Azerbaijan FM: Unsettlement of the conflict constitutes the major threat to the regional peace and security - INTERVIEW

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan about the outcome of 2014

Baku. 25 December. REPORT.AZ/  Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Mr.Elmar Mammadyarov gave an interview to some Azerbaijani media about the outcome of 2014. Report News agency presents the interview:

- How would you characterize Azerbaijan’s foreign policy, its fundamental principles and priorities in 2014?

- President Ilham Aliyev making an address at the fifth meeting of the head of diplomatic services of Azerbaijan on July 7, 2014 stressed that Azerbaijan’s foreign policy pursued on principled and persistent manner. Adding that Azerbaijan’s diplomacy is in the steady process of development, President Ilham Aliyev put new tasks ahead of us.

In pursuant to the strategic line identified by the President and our national interests, the independent, active and robust foreign policy of Azerbaijan carried forward in 2014, the basis of which are provided by the achievements of Azerbaijan in political, economic and social spheres, especially gained throughout the last decade.

Azerbaijan, pursuing its foreign policy guided by the norms and principles of international law, the Charter of the United Nations has always promoted upholding the rule of law and compliance with the commitments by the states at the international level. It is the result of such policy that Azerbaijan is perceived as a reliable partner and the number of states willing for close cooperation with Azerbaijan is on a constant growth.

In the year of 2014 the system of international relations was particularly featured with the confrontations and growing trend of divisions through the lines of military-political blocks, and alongside with the threats emanating from the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan, the emergence of new hotspots of conflicts, raising of terrorism and transnational threats and challenges in the proximity of Azerbaijan.

Under such strenuous circumstances, safeguarding the independence and sovereignty of Azerbaijan, eradicating the aggression and occupation of Armenia and its consequences, preventing the threats and challenges by politico-diplomatic means, promotion of economic interests, energy and transport strategy, dissemination of Azerbaijan’s realities around the world and the relations with Azerbaijani diaspora abroad were constituted our major foreign policy priorities.

The bilateral diplomacy has been developed as a prime mechanism of cooperation with the international community. Based on the philosophy and fundamental principles of bilateral relations, our bilateral cooperation with one country does not affect our ties with another one.

Relations with the neighboring countries were at the focus of our foreign policy. Nowadays, Azerbaijan is building strategic cooperation with the neighboring countries based on the good neighborly relations, non-interference in internal affairs, equality and mutual respect and fruitful collaboration. Building on the successful bilateral cooperation model, Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey, Azerbaijan-Iran-Turkey and Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan-Turkey trilateral cooperation framework is on the development.

In accordance with the geography, history, traditions and geo-politics, foreign policy of Azerbaijan is not confined to the boundaries of one region. Therefore, bearing in mind its Southern Caucasus, Caspian, Central Asian, South-Eastern Europe, Islamic world, post-soviet and Euro-Atlantic dimensions, multi-facetted foreign policy has been continued through the Caspian, Black Sea, Mediterranean and Adriatic Sea basins. We stand hopeful that in addition to the South-South and East-West dimensions, on the premise of North-South vector the Baltic Sea and Persian Gulf dimensions will further grow in significance in our foreign policy in the years to come.

Taking into account further enhancement of geographical scope of our foreign policy and its ability to affect global processes especially after our membership at the UN Security Council on non-permanent seat in the term of 2012-2013, alongside with Latin America, ample opportunities are aroused to develop our relations with Asian and African countries. Recently established diplomatic representations and mutual visits, pave the way for further enhancement of relations with these regions and strengthening of our positions.

It is also an outcome of successful bilateral and multilateral policy that today Baku in parallel to its business, art and culture, sports center status of the region and even beyond, is also elevating to the status of “diplomatic capital”, where issues of global nature are discussed. Throughout the year the events of international organizations hosted in Baku, bilateral and multilateral visits are yet another proof of that.

Thus, as a continuation of successful internal policy independent, principled, robust and persistent foreign policy continued in pursuance of our national interests and notwithstanding, the strenuous developments unfolding around us, Azerbaijan has further strengthened its position as developing and prospering space of cooperation.

- Could you please provide some more information on resolution of Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

- The eradication of Armenia’s aggression and occupation against Azerbaijan and the resolution of conflict is a priority task ahead of us. Our position in the negotiations towards the settlement of the conflict is based on withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, eradication of the facts of occupation and aggression, which form the fundamental basis of conflict, return of Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced persons to their native lands and restoration of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and internationally recognized borders. At all meetings it was particularly emphasized that the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan can in no way be subject of negotiations. The norms and principles of international law, the Charter of the United Nations, four resolutions of UN Security Council and the other documents adopted by international organizations constitute the political and legal basis of our position.

The international community sees the resolution of the conflict based on these principles, particularly within the territorial integrity, sovereignty and internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan. Throughout the year, sustainable efforts were undertaken within the international organizations in further strengthening of this position.

In Wales Summit Declaration on September 5th 2014, NATO Member States reiterating their support to the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Azerbaijan, stressed that they will continue to support efforts towards a peaceful settlement of the conflicts in the South Caucasus based upon these principles and the norms of international law.

The Declaration of Jeddah of Council of Foreign Ministers of Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation held on 18-19 June 2014expressed solidarity with the just cause of Azerbaijan in resolution of Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. OIC, by its resolutions on Aggression of the Republic of Armenia against the Republic of Azerbaijan and Destruction and Desecration of Islamic Historical and Cultural Relics and Shrines in the Occupied Azerbaijan Territories Resulting from the Aggression of the Republic of Armenia against the Republic of Azerbaijan deplores occupation and aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan.

In Algiers Final Document of 17th Mid-Term Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement held on May 28-29 in Algiers, the Ministers of NAM State expressed their regret that in spite of the United Nations Security Council resolutions (S/RES/822, S/RES/853, S/RES/874, S/RES/884)the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan remains unresolved and continues to endanger international and regional peace and security. They encouraged the parties to continue to seek a negotiated settlement of the conflict within the territorial integrity, sovereignty and the internationally recognized borders of the Republic of Azerbaijan. NAM is the second organization in the world by quantity of its member countries after the United Nations.

The Final Communique of the League of Arab States - Central Asia and Azerbaijan Forum hosted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia underlined the importance of settlement of Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council based on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Moreover, this position for the resolution of the conflict was also reaffirmed in the final documents of Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey and Azerbaijan-Iran-Turkey trilateral meetings and in the bilateral joint statements of Azerbaijan with other countries.

Armenia by all means, tried to hinder the adoption of the documents urging for the resolution of the conflict especially within the territorial integrity, sovereignty and internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan, but doomed to failure at every attempt.

Sustainable efforts were also undertaken towards recognition of Khojaly genocide, which is one of the most dangerous tragedies of the humanity and disseminating the realities of Karabakh around the world. So far, legislative bodies of Columbia, Czech Republic, Romania, Serbia, Honduras, Peru, Panama, Pakistan, Mexico, Jordan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sudan and fifteen States of the United States officially recognized Khojaly genocide and expressed support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan, inter alia, Azerbaijan was reaffirmed as a reliable strategic partner.

Involvement of foreign physical and legal persons in illegal activities in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan is under close scrutiny of the Foreign Ministry and our diplomatic missions, and on bilateral and multiracial tracks the necessary steps were being taken to prevent such illegal activities.

- Azerbaijan on multiple occasions expressed its readiniess to start working on Comprehensive Peace Agrrement. Co-Chairs also in their latest statement reaffirmed their support to work on the CPA. What is the position of Armenia in this issue? To what extent is it realistic to start working on the CPA?

- At themeetings of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan organized by the OSCE Minsk Group C0-chair countries in Sochi on August 10, at the initiative of Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin, in the Wales on September 4, at the initiative of the US State Secretary Mr. John Kerry and in Paris on October 27, at the initiative of French President Mr. François Hollande some positive indications were observed towards the settlement of conflict. After the Paris meeting of Presidents, French President Mr. François Hollande called the conflicting parties, Armenia and Azerbaijan, to begin working on Comprehensive Peace Agreement. OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs on their 4 December 2014, Basel statement at the level of Foreign Ministers also made a call to begin negotiations on CPA as soon as possible.

But in the face of positive indications in the negotiations towards the resolution of the conflict, Armenia has resorted to provocations to undermine the negotiations and deliberate escalation of the situation. July-August incidents in the line of contact and the large-scale military exercises in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan were nothing else than sheer attempts of provocation. In order to affect the sensitive feelings of Azerbaijani society Dilgam Asgarov and Shahbaz Guliyev were taken hostage while visiting the graveyards of their parents in their native land, and Hasan Hasonov was brutually killed. Provocative attempts such as intensive violation of ceasefire regime, targeting of civilians through the line of contact and Armenia-Azerbaijan border, changing the demographic situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan were being continued by Armenia.

For its perpetrated actions of occupation and aggression and bloody ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijan, as an aggressor state, Armenia by all categories is entitled to be subjected to the sanctions. However, so far in respect of Armenia such measures of sanctions have not been undertaken. If the sanctions against Armenia had been applied timely, its aggression and occupation against Azerbaijan had been halted and more than millions of Azerbaijanis had not become refugees and internally displaced persons. Therefore, OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs should take necessary measures to cease the pretexts and provocations of Armenia, and to set her in constructive track and enforce her to start working on the CPA. Meanwhile, measures to make Armenia subject of strict sanctions should also be reviewed seriously.

Unsettlement of the conflict constitutes the major threat to the regional peace and security and Armenia bears full responsibility for that. For the peaceful settlement of the conflict, first and foremost, armed forces of Armenia must be withdrawn from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.

- Can you tell more about Azerbaijan’s cooperation with the United Nations and its involvement into the global processes?

- As a cornerstone of our multilateral diplomacy active engagement with the international organizations has been continued and in this context, our activities in the United Nations occupy a special place.

We addressed United Nations General Assembly 69th session in general debates dedicated on The Post 2015 Development Agenda and provided our view in respect of global development.

At the Millennium summit in 2000 the world leaders set out Millennium Development Goals with the deadline for 2015.

In 2015 United Nations will celebrate its 70 anniversary. In addition to the symbolic meaning, it provides opportunities to review the achievements of the United Nations throughout the 70 years and to look at the way forward. For the sake of the international order the goals of UN should be reviewed in the whole. In this context, within the 70th anniversary, in parallel to the peace and security issues, particular emphasis should be put on the matters of prosperity and development. Deriving from this comprehensive approach, the reform of the UN should not only be confined with the Security Council, it should encompass the whole issues of UN system effectiveness.

It is a matter of pride that Azerbaijan has succeeded to implement the Millennium Development Goals within short period of time ahead of schedule and has stepped into the new era of development. Nowadays, Azerbaijan through initiated large-scale projects makes its contributions to the cooperation and development in the region and beyond. TANAP and TAP gas pipelines, Trans Eurasia Super Information Highway (TASIM) and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway are the projects, which contribute to the global development goals. In other words, Azerbaijan, not only at the national level, but at the regional or even far broader framework is making tangible contributions to the UN development goals and global prosperity and peace.

Azerbaijan, as a successful example of multiculturalism and inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogues continues to develop its fruitful cooperation with the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC). During the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends, held during the High-level segment of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly, the membership of the Group of Friends endorsed by consensus the offer by the Government of Azerbaijan to host the Alliance 7th Global Forum in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2016. It is yet another testimony to the fact of high appreciation to the global efforts of Azerbaijan in this field.

28-30 October 2014, Baku hosted the First Global Forum on Youth Policies. This forum was in a way a platform to elevate our successful national youth policy to the global level.

In the meantime, Azerbaijan has actively engaged in and contributed to the discussions on the global issues such as the international peace and security, fight against terrorism, disarmament and non-proliferation, environment and sustainable development and others.

- Some experts contemplate that in lieu of resolution of Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict Azerbaijan may become member of Eurasian Economic Union. How would you comment on this?

- First of all, I would like to stress that, the territorial integrity and sovereignty and internationally recognized borders of the Republic of Azerbaijan can in no way be the subject of any bargaining.

Regarding the integration processes noted by you, Azerbaijan respects the sovereign decision of every single country. The Republic of Azerbaijan, which pursuing an independent foreign policy, in its political, economic and trade relations gives preference to the bilateral framework, and in terms of mutually beneficial cooperation this model has proved itself successful. But, general public opinion has also to be borne in mind in relation with any integration processes.

Azerbaijan has not received any official application for membership to this institution and currently, such issue does not stand on the agenda of Azerbaijan.

- Azerbaijan-Russia relations are featured with intensive mutual visits and steady development. How do you evaluate the status Azerbaijani-Russian relations?

- Relations between Azerbaijan and Russia are featured with friendly and amicable ties based on mutually beneficial cooperation and respect. It is a positive sign that our relations encompass broad areas including political, economic, trade, defence and military, mutual investments, security and fight against terrorism, humanitarian and other spheres. As a neighboring country, Russia is one of the main trade partners of Azerbaijan as well. The annual growth dynamics of trade turnover is a positive development. In the realm of development of our relations, I would like to note the role of intergovernmental commission and particularly, the cooperation mechanism with the regions of the Russian Federation. The fifth Azerbaijani-Russian interregional forum which is held since 2011, took place in Gabala in June 23-24, 2014.

One of the characteristic features of Azerbaijan-Russia relations is humanitarian ties. It is worth mentioning the scientific, educational, cultural relations, cultural tours from Russia to Azerbaijan, the promotion the culture of Azerbaijan in Russia, student exchanges and particularly, people-to-people contacts. In line with the dynamism of our bilateral relations, we are delighted with the intensity of mutual visits between Azerbaijan and Russia at all levels.

- How would you evaluate the Chairmanship of Azerbaijan at the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, relations with the European Union and other international organizations?

 - The Republic of Azerbaijan assumed for the first time since becoming a member of the Council of Europe in 2001 the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers on 14 May 2014 for a period of six months.

During its chairmanship, Azerbaijan deployed considerable efforts in furthering the objectives of the Council of Europe around its key pillars - human rights, rule of law and democracy and has worked together with the member states of the Council of Europe and its different institutions in an atmosphere of mutual understanding.

The priorities of the Azerbaijani chairmanship were identified taking full account of the topical issues on the agenda of the Council of Europe and persistent challenges encountered by member States as well as Azerbaijan’s positive record and comparative advantages in some key areas. Priorities covered fight against terrorism, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, social cohesion and social sustainability, youth education. In order to support these priorities Azerbaijan hosted 18 important international events.

The promotion of cooperation based on the equal and mutual interests was at the core of the relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union. The Eastern Partnership Programme, Vilnius meeting of the EU countries and following bilateral agreements and the work conducted towards their implementation constituted the main component of the Azerbaijan-EU cooperation. Intensification of ties between business circles, expansion of tourism opportunities, facilitation of visa regime for Azerbaijani citizens visiting EU countries for scientific, education and research purposes to the EU countries and the opportunities of Readmission Agreement were further promoted. In the meantime, Protocol on the participation of Azerbaijan in the EU programmes, which was signed during the official visit of Jose M. Barroso, ex-president of the European Commission on June 14, 2014 was an important framework to raise the human resources of government institutions and to provide exchange of best practices in the economic, cultural and humanitarian fields.

The foreign policy goal aimed at developing the strategic partnership on energy between Azerbaijan and EU has been successfully continued.

The extended relations of Azerbaijan with the individual EU Member States have also stimulated the development of Azerbaijan-EU cooperation. Thus, enhanced dialogue with EU Member States on individual basis in the political, economic and cultural-humanitarian fields enables to enrich agenda of cooperation with EU and positively contributes to promote our equal partnership. Reaffirmed status of Azerbaijan as a reliable partner in ensuring Europe’s energy security, and growing number of its strategic partners in EU have made it necessary to redirect this cooperation towards the strategic spirit.

Within the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation the development of political, economic-trade relations with the Islamic states was at the focus.

In cooperation with the OSCE, it is worth mentioning the visit of Didier Burkhalter, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, President of the Swiss Confederation and Minister of Foreign Affairs to Azerbaijan and hosting the Annual session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly for the first time in Baku.

It is 20 years that Azerbaijan continues its close cooperation with UNESCO through its all core functional fields such as education, science, culture, communication and others. Azerbaijan almost joined all the conventions of the organization, became member in its different committees and hosted its many international events. The projects realized by Haydar Aliyev Foundation headed by Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva are particularly featured in developing Azerbaijan-UNESCO relations, promoting our cultural heritage in the world, preserving and delivering to the future generations.

On June 4, 2014 the meeting the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States was held in Bodrum, Turkey and H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan took part at this convention. According to the decision of the Presidents of Turkic Council the new Secretary General of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States was appointed an Azerbaijani representative since September 2014.

Meanwhile,our close cooperation with the World Intellectual Property Organization, UN Trade and Development Conference, World Customs Organization, International Telecommunication Union, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, International Renewable Energy Agency, UN Industrial Development Organization and other institutions continued throughout the year.

- Azerbaijan became a donor state from a aid recipient, and at the international level implements number of aid programmes. Can you please speak a little bit more about the activities of Azerbaijan International Development Agency (AIDA) under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2014.

 - The rapid development of the Republic of Azerbaijan in recent years has enabled us to join to the family of world donor states and to develop humanitarian diplomacy as a new dimension of our foreign policy. In this regard, it is worth mentioning the role of Heydar Aliyev Fund, which implements the noble humanitarian missions at the national and international levels.

AIDA- the Azerbaijan International Development Agency (AIDA) under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was established in 2011.

Through the joint project of AIDA and Islamic Development Bank conducted in a number of African countries thousands of people suffering from cataract were undergone to eye surgeries and their sight was restored.

Due attention was also paid to the countries stricken by natural disasters and as such humanitarian aid was rendered to Afghanistan, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Saint Vincent and Grenadine, Pakistan and Gaza sector. For instance, in September AIDA and our Embassy in Pakistan arranged humanitarian missions in eight cities of Pakistan stricken by heavy rains and food packages were distributed to around 25.000 people.

On the occasion of 91th anniversary of national leader Heydar Aliyev, at the initiative and under the patronage of the First Lady of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Member of the Parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO and ISESCO, Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, “the Heydar Aliyev Water Supply Scheme” in the Tank district of the Dera Ismail Khan area of Pakistan has been realized by AIDA and Embassy of Azerbaijan in Pakistan.

At the result of this project, ten thousands residents of the region who were deprived from potable water and for hundreds of years, used to collect water for drinking from the rainwater get an access to drinkable water.

The 5th capacity-building training course, entitled “Advancements in Reservoir Petroleum Engineering and Enhanced Oil Recovery Methods” which was organized this year gives an opportunity to share the knowledge and practice of Azerbaijan in this field as an ancient oil producing country, and to conduct joint explorations in the oil reservoirs of other respective countries.

Meanwhile, with a view to disseminating the realities Azerbaijan at the official and academic circles AIDA realizes cooperation programmes with the leading international research centers, and also by granting scholarships supports the students from the developing countries to study at the leading Azerbaijani universities and contributes to development of human resources in those countries.

Thus, AIDA by virtue of its programmes and projects contributes to sustainable development and humanitarian missions at the global level. This noble mission will further be continued.

- How do you assess the development of foreign economic and trade relations of Azerbaijan during 2014?

- As in the previous years in 2014 as well, the number of important activities and measures were carried out towards extending the economic and trade relations of the Republic of Azerbaijan with other countries.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Economy and Industry and other state bodies development of foreign economic relations of Azerbaijan, promotion of the potential of the country abroad, organization of state and business sphere representatives visits of Azerbaijan and foreign countries, holding of joint intergovernmental commissions and working groups on economic cooperation of Azerbaijan with foreign countries, diversification of the non-oil sector of our country, promotion and increase of export, attraction of foreign investments to our country, promotion of Azerbaijan investment to partner countries, placing into new markets of products and services produced in our country, as well as involvement of modern technologies applied in foreign countries to our country were main directions of bilateral cooperation.

Thus, 18 intergovernmental commission and 2 working group meetings were held during 2014 for development of economic and trade relations of the Republic of Azerbaijan with foreign countries. Concrete agreements on cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, industry, energy, transport, information and telecommunication technologies, agriculture and agrarian industry, tourism, science and technologies were adopted and directions of future cooperation were defined. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan and other countries came to an agreement on joint efforts for prevention of illegal economic activity of Armenia in Nagorno Karabakh and other occupied territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan in documents adopted during the meetings of intergovernmental economic commissions and working groups.

23 business forums held for promotion of the potential of our country abroad, development of cooperation among businessmen, presentation of economic potential, business and investment environment of our country to foreign investors, placing into new markets of products and services produced by our companies, as well as involvement of modern technologies applied in foreign countries to our country.

As the result of reforms and economic policy implemented during 2014 the number of foreign companies interested in favorable business environment and business proposals increased. With a view of selecting with offers based on competitiveness in accordance with the interests of our country priority was given to the analysis of business offers made by foreign companies, justification of its contribution to our economy, future efficiency of cooperation, efficiency for our country, attraction of new technologies to our country and the companies willing to make long-term investments into production.

- Armenians will organize the 100th anniversary of “genocide” claims in 2015. Earlier was declared that Azerbaijan and Turkey will jointly respond to these claims. What are the plans of Azerbaijan in this framework?

- The falsification of history, as well as the use of history as an object of political speculations for certain purposes is unacceptable. The so-called “Armenian genocide” campaign is a vivid example of it.

Regretfully, instead of ending its occupation and aggression against Azerbaijan and claims against other neighboring countries and building normal and civil relations, Armenia is engaged in such activities.

At the joint conference held in September of this year during the visit of President of the Republic of Turkey H.E Mr. Recep Tayyib Erdogan to Baku H.E Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan stressed: “Turkey and Azerbaijan are working and will continue to work together at the level of Foreign Ministers and ambassadors. Our Diaspora and public organizations are working and will continue to work together in this direction, so that we work in a coordinated manner to dispel the myth of the "Armenian genocide". Furthermore, President Ilham Aliyev added that Armenia and Armenians of the world are trying to mislead the international public opinion and to build history of lies; they are putting forward unfounded accusations against Turkey, none of them has a historical basis, this is a lie, slander and fiction.

Deriving from that the Foreign Affairs Ministries of both countries and other relevant institutions are conducting a coordinated work. Hereby, the main emphasis is put to the exposure of Armenian lies and the presentation of historical truth based on facts.

At the same time the massive acts of genocide against Azerbaijanis committed by Armenians on March 1918, in Baku, Shamakhi, Guba and other historical Azerbaijani lands currently belonging to Armenia, the genocide perpetrated in Khojaly and ethnic cleansing of more than one million Azerbaijanis from occupied territories of Azerbaijan and from Armenia, as part of aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan, are continuously brought to the attention of international community. Armenia bears full responsibility for all these actions under the international humanitarian law. Therefore, instead of misinterpreting the history, Armenia must be held accountable for these acts of genocide.

We will further continue our common efforts in this direction.

- How do you see the recent statements on human rights situation in Azerbaijan and generally, the Azerbaijan-US relations?

- Unfortunately, certain circles make use of human rights as foreign policy instrument for coordinated campaign against some countries. Democracy and human rights are universal values and there is no one single model of democracy. No country is eligible to claim for perfection and to mentor others in this field.

Instead of seeing the whole picture, some circles based on individual cases, which mostly have the real criminal background, make an overall judgment and misuse it for purposes of political pressures and negative propaganda.

Steadfast measures are taken towards democratization and protection of human rights in Azerbaijan. The path of democratic development is the conscious choice of the people and the Government of Azerbaijan. The reforms, first of all, are made for the benefit of the people of Azerbaijan, not to please anyone.

Azerbaijan has determined political will and it will continue on its successful political-economic development path.

The US-Azerbaijan relations are characterized by Azerbaijan’s contributions to the global energy security, fight against terrorism and transnational threats, logistical, transit and financial support to Afghanistan mission. Furthermore, the US acts as a mediator in the capacity of OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair in the peaceful resolution of Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict alongside with Russia and France. The US government is well aware how sensitive and painful this issue stands in Azerbaijan’s society and it is therefore the fair expectation of Azerbaijan from the United States and other co-chair countries to redouble their efforts towards the soonest resolution of conflict in accordance with the norms and principles of international law, especially within the territorial integrity, sovereignty and internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan and the UN Security Council resolutions. It would also be more worthwhile if the US puts more emphasis on violation of basic human rights of Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs, endorsed by the international legal documents, as a result of Armenian aggression.

Azerbaijan is open and sincere with all its partners and stands ready to cooperate with all good willing partners based on these principles.

- The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on measures for improvement of visa procedures in regards with the upcoming First European Games to be held in 2015 in Baku. Generally, what also have been done to improve visa system in the the context of tourism development in Azerbaijan?

- Foreign Ministry deploys sustainable efforts in accordance with the decree No. 675 dated 8 august 2014 by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan on “Some measures on organizing the First European Games”. Relevant information on facilitation of visa procedures and rules for foreigners and stateless persons living in foreign countries on permanent basis to visit Azerbaijan have been provided to the European Olympic Committee, International Air Transport Association (IATA), and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Additionally, this information is also placed in the internet resources of the Foreign Ministry and diplomatic representations abroad.

Continuous steps are being taken towards improvement of existing software of “Entry-exit and registration” inter-departmental automatic information-search system (IAMAS) for issuance of visas for foreigners and stateless persons visiting Azerbaijan and providing comprehensive statistical analysis in this field, ensuring satellite communication between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic representations of the Republic of Azerbaijan for exchange of information through “Azerspace-1” telecommunication satellite which will contribute to development of tourism in Azerbaijan. At the same time, relevant measures are being taken for increasing the number of consular personnel at the Foreign Ministry and diplomatic missions abroad for guarantying prompt visa services to foreigners and stateless persons visiting Azerbaijan in accordance with the aforementioned presidential decree.

Implementation of electronic visa issuance for tourists visiting Azerbaijan is being successfully implemented. As the proof of that we can see increasing number of tourists using this electronic visa service.

As a result of successful activities signed agreement on visa facilitation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the European Union entered into force from 1 September, 2014. Talks are underway on signing bilateral agreements with Denmark, UK, Ireland, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland and Lichtenstein to which the mentioned agreement do not apply, to eliminate visa requirements for holders of service and diplomatic passports. Bilateral agreement has already been signed with the Kingdom of Norway on “elimination of visa requirement for holders of diplomatic and service passports.

Furthering the consular cooperation, improving the legal basis for guaranteeing the protection of rights of Azerbaijani citizens, enhancing the bilateral agreements on “cooperation in the field of consular affairs”, “bilateral consular support”, “elimination of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic and service passports” with some other states are also under the consideration.

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