbaijan always got this right meaning extra capacity in the BTC when people said why do you need to waste all this steel and here we have central Asian oil coming. President Heydar Aliyev said Central Asian oil will come. It was one of his statements. The Southern Gas Corridor built scalable extra capacity when people were saying that this is the last major gas pipeline, gas is a thing of the past. Now, when commercial operation started in the Southern Gas Corridor in December 2020 already people and countries were in line for extra gas. So, what are the things we need to look at to get energy forecasts right as Azerbaijan has done so correctly? Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: With respect to the first question, you know, I ask myself – how many times I asked this question to our American partners. Why? And never got any answer, because it was obvious that there is a big injustice to Azerbaijan and a kind of attempt to, again put a dividing line in the methodological approach to the issues related to territorial integrity of countries of former Soviet Union and always we’ve heard in official statements, in letters by US presidents to the leaders of Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, very straightforward wording about support of territorial integrity. And when it comes to Azerbaijan, it is as if it is there, but at the same time, peaceful settlement. So, during the times of occupation, it was even more unfair and unjust. And of course, we were much more sensitive to that. Now, we are less sensitive because we’ve done what international community was supposed to do, the UN Security Council, permanent members were supposed to do – implement resolutions of the Security Council. So, we’ve done it ourselves. Therefore, as I said, we don’t pay too much attention to that. But of course, we think that this injustice must be lifted, and single standard approach must be applied not only to countries of former Soviet Union, but to all other countries. And there cannot be any justification with respect to political preferences – if one country is more close and another country is not so close. Though it’s also a questionable whose the factor is closer. Also, I think all the references and a kind of a justification or excuse, pointing out on Armenian lobby also are too exaggerated. It’s a very good excuse for those who do not want to articulate straightforward position, not only the United States but also look at France. Even worse, even worse. France two chambers of Parliament recognized so-called Nagorno-Karabakh, which no country in the world including Armenia recognized. Therefore, this is how they call it real politics. Therefore, again, any kind of justification by Armenian lobbyist exaggerated. Just the question is still in the air. Why it happens? We need to have an answer. But again, I’d like to say that now this answer is not so important, as it was before. You remember, Brenda very well how we’re in Azerbaijan were sensitive to this famous 907 amendment to Freedom Support Act. When I was not the president in my previous capacity, I was visiting Washington at least twice a year. Ambassador Pashayev at that time, also remembers very well how many doors we knocked in White House, National Security Council, in Senate, in Congress, just asking to lift this amendment. It didn’t happen. So, I think in Azerbaijan nobody remembers 907 amendment, because first we don’t need this assistance any longer. And second, there was a waiver to that made by President Clinton and then the presidents who succeeded him continue that. And actually it also demonstrates that it was resolved. So, with respect to the formal articulation of straightforward support of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan by the Western countries, I think the time will come. Actually, it’s already coming. And important is that Armenia itself, actually now, more openly than some of Armenian friends in the West says as they de facto recognize it, because they’ve signed the Prague Declaration last October, Sochi Declaration again last October, where they agreed that the Almaty Declaration of 1991 should be taken as a basis for normalization and Almaty Declaration actually draws administrative boundaries of former republics and consider them as their official borders. That means that they already agreed that Karabakh is Azerbaijan. And I said recently that they just need to say the last word. They said A they need to say B. They should say what I said, Karabakh is Azerbaijan, I am waiting for that. I hope the time will come.
And with respect to energy security, you are absolutely right. We always did and measured our plans with respect to the future, because that was a vision of my father. And you’re absolutely right. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline has a capacity of 50 million tonnes. And it, by the way, never, maybe one year it was close to that. We have condensate from Shahdeniz. We will have condensate from Absheron, hopefully, this year, and from many other fields. By the way, with respect to our future gas production and transportation, several new fields will be activated soon. As I said, Absheron with a capacity of 300 billion cubic meters, so-called Deep Gas of ACG with minimum the same amount – already the work has started and several other. So, there’ll be more condensate in the pipeline than we even anticipated. And one day, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, I think, can be working full capacity with oil from Azerbaijan condensate from Azerbaijan and also oil from Central Asia. The same was with natural gas and you know that the diameter of TANAP and TAP are different. And this is again because in TAP, we didn’t have the majority share. We have only 20% in TAP. Therefore, we could not, if I may use this word, dictate the partners that we need to have a bigger capacity. In TANAP, we have a majority share. So, TANAP is 16 bcm and TAP is 10. So, we are trying to expand twice because there is a big demand and the gas is here.
Those who said many years ago that Azerbaijan do not have oil, now were saying that Azerbaijan does not have gas. And just recently I was informed that European Commissioner on Energy Madam Simson, called Azerbaijan a Pan-European supplier of gas and this is true. And just recently I said we will be supplying gas in maximum couple of years to 10 countries including eight European countries. So, this demonstrates that we need not only to plan the project from commercial point of view, but also from strategic point of view and need to continue this combination. Because companies, which are investing, and banks, which are lending money, of course, they look at your potential today, some prospects for future, and they think that it should be the diameter and the capacity. But we look strategically. We better have capacity and have it not fully engaged rather than to have resources and not to be able to transport. So, the same will be, I’m sure, with our renewable projects. An original target for Black Sea cable was one gigawatt. But when Azerbaijan joined the project, we increased it to four gigawatt, because we already signed contracts and MoUs with international companies to produce 25 gigawatts of solar and wind energy in Azerbaijan. So, MoU with these companies, leading companies actually means contract. So, 25 gigawatt will be available here in the Caspian and onshore, and we need to have capacity, we need transmission. So, if everybody listened to what we advocated for today, I think European security on energy would have been much more better protected. Thank you.
Hafiz Pashayev: Thank you, Mr. President remind me about Section 907.
President Ilham Aliyev: You forgot too.
Hafiz Pashayev: It was my favorite topic during my years in Washington. So, I remember how late President Heydar Aliyev was…
President Ilham Aliyev: We had, by the way, you probably remember, a kind of this mark when you have on the roads like 60 km or 100 km, we had 907 crossed.
Hafiz Pashayev: It was t-shirt.
President Ilham Aliyev: T-shirt.
Hafiz Pashayev: So, I remember how with very passion late Heydar Aliyev was trying to explain members of congress, big number of them together, that it’s unjustifiable. And then in spite of all this explanation, some members still insisted that you have to be very polite toward demands of Armenians.
President Ilham Aliyev: Maybe, we need to explain a little bit what 907 means, because I think not everybody in the audience understands. The Freedom Support Act was adopted by the US Congress after the collapse of the Soviet Union in order to support newly emerged republics. And pro-Armenian lobby in the Congress – they made amendment which was amendment 907, which deprived Azerbaijan from that right, from direct US assistance and, it’s most important why, because Azerbaijan was blockading Armenia. So, can you imagine the level of the manipulation? Azerbaijan was occupied by Armenia, and the territories which were adjusted Armenian border – Kalbajar, Lachin, Gubadli, Zangilan – all were under occupation. How could we blockade Armenia if our territory is under occupation? So, that was why we were absolutely, how to say, frustrated when we could not explain that this is not fair. But nevertheless, you see Mr. Ambassador, now we have to explain what 907 was, nobody remembers it.
Hafiz Pashayev: But still that’s law of the United States. Injustice, which we still have and double standards still we have. I think it’s very much in the fact that it’s still a law of United States government.
President Ilham Aliyev: The most important is to change the reality on the ground, and to continue.
Hafiz Pashayev: Exactly. Next, Neil Melvin, Director International Security Studies, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the United Kingdom. Please.
Neil Melvin: Thank you, Mr. President. Azerbaijan has long been a part of European security, including through its membership with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. And you’ve already spoken today about the long-standing approach that you’ve taken to Euro Atlantic integration. But European security is changing. Russia’s war against Ukraine is transforming European security. What used to be a collective project with Russia is now becoming a project about how to deter and contain Russia. Russia is the threat to European security. And that is only going to become clearer with the Vilnius NATO Summit, which we’re seeing a realignment of Europe, a transformation of the security environment on the Black Sea. So, my question is, given all of the plans that you’ve been outlining for Azerbaijan’s role as a transit company country and an energy country, do you see new challenges as a result of this shift, particularly as regards the positioning towards Russia from the Western Community? And do you anticipate that Azerbaijan may have to adjust some of its external policies in this new environment?
President Ilham Aliyev: Because it is difficult to predict what will be the end of the standoff when and how Russian-Ukrainian war ends and what will be a geopolitical situation after this war ends. Because sooner or later, the war will come to an end. Though, we cannot exclude that the way how is the war is conducted could be modified. But again, it’s premature to talk about that. So, everything will depend on that, but it is absolutely clear that the world will never be the same as it was before the Russian-Ukrainian war. This is absolutely clear. And I think also absolutely clear for many European countries, NATO members as they had to take more serious steps with respect to security and the defense capabilities, because they themselves on the leadership level admit that they did not do enough in order to supply them with modern weapons, ammunitions. They probably found out that some of their statistics of their possession is not correct. It happens sometimes. So, I think this new geopolitical change will lead to militarization of Europe, of the world. And on one hand, it can be a dangerous kind of a trigger, on other hand, I think that could be also a kind of factor of deterrence. We in Azerbaijan, we realized many years ago that no one will help us and all our illusions about prevalence of international law disappeared. Not immediately, but throughout the times of negotiations. So, we realized that if we don’t have a strong army, if we don’t raise young generation ready to fight for the dignity not only for the land, we will always be occupied and always will complain. We were fed up with complaining, you know, let others complain about us now. That was how it was here in Azerbaijan. I think Azerbaijan’s example is valuable. I know that the way how we conducted the battlefield, particularly liberation of Shusha, is being evaluated in international military academies. When you were approaching Shusha, you probably have seen the rock and it’s just a fortress. It is very difficult to conquer. And Shusha was occupied because of the treason of many of those who were in power in Azerbaijan or trying to come to power. So, liberation of Shusha is really a demonstration of our spirit. So, I think that geopolitical changes in order that they do not create a problem for you, but on the contrary, be an opportunity depends on you, on your strategy, on your proper analysis of situation, and also on your principal policy. Because if countries start to maneuver, like for instance, what we see now in Armenia, it’s an attempt to maneuver, attempt to sit now not on two chairs, but I think minimum four chairs and it is impossible. When it comes to Azerbaijan, whether it’s our policy on regional development or policy on international affairs, on issues related to territorial integrity of countries is absolutely clear, absolutely free from any kind of current situation interests. And I think that Azerbaijan will become much stronger as a result of geopolitical change. We already see it, and the way how Armenia is coming closer to not only understanding but to publicly admitting Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan, and also partly because of geopolitical change, partly because of collapse of the illusions that someone will come and fight for them. So, and of course, Azerbaijan’s energy resources now much more needed to strengthen European energy security than ever before. So, I am not pessimistic with respect to our country’s prospects, rather more optimistic, but try always to be realistic.
Hafiz Pashayev: Thank you. Arian Starova, Albania.
Arian Storova, Member of the Board, the Albanian Institute for International Studies: Very happy to be here and to share thoughts and your opinions, Mr. President. Thank you very much for that. I have two questions. In fact, the second question you`ve already given some answer, but probably, I would like to modify a little bit. The first question is: What’s your opinion about the Belt and Road Initiative in Chinese One, about the future of that initiative? My second question has to do with the war of Russia in Ukraine. You said that it’s very difficult to foresee and predict about the end of that, but I would rather put it differently and say probably that, how do you think this conflict might end? Thank you very much.
President Ilham Aliyev: The Belt and Road Initiative always was supported by Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan was among a limited number of countries, which got invitation and participated in a high level international conference. It was, I think, in spring 2019 in China dedicated to the Belt and Road Initiative. Azerbaijan is considered to be an important part of that project, especially now. So, we are very optimistic, what adds optimism is, first, that we made very good homework, as I said already, we modernized completely and still in the process of final, final touch, I would say, to modernize and to prepare more capacity for transportation infrastructure. At the same time more interest from Central Asia to use our infrastructure. And also I would like to say that in the end of last year the projects of building new railroad connection between China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Caspian have also started. So, this project was in the face of discussions for several years. So, it was officially already started and it demonstrates that if it started that it will work, definitely that there’ll be more cargoes. So, we’re now working with our partners on the eastern shores of the Caspian and in general in Central Asia on issues related to unification of tariffs, on making this road not only important from a point of view of transportation security, but also from commercial point of view. And it is possible. If each country, part of these projects, behaves in a fair way, and we have agreement on tariff unification and also customs administration. This is also very important to limit the bureaucratic procedures, to have more, how to say, electronic forms of joint operability.
With respect to the Russian-Ukrainian war, you ask a question that no one can answer. Maybe I know that someone can know when it will come to an end. But definitely it’s not Azerbaijan, and for me, it will be irresponsible to make any predictions. Of course, as most of the countries in the world we want this war to stop sooner than later. But at the same time, as realists, we understand that probably it will not be possible to stop it sooner than later. So, that is a big tragedy for the peoples of these countries and for Europe and for the world.
Hafiz Pashayev: Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.
Hafiz Pashayev: Nigar Goksel, Türkiye Project Director, the International Crisis Group.
Nigar Goksel: Thank you very much, Mr. President. With the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Washington, hopes were raised that a peace agreement, a breakthrough might be seen towards a peace agreement. But I gather from what you said that you’re not very optimistic about this. I also gather that you don’t have much hope. So, the external actors playing a very positive role in forging a peace agreement. So, I was wondering whether you could speak to whether any of the external actors are actually actively might try to prevent a peace agreement, whether there’s a spoiler role and in my mind, I’m thinking about the interplay between the US and Iran, perhaps, between the US and Russia. How does the tensions between these powers play out in the South Caucasus and affect the chances of reaching a peace agreement with Armenia?
President Ilham Aliyev: I am less optimistic because of those comments, which we received. As I said several days ago, after waiting for more than 40 days, where we saw that almost 95% of the comments were the same like the previous one. So again, attempts to put under questions territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, again attempts to incorporate in some way, so-called Nagorno-Karabakh into peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, again attempts to cross when we put a proposal that we will combat together against terrorism, extremism, radicalism and separatism – all the rest remains on the separatism – Armenians cross. So, that means they will again trigger separatism in Azerbaijan. So, that reduced our optimism, but again we will see, because this session of negotiations is different from previous. It will already last for a couple of days and maybe will last for a couple of days more. And our idea was that they should come with some result, if not, it will be a big disappointment. At the same time, I think that the best way how to come to an agreement is direct negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia without any mediator and without any facilitator or spoiler. Before the Russian-Ukrainian war, we have seen the attempts of the former Minsk Group co-chairs to reengage again. We were actively against that. Because our position was that the Minsk Group failed and since 1992 until 2020 produced no result. The actual result was negative. Because we clearly understood in the end of so-called negotiations, during the times of occupation that Minsk group co-chairs just wanted to have situation unchanged. In other words, to keep the status quo, which was very comfortable for them and for Armenia, but not comfortable for us. Therefore, we’ve changed the status-quo. So, they were planning to join the efforts and to persuade Azerbaijan that the Minsk Group should in some form continue to be around. And when asked about what could that be, I said, first, we don’t see any opportunity for doing as this usual business has finished. What countries of the former Minsk Group co-chairs can do if they want to help just to facilitate normalization of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. So, I said the Karabakh conflict has been resolved and absolute majority of the principles, which were called Madrid principles have been implemented by Azerbaijan. Therefore, if you want to help, please concentrate on a peace agreement and persuade Armenia to be constructive. If any of these countries, I mean, now, the United States and Russia, of course, because after France took unilateral pro-Armenian position, it actually deprived itself from any kind of mediation. It is absolutely clear and not only, by the way, the so-called recognitions of separatism in Karabakh, but also other very open anti- Azerbaijani statements and actions in the United Nations, in Francophonie, in other formats and public statements of politicians actually isolated France from being mediator. Because mediator must at least pretend to be neutral. If you are not neutral in your soul, you at least have to pretend that you are neutral. They did not even try to do. So, now we see these efforts from the United States, from Russia, you probably know that next round of negotiations is supposed to take place between the ministers of the two countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan – in Russia this month. There is a European format of President Charles Michel, who several times convenes meetings on the level of leaders of the country. So, I think that may continue, but again I think direct negotiations between two countries will be more useful and helpful. I think that we need to go in that direction. Of course, if Armenia also is ready to do it.
Hafiz Pashayev: David Merkel, Managing Director, the Summit International Advisors, the US.
David Merkel: Mr. President, good to see you again. I’m really honored to be here on the 100th anniversary of Heydar Aliyev. Because of the ambassador’s kindness, I had the opportunity of spending time with President Heydar Aliyev. It was at Yeni Azerbaijan Party Congress that first time I had the honor of meeting you. I have a request and a question. Being in Karabakh, I’d love to have a picture with you in Karabakh to take back to my friends on a Hill with regard to 907, which I have heard a lot about from yourself and the ambassador and other Azerbaijani friends. My question has to do with Iran. A lot in the Western press has been discussed on increasing tension between Azerbaijan and Iran and even a suggestion of kind of a little bit of axis of Armenia and Russia and Iran, on the one side, and Türkiye and Azerbaijan and Israel on the other. So, if you could just give us your thoughts on relations with one of your neighbors.
President Ilham Aliyev: Well, we always tried to develop these relations and as a President for almost 20 years, I was in Iran many times on official visits and previous presidents of Iran many times visited Azerbaijan. So, we had very active trade relations. We worked actively on issues related to transportation, particularly, the North-South Transport Corridor. And we saw that these relations have big potential, because always it is good to have good relations with your neighbor, especially when we have also a lot to remember in our history.
But, of course, during the times of occupation, we expected more from Iran with respect to support of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. And they always supported Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and voted for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in the United Nations, in the Islamic Cooperation Organization. So, we must be absolutely fair about that. And but of course, people in Azerbaijan were not very happy with Iranian-Armenian relations. But as politicians we understood that every country has its own foreign policy priorities. Iran and Armenia are neighbors. Many people in Azerbaijan expected the same attitude as Türkiye, as Saudi Arabia, as Pakistan demonstrated during the times of occupation. Actually, these three countries did not even have diplomatic relations with Armenia because of occupation. So, I’m just telling you about the popular mood in Azerbaijan. So, people thought that it would be natural if Iran could be among these three countries and to demonstrate solidarity, especially because of active use of the territory of Iran by Armenia with respect to transportation, including transportation of military ammunition and equipment. But nevertheless, our relations were very solid. We agreed, together with other Caspian littoral states, on the Caspian Sea Convention. It was not easy. It took almost 30 years for countries to agree and there’ve been a lot of disagreements. I don’t want to go into details. But finally, in Aktau, Kazakhstan, we signed the convention. So, that was also important that we’ve already come to an agreement how Caspian Sea boundaries and resources will be divided. But unfortunately, after the Second Karabakh War there have been several steps, which led to this escalation. And of course, if you look at the chronology of these steps, you will see that Azerbaijan was not the initiator. And why should we be initiators? We have such a huge challenge and task in front of us – reconstruction of Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur. We do not have the need to have any problems with any country, especially with a neighboring country. But everything happened after we put cameras on road between Lachin and Khankendi, and we’ve detected regular movement of Iranian trucks to Karabakh and that was absolutely illegal. Because Iran recognizes territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and should not do things like that. We started to monitor the situation. We thought that maybe it’s just a kind of an accident, maybe the drivers who came from Iran to Armenia they lost the road and by accident, they came to Karabakh. So, everything can happen. But then we started to see that it’s already a kind of a tendency. So, my assistant invited the Iranian ambassador for a meeting by my instruction, private meeting, asking to convey to officials that we want kind of request to stop it. Because it is not good for our relations and it is not good from all points of view. We expected that will stop. But unfortunately, it did not stop. So, this traffic continued, illegal access to Azerbaijan from Iran continued. Then, we had to make an official step. We issued a diplomatic note and it was published and the Iranian ambassador was invited to our foreign ministry and that was made public that we expressed our dissatisfaction with that. So, this is a usual diplomatic procedure, nothing special. We thought that it will be the kind of message that will be responded. But unfortunately, not only it didn’t stop, but this traffic became more intensive, what they were doing, and everything is documented because we have cameras already there. They were putting fake Armenian plaques and keeping the trucks as they were with this Arabic script. So, we had to stop it. So, two of these trucks have been detained and the drivers were arrested. In the traffic documents, we’ve seen that the cargo is sent from one of the Iranian cities and destination is written – Stepanakert, Armenia. Can you imagine that? And we have all these documents. It’s not just the word, Stepanakert. First, it is not just Stepanakert, it is Khankendi. Second, it is not Armenia. And that created a lot of waves in some part of Iranian establishment – accusations, threats, etc.
But we think that we did the right thing. So, after a while, these drivers of course were released. And we thought that and it stopped. It stopped, frankly speaking. So, we had to use these kinds of measurements in order to protect our territorial integrity. Then there have been a lot of media attacks. A lot of statements from politicians, members of parliament, but actually we did not pay much attention to that because sometimes happens, somebody’s unhappy wants to demonstrate his unhappiness. So, it’s not something tangible. Even when they started to organize military drills on our border we treated it also as a kind of emotional gesture. Of course, it was difficult to understand because during the times of occupations they never had any military drills in that area. And these two military drills also were accompanied by a very hostile media campaign statements, insults, accusations, threats, etc. So, as always, we responded and we had two military drills on their border. One, by our special forces, those who liberated Shusha, by the way. And second with our ally, Türkiye, with Turkish F16 and Turkish special forces and it was not a demonstration. But it was also a message that we can defend ourselves. So, again, frankly, speaking as a President, I saw that it can create some difficulties but nevertheless, we wanted always to have a diplomatic solution to any kind of disagreements. I had a couple of meetings with my Iranian colleague at some international events, not in Baku and not in Tehran, but in Turkmenistan and in Kazakhstan. And it seemed to me that we clarified everything, and this misunderstanding is in the past. Unfortunately, when we were very close to, how to say, making a good step in reengagement – by the way, the visit of the Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, the co-chair of the Joint Economic Commission was scheduled already to Tehran, because in Iran, there was a change of co-chair. So, we decided to send our co-chair to meet and because we have a lot of things on our agenda – then this terror act on our embassy happened and that ruined almost everything because there is a video footage. I don’t want to go into much details, everyone can see what kind of act of terror it was. It was a deliberate, organized act of terror in order to kill our diplomats and members of their families. Because in that building, not only we have embassy but also apartments and family lives there. And we have security officers in several countries, but only in Iran they were not allowed to carry weapons. So, our security officers were with empty hands and the person who broke in he had Kalashnikov, and he started to shoot immediately, immediately killed and wounded two of them and only one brave officer with empty hands disarmed him and pushed him back. But for 40 minutes there was no police, no security officers, nothing. For 40 minutes, he was trying to get back, he was shooting with Kalashnikov, he used the hammer. He came with a hammer, and by the way, he came with Molotov cocktail and he broke the door with a hammer and entered again the building and again the same wounded officer, how to say, disarmed him and pushed him back. Then, he approaches, because we have external camera, internal camera definitely, approaches the police, puts down Kalashnikov, also he was using this Molotov. So, how can that be non-organized?. And moreover, the same day, this person appears on media. He gives an interview. Can you imagine the person who broke in an embassy of other country and killed one and wounded two gives interview saying that he did it because of some other reasons. And two days after in Iran, he was announced mentally disabled in order to avoid any kind of legal procedure. How that can happen? Mental disability cannot be examined and tested in two days. But that was not the end of the story. Yes, we pulled back completely all our diplomatic stuff, all our embassy. Now our embassy in Tehran is closed. And that was my decision, because for me the security and lives of our people are more important than what they will think in Iran about that. But that unfortunately was not the end of the story. Then, there was an act of terror against a member of the parliament of Azerbaijan and only by chance he was not killed. The God saved his life. Again, Kalashnikov in just two meters distance, six bullets and he was seriously wounded.
And after several days that group was detained. So, our law enforcement structures worked very efficiently. We find and punish everyone, no matter where they hide. And they already said where they hide and put their Kalashnikov. It was found, so, the whole network was disclosed. They testified that they received orders from Iran. So, this is crossing the red line. You know, this is serious, this is terror. And we think that this terror is organized on a governmental level. We totally consider inappropriate any kind of statements that someone had done it. No. Therefore, we demand first, extradition of some terrorists from Azerbaijan who found shelter in Iran. And, we demand transparent investigation of the terror attack on our embassy. So, you can imagine that now relations between Azerbaijan and Iran are on the lowest ever level. It is very difficult to predict whether they will remain on that level, whether they will go down or they will go up. It’s very difficult to predict. So, we got some communications from Iranian officials, some phone calls and other communications, proposals to normalize relations but definitely, as I said, our demands are absolutely legitimate and justified. If these demands are met, then we can talk about normalization. If not, then not. So, again, it was not our choice. But everybody in Iran, all segments of the establishment should finally understand that the language of threats and terror will not work with Azerbaijan. The soon they understand, the better we can see signs of normalization.
Hafiz Pashayev: Mr. President, if you will allow, continue.
President Ilham Aliyev: Yes, go ahead.
Hafiz Pashayev: Thank you. Next, Victor Kipiani, Chairman of Geocase, Georgia.
Victor Kipiani: Thank you very much, Mr. President Aliyev. Your Excellency, delighted to be in Shusha. Thank you for your time to say us. You mentioned on few occasions the Baku-Tbilisi- Ceyhan, the South Caucasus Pipeline. Undisputedly those projects laid down foundations for a good regional cooperation, which will be benefit us up to this phase and hopefully will continue benefiting into decades to come. And this is really the great legacy of Heydar Aliyev and his counterpart President Shevardnadze. And this is something you know something, which we should be very much thankful to. In the context of those projects as well, at the start of the next phase of increasing regional interconnectedness. And that is about the Middle Corridor and the Black Sea cable. You’ve touched on, from time to time in course of this conversation, but cause expectations but still if you could still elaborate a little bit more on your outlook in relation to the projects, your expectations from the partners. When speaking about the expectations of the partners in that context, once again, so elaborates on the good partnership of Azerbaijan and Georgia, which has always been critical for an overall success of any cross-border project, which we are witnessing, we have witnessed, and we will be witnessing. So, thank you so much indeed. Thanks.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. Yes, I fully agree with you, President Heydar Aliyev and President Eduard Shevardnadze – they laid down the foundation for the strong partnership and cooperation between our two countries. You know that they were leading Georgia and Azerbaijan during the Soviet times. They had a very good friendly relations at that time and as leaders of independent countries, they actually founded today’s Georgia- Azerbaijan partnership format. And of course, it started with the Baku-Supsa Pipeline and famous inauguration in the end of 1990s in Supsa with a presence of President Shevardnadze and President Aliyev. And then they together laid down the foundation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan. And when the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan was inaugurated in 2006 already, and it was without their participation unfortunately.
So, today, relations developed successfully based on that foundation. You know that recently, last month, the Georgia Prime Minister visited Azerbaijan. I visited Georgia six months ago. So, we always keep in touch and try jointly to even cement even more relations between our countries and there is a high level of mutual understanding that only together we can achieve our goals, only together we can be more powerful in the region and also in relationship with our partners in Europe. Therefore, Georgia and Azerbaijan, interconnections and partnership in transportation energy in many other areas is important factor of energy security and transportation security. During these two important visits and also during the visits of other high-ranking officials, mutual visits, these two important issues have been addressed.
With respect to the Middle Corridor, you probably know that Azerbaijan is now investing additional funds into expansion of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad on the Georgian territory. We’ve allocated about 140 million US dollars to expand the capacity to 5 million tonnes by railroad, and hopefully within the maximum one year from now, we will achieve that. At the same time, we are actively evaluating future cooperation with respect to the potential of Georgian sea ports – existing and planned. I do not want to say something before some results are achieved. We are seriously evaluating. We see a great potential, because we can foresee huge cargo flow through the Middle Corridor across the Caspian and then further down to Georgia sea ports and through Georgia to Türkiye, to Kars further down. So, this is a reality.
With respect to the Black Sea cable, you know that project feasibility study had been started a while ago, but now, we established more, how to say, a broader I would say format of four countries, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Hungary and Romania. And First Advisory Council of that project took place in February in Baku and the second in Tbilisi, relatively recently, I think, last month. So, we looked at this project from a bigger perspective, not just a Black Sea cable, but a transportation route from Caspian offshore wind farms to Europe, and to have an integrated project. Unlike the Southern Gas Corridor, which was a fragmented one consisting of three independent integrated pipelines, now we want to have integrated projects from the source and of course, source will be also in Georgia to the final destinations. And after we started this already formal cooperation, we already started to receive some messages from some other European countries which want to join. So, I think that it could be a really global project.
Already we have oil, gas. Now, why not to have electricity transmission and cable. The European Union strongly supports that, and that adds to our optimism because European Commission’s President Madame Ursula von der Leyen was witnessing the signing ceremony last December in Bucharest. So, her presence there demonstrates that European Union will seriously participate. And this is a project of probably the coming decades, because they have great potential of renewables in Georgia, Azerbaijan, including Karabakh, whether it’s hydro or wind. And as I already said, with several major international companies famous in renewables, we signed contracts and MOUs to produce 25 gigawatts. Almost 500 megawatts already is being constructed, 230 megawatts inauguration we are planning within several months. So, more than 700 megawatts of solar and wind we will have probably maximum like in 2025 and the rest is in the pipeline. So, we have great future and must always be together.
Hafiz Pashayev: Next, Victoria Coates, Senior Research Fellow, the Heritage Foundation, the US.
Victoria Coates: Thank you Mr. President for the warm welcome to both Baku and Shusha. This has been an extraordinary opportunity. And if I can get into David’s 907 picture, I’d appreciate that tangled with that issue myself. But having this chance to both look back at the extraordinary century that Azerbaijan has experienced under both your father and you, and looking forward to the next century, which of course will start in 2024. You had brought up the Belt and Road Initiative, which is obviously, this is sometimes in the paper. There are heightened tensions between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, so that may have crossed your inbox. You know, I’m of the opinion that we can’t be surprised that a country like Azerbaijan would look both East and West. After all in the United States we faced the same challenge. We are both an Atlantic and the Pacific power. And in terms of positioning the United States as a partner of choice to Azerbaijan going forward, I think it is beholden on us to be more proactive in that space, rather than as I said, simply lecturing you on the evils of the PRC. I do have views on that, but I need to air them here.
As we go forward, so, if you look at something like 907 as an unnecessary irritant in a relationship, what can the United States do particularly as we grow into our status as an energy superpower? Due to be from an Azerbaijan perspective to be the partner of choice to you, and what would you see as the best engagement from both the United States government and from our private sector?
President Ilham Aliyev: Actually, I think I’m absolutely convinced that agenda of bilateral relations between the United States and Azerbaijan is really very impressive. What we just were discussing about 907 and some, you know, sensitivity to the issues related to some wording with respect to territorial integrity of Azerbaijan did not mean at all that we had some kind of contradictions that cannot be resolved. On the contrary, with the United States we have a very broad and very important bilateral agenda. First of all, on the issues related to energy security. The United States always supported Azerbaijan in its endeavors to diversify the energy supply routes and helped us in order to transform into a country, which today’s considered, as I already said, by European Commission as a Pan-European gas supplier. I remember those years very well, because when I worked in SOCAR in 1990s, I know very well how important US support was in implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. There was a lot of opposition to that pipeline around. So, it was very strong Armenian and pro-Armenian campaign. They even established the NGO, which was called if I’m not mistaken, BTC Campaign. They issued letters everywhere and by the way, unfortunately, some of these letters worked. So, World Bank delayed for one year, lending money for construction of BTC, because of the so-called environmental concerns. So, they use just this pretext, that it will damage the environment. Though it’s almost 20 years that BTC in operations, there was not a single, not a single drop of oil, which can damage the environment. In other words, the United States helped us to overcome those difficulties.
If talking about the gas, yes, as always we`re joking with US partners, none of the drops of Azerbaijani gas will reach US market, but the United States was instrumental in support of Azerbaijan’s vision for the Southern Gas Corridor. There have been a lot of obstacles in implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor and obstacles from unexpected sources. I think it is not a secret any longer. But again, the pretext was environment. And this time it was not turtles like in case of BTC, it was olive trees. So, you see how creative they are. Actually, it was the same group of people, who were concerned about turtles with BTC and olive trees in Italy. Because we made our own investigation and found who was behind this campaign against the Southern Gas Corridor. Unfortunately, we had difficult times in communications with previous governments, governments of Italy and also some local authorities. We’ve traced all the connections, because we had to know who is behind this campaign in order to fix the project and we found. Maybe I don’t want, it’s premature to talk about that, but the time will come everything will be known. But what’s happened then, and I witnessed on the television. First of all, I’d like to say that President of Italy, Mr. Sergio Mattarella was of great support and he did a great job in order to move the process forward. Because several olive trees relocation happens on a regular basis in Italy, in other Mediterranean countries, it happens. So, in this case, these olive trees, unfortunately, were a source of big concerns and then they, by the way, were relocated, and I’m sure they’re safe. But then at the press conference of then-President of the United States Donald Trump and then-Italian Prime Minister, Donald Trump openly said you have to support the project and that was a turning point. And immediately all the concerns of olive trees relocation were lifted, and we got the green light. So, this is how United States is working. What I’m saying now, maybe I’m saying for the first time, but I think that why should we keep it secret? Why there should be some ambiguity? No.
We have very profound relations with the United States. And now in particular, and I got several letters from President Biden, very positive. I got public communications from President, from Secretary Blinken with respect to our humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. Azerbaijan was one of the two last countries along with Türkiye, who left mission in Afghanistan. We were the last two. And we stayed in Afghanistan from the very beginning. We’ve been in Iraq since 2003. Until we got a message from the United States that we can go home. So, we went. So, we’ve been even in Kosovo before this process of recognition started. Security, energy, trades, now, on renewables, we hope that American companies will be part of our big project of transforming Azerbaijan into a source of renewable energy. Because proven reserves of wind and solar power in Azerbaijan is close to 200 gigawatts and this is already with respect to the Caspian Sea has been confirmed by IFC. 157 gigawatts of wind power only in the Caspian Sea, which belongs to us.
So, once again, I maybe go too far, but only in order so that no one thinks that is 907 and some other things – they are peanuts. Now they seem like peanuts, then it was maybe more sensitive, but we need always to look at the broader picture. There can be certain disappointments. Of course, we are disappointed that people like Senator Menendez, who has Armenian family always attacks Azerbaijan. And he’s a big lobbyist, not Armenia lobbyists, but anti-Azerbaijani lobbyist. We regret that person like Adam Schiff also spreads hatred against Azerbaijan, and now he wants to put the kind of resolution to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh. That resolution if adopted will have the same value as resolutions adopted by French Senate and National Assembly. So, we know these people, we know that they’re sponsored by Armenia lobby, we know that most probably the background of this cooperation is not very clean. It is possible, but having people like Menendez and Schiff and Sherman, it should not interfere with our relations. There was a case when American Ambassador Matthew Bryza, who, by the way, was participant at the last meeting. His appointment was blocked by pro-Armenian senators, because he was not too pro-Armenian and because he had a Turkish wife. Can you imagine, the level of political conscious of these people? If person has a Turkish wife, he cannot be ambassador in Azerbaijan. And diplomatic career of Matthew Bryza was ruined. The person, who served for the US State Department for a couple of decades, at least it was ruined by one person, this pro-Armenian guy. So, this is something, which we of course, take into account, but neither Menendez nor Schiff nor any other people like them will be able to interfere in relations between US and Azerbaijan. Our relations are very well balanced, solid and based on mutual respect. And I’m sure that will be the case for the future.
Hafiz Pashayev: Mehmood Hassan Khan, the Center of South Asia and International Studies, Pakistan. Please.
Mehmood Hassan Khan: We have a special connection, passion and respect for you and the people of Azerbaijan. And we really appreciate your strategic vision in terms of complete socio-economic transformation of Azerbaijan, and successful liberation of Karabakh. Since a lot of questions related to geopolitics have already been asked, so my questions pertain to geo-economics.
His Excellency, would Azerbaijan seek Chinese diplomatic assistance to resolve the issue of Zangezur corridor? How do you foresee is the role of Azerbaijan after Chinese facilitated peace agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Greater Eurasian region? Because it has changed the regional socio-economic dimension and geopolitics and most recently, phenomenon, the pace of the process of dedollarisation strategic expansion of SCO and momentum of BRICS. Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you. First of all, I’d like to say that Pakistan and Azerbaijan are true friends and brotherly countries. We are very grateful to the people and government, and previous governments of Pakistan for continuous support to Azerbaijan. With respect to our territorial integrity and sovereignty – during the times of occupation, during the war – there were very clear statements from high-ranking Pakistani leaders – President and Prime Minister – supporting Azerbaijan and after the war. So, once again, like to ask you to convey our gratitude to all our brothers. Pakistan is one of the three countries along with Türkiye and Saudi Arabia, which did not have any diplomatic relations with Armenia, because of occupation and we, of course, highly value that.
With respect to the Zangezur corridor and as far as I got it correctly, how China can facilitate. I think there’s a big potential in Zangezur corridor and already I mentioned that the railroad connection between China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, is started. The Zangezur corridor has a big potential to become one of the extension of the One Belt and One Road and also can be part of the North South Corridor. Because entering Nakhchivan, then it has already a railroad connection with Iranian railroad, which can deliver goods to the Persian Gulf. So, Zangezur corridor is important not only for Azerbaijan and Armenia, but I think on a global scale. Because we expect a growing number of cargoes, growing volume of cargoes. So, the more roads we have the better. As far as we’re concerned, next year we will complete the construction of the railroad, which was dismantled during the times of occupation and it was sold on the market by Armenians from Fuzuli to Zangilan, almost to Armenian border and 40 something kilometers on the territory of Armenia. If built, that will be, of course, an international project. If Armenia would put artificial obstacles in front of that project, they will only lose. Because today we don’t have any problems of transporting goods through Georgia, Türkiye, through Georgia and Black sea ports, either through Russia or through Iran, but Armenia doesn’t have this physical connections.
With respect to the role of China in normalization between Saudi Arabia and Iran, we highly value the role of China, by the way, I’d like to say that we have excellent relations with China. I met President of China Xi Jinping many times. And he called me a good friend of China during one of our meetings. So, I think only this is enough to demonstrate the level of our cooperation. And of course, we support normalization between Saudi Arabia and Iran. We do not know what is the substance of the agreement, it’s not known for us, but anyway, it’s very good. Saudi Arabia – for us is brotherly country – country with which we had excellent relations and we want them only progress, stability and development. As I said, they did not establish diplomatic relations with Armenia because of us. And this means a lot. And of course, Iran as a neighbor, of course, we want stability and predictability in Iran. So, I think that the role of China must be only appreciated.
With respect to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, I was invited for the first time, by the way, to the Summit, which took place in Uzbekistan, because Azerbaijan is not as you know, a member is not even an observer, Azerbaijan status is partner for dialogue. But nevertheless, Azerbaijan was invited and I think that was very important for us, because with many countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, we have very good relations. Thank you.
Hafiz Pasayev: Mr. President, we are already two hours in session.
President Ilham Aliyev: So, you have the list. I haven’t seen your list. Everything is in your hands.
Hafiz Pashayev: List is big and even I see some signs that somebody wants to.
President Ilham Aliyev: I think we can continue if you are not tired.
Hafiz Pashayev: Ilayda Nijhar, the Overseas Development Institute, the United Kingdom. Please.
Ilayda Nijhar, Global Risks Analyst, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the United Kingdom: Thank you Mr. President for dedicating your time today and it’s great to be here. We’ve touched upon a lot of different themes and the question on the Middle Corridor. Yesterday, we heard the Minister for Digital Development and Transport saying that the Middle Corridor can’t just be an option to be used when things go bad. In your view, what more can be done in terms of engagement and support on development of the Middle Corridor from external partners? And if I may, just another quick one. The Organization of Turkic States (OTS), it’s already been mentioned, but I’d be keen to hear your views on what role you see Azerbaijan playing in the development of the OTS, particularly considering observer status and of course, including Northern Cyprus as well. Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: With respect to the Middle Corridor, of course, we fully support this project and it has a great potential. I think that important is for us to understand that we should not only be a transit route for cargoes, but we should use this opportunity in order to stimulate business activity on the route. So, I think for all the countries, which are involved in the Middle Corridor, it will be important not only to earn money from transit fees, but to use this opportunity in order to stimulate local manufacturing. And we have big expectations with respect to the future activity of the Alat Free Economic Zone, which has a very solid legal foundation and the rules of the zone, I think it should be very attractive for investors. And it is in the process of completion. I mean, the first installation of the first infrastructure. So, we want to use this opportunity to become the place for manufacturing, for more business opportunities. Taking into account the improving business climate in Azerbaijan, big reforms in the area of taxation and customs administration and, in general, reforms on transparency of all our financial system, I think there’s a big potential. Plus of course, geographical location, because Azerbaijan as I already said, is not only East-West Corridor country, but North-South. We’re just on the juncture. And with all the transportation routes open and almost all of them fully modernized, of course, there is a big potential. But again, we want to look at these opportunities from broader picture, not just to be a transitor, it is not enough and there is a potential.
With respect to the Organization of Turkic States, Azerbaijan was always very active throughout the whole period of these organizations, though it had different names before. There were times when some countries were more active, some countries less. There were times when the summits were not regular. But Azerbaijan always was one of the important country. It was not by chance that the Declaration about the creation of the Council was adopted in Nakhchivan more than 10 years ago. And also change of the name also means not only how to say how it will be called, but it means the substance and we see that there’s a big need in all the member countries of the organization to consolidate the efforts. Because if we do it, if we transform this organization even more into serious international player, I think, everyone will benefit. Because, look, we have big geography. We have in some countries big natural resources, including energy resources, have a strong military capability in some of the countries and if we unite all these efforts, of course, we will see a serious player on a global scale. It can be and I think it should be one of the centers of global powers. Because again, population geography, transportation routes, Eurasian, how to say, dimension, energy resources. Türkiye is a second NATO member army. Azerbaijan’s army also demonstrated that it is very capable. So, if we unite all these efforts, we will only benefit and I think the more we get together, more we interact, the more understanding is in our countries that this is a way how it should be. And moreover, you know, you have to live in your family. You have to live in your country. That’s my, how to say, approach. Of course, I respect people who live in some other countries. It’s now normal in a global world. But I think that for everyone, that’s my personal view, is better to live in your country and in your family. So, this is our family and we must be in our families. This is natural space for all of us. And with respect to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, you know, that they became observers. And we supported that from the very beginning until the very end. We only can congratulate our brothers. And by the way, we got certain messages from, you can imagine, from where about that. So, our answer was that first, they are our brothers. And second, they are observers already in Islamic Cooperation Organization, which has many more countries. So, I think that potential is here and I witness more common understanding about our future coordinated performance on international arena.
Hafiz Pashayev: Next, Michael Ritchie.
Michael Ritchie, Editor, Energy Intelligence, the United Kingdom: Thank you, Mr. President. You’ve already addressed some of the issues I was interested in about the Southern Gas Corridor. Energy is my field. Talking about the resources available and the commerciality of them. So, if I can be just a bit more specific and ask how much extra gas do you think Azerbaijan can supply to the European Union by 2027. That’s called for in a Memorandum of Understanding signed last summer with the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. And also, do you see any flexibility in that time table? I mean it’s quite tight. And finally, given that the EU aims gradually to phase out fossil fuels, what sort of long term commitments will you require from the EU side?
President Ilham Aliyev: Yeah, you touched on very important issues long term commitment. This is important, because we’ve got a lot of requests from many countries. After the Russian-Ukrainian war started, from more than 10 countries we got requests either to increase the supply or to find the opportunity to start the supply. And of course, this needs additional investments and a lot of, how to say, technical things to be resolved. And of course, we must know what will be the duration of that deficit and what will be the approach to fossil fuels in the future. Because you know, that now European Investment Bank does not finance any longer projects of fossil fuel. I don’t want to comment about that. But this is something we have to take into account. So, we don’t want to find ourselves in this situation where we invest additional billions of dollars, which we did not plan, by the way, and then, all of a sudden, someone will tell us thank you, goodbye.
We don’t need it any longer, we have hydrogen or whatever. Therefore, one of the element of our energy dialogue with the European Commission is exactly what you mentioned very correctly that we need to have predictability. We are ready to help. We are already helping. We are investing additional financing. We’re doing a lot of other, how to say, diplomatic steps, in order to supply as much as we can to European countries. Of course, we expect understanding of our position in European Commission. So that we can plan the future. In general with European Union we have energy dialogue, which covers many areas, not only gas, but also renewables and green hydrogen. And so, the portfolio is really very impressive. And with respect to concrete figures, we signed a MOU to double our supply by 2027. And that will be around 20 bcm. I think this is absolutely realistic. Otherwise we wouldn’t have signed it, if we thought this is not realistic. If no force majeure takes place. It is absolutely realistic. 2021 our supply to EU market was something more than 8 bcm. This year it will be 12. So, in two years from 8 to 12. And I think going by this big steps by 2027, it can be 20.
You may ask about the sources. I can tell you. First, we expect more gas from Shah Deniz, we expect maybe in four years’ time, maybe less from new phase of Shah Deniz additional gas. We expect already several years, but I hope this year we will get first gas from Absheron, which at the first phase of Absheron will produce 1.5 bcm. And then we will have to decide what will be the second phase and what will be the market, whether it will be the domestic market or international market. So, it’s just I don’t want to bother you with too many details. Of course, so-called deep gas from ACG has great potential. And BP and SOCAR are already actively working on that. It’s a huge gas condensate field. When I said 300 billion cubic meters of gas, this is minimum. Of course, big potential in Umid and Babek, which partly is developed by SOCAR itself, but we’re ready to work with international companies also. And Karabakh oil field, which also has potential. So, this is a source of gas. Another source is efficiency in management. Reduction of losses, modernization of our gas distribution network, and renewables. Because today we use about 5 bcm minimum to produce electricity. So, if we have enough renewables, this 5 bcm will be available for market.
So, this is additional. But we come here to the problem, which we just raised in the beginning. We need to have capacity in transportation. TAP must be expanded. As I said we have 20%, others companies have also 20% almost, except one. So, it must be common decision to expand TAP. If TAP is not expanded, then there’ll be no gas in TAP. So, TAP now is at the maximum capacity already. To expand TANAP is easier, because in TANAP it is Azerbaijan, Türkiye and BP. So, it is easier to do. But in TAP it is more difficult. We need to have access to the Trans-Balkan pipeline and to be able to supply countries which are waiting for our gas. And if interconnectors in Europe are built on time, then by the end of this year, we can start supply to Hungary and to Serbia.
Romania already started this year. So, Greece, Italy, Bulgaria already started. In Albania, we are in the stage of negotiations of investment in gas distribution network. So, Albania is a transitor, but it doesn’t have gas distribution network. So, we are planning to invest substantial amount of money to create this distribution network. I was in Sofia just several days ago to attend the inauguration of the Solidarity Ring. So, Slovakia is joining. So, if now we export to six countries, within one year if everything goes according to the schedule, without force majeure, it can be 10. And that’s why Commissioner Simson says Azerbaijan will be the Pan-European supplier and this is not the end. I think, we will find if there is a market and if there are enough interconnectors, the geography can expand because we still have requests from the countries, which I did not mention, in Balkans and also in other parts of Europe, which can be also recipients of Azerbaijani gas. So, the real picture is very broad, but all these projects must be in coordination. If we don’t have on time implementation of green energy project, so that will also, how to say, delay all the rest.
Farhad Azima, Chairman, ALG Transportation, the US: Thank you, Mr. President. It is very special for me to be here, on this occasion, in this area. The dream of late President was manifested in reality by you, Mr. President. I’m honored to be here. I have a simple question. Natural gas from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and possibly Kazakhstan could be very easily transferred here via underwater Caspian Sea to Baku and from Baku via Türkiye to go to Europe. What are the obstacles that are not being implemented?
President Ilham Aliyev: Well, it’s difficult for me to say, because you know the projects of gas, infrastructure, construction are usually the projects, which are initiated and financed by those countries, which are the owners of these resources, as it was in our case. We are the owners of resources. We initiated construction of the Southern Gas Corridor and built together with our partners – with the help of international financial institutions – the 3,500 km-long pipeline from Baku to Italy, partly underwater. Major investments, billions of dollars and we did not yet recover the costs. So, it’s a long term investment, but it was a strategic decision. And without that, none of what we’re talking about would have been possible. And by the way, just for historical memory, I want to say that Azerbaijan was an initiator of the Southern Gas Corridor. Before that, there were a lot of speculations, discussions about different projects. I personally participated many times, maybe almost 10 times, in different conferences, international events on NABUCCO. So, if you remember, maybe it’s like 907 also everybody forgot about it. But it didn’t happen. Why? Because the question was who is going to pay for that? And when this question was raised everybody backed down. So, we initiated the Southern Gas Corridor and did it on time, and now we enjoy the benefits.
With respect to the gas from Central Asia, this decision must be made by the owners of these resources. Where the owners are planning to export, in which direction, whether it will be East or West? If they choose West, or if they choose both, of course, we in Azerbaijan will do everything in order to facilitate. We can provide the technical assistance, we can provide our pipe link barges. We only have it in the Caspian Sea. We can provide access to the Sangachal terminal, we can provide access to our pipeline system, but the decision must be made by them. If made, financial package must be also organized by them. In other words, the consortium, corporate capital and then borrowed money, who will be financing? So, this is one important part. So, this is a trigger. If this trigger is not pushed, it will not work. But even if the trigger is pushed, the question is then, if everything what I said is done, then what happens after the gas comes to the shore of Azerbaijan? How it’s going to be exported? What will be the volumes? What will be the commercial terms between the owners and the consumers? So, we can only be a transitor and we will be definitely a very fair transitor. By the way, the cash flow we may have as a transitor is not significant for Azerbaijan taking into account the cash flow we have from oil and gas. So, it’s not a matter of significant economic importance. It’s a matter of contribution to energy security, and a matter of facilitation to our friends in the East and in the West. So, in other words, we cannot initiate this project, and we cannot finance it. That’s why, why it didn’t happen, the question is not to me, but maybe your neighbor can answer.
Sodyq Safoev, First Deputy Chairman of the Senate of Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan, Rector of the University of World Economy and Diplomacy: Dear Mr. President, I would like to express my gratitude to you in Uzbek language in Shusha, which was declared the cultural capital of the Turkic world. We received great inspiration today. Yesterday, when I was asked, whether I am going to ask you a question, I said, I’m going to listen. And I thank you very much for this meeting. And we appreciate highly your vision, your inspiration, and your in-depth analysis. I’m sure that it was educational for all of us to listen to your assessments, your predictions and analysis. Two days ago in Tashkent, we had a big conference dedicated to the centennial of the great leader, statesman Heydar Aliyev. We appreciate that the members of the Milli Majlis of Azerbaijan, who observed the referendum, participated in the conference. The main conclusion of our Congress, which was only the beginning of series of events to take place until the 10th of May in Uzbekistan dedicated to the heritage of Heydar Aliyev, was that it was a man of caliber and magnitude and he possessed leadership what we all need now. Being here in Shusha, we’ve seen his dreams had come true. And we’ve seen his legacy in splendid, magnificent Baku, in the minds and spirit of military force of Azerbaijan, in the revival of Shusha. Thank you very much for allowing us to see it. May the great legacy of Heydar Aliyev last forever, may his ideas bring new victories to Azerbaijan. I thank you again, Mr. President.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you. You probably realize that we don’t need to have an interpreter. Our language are so close, our people are so close, that we not only understand each other, but we feel the pulse of each other. I’m very grateful to what you said, very grateful to all our brothers in Uzbekistan for the respect to the memory of Heydar Aliyev. During my official visit to Tashkent, together with my brother President Mirziyoyev, we opened the monument in honor of Heydar Aliyev in the park, which was named after him. It was a festival of our brotherhood and friendship. We’re very grateful for that.
And just using this opportunity, I’d like to congratulate the people of Uzbekistan with the important political event – successful referendum, which will create better opportunities for development of political system, economic development, social development. And you know that President Mirziyoyev and myself – we are good friends. And we told our ministers that we will personally monitor the implementation of all our instructions, and it already happened. So, don’t want just to take much of the time, but really the substance and the spirit of cooperation is unique. As it should be between two brotherly peoples who speak more or less the same language and who share the same values. So, thank you and welcome to Karabakh.
Hafiz Pashayev: Mr. President, you are very generous with your time. But I want to stop, probably, questions. And I want to mention one person, who is here with us. Yesterday, he presented a short movie about his vision and his feelings about Karabakh, about his meetings with Heydar Aliyev. And this is Thomas Goltz, who is with us. For his health reasons, of course, he could not make even more active involvement of all this contribution to our conference, but what he did was very valuable and we are very thankful to him that he came to Shusha, to Karabakh. Because in my memory not any other journalist or even some other Americans did so much to make sure that Karabakh will be known to American public in a way which, which is true, which presents realities. So, we’re very thankful. Yesterday, he made this presentation of movie and as you know, he was the first person, who visited Nakhchivan during Heydar Aliyev`s being there. In that movie he was also on the backside of the pictures. So, Thomas, thank you very much for coming. And I think he would be delighted to have picture with you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Yes, yes. With pleasure. I know, Mr. Goltz, we’ve met, I think, a couple of times in some events. And of course, I heard a lot, and I know how committed he was to restoration of justice. I think one of the elements of the restoration of justice is him being today in Shusha. And I think this is how justice prevails. So, thank you very much for all what you have done and thank you for being with us today.
Thank you very much. So, with respect to the pictures, I think we can have a family picture and then individual pictures and outside. Yes, yes. Outside we need to find a good place.
x x x
Then, a family photo was taken.