Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks during a meeting with President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev Baku, May 10, 2021
I would like to thank you for this opportunity to meet with you again. This has become a good tradition of my visits to Azerbaijan, which are becoming increasingly more regular. For my part, I am always glad to welcome my Azerbaijani colleague and friend.
The developments in the region and the tasks set to us by you and by President of Russia Vladimir Putin concerning bilateral relations call for a more regular interaction at all levels. You maintain regular contact with President Putin; you had yet another telephone conversation with him today.
I would like to emphasise once again the importance of preserving the historical memory. It so happened that I have come to Baku on the 98th birth anniversary of your father, Heydar Aliyev, an outstanding leader of Azerbaijan. Soviet people will never forget him. Regarding the victory over Nazism, Heydar Aliyev made a huge contribution to the development of our common Fatherland, which ultimately helped us defeat the Nazi plague. We will never forget Heydar Aliyev’s contribution to dealing with these problems and, in general, to the creation of the Soviet Union’s industrial foundation.
Regular contacts between our presidents are complemented with ties between our heads of government. We are looking forward to the visit of Prime Minister of Azerbaijan Ali Asadov to Russia later this month. The Intergovernmental Commission, co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Alexey Overchuk and Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan Shahin Mustafayev, continues working. Its co-chairs have quickly found a common language and are energetically coordinating measures to restore the upward trend in our mutual trade, which decreased slightly during the coronavirus pandemic but still amounts to nearly $3 billion, which is an impressive result.
We are committed to developing humanitarian, educational and cultural projects. We appreciate your personal attention to the Russian language in Azerbaijan, the operation of Russian universities’ branches and the joint projects being implemented by our universities, including with the involvement of our alma mater, MGIMO University. This is very important.
I would like to stress our sincere desire to promote more effective cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus infection. On May 2, 2021, the first batch of the Sputnik V vaccine was delivered to Azerbaijan. An even larger batch is due later this month. Our relevant agencies are holding practical discussions on localising the manufacturing of the vaccine in Azerbaijan.
We are fully committed to the implementation of the agreements on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement in accordance with the statement by the three countries’ leaders made on November 9, 2020 and the results of the in-person meeting held in Moscow on January 11, 2021. The Russian peacekeeping contingent is working to implement the tasks which you coordinated during these contacts with the leaders of Russia and Armenia. I would like to thank you for your high assessment of the Russian peacekeepers’ efforts. We will continue to do our best to show everyone that the military aspects of the problem have been settled. We must now address our objectives on the ground, namely, delimitation and demarcation. This is not an easy mission, but it can be accomplished. Our military experts and diplomats can come to an agreement on mutually acceptable solutions.
The Interdepartmental Humanitarian Response Centre continues working. The Russian Emergencies Ministry and its Azerbaijani colleagues are helping settle humanitarian problems, rebuild housing and transport infrastructure. The process is ongoing, and people should eventually feel the real improvements on the ground. The deputy prime ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia regularly meet within the framework of the relevant working group to discuss the practical aspects of the three leaders’ agreement regarding the unblocking of economic ties and transport links in the South Caucasus. This mission involves a highly substantive coordination of various routes. Considering the need to balance the interests of all South Caucasus states and their neighbours, which could result in the establishment of a major transport hub of extra-regional significance, there is no doubt that this would greatly strengthen our common positions in the global economy and the logistics network.
We are sincerely interested in normalising relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. We believe that our joint efforts to focus on the economic aspects of settling this drawn-out conflict provide a solid ground for this. We would like to help settle the humanitarian consequences of the war as constructively as possible, including prisoners of war and the protection of historical and religious heritage sites. UNESCO, whose mission is to protect the international cultural heritage, is earnestly contributing to these efforts. We are ready to help create conditions for implementing this mission. Other international organisations are ready to help as well. Relevant agreements must also take into account the positions of the concerned parties.
As for the general context of relations, at this stage, just as in any other conflict or post-conflict situation, some aspects of the current developments are influencing internal political processes. I fully agree with you that unfriendly rhetoric is not helpful. We will try to help create conditions conducive to a successful implementation of the agreements reached by our presidents and the prime minister of Armenia. I hope that today and during our talks in the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan tomorrow we will be able to hold a detailed discussion on all aspects of our bilateral relations that can contribute to the most conscientious and scrupulous implementation of your agreements with President Putin. We will exchange views on the post-conflict settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh and around it. We are ready to encourage our companies to join the reconstruction projects and other planned programmes. We will also discuss a broader regional agenda, including issues related to the Caspian Sea based on the decisions that led to the signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea. We have been working together on a multitude of issues at the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the BSEC. I would also like to thank you as the head of state that currently holds the Chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement for supporting our application for observer status at this organisation.