31 August, 2017
Dear Minister Szijjarto,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to extend our gratitude to the Hungarian Presidency of the Visegrad Group for hosting regular Ministerial dialogue of V4 and Eastern Partnership. This traditional format provides good opportunity to deliberate on ways and means for further synergy, which is particularly important today in the light of upcoming EaP Summit in November in Brussels.
Azerbaijan has been a reliable EU partner and growing number of strategic partners among the EU member states and V4 Group inspires us to advance dialogue with the EU under the same conditions. We are interested in progressing our bilateral track through speedy negotiations on a new strategic agreement with the EU. Since official launch of the negotiations back in February we have engaged in a productive and constructive dialogue within different blocks of the agreement.
Azerbaijan is also interested in building its relations with EU based on mutually agreed priorities. Priority-driven cooperation tailored to the economic potential and specific goals of each country would be more efficient in realization of the principles of differentiation, flexibility, focus and greater ownership. The EU-Azerbaijan Partnership Priorities will translate these goals into concrete areas of cooperation.
First, Azerbaijan is a key enabler of the 45-50 bln. US dollar Southern Gas Corridor (SGC)– largest infrastructure and energy project in Europe with the aim of bringing alternative gas to the European markets. SGC with potential of meeting up to 20% of EU’s gas demand in the future is unique project of energy diversification, as we will observe diversification of routes and sources. Moreover located on the strategic crossroads of East and West Azerbaijan is open to potential initiatives on expansion of inter-regional energy connectivity and bringing Central Asia closer to European energy architecture.
Second, unique participatory framework of the SGC - involving diverse stakeholders from EaP region, as well as EU member states and candidate countries may be deployed in other areas of common interest, particularly transport, via exploring synergies for establishment of new transport-transit routes connecting Europe and Asia, Europe – South and North – South.Today Azerbaijan has involved in implementation of several major transport projects to promote East-West and North-South corridors. This week Azerbaijan along with 4 other countries signed an agreement in Kabul on Lapis Lazuli Corridor – new transit route projected to transport goods to European markets.
For regional projects like Trans-Caspian International Transit Route, connecting China with Europe, broader participation, including Central Asian states should be considered. This will also be in line with EU`s connectivity agenda aiming to expand trans-European networks further to the East.
In July EU and Azerbaijan also resumed negotiations on Common Aviation Area Agreement and tentatively agreed on the overall structure of the document.
Third, promotion of the mobility and people-to-people contacts is an important dimension of EU-Azerbaijan interaction. We do believe that the successful implementation of readmission and visa facilitation agreements should pave the way for launching the dialogue on visa liberalization between EU and Azerbaijan.
Fourth, the revised ENP has put forward the stabilization as the most urgent challenge in many parts of the European Neighbourhood. True stabilization is unimaginable without the settlement of protracted military conflicts which threaten the stability and cooperation in the EaP geography.
Today the sovereignty and territorial integrity of four out of six EaP countries continue to be undermined due to the existing conflicts. Failure to eliminate consequences of the ongoing violation of the principles of international law, as well as misinterpretation and selective application of these principles in the context of the conflict resolution undermines rules-based European order.
It is already third decade that Armenia – a member of the EaP has been using force against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another member of the EAP and continues to keep the one-fifth of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories under military occupation. Armenia carried out notorious ethnic cleansing on all seized lands of Azerbaijan which totally contradicts to the code of conduct adopted in Europe and the world. The unlawful presence of the armed forces of Armenia in the territories of Azerbaijan remains the main cause of violence in the conflict zone and is the major impediment to political settlement of the conflict.
EAP Summit in November is an important event and we believe that the negotiations on the text of the Summit Declaration should be started at the earliest convenience. We expect upcoming Brussels Summit Declaration to capture united and coherent approach to the settlement of conflicts, as well as reflecting on negative impacts of existing conflicts for full-scale implementation of EaP objectives.
It is an absolute necessity that the key principles enshrined in the Global Strategy for the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy, particularly those pertaining to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the inviolability of borders of states are equally respected by all participating states. Only living up to the principles identified as the key elements of the European security order will determine the EU’s credibility and influence it for the years ahead.