Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyevs working visit to Belgium

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has arrived in Brussels, the capital city of the Kingdom of Belgium for a working visit to attend the 6th Eastern Partnership Summit of the European Union.

AZERTAC reports that Azerbaijanis living in Europe welcomed President, Victorious Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev in Brussels. They held placards in French and English "Mr. President, welcome!", "European Azerbaijanis greet you!", "Azerbaijan respects common values!", as well as the flags of Azerbaijan and the European Union.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, who was on a working visit to Brussels, and President of the European Council Charles Michel met on December 14.

President of the European Council Charles Michel welcomed President Ilham Aliyev.

They then posed for photographs.

The sides hailed the successful development of relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan. They recalled Charles Michel's visit to the Republic of Azerbaijan. The EU's support for the normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan was pointed out at the meeting.

President Ilham Aliyev thanked Charles Michel for his contribution to these issues.

They also exchanged views on the trilateral meeting to be held today between the European Union, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The sides also discussed the issues related to the delimitation and demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. They held a broad exchange of views on the opening of communications, humanitarian issues and other topics.

On the invitation of the NATO Secretary General, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev met with the Alliance's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on December 14.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed President Ilham Aliyev at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

They then posed for official photos.

During the meeting, the NATO Secretary General said that Azerbaijan is a valuable partner of the Alliance and praised the service of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces in the Resolute Support operation in Afghanistan. He noted that Azerbaijani peacekeepers were the last servicemen to leave Afghanistan, having contributed to the evacuation of more than 120,000 people through the Afghan airport. Jens Stoltenberg thanked President Ilham Aliyev for this.

The head of state noted that Azerbaijan is a reliable partner of NATO, and this is already his seventh visit to the Alliance's headquarters. He said that Azerbaijani servicemen served in Afghanistan from 2002 to the end of August 2021.

During the conversation, the sides exchanged views on regional issues during the post-conflict period and said that Azerbaijan was ready to negotiate a peace agreement with Armenia. Security issues in the region were discussed as well.

President Ilham Aliyev noted that Azerbaijan has close ties of friendship and strategic partnership with NATO member states, as well as strategic alliance relations with brotherly Turkey, one of the leading member states of the Alliance.

The parties also stressed the importance of Azerbaijan's partnership with NATO's Partnership for Peace programme since 1994. In this context, it was noted that Azerbaijan actively participates in NATO's Individual Partnership Action Plan and other programs, and operational military coordination between the Azerbaijani Armed Forces and NATO troops is developing. At the same time, the sides exchanged views on Azerbaijan's participation in NATO exercises and exercises between Turkey and Azerbaijan on a bilateral basis.

The important role of Azerbaijan in Europe's energy security was also noted during the meeting. The contribution of Azerbaijan as a regional transport and logistical center in the implementation of NATO's Resolute Support Mission was also praised.

On December 14, a meeting of the North Atlantic Council was held in Brussels, capital of the Kingdom of Belgium.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attended the meeting.

The meeting featured discussions on the Azerbaijan-NATO cooperation and development of practical cooperation, Azerbaijan's contribution to the Alliance's Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, the development of cooperation between Azerbaijan and NATO in the planning analysis process and other programs, as well as Azerbaijan's role in European energy supply and regional processes.

NATO member states have once again expressed their support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of Azerbaijan's internationally recognized borders. It was noted that this position had been repeatedly stated in NATO Summit documents. NATO member states stressed the role of Azerbaijan in the Resolute Support mission. NATO officials highlighted the role of the Azerbaijani military in the evacuation of more than 120,000 civilians through Kabul airport. Azerbaijan's involvement in the operation from 2002 to 27 August 2021 and being one of the last countries to leave Afghanistan was underlined at the meeting.

The increase in the issue of operational military coordination between the troops of Azerbaijan and NATO was also pointed out.

During the event, the sides exchanged views on issues of mutual interest and answered questions from representatives of member states.

President Ilham Aliyev spoke in detail about Azerbaijan's role in the region, especially the new geopolitical situation in the region after the war, and emphasized Azerbaijan's readiness to start peace talks with Armenia, as well as preparations for the delimitation and demarcation of borders.

The head of state noted that about 20 NATO countries were importing oil from Azerbaijan. It was also noted that four countries of the Alliance, including Turkey, were importing gas from Azerbaijan and there were opportunities to expand this geography in the future. It was noted that Azerbaijan was a reliable partner in the field of energy supply and contributed to Europe's energy security through alternative sources and alternative lines.

On December 14, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg held a joint press conference at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels.

Moderator: Good afternoon, so we will start with the statements by Secretary General and President and then we will have time for a few questions. Mr. Secretary General.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: President Aliyev, welcome back to the NATO headquarters. It's great to see you again. This is actually second time in the new building. But last time we had a bilateral meeting, it was in the old building. We just had a very constructive discussion and you will now participate in a meeting of the North Atlantic Council with the all 30 allies. This shows the importance of dialogue and mutual understanding in NATO's partnership with Azerbaijan. Our cooperation has been strong over many years. Today it covers many areas from capability development to energy security. NATO allies have also assisted you with the destruction of redundant mines and ammunition from the former Soviet army. We discussed today what more we could do together. Azerbaijan made important contributions to our former mission in Afghanistan. Azeri forces played an important role providing security at Kabul airport during this summer evacuation. NATO allies managed to airlift more than hundred and 20 thousand people to safety in a matter of days. So, thank you for all your efforts and your support. Security and the stability in the South Caucasus is important for all of us. To ensure a peaceful future for all people, we support the normalization of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia which are both valued partners to NATO. President Aliyev, let me thank you once again for coming to NATO headquarters. I look forward to continuing our work to further deepen the cooperation between NATO and Azerbaijan. So, please welcome once again.

President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much Mr. Secretary General. Thank you first of all for invitation. It's a big honor to visit NATO headquarters again. We discussed already, it's my second time in this building but it's seventh time I'm visiting NATO headquarters. This all actually shows the dynamism of our cooperation. Thank you for your words about our contribution to the resolute support mission. Azerbaijan proved to be a reliable partner of NATO. We started our peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan in 2002, and ended in the end of August this year and Azerbaijan's military servicemen were among the last military servicemen of coalition forces who left Afghanistan. Of course, it's a great experience of working together. Today we also discussed our future plans of cooperation. Azerbaijan participates in NATO's military training, at the same time, with one of the active and leading NATO members, Turkey, we had seven joint military trainings only this year, and this actually is serving the cause of peace and stability in the region. We discussed with Mr. Secretary General the post-war situation in the South Caucasus. Azerbaijan is committed to peace, stability and predictability, and our efforts are aimed at minimization of risks of any new war in the region. For that purpose the best way is to open communications to establish active dialogue, and to learn to be neighbors again. Our policy is vey open and straightforward and I hope that if there is a good will from Armenian side we can start as we proposed working on a peace agreement between two countries and to put an end to hostility. Also, with Mr. Secretary General we discussed energy security issues in the region. I informed Mr. Secretary General that today Azerbaijan is a reliable supplier of natural gas to four NATO members. I am sure that in the coming years the number of them may grow. It's also important for regional stability, security, because energy security is already a part of a national security of the countries. In general we are very glad of having this high level of interaction with NATO and we are very glad that NATO appreciates our efforts. We agreed today to continue joint efforts for the benefit of the region and security in the world. So, thank you very much for your invitation once again.

Moderator: Ok, I see Riko.

RikardJozwiak from Radio Free Europe. I have a question for both of you, starting with Mr.Aliyev.

Mr.Aliyev, you mentioned relations with Armenia, and one of the issues is the Zangezur corridor.

Would you accept Armenians custom checks in that corridor? Or what is the idea for Azarbaijan for this one? And also, can I also ask, you will meet with Mr.Pashinyan and Mr. Michel later today, have dinner with them. You're bound to sign some sort of declaration on connectivity. What does that mean exactly? Can you mention what sort of connectivity issues you can have with Armenia?

And for Mr. Stoltenberg. A Russian official today talked about the moratorium on missiles, intermediate missiles. Do you see this..is this some sort of olive branch or do you think it would be better to perhaps go back to the INF Treaty that Russia walked away from? Thank you.

President Ilham Aliyev: On Zangazur Corridor I'd like to say that the proposal of opening of this part of communication in the region is reflected in Trilateral Declaration signed on November 10 last year, by President of Russia, Prime Minister of Armenia, and myself. So, it's a kind of obligation for Armenia to provide all the necessary facilities. Though it was not easy during this more than one year to move forward. At this stage we have achieved an agreement on building the railroad connection from Azerbaijan through Armenia to Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and also agreement on construction of the highway. But the exact route of the highway has not yet been identified, it's a matter of future discussions. And we will definitely discuss it this evening on a trilateral meeting hosted by Mr. Charles Michel. With respect to the legal regime of the Zangazur Corridor, it should be exactly the same as Lachin Corridor, because in Trilateral Statement it clearly says that Azerbaijan provides security and unimpeded access for connection between Karabakh and Armenia and Armenia should provide the same unimpeded access and security for connections between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. So, today there are no customs on Lachin Corridor there. Therefore, there should be no customs on Zangazur Corridor. If Armenia would insist on using their custom facilities to control the cargos and people, then we will insist on the same on Lachin Corridor. This is logical and the decision is to be made by Armenia. We are ready for both options. Either no customs on both, or both customs on the two. With respect to connectivity, it's really a big opportunity for the region, to integrate the regional transportation links, because Zangazur Corridor is not only for us to get access to Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic but also for Armenia to get a railroad connection with Iran through Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. It's for Armenia to get railroad connection with Russia through the territory of Azerbaijan. Today they don't have this railroad connection. So, it really will create a special positive atmosphere in the region and win-win situation for everyone. Therefore, I think that the evaluation of these opportunities is very important. The proper evaluation is important in order to plan our peaceful future. But again, we are ready. We already made several public statements that we want to turn the page of hostility, and work on peace agreement. Today's meeting with Mr.Pashinyan and with Mr. Michel will clarify a lot.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: On the missiles. For many years, we had the ban on all intermediate range weapons. Banning, also, of course, intermediate range missiles in Europe. That was the INF Treaty agreed back in 1987.

But we have now seen the demise of this treaty, because Russia violated the treaty by deploying new intermediate range nuclear capable missiles in Europe. They have done that for many years. And that led to the demise of the treaty banning all intermediate range weapons.

So the proposal from Russia on a moratorium is not credible, because we had a ban, and they violated that ban. So unless Russia in a verifiable way destroys all its SSC-8 missiles, which are those missiles that violated the INF Treaty. It is not credible when they now propose a ban on something they actually have already started to deploy.

And NATO has no intention of mirror what Russia does. So we have no intention of deploying nuclear capable missiles in Europe.

We continue to stand ready to engage in dialogue with Russia.

And we believe we need arms control, we need to engage in arms control to prevent a new arms race. But this particular proposal over moratorium is not credible, because actually Russia needs to prove that they remove or destroy those weapons that actually destroyed the agreement that banned all kinds of intermediate range weapons in Europe.

Moderator: We have time for the second and last question. Azeri news agency.

My name is Vugar Seidov and I'm from Azerbaijan State News Agency. And my question is to Mr. Stoltenberg. After the victory in the second Karabakh war, Azerbaijan as a winner country has repeatedly suggested to Armenia to work on the peace agreement on the basis of recognition of territorial integrity and sovereignty. But unfortunately, Armenia to this date has avoided this goal. Now, my question is, given the developing relations between Armenia and NATO, what role can NATO play in persuading Armenia to sign the peace agreement with Azerbaijan? Thank you.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, we welcome the fact that it was possible to end hostilities and actually reach an agreement that stopped the fighting. Second, we strongly believe that it is important to continue to normalize the relationship between Azerbaijan and Armenia. And NATO supports the efforts towards the normalization and dialogue between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

And the President and I discussed actually these issues in detail during our meeting today. And also welcome the fact that there will be a trilateral meeting later on today. And that highlights that dialogue is going on, normalization is moving in the right direction.

And, the important thing is to avoid actions that could result in resumption of violence and unresolved issues should be settled by diplomatic means.

NATO does not take side because we have Azerbaijan as a valued partner, but also Armenia is a valued partner of NATO. So we support the diplomatic efforts we support the trilateral efforts and we strongly support the normalization between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Moderator: Thank you very much. This concludes this press point. Thank you.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you.

On December 14, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev had a joint meeting with President of the European Council Charles Michel and Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia NikolPashinyan in Brussels.

They discussed a number of important issues at the meeting which was held in a constructive atmosphere.

The issue of demining of the liberated territories of Azerbaijan was brought up on the agenda, and the European Union's readiness to provide technical assistance to Azerbaijan in this regard was underlined at the meeting.

Both sides agreed to establish a temporary working group on the delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. They also widely discussed the issue of opening communication and transport lines. The Armenian side has reaffirmed its commitment to build a railway from its territory. It was noted that the Armenian side would soon start construction of the railway.

The agreement was reached to ensure customs and border control issues based on the principle of reciprocity.

Discussions will continue on defining the route of the highway.

The President of the European Council made a press statement on the results of the meeting.

On December 15, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev met with President of the Republic of Moldova Maia Sandu in Brussels.

AZERTAC reports that President Maia Sandu greeted the head of state: Hello, Mr. President.

President Ilham Aliyev: Hello. Nice to meet you.

President Maia Sandu: Very nice to meet you in person, finally.

President Ilham Aliyev: Very glad to see you.

President Maia Sandu: Thank you.

President Ilham Aliyev: So, it is our first meeting. I would like to congratulate you with your election once again, and wish you success.

President Maia Sandu: Thank you very much.

President Ilham Aliyev: I hope that the relations between our countries will continue to develop in positive direction, because personal contacts play important role in this respect.

President Maia Sandu: Indeed. Thank you very much Mr. President. I like to express my appreciation for the fact that you were there when we needed help with the gas crisis. We could explore potential solutions. In the end, we found the short-term solution, but we are still interested to discuss our cooperation in the energy sector, and of course, we are interested in exploring the possibilities to deepen our cooperation with respect to the business cooperation, trade exchanges. We are very interested in improving the business environment in Moldova. We want to create more jobs for our people, we are interested in attracting foreign investors and we are interested in exploring new markets as any other country is. So, I do see this possibility of establishing the contacts and then maybe helping our businesses talk to each other, organizing business forums. So that we could help the citizens of both countries.

President Ilham Aliyev: Yes, I agree with you. I think we need to also strengthen the activity of joined intergovernmental commission and to plan a new session, because they didn't convene for almost ten years and I looked at some data. The level of mutual trade is very small.

So, I think that there is a potential to increase it. But for that, of course, as you mentioned the business circles should get together. If the commission meetsthey can also make presentations about the potential, about investment opportunities, business climate, so that we can increase the level of mutual trade. I think we can find a lot of goods to offer to each other, and also the energy cooperation issues. You know we are actively working with European institutions and with member states of EU and for us, of course, entering the new markets also is of big importance. Therefore, I think that we will find the common ground on that issue as well.

***

The sides noted that Azerbaijan and Moldova have always supported each other's territorial integrity. The cooperation within international organizations, holding the next meeting of the intergovernmental commission in the coming days, holding political consultations between the two countries' foreign ministries, cooperation in the fields of energy, investment, as well as business circles of the countries were discussed at the meeting.

On December 15. President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev met with President of Ukraine VolodymyrZelensky in Brussels.

President Ilham Aliyev said:

- Dear Mr. President, I am very pleased to see you again.

I remember your visit to Azerbaijan with pleasure. That visit was of great importance for the development of our bilateral relations. I am glad that all the instructions we gave after that visit are being implemented and Ukrainian-Azerbaijani relations are developing successfully. We are successfully cooperating in many areas. Of course, we are very interested in expanding these ties.

Of course, personal contacts create special conditions for achieving these goals. I am sure that today's meeting will be very productive and successful.

Today we will participate in the Eastern Partnership Summit together. We have a lot of work today.

X XX

President Volodymyr Zelensky:

- Indeed, we have a lot of work. Your Excellency, Mr. President, thank you for holding a separate meeting on the sidelines of the Summit. I also thank you for the continued political support for us from your country, for supporting our territorial integrity and sovereignty.

I have very good memories of our meeting in Azerbaijan two years ago. Azerbaijan is a very hospitable country. I take this opportunity to invite you to visit Ukraine. I was hoping that you would visit our country on the 30th anniversary of our independence, but I also understand that the situation in the world is difficult these days due to COVID. However, the 30th anniversary of independence is celebrated throughout the year - from August to August next year. Therefore, I do hope that you will have the opportunity to come to Ukraine and we will look forward to your visit.

***

The sides also touched upon the activities of the intergovernmental commission, mutual visits of business delegations, and exchanged views on the development of economic and trade relations, especially cooperation in the field of energy.

On December 14, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by the Spanish El Pais newspaper in Brussels.

On December 15, the 6th Eastern Partnership Summit of the European Union was held in Brussels, the capital of the Kingdom of Belgium.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attended the Summit.

The head of state made a speech at the Summit.

President Ilham Aliyev drew attention to the successfully developing Azerbaijan-EU relations and stressed the importance of the "Partnership Priorities" document initialled between the European Union and Azerbaijan in 2018. Noting that more than 90 percent of the work on a new partnership agreement between Azerbaijan and the European Union had been completed, President Ilham Aliyev expressed his hope that the rest of the document would be finalized as a result of negotiations in the coming period. The President noted that Azerbaijan had signed documents on strategic partnership with nine EU member states, or a third of the member states. He said that these strategic partnership documents signed on a bilateral basis demonstrated the nature of such relations.

President Ilham Aliyev recalled with satisfaction the visit of EU Council President Charles Michel to the South Caucasus region, including Azerbaijan, in July this year and the meetings held during the visit, adding that detailed discussions on regional issues had been held.

The President thanked the President of the European Council for keeping regional issues on the agenda and for his contribution to and support for these processes. He noted that the discussions between the President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia, which lasted about five hours at the initiative of Charles Michel on 14 December, were held in a constructive atmosphere. President Ilham Aliyev stressed Charles Michel's contribution to the normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. He also noted that the talks initiated by Charles Michel had been very tangible and detailed. The parties discussed issues such as normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the delimitation and demarcation of borders, the construction of transport infrastructure, especially railways.

At the 6th Eastern Partnership Summit, President Ilham Aliyev noted the constructive atmosphere between Armenia and Azerbaijan, emphasizing the role of the European Union in creating such an environment. The head of state stressed the importance of not missing this opportunity and continuing efforts to ensure lasting peace in the region, taking advantage of the opportunity.

The head of state stressed that the Armenian leadership had usually made baseless and accusatory statements against Azerbaijan during international events in previous years. This time, President Ilham Aliyev praised the absence of such a situation, noting that he, in turn, had not spoken directly against Armenia. The head of state said that this provided a fertile ground for the normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyev noted that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been resolved by Azerbaijan itself by military-political means. "The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict no longer exists. We have to look to the future."

President Ilham Aliyev also touched upon the role of the OSCE Minsk Group, noting that the talks held for 28 years had not yielded any results. He said that Azerbaijan expected a response from the OSCE Minsk Group in accordance with the new geopolitical reality. The head of state noted that the Azerbaijani side believed that the Minsk Group could contribute to the preparation of a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the delimitation of borders, the establishment of contacts between people, confidence-building measures and other issues.

Touching upon the issue of mines in the liberated territories, President Ilham Aliyev said that Azerbaijani civilians had been suffering from their presence, adding that about 200 people had been killed or injured in mine explosions to date. In this regard, he stressed the importance of the European Union and member states providing technical and financial assistance to Azerbaijan to eliminate the mine problem.

The President also pointed to the cooperation between the European Union and Azerbaijan in the field of energy, noting that these relations were also of the nature of strategic partnership. Emphasizing that the 3,500-kilometer-long Southern Gas Corridor was one of the largest infrastructure projects of the 21st century, President Ilham Aliyev said that Azerbaijani gas was being delivered to Europe with the launch of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, the last component of the project. He noted that Azerbaijani gas was already being delivered to three EU countries - Italy, Greece and Bulgaria. In the future, Azerbaijan intends to expand the geography of gas exports to other EU member states. Emphasizing that Azerbaijani gas was being delivered to the EU market as a reliable and new source, the President said that the recent events had also shown the importance of diversification in terms of energy security.

In conclusion, President Ilham Aliyev once again thanked the President of the European Council for his contribution to the normalization of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations.

***

Then the heads of state and government participating in the Summit had a working dinner.

President Ilham Aliyev attended the event.

On the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron, an informal meeting was held between President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia NikolPashinyan in Brussels on December 15.

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