With his country about to experience a new pipeline fueled oil boom, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has been in Paris to address the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO emphasising his strategically located nation’s security role.
In an interview with EuroNews he categorically ruled out the possibility of US troops being based in Azerbaijan.
He also talked about the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh, the self-proclaimed independent territory, with a mostly Aremenian population, that covers 20% of Azerbaijan.
Euronews: Mr. President, welcome to Euronews. First, the Baku-Tbilisi-Djeikhan pipeline is due to be operational very soon. What difference will that make to the European and world energy situation?
Ilham Aliyev: There’s an enormous economic impact that is already being felt in Azerbaijan.
It’s brought billions of dollars in investments.
It means that Azerbaijan is now able to transport its oil to world markets.
Up till now our transport systems could only get oil to the Black Sea basin.
Caspian oil reaching the Mediterranean is an historic event.
Obviously that will have consequences for the development of regional co-operation, it will reinforce Azerbaijan’s position economically, but also politically, for years to come, and the stable development of our country will be ensured for decades.
Euronews: There’s been talk that the United States wants a military presence in Azerbaijan – stationing planes there and ships on the Caspian Sea coastline.
What’s you response to that idea and how are your relations with Washington?
Ilham Aliyev: Our relations are developing in a very dynamic way.
The relationship between the USA and Azerbaijan is one of strategic partners.
We collaborate in several areas; economically, of course, over energy policy, we’re working together on regional security and on the development of democracy in our country and the region.
We also collaborate militarily in a variety of ways. However, with regard to a foreign state having a military presence on Azerbaijani territory – that is not on the agenda.
Euronews: Recently a summit meeting of GUAM, the regional organisation made up of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova, declared the group is not opposed to Moscow.
So what does it represent and how does it reflect the changes in the post Soviet era?
Ilham Aliyev: Any country that is a member of an international organisation participates in it for the good of its own interests.
The members of GUAM already are taking part in some very important regional projects.
These projects are being developed and if we concentrate our joint efforts on economic questions, energy and on transport, everybody will benefit.
The idea that this regional organisation is directed against somebody is unfounded. Azerbaijan has never been part of organisations directed against anyone. And we have no such intention in the future.
Our relations with Russia are good and we’re very satisfied with them. We consider them to be perfectly in the interests of both countries.
Euronews: Some observers have said all of GUAM’s member countries have a common problem – conflicts over territorial integrity.
For Azerbaijan that centres on the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. What’s the answer to that problem?
Ilham Aliyev: There’s some truth in that, indeed, all the conflicts in the former Soviet Union are in member countries of GUAM. Nagorno-Karabakh, both economically and legally is in Azerbaijani territory.
And the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is recognised by the United Nation, and by every country, except Armenia, which was an aggressor against our country.
Following this aggression, and their ethnic cleansing, more than one million Azerbaijanis became refugees. It’s an enormous humanitarian catastrophe.
It is an intolerable act of occupation of other people’s territory and obviously the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored without any preconditions.
Euronews: Last September, the Republic of Cyprus blocked the participation of Azerbaijan in talks on closer EU links.
Why? And how are your relations with Brussels?
Ilham Aliyev: We have very good relations with all the European Convention countries, starting with the largest countries.
With regard to the attempts to block Azerbaijan – that’s not succeeding.
It is not possible to block our country, because it’s impossible to block the energy resources.
This is why I think that the particular questions raised by certain countries – questions which are without any basis – should not prevent our closer links.
Our collaboration with the European Union is mutually beneficial, and I think that also for Azerbaijan it is profitable to increase this collaboration
It is important also for the EU to have Azerbaijan as a reliable partner and friend.