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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon.
Deputy General Director of Aztv Faik Gusiyev: Mr President, we know that the President of Azerbaijan has congratulated you and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on your party’s solid victory in the State Duma election. We add our congratulations too.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you very much.
Faik Gusiyev: Thank you for finding the time to give our television channel this interview.
The relations between Russia and Azerbaijan go back many centuries. How do you assess the state of our relations and the pace of their development today?
Dmitry Medvedev: I think our relations are excellent, very good indeed. They are what we call a strategic partnership. We see this in all areas, in every sector, starting from the economy, where our ties are in a very good situation. Our bilateral trade is growing and will come to around $3 billion this year – the highest figure over our recent history. Incidentally, our bilateral trade is up 60 percent. This indicates systemic growth driven not just by the goods that traditionally make up a large part of our trade, energy resources, for example, but also by increasing diversification.
We are involved in industrial and agriculture sector cooperation and also supply to each other machinery and equipment of all sorts that we produce, and our trade in this sense presents a healthy and fully developed picture indeed.
We also have an excellent situation in our humanitarian ties and organise all manner of joint events and activities. It is enough to mention the recent Baku Humanitarian Forum, an excellently organised event that made its contribution to developing the cooperation between our countries. We were very pleased to take part in it. There are many other events that take place in Moscow and other cities around Russia and in Baku and other cities in Azerbaijan.
I therefore see our relations as a genuine and full-fledged strategic partnership and friendship. There are no unresolved issues in our relations. I think they provide a model for what relations between countries can be like.
Faik Gusiyev: Russia is one of the countries co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group. The presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia have met at your personal initiative. What chances do you see for settling the Nagorno Karabakh conflict?
Dmitry Medvedev: What road is there? I see only one road – to reach an agreement. There is no alternative to agreement. There is only a bad alternative – war. And so the only thing to do is reach an agreement.
As for the chances, I have devoted quite a lot of attention to this issue, perhaps more than anyone. I have made mediation efforts over the last few years that have resulted in eight trilateral meetings taking place, bringing the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia together. I took part in these talks too. I think this work has produced results. It has made it possible to bring the respective positions closer together, and also to directly address the issues on which the parties still differ when it comes to a settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The two sides have been able to set out their views and arguments in all frankness and honesty and this is part of the mediator’s work, to take part and make this happen.
This is all the more so as the Russian Federation and the other Minsk Group members are making every possible effort in this direction. I discussed this subject recently with the other members of the Minsk Group, with US President Barack Obama, and with French President Nicholas Sarkozy.
My answer is therefore that much has been accomplished over these last years to bring the parties’ positions closer together. There are certainly hopes that an agreement can be reached. I have said this before. I think this is perhaps the only conflict in the post-Soviet area that could be settled today. Everything depends on the parties’ goodwill and on their ability and willingness to listen to each other. Let’s be honest, there are never any simple solutions. Any agreement will inevitably involve compromises. In other words, each side has to be ready to take this road. Russia will continue to help in these efforts. I spoke about this just yesterday with President Ilham Aliyev, actually, when he called me to congratulate me on the election result.
Faik Gusiyev: You have met with the President of Azerbaijan many times. What can you say about him as a person and a politician?
Dmitry Medvedev: It is with pleasure that I will say a few words about him. Our contacts and he personally have always made the best of impressions on me. I say this not just to be polite, knowing this is an Azerbaijani television channel, but in all sincerity.
Why do I say this? It is always a pleasure to meet with him. He is a thoughtful, well-informed, and very decent interlocutor, who always sets out his views very clearly, defending Azerbaijan’s national interests, of course, as the country’s president. At the same time, he knows how to listen and how to compromise on some issues when it is in the interests of interstate relations. This makes it a pleasure to have contact with him. I cannot say just how pleasing it is when the person with whom you are dealing knows how to listen to what you are saying. He has this ability, he knows how to state his own case, and he is a modern-thinking person in general. I like this.
I always find it a pleasure to have contact with people of my own era, if you will. In this sense, perhaps it is easier for me to find a common language with him than with some other colleagues, for all that I respect and value them, but nonetheless, we have different historical backgrounds, whereas Mr Aliyev and I have quite similar backgrounds, a similar educational background too, and this always helps in communication.
I therefore always take pleasure in my contacts with Mr Aliyev, who is a worthy successor to the work begun by his father, President Heydar Aliyev, who made a huge contribution to Azerbaijan’s development and to the friendly ties between our countries. I therefore send him my greetings and my best wishes.
Faik Gusiyev: Thank you very much.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.