Statement by H.E. Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the Informal Meeting of Council of Ministers of the ECO Member States
Dear Mr. Chairman,
Dear Mr. Secretary General,
Excellencies, Distinguished delegates,
At the outset, I would like to express my greetings to all participants of the Informal Meeting of Council of Ministers (COM) and express my appreciation to the current Chairman of our Council - Tajikistan and to the ECO Secretariat for the efforts in organizing this event. It is really commendable that we found a time amid our overloaded schedules to come together here in New York. This once again indicates to an importance of our shared perspectives within our Organisation.
Because our meeting is of an informal nature, I would like to make some important remarks rather than a statement.
Firstly, about a general landscape. The recent developments in and around our region prove once again the necessity for developing closer regional cooperation among our nations. The unique role of ECO in this context is undeniable. The Republic of Azerbaijan, as one of the proactive member States of the ECO, has always supported the main goals and objectives of the Organization and made a significant contribution in the form of specific actions in enhancement of regional synergies and various partnership frameworks, in the areas of transport, energy, trade facilitation, etc.
When we speak about economy and trade, the issue of transport and connectivity comes to the forefront. To enhance the competitiveness of the region both as producer, market and transit corridor, development of regional infrastructure should be adequately addressed.
Transit capacity is an essential strategic competitive advantage of the ECO region. Our cooperation in enhancing our connectivity, specifically in road and railway sector is of paramount importance.
Azerbaijan is keen to further leverage its transit and logistics potential by transforming the transportation system and services into one of the key comparative advantages of its economy. We strongly believe in a multiplying effect of this objective and thus, we would like to project it onto a regional scale. With this in mind, Azerbaijanis working todiversify and modernize its transport infrastructure, which will serve the interconnection of the Trans-European and Trans-Asian railway networks. Besides this, the construction of the New International Sea Trade Port and its International Logistic Centre, as well as the adoption of the Law on Free Economic Zone in Alyat, which is a point of convergence of all transport routes in our country, will significantly increase the competitiveness of international trade corridors and transit capacity of the countries of the region. We must feed each other with trade opportunities.
Therefore, Azerbaijan has been contributing to enhancing ECO region’s transit potential through promoting East-West, North-South and South-West trade corridors. Azerbaijan and Turkey are two important ends of a strategic Baku-Tbilisi-Kars rail road, which was commissioned last year and bring China closer to Europe by benefiting all ECO member-states.
We are also working with our partners in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Georgia and Turkey to build a solid logistics between Europe and Central Asia through the Lapis Lazuli transport route, whose strategic objective is underpinned by mutually reinforcing interests of some countries in our region.
We do believe that one of the priorities of the ECO agenda should be taking actions on the interconnection of ECO rail networks and the development of unified railway infrastructure of the region.We do believe that an early completion of Qazvin-Rash-Astara (İran) – Astara (Azerbaijan) project which is a missing and important link of North-South Transport Corridor, will give new impetus to economic growth, expand transport opportunities for involved countries as well as the whole region.
Modern societies cannot be competitive, without an updated ICT infrastructure. ICT is indispensable part of interconnectivity and I am proud to stay that Azerbaijan has also been actively involved in developing the relevant regional projects. Trans Eurasian Information Super Highway (TASIM) is an outstanding example of this.
Azerbaijan is committed to development of the ICT cooperation in the ECO region and as continuation of its efforts to streamline the regional cooperation in this sector, Azerbaijan organized meeting of the respective ministers in 2017. I am sure that the outcome of ministers’ deliberations will contribute to achieving our common goals in field of ICT.
Energy cooperation plays the role of a backbone of regional cooperation processes. It all started when Azerbaijan came up with a new energy strategy and a new vision of energy cooperation. Azerbaijan became an essential partner in ensuring energy security for a wider region. We pioneered diversification of a pipeline infrastructure; we linked Caspian, Black and Mediterranean Seas. Today, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum stand out as symbols of genuine spirit of cooperation. We are working now on a Southern Gas Corridor comprised of a Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and a Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP). We plan to be able to deliver our gas from Shah Deniz field to EU by 2020.Realization of these energy projects will diversify the energy sources, as well as enhance security of energy supply and transportation within the region and beyond.
Maintaining security and stability is a crucial component in building successful society and regional cooperation. Regrettably, since our last meeting stability and security in our region became even more fragile, new conflict hotbeds emerged and prospects of the region’s development were seriously compromised.
Unfortunately, Armenia continues its occupation of 20% of the Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories thus undermining the regional security and stability as well as impedes full-fledged regional cooperation. Armenia went even further in its aggression policy now trying to associate other countries with the illegal occupation through attracting businesses, trade and investments in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
It is very important for our cooperation, that all countries are aware of such intentions of Armenia and reject any type of social, economic and cultural involvement in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. I call all ECO Member States to prevent any attempts to engage in trade, economic and investment activities in or with the regime on occupied territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Withdrawal of Armenian military forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and ensuring the return of the refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes will not only contribute to peace and security in the South Caucasus but also enhance full-fledged intra-regional cooperation.
What is our take on this transport and trade issues? What can guide us on those objectives? Well, we have the Islamabad Summit Declaration and, most recently, the Dushanbe Communique. All the points, which I have mentioned in my remarks, are there. We don’t simply need to reflect on them, we actually should put them into a reality.
One more point, which should not be omitted, our new Secretary General -- Dr. Hadi Soleimanpour, my warmest congratulations to you on your taking charge in the Secretariat. I believe that what I mentioned in my remarks reflects well in your vision about what our Organisation should strive for. We have heard you have a stellar knowledge about the issues of mineral resources, biodiversity, and development. Be it an issue of transport, trade, energy or anything else – your areas of expertise and your skillset will be very important for bringing us closer to the results and more projects in ECO.
Let me please assure you that Azerbaijan has always delegated professionals to work in the Secretariat, and we will be doing so again very soon. Azerbaijan has also always paid its membership fees on time and views that a financial order and disciple must be preserved in ECO. We are brothers and strong partners in ECO, and I understand that there may be few exceptions, but a financial discipline is not an issue of bargaining or reallocation of some positions in the Secretariat.
In conclusion, I would like to wish you success during the meeting and thank once again the organizers of this event.