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Azerbaijan has a strong say in Europe

Interview with  Chairman of the Milli Majlis International and Interparliamentary Relations Committee, head of the Azerbaijani delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Samad Seyidov

Q: Mr. Seyidov, please highlight Azerbaijan`s European integration policy.

A: I think that this process is being carried out in a very logical, well-though out manner, with the core aim of ensuring Azerbaijan`s interests. National leader Heydar Aliyev`s foreign policy has played a crucial role in the development of Azerbaijan-Europe relations. The national leader`s took far-sighted steps on this front, having taken into consideration Azerbaijan`s history, traditions and features of the region. Azerbaijan-Europe relations are a key priority in our foreign policy. This policy is aimed at fostering Azerbaijan`s European integration, bringing European values to the country and, at the same time, pursing the country`s interests.

Q:  President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso has recently paid an official visit to the Republic of Azerbaijan. How do you evaluate the role of the visit in terms of Azerbaijan-European Union relations?

A: Certainly, I praise the results of this visit. Firs of all, because it is a strong signal of importance attached to Azerbaijan by the European Union. You know that it was not the first visit of Jose Manuel Barroso to Azerbaijan as he already visited the country in 2011. The European Commission President praised Azerbaijan’s achievements, saying there have been tremendous changes in the country since his first visit. Azerbaijan needs good relations with the European Union. And the European Union wants to maintain good relations with us much more than we want. Azerbaijan is today one of the countries that ensure Europe`s security system.

Azerbaijan is a model of how Europe should build its relations with the regional countries. During his visit the President of the European Commission praised Azerbaijan`s importance to Europe. He said Let me Azerbaijan is a very important partner for the European Union. “The EU wants to broaden and deepen its relationship with Azerbaijan.  A fixed approach is important within the frameworks of the Eastern Partnership.”
It`s no coincidence that Azerbaijan has become the venue of high-profile international events organized by the world`s leading organizations, including OSCE, PACE and NATO.

I think that the visit of Mr. Barroso was of great importance. As you know on June 27 Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will sign association agreement with the European Union. Let`s look, for example, can Georgia sign the agreement without Azerbaijan`s help and support. Never, because Azerbaijan`s policy is of great help to Georgia`s conducting independent policy. But Europe failed to render this support to Georgia. Europe was incapable of doing something tangible when it came tot eh issue of Georgia`s occupied lands. And Azerbaijan voiced its support to territorial integrity of both Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan at all international organizations.

So Azerbaijan`s policy paves the way for its neighbors, particularly Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to get closer to Europe. This means that Azerbaijan is much closer to Europe than these countries.

Q: EU officials praise Azerbaijan`s role in ensuring Europe`s energy security. However, Azerbaijan sometimes becomes subject of criticism concerning the state of human rights and democracy. How could you explain this?

A: Officials of the European Union praise the contribution of our country to ensuring Europe`s energy security. And the visit of president of the European Commission Mr. Barroso is a strong signal of this. No one can doubt the importance of these projects. Everybody is well aware that these projects are of immense importance not only to the region, but to entire Europe.

But some political circles do not want to see the reality. They envy because Azerbaijan pursues independent policy, has a very string say in Europe. And this, surely, irritates some circles, particularly the Armenian lobby.

But Azerbaijan is moving forward on the path towards development and democratic state building.

Q: How do you think can Azerbaijan-EU energy cooperation foster the organization take a just and principled position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? Unfortunately we again heard common views on the dispute during Mr. Barroso`s trip.

A: But Mr. Barroso expressed his opinion on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict several times. At his speech at the ADA University he responded so several questions, and admitted that the European Union lack principality on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. He said that the conflict was not originated by Europe. He also said that they are aware that there are some other forces behind Armenia.

Unfortunately, deliberate anti-Azerbaijani policy has been carried out in Europe for many years. There are special organizations that are working out special plans and use different methods to carry out an anti-Azerbaijani campaign. This includes disinformation spread through the Internet. They also use human rights organizations to build an impression as if the situation with human rights and democracy is very bad in Azerbaijan. They also mislead international organizations by alleging that Azerbaijan violates the rights of Armenians.

We are well aware of this, and are carrying out preventive measures.

This is caused by Azerbaijan`s growing international prestige, the country`s growing role in Europe.

The OSCE Minsk Group has been operating fro many long years. We say that we here nothing but statements of them. After the Ukraine events Europe felt the danger of separatism. And it is not just the threat to Ukraine, it is a threat to entire Europe. But separatism in Nagorno-Karabakh had started long before in Georgia and Ukraine. Amid these developments the U.S. cop-chair of the Group said it was very important that the efforts to find a solution to the dispute be speeded up. At the same time OSCE chair Ann Brasseur voiced her support for Azerbaijan`s territorial integrity during her last trip to Azerbaijan.

And it`s no coincidence because Azerbaijan`s policy meets the European interest. If we move forward in this direction Europe, the world community will hear our just voice.

Q: Aggressor Armenia is making maneuvers between the European Union and the Eurasian Union. How do you think is the European Union`s treatment of Armenia is adequate?

A: Armenia is not an independent state. It failed to build normal relations with any country. Just imagine, Armenia has four border neighbors. And it has territorial claims against three of them. Such country can have no future. So I think Armenia will not be able to chose its own path. They lack independence, they lack courage. The only thing they can do is committing terror, making territorial claims and earn money through this.

Q: As we know Azerbaijan has taken over the presidency of the Council of Europe. PACE will soon hold its summer session. What is its importance to Azerbaijan?

A: Although it s a rotating presidency, it is a great honor. Azerbaijan will hold the presidency of the Council of Europe for six months. Two sessions of PACE, a summer and a fall session, will take place under Azerbaijan1s presidency.

The upcoming summer session will be attended by the President and the foreign affairs minister of Azerbaijan.

On the first day of the session foreign minister Elmar Mammadyarov will address the event as the president of the Council. The second day of the session will see President Ilham Aliyev make a speech.

As you know Azerbaijan announced a French MP persona non-grata after the parliamentarian visited the occupied lands of Azerbaijan. So PACE was forced to ban Azerbaijan from hosting its events for a two-year term. But the organization immediately raised the issue of reconsidering its decision on the grounds that it was based on a 1949 law. They put themselves in an unpleasant situation. But I believe this will not harm our relations with PACE. The issue will be among our key priorities during our presidency.