Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following a meeting with President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, Baku, November 21, 2020
The Russian interagency delegation has completed talks with President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev; the visit also included consultations in a restricted format. The most important outcome of the meetings was that the sides reaffirmed the relevance of, and the lack of an alternative to the November 9 agreement reached by the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. The agreement stopped the bloodshed and paved the way for a long-term settlement of the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev today specifically underscored the need for the consistent implementation, in good faith, of all the provisions of the joint trilateral statement.
Furthermore, our approaches fully coincide with regard to the need to create the right conditions for the restoration of interfaith and interethnic peace, coexistence and reconciliation. We have discussed several specific initiatives that we will implement jointly with the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides.
We are interested in the greater involvement of international organisations from the UN system and the ICRC in solving humanitarian problems while working together with Russian peacekeepers, with the Interdepartmental Humanitarian Response Centre. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has made specific proposals on how to make this work more effective. We discussed these today with interest. We will continue to work together on this track.
As for the more general bilateral agenda, we have noted an intensive progressive development of our strategic partnership and outlined some specific steps towards resuming offline events as soon as the coronavirus situation improves. I am referring to the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation, the Russian-Azerbaijani Interregional Forum, the Baku International Humanitarian Forum and the Russian-Azerbaijani Youth Forum.
We have a rich toolkit for the enhancement of bilateral cooperation and we will use it vigorously in the future.
We have discussed cooperation on international platforms such as the UN and the OSCE where we have coinciding positions on most key issues. We also have joint projects within the BSEC and the five Caspian countries.
We consider the results of the talks very rewarding; we have good reason to report to President of Russia Vladimir Putin that his instructions for the delegation’s visit to Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fulfilled. We will sum it up and report our assessment, which, I hope, will form the basis for further decisions on the improvement of our ties.
Question: Earlier, the Russian special services announced that the United States and its NATO allies are trying to undermine the November 9 agreements and oust Russia from the South Caucasus. Have you discussed this with your partners in Baku and Yerevan? What did they say? Was this issue raised at your meeting with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs in Moscow?
Sergey Lavrov: At the beginning of today's talks in Baku, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev mentioned that not everyone had welcomed the agreements reached on November 9. We have also noted attempts to question them, but I do not think they will be successful. Firstly, because the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, which include the United States along with Russia and France, have repeatedly stressed the need to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh problem on the basis of these very principles that are now being materialised in the development and implementation of the trilateral joint statement of November 9. Secondly – we always emphasise this, in relation to this conflict and with any other one, and we mentioned it again during the visit to Moscow by our French and American colleagues, the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group – people are what matters most. People should not be dying, they should not lose their lives in bloody wars; they need a peaceful life; religions and cultures should coexist peacefully; people representing different ethnic and religious backgrounds should live side by side in peace and security. If we put this concept at the forefront, then I see no reason or opportunity to interpret the November 9 agreements in a negative way or to question them. But, if we put geopolitical ambitions first, then we will not be able to do anything. So we will firmly reject such attempts and concentrate on the implementation of agreements that meet the fundamental interests of the peoples living in that region.
Question: The trilateral statement calls for the unblocking of economic and transport ties in the region. What do you think this clause can contribute to the further expansion of economic cooperation between the countries in the region?
Sergey Lavrov: I think this is one of the key points. We spoke about this in detail today. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev is sincerely committed to realising the opportunities that should open up once the transport, economic, and infrastructure links and projects are resumed. There are some vital routes that intersect in that region, such as the North-South and East-West corridors. The Turkish and Iranian sides use them as well. Once the restrictions that have blocked them for almost 30 years are lifted, the prospects will be very, very impressive. With all these links opened up, the region's economy will start breathing deeply, which will definitely help ensure decent living conditions for the local people, and fast. This will also be the most important material prerequisite for interfaith and interethnic peace, which is one of the key objectives of our efforts in the immediate future.
Question: Turkey is obviously playing an increasingly significant role in the South Caucasus region. How is Moscow going to develop its relations with Baku, taking into account the Turkish factor? Are there any fears that Russia might be gradually ousted from the region?
Sergey Lavrov: President of Russia Vladimir Putin fully covered this topic in an interview on November 17. Turkey is a major factor in several regions, including this one, as well as our partner in many areas. The sovereign Azerbaijan is also fully entitled to choose its foreign policy allies in the same way as sovereign Armenia chooses its own. So perhaps, the art of politics lies in promoting any initiatives while taking into consideration the entirety of factors that influence the situation in a particular region.
The eventual success of the protracted and difficult negotiations with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, held at President Vladimir Putin’s initiative, was largely due to the realistic assessments expressed by all the parties. We have agreed in principle with the Turkish side to establish a Russian-Turkish monitoring centre in Azerbaijan, and that country supported the initiative. The idea is to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire regime in and around Nagorno-Karabakh remotely, using advanced technology tools. This will be an additional factor to ensure a sustainable ceasefire, in which Russian peacekeepers will play a key role.
Question: On November 10, a joint statement was signed by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. How do you assess the significance of this document?
Sergey Lavrov: This document is key to the establishment of peace in that region after almost 30 years of frozen conflict. The statement fully meets the interests of the Azerbaijani and Armenian populations. It is aimed at creating the conditions that will allow people who have always lived there to return to peaceful coexistence and a safe life side by side, regardless of their ethnic background or religious affiliation. This is what matters the most.