Jeyhun Bayramov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan addressed at the 42nd Meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the BSEC Member States.

“I would like to start with congratulating Romania for the efficient chairmanship, with full appreciation to the Romanian delegation efforts to coordinate and address many important issues on the BSEC agenda. I am also pleased to welcome the Republic of North Macedonia as our 13th Member. This membership will strengthen the relations between the Republic of North Macedonia and BSEC Member States creating opportunities for increased collaboration in areas of common interest.

Our organization was established to transform the Black Sea into the region of peace, stability and prosperity with a shared vision of the future and through mutual cooperation. BSEC has become an important platform to enhance opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation in areas such as trade, energy, transport, tourism, just to name a few.

It is encouraging that many important initiatives have been announced, but even greater cooperation is fundamental to ensuring these initiatives produce practical results to the benefit of our people. By facilitating interaction within various working groups and boosting sectoral and public-private cooperation, BSEC can help the Member States to tackle the multiple effects of the COVID crisis and to build back better.

On its part, Azerbaijan has been continuously working towards strengthening and facilitating the regional cooperation. My country plays an active role in boosting the Caspian Sea – Black Sea cooperation through concrete initiatives. Energy, transport, ICT, trade and SMEs are among our key priorities and we look forward to deepening our collaboration in the BSEC’s related and sectorial bodies and affiliated organizations. We do hope that Albania, as the next Chairman in Office will promote cooperation through result oriented efforts.

COVID-19 pandemic continues to inflict economic losses. It also offers an opportunity to foster regional trade, promote private sector and support resilient growth. With a renewed focus on trade, investment and growth, we can contribute to a swift and sustainable socio-economic recovery in the BSEC region.

We should also continue our work in fostering better connectivity in the wider Black sea region through improved infrastructure and better connected transport corridors. In this context, it is important to redouble efforts to facilitate transit, digitalize the operations and eliminate the regulatory and procedural barriers to transport and trade.

Through the backbone railway line Baku-Tbilisi-Kars, Baku International Sea Trade Port, along with an ambitious investor-friendly Alat Free Economic Zone, Azerbaijan continues its practical contribution to the development of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, Lapis Lazuli transport route, as well as, North-South, South-West and North-West trade routes, aimed at increasing transit capacity of the entire region.

Four and half years after the inauguration of construction works, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline commenced commercial operations. This development allows us to build on the success of the Southern Gas Corridor. We are closely working with the EU in order to extend gas supply geography. This project, which brings several BSEC Member States together, not just enhances the energy security, but it will also play a critical role in transition to a net-zero emission energy system in Europe.

Conflicts, prolonged foreign occupation and the lack of accountability endanger peace and security. They also hamper regional cooperation. It is my pleasure to inform the Council that the Statement signed on November 9 by the President of Azerbaijan, President of Russia and Prime Minister of Armenia opened a new page in the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Armenia is withdrawing its armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani is restoring its territorial integrity and sovereignty. The peacekeeping force is being deployed and the joint ceasefire monitoring center is being established in the former conflict zone.

We are entering a new stage, a stage of reconstruction and rehabilitation, a stage of restoration of peaceful co-existence. New opportunities for development and cooperation are emerging and BSEC should assess and take advantage of the new realities.

As reflected in the joint statement by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia on the resolution of the Karabakh conflict, all economic and transport links in the region are unblocked. It means that a vital independent land corridor can now become operational enabling our region to strengthen its role in trade between Asia and Europe.

There is so much that Azerbaijan can offer and already offers to all its partners. Our initiatives which bring together BSEC Member States and enable to build a shared prosperous future are the best examples of our interest and capacity to expand and deepen regional cooperation. We are ready for future collaboration.