Baku, September 2, AZERTAC
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has received credentials of the newly appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Greece Nikolaos Piperigos.
Ambassador Nikolaos Piperigos presented his credentials to President Ilham Aliyev.
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev then spoke with the ambassador.
Ambassador Nikolaos Piperigos: Your Excellency, I would like to take this opportunity to convey to you the personal best wishes of my President and the aspiration of Greece to expand our cooperation in all fields of mutual interest.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you Mr Ambassador, please also convey my greetings to the President of your country. You are in our country for already more than two weeks, as far as I was informed but you already learned some Azerbaijani language. Therefore I am grateful for your address in our language. I hope that you already had time to get acquainted with our city. I hope that during your activity in Azerbaijan you will have a chance to travel around Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan and Greece have a very similar climate. So, I think that this issue with climate situation will be familiar to you. So you will feel comfortable in Azerbaijan. And also, I hope that during the time of your activity in Azerbaijan we will find areas of cooperation which will allow us to concentrate on practical issues. Frankly speaking, last several years, I think, were the years of very low-level of cooperation between us. In the previous times we had more active contacts, and as you know, I visited your country on official visit. Two presidents of Greece visited Azerbaijan on official visit, and your Prime Minister. But after the previous government of Greece came to power these contacts had stopped.
And that was the initiative of the Greek government. So, now actually we don’t have any active contacts. We don’t have exchange of delegations and therefore, we need to think how to plan our cooperation in the future. I will be open with you Mr. Ambassador. Of course, diplomats have their own style of communications. I was studying in the institute which prepared diplomats. Therefore, I know what is diplomatic language. But I think that it is better to know the positions of each other in order to have a clear understanding where we are, what we want, and how we want to move forward. There have been several issues which I think negatively influenced our cooperation. One of them was the issue related with Greek gas company DESFA. I can tell you that our energy company SOCAR joined the tender for purchasing DESFA on the request of the Greek government. Former Prime Minister of Greece Mr. Samaras personally asked me for SOCAR to participate in the tender procedure. And as a result of the open tender procedure, SOCAR made the best offer and won the right to own DESFA. That was also important from the point of view of our plans to build the Southern Gas Corridor. It was about six years ago, I think. At that time, of course, we were only planning to build the connection between Azerbaijan and Europe, and we thought that it would be good idea that if Azerbaijan will supply gas to Greece, it would be good also to have a company which would distribute the gas. Anyway, we made a down-payment of 10 percent of the cost, which was 40 million euros, and for four years – from 2014 until to 2018 – this money was in the possession of the Greek government. Unfortunately, the previous Greek government did everything so that SOCAR lose this right, this legitimate right, which once again, I would like to say again we got based initially on the proposal of the Greek prime minister, and we got this right during the open and competitive tender procedure, but due to political reasons, due to the negative attitude of previous government of Greece towards Azerbaijan we were deprived from this legitimate right. And of course, it seriously influenced our relations, which already were at a very low-level, but after that frankly speaking, we decided just if Greek government treats us like that, then we should also think how we will respond. Our response was actually doing nothing. We did not make any demarche. We did not make any diplomatic step. We just said okay, if they don't want us, if they prefer other companies to be shareholders of DESFA, it is their right, we cannot do anything about that. But, I can tell you that I raised this issue also on several occasions in Brussels, with two former leaders of the European Union – with Mr. Barroso and with Mr. Tusk. I raised this issue because it lasted for four years. I said: Look, we are talking about trust, we are talking about a new agreement between the European Union and Azerbaijan, which the European Union is actively promoting. How can we strengthen trust if our company wins the tender purchasing the Greek company, member of EU company, and then Greek government makes steps? And that step was through approval of new law in your parliament, which made this issue not possible. And then the European Commission also did not approve the deal for four years. I said, tell us “no”, tell us “we do not want you”. But keeping us in this situation for four years is not a sign of partnership.
So that was a very disappointing issue and, of course, it seriously influenced our relations. But again it was not Azerbaijan which initiated that. Azerbaijan always was very supportive to development of ties. And by the way, you definitely know that TAP was not the only option for the transportation of Azerbaijani gas. There were several options where Azerbaijani gas can go after it reaches the Turkish territory. It could have a different direction. But selection of TAP also was a decision made by investors, foreign oil companies and Azerbaijan. In other words, we made from our side a positive gesture towards Greece. But after the previous government came– I want to especially underline it, because before the previous government of Syriza came to power, we had very good relations with the previous government of Greece.
The second issue which I also want to raise with you, so that you hear it from me, not from other sources, is our concern about military cooperation between Armenia, Greece and Cyprus. As you know, Armenia is a country which occupies our territories, committed the act of genocide in Khojaly, made a million of Azerbaijanis homeless, destroyed our historical, cultural and religious monuments, committed the policy of ethnic cleansing on the occupied territories, is violating the international law and is not complying with the UN Security Council resolutions and other organizations. And by the way, two years ago, the European Union and Azerbaijan initialed a document which is called “Partnership Priorities” in which the European Union supports territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan.
In other words, Armenia behaves in an aggressive way. Recent tensions on the state border were provoked by Armenia. Recent attempt to conduct act of terror, where Armenian officer was captured when he penetrated the line, crossed the line of contact and he already made a confession, that his group was aimed to attack our military servicemen and civilians. In other words Armenia is enemy of Azerbaijan, and that was their decision.
So, of course, close military cooperation of Armenia with any country is of concern and probably you know about our reaction to the intensive supply of weapons from Russia to Armenia right after the Armenian provocation on the border. The active clashes stopped on July 16, and started from July 17 until yesterday – yesterday was the last flight – there have been numerous cargo flights from Russia to Armenia through the Caspian littoral states’ airspace. So, it is not only I am telling to you. We also raised this issue with our Russian partners that military cooperation with Armenia is something which we are concerned of, because it possesses the existential threat to Azerbaijan because using these weapons they kill our military servicemen, they kill civilians.
This trilateral form of cooperation is of concern. Of course, every country does what it thinks is right. Therefore, we are not in a position to block it in any way or prevent it. But I think it would be good that if you hear from me that this is issue of concern, and I also explained why. It is not Azerbaijan that occupies Armenian territory – it is Armenia which occupies Azerbaijan’s territory which is reflected in the documents of all international organizations.
And the last thing which I also want to raise is the recent tensions between Turkey and Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean. I can tell you, and it is not a secret, that Turkey is not only friend and partner, it is our brotherly country. And we support and will support Turkey in all the cases without any hesitation. And we see the same support from the side of our Turkish brothers. They support Azerbaijan in all the issues, and we support them in all the issues, including in the issue of their exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean. I want you to know our position. This position was already officially articulated by the Azerbaijani authorities on my instructions. I can tell you once again that Turkey for us is not just a friend, it is a brotherly country and the Turks are our brothers. So we will be always with them on all the issues.
I want to find something positive just to raise but, unfortunately, I cannot find. Probably, we hope that the new government of Greece, which took the position recently, will reconsider the policy of the previous government towards Azerbaijan and we can restart communications and talking on the issues which can create some positive dynamics. But of course, it will depend on the policy and position of the Greek government. I think I will conclude now and we will give a chance to you to say what you think is right.
Ambassador Nikolaos Piperigos: Your Excellency, thank you for your remarks related to the state of the Greek-Azerbaijani relations. I have listened to you very carefully and will communicate your words to my government. The government was changed last year. There are many issues across all sectors that our government needs to address. This government has a good outreach. I believe that there are many more aspects that bring Greece and Azerbaijan together. For example, respect for international law, as it is well known that Greece has long been a strong supporter of international law.
Of course, several years ago our cooperation was developing well. However, the new government will do whatever is necessary to find the best ways to reach out to you. I also want to note that, in our opinion, your country and our country are very interesting countries carrying out trilateral and bilateral cooperation. You have ample experience, you even have experience in trilateral diplomacy. We also have very successful trilateral diplomacy with many important countries, in particular in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Always and fully observing international law, we try not to harm relations with Azerbaijan, and we would like to see the same from your side as much as possible. However, it seems to me that since our new government has been given time to find opportunities to improve relations with your government, the future of our cooperation may be more successful. I can say this much for now.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.
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