“Only if you look at the development of Georgia and Azerbaijan during the last years, thirty years of independence, you will see how two countries are integrated, how two countries are implementing common projects of mutual benefit, and how these two countries became together much more important for Europe rather than if they were not together,” the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev stated.
A journalist raised a question to Aliyev concerning regional integration and the potential formation of a South Caucasus equivalent to Benelux.
Aliyev responded that while it might be premature to discuss integration, initiating consultations is a positive step.
“I think what you say is absolutely realistic. And thank you for your words with respect to our victory. I remember our meeting in Shusha. So, thank you for coming back. I think it’s absolutely realistic. And actually, that was also part of our discussions with my Georgian colleague, Prime Minister Garibashvili. There is a chance now for the Southern Caucasus to start the process of at least consultation. Maybe, it’s early to talk about integration, but we should start from consultations. I think the first consultations took place in Georgia just recently on the sidelines of one international event. Prime ministers of the three Southern Caucasian countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia – met there. So, that’s a positive sign. I think there can be very practical impacts of this cooperation, because only if you look at the development of Georgia and Azerbaijan during the last years, thirty years of independence, you will see how two countries are integrated, how two countries are implementing common projects of mutual benefit, and how these two countries became together much more important for Europe rather than if they were not together,” President declared.
In response to the question of Armenia joining existing projects, Aliyev stated that if a peace agreement is signed, Armenia can certainly join. However, the open question remains about how Armenia will contribute to this cooperation.
“They not only need to have rights, but also responsibility. Today Georgia and Azerbaijan already have big assets – oil pipelines, gas pipelines, transportation railroads, now there will be energy cable, trade, also matters related to security.
Recently, in Baku, there was a meeting of defense ministers of Azerbaijan, Türkiye and Georgia. This is traditional. We have trilateral cooperation not only in defense, but also in economy, in other areas.
Will Armenia demonstrate its willingness to be a good neighbor and to be supportive? Again, it’s an open question. I think if they think strategically, that’s the only way for Armenia to preserve its sovereignty. Because what is happening now, as we observed from Baku, in the Armenian government is chaotic shifts from one pole to another. They think that another pole will be a kind of salvation for them. No, it will be just another big brother. Nothing more than that, and whether this big brother will be better than the previous one, I frankly doubt. Because it is very far away. It is not very strongly committed to the region, and from all points of view, pursues its own political or maybe personal ambitious ideas. So, Armenia needs to demonstrate its willingness in order to be part of that integration.
As I said, peace agreement is, of course, the main pre-requisite, but not the only one. They need to demonstrate that we now consider each other as partners. This is possible. In the meantime, the process of reconciliation should go. There must be more contacts between intellectuals, between people who can influence public opinion. There must be less demonstration of hatred. Because when we sent our team to participate in the sporting event in Yerevan, the Azerbaijani flag was burned in front of Prime Minister Pashinyan. So, what kind of message do they send? And that immediately was a big step back from our plans and, maybe, their plans also.
But these things are very sensitive, they are emotional, but also very illustrative. So, can we feel ourselves, I mean, both safe visiting each other? It’s still a big question, but potential is here. I know that the Georgian government completely shares this view. We still did not have a very clear demonstration of position from Armenia. But, if it happens, we can start. And they will feel themselves much more on the safe side,” the Azerbaijani President stated.
Ilham Aliyev mentioned that Georgia’s energy security is fully ensured today. He highlighted that a reliable transit route for Azerbaijan passes through Georgia.
“Our Georgian friends here – they know that today Georgia’s energy security is absolutely on the safe side. No matter what happens between big players, no matter what is the weather, because it is a reliable source of supply. We know that for Azerbaijan, the reliable transit route is through Georgia. So, this is interconnection, this is, if you can use the word, interdependence, which is good, which strengthens the friendship. So, can there be the projects related to power generation, natural gas, fuel, transit, opening of transportation? But for three years, Armenia was blocking the opening of the Zangezur corridor. It was not us. Türkiye was actively promoting. Azerbaijan was promoting, many other countries. But they were blocking. So, I think they need to rethink the situation. And also they need to understand that no matter how strong your big brother is, you live here among these countries. You will have to find your place,” he added.