President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev received a delegation led by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov on May 10, Report informs, citing Azertag.

According to AZERTAC, welcoming the guests, President Ilham Aliyev said:

– Dear Sergey Viktorovich, I am glad to welcome you to Baku again. Just on the eve of your arrival, I recalled your previous visit and our meeting. I am glad that six months after your last visit to Baku, we can state with satisfaction that the positive dynamics in our relations continues. I had a telephone conversation with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin earlier today. We congratulated each other personally on our common Victory, on the Victory over fascism, and reaffirmed common approaches in connection with attempts to glorify fascists, fascist henchmen, and also noted the contribution of our ancestors to this great Victory, which allowed the world the opportunity to escape from fascism and liberated many peoples of Europe and the world.

Also, as you know, we have a constant dialogue and regular contacts with Vladimir Vladimirovich. We actively interact both within the framework of the bilateral agenda and within the framework of the situation related to post-conflict development in our region. I must say that the current situation, the post-conflict situation, of course, dictates the need for closer contacts at all levels. I also know that you have very close contacts with your Azerbaijani counterpart. All this leads to the fact that we are witnessing positive development, the strengthening of security, the

strengthening of stability, the minimization of the risk of renewed hostilities and the desire to turn this page, the black page of our history.

In any case, Azerbaijan is ready for this. Numerous high-level statements testify to our position in terms of the development of communication projects, which were also mentioned in the Statement on the results of the war in November, and extensive work is underway in this direction. As you know, the meeting of the Russian-Azerbaijani intergovernmental commission held in Moscow recently, two weeks ago, had a broad bilateral agenda. Also, a trilateral meeting of deputy prime ministers of the three countries was held, and I think significant steps were taken to implement an important item of the joint declaration – the opening of transport corridors. For our part, we are working extensively to restore the railway and road infrastructure. We have outlined specific deadlines and will try to meet them, so that this project becomes operational in the near future.

Azerbaijan shows goodwill in matters related to humanitarian issues. I must say that since the end of hostilities, we have transferred all the prisoners of war we had held as a result of the war. Since the end of hostilities, during these six months, we, together with peacekeepers and representatives of the Armenian side, have found and handed over to the Armenian side about 1,600 bodies of Armenian servicemen in the territory liberated from the occupation. For comparison, I will say that after the first Karabakh war, during all the years of occupation, not a single body of a missing Azerbaijani serviceman was handed over to us by the Armenian side, and we have about 4,000 of them. Also, taking into account the humanitarian aspect of the future development of events, as you know, we are providing unhindered communication between settlements of the Republic of Armenia along the road located in the liberated territories. A section of this road more than 20 kilometers in length is currently used by Armenian citizens. And there are no obstacles or difficulties in that. This is also a manifestation of the goodwill of the Azerbaijani side.

As you know, on the suggestion of the Russian side and with the consent of Azerbaijan, gas from Russia to Armenia was transported through the territory of Azerbaijan for a long time, I think for one month, due to the repairs on the Russian territory. It was also a gesture of goodwill aimed at normalizing the post-conflict situation. There are many such examples. I don’t want to take up your time with this. I would simply like to say that for our part, we are doing everything not only in word but also in deed to ensure that the post-conflict situation proceeds in a calm atmosphere, without any anxiety and taking into account the need to build future relations in the South Caucasus region on the basis of stability and predictability.

Along with this, I would also like to express my position in connection with what is happening in Armenia, in particular, the growing Azerbaijanophobia trends, which, in my opinion, are the only factor today that holds the government and the opposition in Armenia together. The anti-Azerbaijani hysteria has already crossed all boundaries, and it is completely unfounded. Some of the facts that took place in the region, which I have cited, are evidence of our intention, the intention to turn the page even though this is not easy to do for purely emotional and psychological reasons. Almost everything in the liberated territories is destroyed. International experts and journalists call Aghdam the “Hiroshima of the Caucasus”. There is not a single sound building in the city of Fuzuli. And while visiting the liberated territories, one can observe complete destruction. Houses, public buildings, religious monuments, more than 60 mosques, cemeteries, etc. were destroyed in the liberated territories during the occupation. Therefore, despite such devastating results of the occupation, the results we could not even imagine because we did not have access to these territories, Azerbaijan still demonstrates common sense and the need to think about the future.

Therefore, the processes taking place in Armenia, including the statements by various political forces about the possibility of re-occupying a part of the internationally recognized Azerbaijani territory, statements reeking of revanchism, are very dangerous, of course, and first of all for the Armenian side because the second Karabakh war clearly demonstrated what this policy of hatred and Azerbaijanophobia had led to. Therefore, we very much look forward to continuing, in cooperation with Russia, our strategic partner, to work hard on normalizing the situation in the region. From the point of view of the military aspect, we can consider the situation to have already been normalized, but from the point of view of political, economic, transport and other aspects of future interaction, of course, there is a lot to be done. Naturally, we hope that Russia, as our friend, strategic partner, neighbor, as a country whose peacekeepers are currently in the territory of Azerbaijan, will continue to contribute to the reduction of tensions and the prevalence of a more sober approach on the Armenian side.

As regards our bilateral relations again, I am sure that the new situation that has arisen in the South Caucasus is already imparting new features to our relations. We actively cooperate as close neighbors and good friends, and these close contacts, including your visit today, is further confirmation of this.

I am pleased to see you. Welcome again!

Х Х Х

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said:

– Thank you very much, dear Ilham Heydar oglu. Thank you for another opportunity to be received by you. This has already become a good tradition during my visits to Azerbaijan, and visits are becoming more regular, as you have noted. In my turn, I am always glad to receive my Azerbaijani colleague and friend. Indeed, the situation not only in Karabakh, but also in the region as a whole, the tasks you set together with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin with regard to our bilateral relations require more frequent communication, and this is happening at all levels. You are in constant touch with Vladimir Vladimirovich and had another telephone conversation today. Of course, I want to once again emphasize the importance we attach to the preservation of historical memory. It so happened that I am visiting Baku on the 98th anniversary of the birth of your father, Heydar Alirza oglu Aliyev, the great leader of Azerbaijan, a man who will always remain in the memory of all Soviet people. If we talk about the Victory over fascism, he made a huge contribution to building the potential of our then common Motherland, which ultimately made it possible to defeat this brown plague. We always remember the contribution Heydar Alirza oglu made to the solution of these problems and, in general, to the creation of the industrial base of the Soviet Union.

As for today, in addition to the regular contacts at the level of presidents, the heads of government are also working in this direction. We are expecting the Prime Minister of Azerbaijan to visit the Russian Federation this month. There is an intergovernmental commission headed by deputy prime ministers, who quickly found a common language and, in my estimation, are effectively agreeing further steps to restore the growth of trade, which fell slightly during the coronavirus infection. But it is at the level of almost $3 billion, which is a very serious result.

We are also focused on the comprehensive development of humanitarian, educational and cultural projects. We very much appreciate the constant attention you are personally paying to the position of the Russian language in Azerbaijan, the operation of branches of Russian universities, joint programs between our universities, including those with the participation of MGIMO, our common alma-mother. This is very important indeed.

I would also like to emphasize our sincere desire to ensure more effective interaction in the fight against the coronavirus infection. The first batch of Sputnik V vaccine arrived in Azerbaijan just a few days ago. More significant shipments are expected later this month. Our relevant ministries are conducting a substantive conversation about establishing the production of this vaccine in Azerbaijan, given the availability of a technological base here.

Just like you, we are also fully committed to the implementation of the agreements on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement in accordance with the statement of the three leaders on 9 November and in accordance with the results of your meeting in Moscow on 11 January. Our peacekeeping contingent is carrying out the tasks you agreed on during these contacts with the leaderships of Russia and Armenia, and we are grateful for the high assessment of the role of our peacekeepers. We will do everything to ensure that, as you stressed, everyone proceeds from the fact that the military aspects are over with. We now need to deal with details on the ground. There are issues related to delimitation, demarcation, not everything is simple but everything can be solved. We are convinced that military experts with the participation of diplomats can agree on mutually acceptable solutions.

A humanitarian response center operates in conjunction with our Ministry of Emergency Situations. Together with their counterparts from Azerbaijan, they help to resolve humanitarian issues, restore housing and transport infrastructure. People need to feel this. This process is already going forward, a real improvement on the ground. And three deputy prime ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, within the framework of the working group set up by the leaders of the three countries, regularly meet and examine practical aspects related to the agreement of the leaders on unblocking all economic and transport communications in the South Caucasus, which, of course, is associated with very substantive comparisons of different routes. But we have no doubts that if we take into account the need to achieve a balance of interests of all South Caucasus states and their neighbors, and this is a potentially very serious transport hub that will have a value far beyond the regional framework, then we can very significantly strengthen our positions, our common positions in the modern and global economy and the logistical chain.

Of course, I want to emphasize that we are sincerely interested in the normalization of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. We believe that joint work focused on the economic aspects of overcoming the protracted conflict creates the best framework for this, and, of course, issues related to resolving the humanitarian consequences of the war. You have mentioned prisoners of war and the unacceptability of abuse related to the historical heritage, religious heritage. We do want to help resolve all this as constructively as possible. UNESCO, as an organization responsible for the preservation of international cultural heritage, is interested in participating in these efforts. We are ready to help create the conditions that will make this possible. There are other international organizations which are also ready to help. Of course, we must take into account the position of the interested parties regarding this. And if we take into account the overall context of relations, then I completely agree with you that, perhaps as is the case in any other conflict and post-conflict situation, there are aspects at this stage that are related to the projection of everything that is happening on the internal political processes. But I agree with you 100 percent, dear Ilham Heydar oglu, that the rhetoric that is so unconstructive and unfriendly is not of any help at all. We will strive to contribute to ensuring that the agreements reached by the two presidents and the prime minister of Armenia are implemented in the conditions conducive to constructive results.

I do hope that during the talks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today and tomorrow we will be able to discuss in detail all the tasks that stem from our bilateral relations in order to fulfill your agreements with the President of the Russian Federation as conscientiously and scrupulously as possible. We will exchange views on the processes of post-conflict settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh and around it. By the way, we will be ready to encourage our companies in every possible way to participate in the restoration work, in the programs that are planned. And, of course, we will exchange views on a broader regional theme, on the Caspian problems based on the decisions that made it possible to sign the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian. In addition, we have a large number of joint activities in the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. I am afraid I might miss something, but I would like to separately express my gratitude to you as the head of the state that currently chairs the Non-Aligned Movement for supporting our application for an observer status in this organization.