Then President Ilham Aliyev and President of the European Council Donald Tusk had a working lunch.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of the European Council Donald Tusk then made joint press statements.
Statement of President Ilham Aliyev
Thank you. First of all, Mr. President, thank you for invitation. I am very glad to visit you and have an opportunity to discuss important issues of our cooperation. I remember your very successful visit to Azerbaijan in 2015 where we discussed the prospects for cooperation. I am very glad that tomorrow, as you said, we start negotiations on the new agreement. Cooperation between us is very fruitful, very sincere and has a big potential. We have a very active political dialogue, we meet regularly and discuss important issues of political development, political reforms in our country. We are committed to continuing democratic reforms in Azerbaijan in order to provide better opportunities for all the citizens of our country.
Of course, energy cooperation is an important part of our cooperation. We successfully cooperate on the promotion of the Southern Gas Corridor project, which is one of the biggest infrastructure projects now implemented in Europe, the project which needs more than 40 billion dollars of investment. The Southern Gas Corridor is a project of energy security and energy diversification. When I am saying diversification, I mean not only routes, but also sources. Azerbaijan with its huge gas deposits is a new, alternative source for a natural gas for European market. I informed Mr. President that the implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor, all the four segments of the project are moving successfully. Hopefully, with additional efforts we will speed up the implementation of this project.
As Mr. President said, Europe is our main investor. Azerbaijan created a very good investment climate. More than 200 billion dollars have been invested in our economy since restoration of our independence 25 years ago. Also Europe is our main trading partner. We supply many European countries with oil, and hopefully very soon we will supply them with natural gas.
We discussed the issues of resolution of Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I once again mentioned that for many years our lands have been under occupation. Armenia occupied almost 20 per cent of the territory of Azerbaijan, violated all the humanitarian norms, norms of international law, and actually does not implement four resolutions of United Nations Security Council adopted in the beginning of the 1990s and demanding immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijani territories. Unfortunately, occupation lasts for more than twenty years, and this occupation cannot be justified. I am very grateful to Mr. President that in his comments he once again expressed support for the territorial integrity of our country.
We also discussed today the future potential cooperation in the area of transportation, which could be an important project, which will be attractive for countries of Eastern Partnership and European countries. Azerbaijan invested largely in the creation of the new railroad connection in the region. Hopefully, this year the new route connecting Asia with Europe will be in operation, which will two times shorten the time of cargo movement from Europe to Asia and in opposite direction.
Another important part of our cooperation is intercultural dialogue. I am grateful to Mr. President for mentioning that Azerbaijan largely invests in the dialogue between civilizations, cultures. We are a country, which is a member of the Council of Europe and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at the same time. And we are a natural, geographical and cultural bridge between civilizations. Azerbaijan`s investment in human capital, inter-faith dialogue today brings good results.
I would also like to mention that we have good experience in cooperating with the member states of European Union. With nine of them - one third of the member states – we already signed documents on strategic partnership. This is a good basis for future agreements between EU and Azerbaijan. Today is a remarkable day in the history of our cooperation because we are opening a new chapter in our cooperation. I wish success to negotiators and hope that they will not lose time and start immediately tomorrow, and will soon present a document, which will determine strategic cooperation between us for many years to come.
Thank you very much.