PRESIDENT ILHAM ALIYEV REACTS TO CRITICISM FROM INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

July 9th, 2008

On Monday (7 July) leaders of the diplomatic corps serving in the Republic of Azerbaijan gathered along with Azerbaijan’s own diplomats at the third diplomatic conference in the Foreign Ministry.

During the event President Ilham Aliyev gave a speech. The text of this speech was published in official government newspapers (“Respublika”, “Khalg,” etc.). During his speech, Ilham Aliyev touched on Azerbaijan’s commitments to foreign countries.

In particular, Aliyev noted recent criticism of the country, and said, “It is not possible to pressure us. These attempts at pressure serve only to strain the relations. If several years ago we simply didn’t react to this or kept silent, we don’t keep silent today. We speak up today and if anyone wants to tarnish Azerbaijan’s beautiful image, we’ll fight against them. We have the strength and the ability!” He also noted the strengthening ties with the Islam Conference Organization and, in the wake of a recent visit from Russian President Dmritry Medvedev who was reportedly seeking Azerbaijani gas, after listing all of the oil and gas projects that Azerbaijan is partly to, states “Surely, Azerbaijan chose and will choose the most acceptable and convenient variants like any other country. This can be in one or an assortment of variants.”

The following is an unofficial English translation of an excerpt from the speech:

“The minister talked about the issues concerning international organizations. I want to say once again that our successful policy with international organizations during the last years has brought concrete and practical results. We would need a lot of time to enumerate these. This will probably be discussed in the following days during the conference.  I want to note the adoption of a resolution in March by the Head Assembly of UN about the situation of the occupied territories. This in fact is our great and diplomatic victory. We have been moving towards this victory for several years now. A lot of work has been done to achieve the adoption of this resolution. Naturally, the public sees the final result of this. It sees that Azerbaijan won with the majority of votes. However, a great work has been done to accomplish this. Of course, not everyone realizes this. This resolution has already been affecting other international organizations. In the recently approved document by the Council of Europe the document from the Head Assembly of UN is referred to. And there’s no need to tell you about the importance of this. You understand this very well. This demonstrates that purposeful policy and determined steps that lead to results and successes. Our relations with other international organizations satisfy us. We made commitments to some international organizations when we became their member. For example we have been fulfilling the commitments we made to the Council of Europe. We voluntarily became its member. Nobody dragged us there or made us be a member. We have its membership and we want the positive experiences of the most developed countries of Europe to be applied in Azerbaijan.

As you know, the Council of Europe is mostly working on issues of democracy and human rights. During the last seven years Azerbaijan has done a lot in this direction. Our work in democratization and protecting human rights has been enriching and strengthening our country more and more. In some cases, you know very well that double-standards are used against us and the causes of this are clear. Why is it so? What are its historical causes? Of course, there are historical reasons. At the same time, I cannot say that everyone is pleased with Azerbaijan’s independent policy and we have to be ready for this. When the matter of Azerbaijan was discussed during the last session of Parliament Assembly of Council of Europe, European parliamentarians noted that Azerbaijan has been a member of the organization for only seven years, so why has the issue of Azerbaijan discussed 8 times? Why is it that other CIS (the Commonwealth of Independent States) countries that entered the organization at same time and even a lot earlier than Azerbaijan don’t even get this much of attention? Why? These are questions and we openly ask the opposite side these questions. And we come to conclusion after our discussions that we cannot get strong answers. In some cases, our counterparts are forced to agree that there are double standards in the world and we know about it. Azerbaijani society is also aware of this. Sometimes unsubstantiated attacks and criticism against us are depressing for us and the Azeri people; because these attacks are unfounded. Naturally not everything in Azerbaijani society is perfect. In which society is everything perfect? Is everything solved on democratic basis in the most developed countries and in the countries which consider themselves symbol of democracy? Of course, not! It is the period of globalization, the period of the internet. It is not possible to hide anything, people see everything. We simply need to take this into consideration. However, we are not going to take any step backwards from our policy and from the defense principles of our national interests. Let them criticize us and try to disgrace Azerbaijan as much as they like. Azerbaijani people, Azerbaijani society sees all of the positive changes in the country and so does the world community. We simply want some organizations to leave this hypocritical policy in the past. It doesn’t have any importance. It doesn’t work as pressure mechanism against us. Everyone sees this. It is not possible to pressure us. These attempts at pressure serve only to strain the relations. If several years ago we simply didn’t react to this or kept silent, we don’t keep silent today. We speak up today and if anyone wants to tarnish Azerbaijan’s beautiful image, we’ll fight against them. We have the strength and the ability!

To be short, I want to say that they need to agree with Azerbaijan and they need to cooperate with Azerbaijan and they need to create good relations with Azerbaijan. We are proponents of positive relations with all countries and international organizations. We hope there will be adequate attitude towards us as well. In the event that there’s no adequate attitude towards us, I want nobody to be offended by us; our attitude will be the same.

You are ambassadors and you work in 47 countries. Naturally, you try to improve the relations between Azerbaijan and those countries you work in. You don’t interfere with the internal affairs of the countries you work in. Of course, you don’t, because Azerbaijan’s policy doesn’t permit this. You don’t initiate anything that is not characteristic for the embassy and your status. Of course, we anticipate the same attitude and approach from all countries.  I want to say that we are interested in continuing our good relationships with all countries. We want this. But this has to be mutual. We can neither accept nor close our eyes to unsubstantiated and in some cases pressure-like steps against Azerbaijan.

Our relationship continues with other international organizations. We are in neighborhood policy, neighborhood program and energy dialogue with the European Union. This neighborhood program has been executed for nearly two years. We hope that we’ll see more concrete results from this program in the coming years. As a beginning, the program is a positive event, of course, and we voluntarily joined this program. I mean, this wasn’t obligatory. We joined because we want all criteria in Azerbaijan to conform to the criteria of the developed countries of Europe, whether it be economical freedom, political freedom, democratic processes or the resolution of social problems. It is no secret that these problems have been solved at the highest level in the developed countries of the European Union. This is what we want. We want Azerbaijan to be transferred into a modern nation, to create all necessary provision and to foster an improved life for people. We believe, in the coming years we’ll see more concrete results from the neighborhood policy.

And then we have energy security. Azerbaijan has always been ready for this kind of partnership. Projects started here and executed at our initiation serve not only our interests but also the interests of countries that are friendly with us.

Our relationship with the Islam Conference Organization is strengthening. As you know, different events are conducted in Azerbaijan. Our relations with the Islamic world are developing very fast, and this makes me happy. We need to support each other in international organizations, to strengthen Islamic solidarity and to continue our relations with all friendly countries. Azerbaijan plays a very important role in the framework of Islam Conference Organization and will continue to do so. CIS, GUAM, NATO, Black Sea Economic Partnership Organization, and the Economic Cooperation Organization– we collaborate with all these organizations and participate in their events, as you know.

Right now energy security issues takes frontline. This is in the agenda of the international organizations and is one of the topics discussed in the world – maybe the most important topic; because energy security means the national security of countries. Azerbaijan has been contributing to this for years. The oil strategy started by the great leader Heydar Aliyev is not only renovating our country today, but also strengthening potentials in the region and helping to increase the number of our allies. Energy security, energy diplomacy, will be one of the most important issues in the world in the coming years. Our energy potential is known to the European Union. We are turning into a very big oil and gas producing and exporting country. This year the oil produce will be more than 50 million tons. Gas produce will be somewhere close to 20 billion cubic meters. Our oil and gas reserves will serve Azerbaijan’s interests and create possibilities to continue our export potentials even 100 years from now on. Our oil pipelines carry Azerbaijani oil in three directions. We are currently working on new projects.

The Baku-Jeyhan, Baku-Supsa, Baku-Novorossiysk- all of these pipelines are in working conditions. The Baku-Supsa pipeline is being repaired and will restore operations in one or two months. We are working on the Odessa-Brodi project. The “Shahdeniz” gas project is successful. There are four gas pipelines connecting us to other countries. The international community might not have enough knowledge about this. It was assumed that there are no pipelines other than Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum. It is not so. Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum is of course our historical achievement. Azerbaijani gas has already entered the European Union Region. This is a historical event. In addition to this, we have a gas pipeline that connects us to Georgia. We restored it, it is being repaired and we transfer gas to Georgia through this pipeline. We have a gas pipeline connecting us to Russia. This also can work in two directions and negotiations have been conducted about this. We have gas pipeline connecting us to Iran. An exchange is conducted through this pipeline; Iran transfers gas to Nakhchivan and we transfer gas to Iran through Astara region. All these four pipelines are in working condition and they allow us to transfer our gas in the desired quantity and the desired direction. This is situation of branching out energy sources. Today consumers think about branching out and think that we need to work in this direction. But this is of no small significance to the consumers. If we did not have seven pipelines our situation would not be the same as it is today and our position wouldn’t be so strong in negotiations. Keeping all the pipelines in working conditions conforms to our interests.  Surely, Azerbaijan chose and will choose the most acceptable and convenient variants like any other country. This can be in one or an assortment of variants.

We fulfilled all energy problems facing us today successfully. Heydar Aliyev’s oil strategy has triumphed. Azerbaijan’s opportunities today are the triumph of this strategy. We’ll of course, continue this work in a more convenient form, without hurrying and on the condition of obtaining maximum profit. When we say profit, the talk is not only about economic profits. The number of people desiring to work with us is increasing. Demand for our gas is increasing and we must to solve these relations with different countries on the basis of mutual interests. Our gas reserves are 2 trillion cubic meters at a minimum and this will be enough for 100 years. I want to say once again that our energy policy will serve Azerbaijan’s national, economic and political interests. Today we are not economically dependent on anybody. We are not dependent on any credit; in reality we give credit. 

Economic independence lets us pursue independent policy. Could we follow an independent policy, if we were economically dependent on someone? Of course not. Of course sides that want to direct us toward some initiative or in some directions are going to be more active. However, Azerbaijan doesn’t need any economic assistance. For example, we collaborate with the European Union and continue our integration policy. Not because we are expecting something from the European Union. No, we don’t need anything. You know that new members of the European Union receive resources from the organization in huge amounts –in billions. We don’t need this. That is why, this helps us to follow an independent policy and we do so; internal and external policy, energy diplomacy – in all directions. Azerbaijan is probably one of a very few rare countries in that its foreign policy is totally independent. I said this repeatedly, and want to say again: independence means a country that can follow an independent policy.”