President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen,
As you may remember, in mid-August President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and I took part in the Caspian Summit, where an extremely important convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea was signed. Today I am very glad to have this opportunity to meet with President of the Republic of Azerbaijan during his visit to our country.
The talks, which were held in a constructive and business-like atmosphere, have just ended. I would like to stress that Russia and Azerbaijan are bound by strong traditions of friendship and cooperation. The relationship between our states is a partnership that is mutually beneficial and is based on the principles of neighbourly relations and respect for each other’s interests.
I am convinced that today’s talks, in which the heads of our key agencies and business leaders took part, will give an additional impetus to further developing the entire complex of Russian-Azerbaijani relations. This is the aim of the joint statement the President of Azerbaijan and I have signed along with a substantial set of intergovernmental and interdepartmental agreements. First of all, I would like to highlight the Action Plan on Developing Key Areas of Cooperation. This programme document includes roadmaps on such important issues as increasing trade and mutual investments, creating new transport routes and expanding humanitarian cooperation, including cultural and tourism exchanges.
As for bilateral economic ties, they are developing very actively. The Russia-Azerbaijan trade grew by nearly 35 percent in 2017 to reach $2.5 billion. Russia’s direct capital investments in Azerbaijan have amounted to $1.5 billion. There are around 700 joint enterprises operating on the Azerbaijani market, and around one third of them have 100 percent Russian capital.
Contacts between the business communities are growing, including between small and medium-sized businesses. Only last year the Russia-Azerbaijan business council rendered support to 42 joint projects worth a total of over $450 million.
Many Russian energy companies, such as Gazprom, Transneft and LUKOIL, are working successfully in Azerbaijan. In general, the energy systems of both Russia and Azerbaijan are functioning in an integrated mode. Cooperation in the industrial sector is deepening. I would like to mention some successful joint projects that Mr President and I have discussed.
For instance, KAMAZ has set up the production of license trucks and their maintenances at Ganja Auto Plant. The Russian company R-Pharm invested $74 million in the construction of an enterprise in Azerbaijan that will produce pharmaceuticals. The enterprise will open in 2019. Gazprombank is taking part in the development of Sumgayit Chemical Industrial Park. Investments amount to around $750 million.
The North-South transport corridor, which will connect Western European markets with Asian producers, is considered to be one of the most important projects. This will allow substantially increasing the speed of freight transportation from South Asia and the Middle East through Iran to Europe. The total length of this corridor will exceed 7,000 kilometres. It will include railway, ferry and automobile communication. Yet the substantial part of the North-South corridor will pass through Russia and Azerbaijan. I would like to underline that the work on some sections of the route is already underway. Next year our countries intend to finish the construction of the bridge over Samur, a border river.
We discussed interregional cooperation as well. More than 70 constituent entities of the Russia Federation support economic ties with Azerbaijan, and around 17 entered into framework agreements on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation. This October there will be another interregional meeting, a regular interregional forum, and we have just discussed it. We planned to hold it in Ganja, but our friends may arrange it in Baku.
We were glad to highlight the active bilateral contacts in culture and education. More than 11,000 Azerbaijani students are studying in Russia, around one thousand of them have their tuition fees covered out of the federal budget of the Russian Federation. More than 200 scholarships have been awarded to Azerbaijani students.
Meetings of the Baku International Humanitarian Forum, which was established upon the initiative of the Presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan, are held on a regular basis. The sixth session of the forum to be held at the end of the year in Baku is expected to attract more than 500 participants.
Of course, we shared opinions on international and regional matters. In particular we touched upon the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Russia, as a co-chairman of the Minsk Group, will continue to render all possible assistance to the peaceful settlement of this conflict.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the President of Azerbaijan and all our Azerbaijani friends and colleagues for the substantial and effective talks. I am convinced that the agreements we reached will serve to further consolidate the Russian-Azerbaijani friendship, and promote the development of mutually beneficial cooperation for the benefit of our nations.
Thank you for your attention.
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, Mr President, I would like to thank you for the invitation to visit Russia, for your hospitality and a warm reception.
As you said, we meet on a regular basis. We met three times over the last three months. We had a meeting in June in Moscow, ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, then again in August in Kazakhstan, and today in Sochi. I would like to take this opportunity to once again congratulate Russia on the successful holding of a global event and the Russian national team’s excellent performance at the World Cup.
Regular contacts between our countries’ heads of state give an impetus to our relations, which are built a very solid foundation.
Relations between Russia and Azerbaijan are a strategic partnership. They cover all spheres of our life. Today, during my visit we discussed in great detail many aspects of our bilateral relations and issues on the international agenda. Mr President spoke about it in detail.
I would like to highlight that especially important among the issues we discussed is the issue of regional security, in particular the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which has lasted for a very long time and has caused enormous suffering for the people of Azerbaijan.
For many years, the internationally recognised territory of Azerbaijan has been occupied by Armenia. More than a million of Azerbaijani citizens became refugees and displaced persons as a result of the conflict. The prompt settlement of the conflict will allow our citizens to return to their historic homeland and will bring peace, stability and cooperation to our region.
Russia, as a co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, which deals with the settlement of the conflict, plays an important role in the process. Russia is our neighbour, historical partner and friend. We hope that Russia will continue to make every effort to settle the conflict.
We looked closely at economic issues and were satisfied to note the growth in trade and positive outlook for the future. The matters we discussed and agreed today, in particular, the roadmaps on different areas of economic cooperation, will allow us to further boost trade between our countries, which is already very active. This year, despite last year’s rapid growth, trade continued to grow. Russia is Azerbaijan’s top partner in terms of imports and is number one recipient of Azerbaijan’s non-oil exports. This testifies to the scale and importance of cooperation between our countries.
Many investment projects Mr President mentioned are being implemented and are very promising. In general, we expect an increase in trade and the economy, the consolidation of integration ties and creation of even better conditions for cooperation between our companies.
Of course, transport projects play an important role. Russia and Azerbaijan are neighbours, we are connected by both railways and motorways, as well as very active air transportation, both passenger and cargo. We discussed in detail the future steps to create new transport opportunities for our countries and for our neighbours.
Mr President highlighted the importance of the North-South project. Azerbaijan, for its part, has already implemented all important infrastructure projects in this area. This year, the North-South route will transport one hundred times more cargos than last year. And this is only the beginning because this large-scale global project will cover many countries and continents. Therefore, transport opportunities of our countries will increase and thousands of new jobs will be created.
Today we signed important documents on cooperation in the oil and gas sector, a traditional sphere of our cooperation that has an excellent potential.
Mr President mentioned the active participation of Russian banks in the implementation of many important transport, infrastructure and industrial projects in Azerbaijan. We welcome this.
Today we discussed further military-technical cooperation, which has very rich traditions. The contracts implemented by Russia and Azerbaijan, to be more specific, the military goods bought by Azerbaijan from Russia, are worth over $5 billion and continue to grow because Azerbaijan continues to modernise its armed forces and Russia is a very important global producer and supplier of military products to the international markets.
Cooperation in the humanitarian sphere had a very special place in our discussion. People in Azerbaijan have a caring attitude towards Russian culture, the Russian language, and everything that unites our people and has united them for centuries. There are more than 340 schools in Azerbaijan where the language of instruction is Russian, and there are two branches of leading Russian universities. Today we discussed further steps to consolidate cooperation in the humanitarian sphere, in education and culture, and the documents we signed, including in the sphere of sport, will continue to unite our countries and people more and more.
In other words the relations between our countries are friendly and neighbourly, a full-fledged partnership, as it should be between good friends and neighbours.
I would like to once again express my gratitude to Mr President for the exchange of opinions, and I would like to invite you to visit Azerbaijan at any time convenient to you.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.