JAMES APPATHURAI (Spokesman, NATO): Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary General and the President will each make a brief opening statement, and we'll have time for questions. Secretary General...
JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General, NATO): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is, I can say again, a great pleasure for the North Atlantic Council and for me as Secretary General to receive President Aliyev of Azerbaijan, I say again at the North Atlantic Council.
Azerbaijan, a valued partner of NATO. Fifteen years in the partnership for peace, and since 2005 on the basis of an individual partnership action plan. It goes without saying that Azerbaijan is a very important player in the region, but also beyond, as a nation which is crucial in the very important area of energy, and energy security is a highly valued and highly respected partner of NATO. We are building on that cooperation. We are building on that partnership. I would like to commend President Aliyev on the important contribution Azerbaijan is making in the framework of our ISAF operation in Afghanistan. We'll build on that. We'll work on that.
President Aliyev and I go back some years also in our personal relationship. Why am I saying this? Because as former chairman in office of the OSCE, more than as NATO Secretary General of course, I express the hope and I want to do that once again, that a solution for the conflict, the problem in Nagorno-Karabakh will be found on the basis of an important principle which was underlined again by the NATO Heads of State and Government at their summit in Strasbourg and Kehl at the beginning of this month, on the basis of the most important principle I do know, and that is the principle of territorial integrity.
We heard a very interesting exposé by President Aliyev, of course of the situation Azerbaijan, of the energy situation in the region, of the political situation in the region. It goes without saying that President Aliyev paid attention to Nagorno-Karabakh. It was a pleasure to have you here, Mr. President, and it is a pleasure to give you the floor.
ILHAM ALIYEV (President, Azerbaijan): Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary General. Thank you very much for invitation. For me it's a big pleasure to be back here and to meet with you and have an opportunity to address the Council.
First of all I'd like to thank you personally, Mr. Secretary General, for your contribution to NATO-Azerbaijan relations, and we know each other for many years, and your activity as a secretary general, NATO was a strengthened organization, and at the same time created very good opportunities for countries like Azerbaijan to become closer, to be involved in the events. As I mention today, only last year almost in 200 events, Azerbaijan participated in the framework of our cooperation with NATO. We highly value this partnership. Azerbaijan is redoubling its military presence in Afghanistan. We will continue to contribute to the common cause of peace, stability, security, anti-terror operations in our region and worldwide.
And today among the issues which were discussed of course was mainly relations between NATO and Azerbaijan, and also regional situation. We are very grateful to NATO for its firm position on the settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh. Conflict based on the principles of territorial integrity. This is a very good message to the region, and I think only based on these principles, we can move forward on the resolution of the conflict.
We discussed today energy security and energy cooperation, and we cannot consider general security of the region regardless energy security. Energy security, energy cooperation becomes more important in today's world. Azerbaijan as a country with resources, with infrastructure, with good location, with good connections and political ties, with a neighbourhood, of course in the future is planning to play more important role.
So far our role was limited by the regional dimensions. But now I think there are very good prospects for mutual cooperation on the global scale. Our pipelines and oil and gas resource serve today's stability and security of the region, and in the future will serve to the global energy security. So this issue will continue, I think, to be on top list in our agenda.
Azerbaijan is conducting the policy of political and economic transformations. So far this policy was successful. NATO-Azerbaijan relations, including IPAP format, also plays important role in the general political transformation in our country.
To conclude I'd like to say that we highly value our relations with NATO. They have a long history, is 50 years that we are members of partnership for peace program, and we want to continue this fruitful(?) cooperation in the future.
APPATHURAI: Time for two questions, here and here.
UNIDENTIFIED: My question for both Mr. President and Mr. Secretary General. To continue aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan poses serious threat to peace and security in the region. NATO's recent jubilee summit has adopted a statement expressing concern over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. How do you see the prospect of the resolution of this conflict?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Let me start by answering you that of course NATO, as I said a moment ago, does not play a direct role, is not seeking a role in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In a previous incarnation, as I mentioned to chairmanship in office of the OSCE, I was more closely involved. But the Minsk Group is of course the forum. But as you say, and as I said, the important principle, the NATO heads of state of government underlined again at the summit in Strasbourg and Kehl, and that is a principle which is as relevant for Georgia for instance, as it is for Nagorno-Karabakh. That is the principle of territorial integrity. If we start to negotiate the principle of territorial integrity, the world would be a place which would even be more unsafe than it is at the moment. And that is why I asked attention, but this is the background of your question, for that part of the communiqué of the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit, because I think that's an important principle, although as you know, and I think it should stay like that, NATO, the North Atlantic Alliance, is not seeking a role in the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem.
APPATHURAI: No, no, right there.
DAVID BRUNSSTROM (Reuters): Me? Okay. David Brunnstrom from Reuters. Question for the Secretary General on Russia. At this stage, can you tell us what NATO's priority is? Is it showing solidarity with Georgia or rebuilding ties with Russia? And from your talks today and later next month, what do you hope to achieve practically by re-engagement with Russia?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well on the answer of your first question is both. We're having this afternoon the first meeting at ambassadorial level, formal meeting we had, informal one as you know, of the NATO-Russia Council. And it is good on the basis of the summit communiqué, the declaration of land security, the decision by foreign ministers to re-engage with Russia in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council. That doesn't mean that there are a number of issues on which we fundamentally disagree. We should discuss that. The NATO-Russia Council is not a fair-weather body. But we also have a great number of issues, I think, where we can have a fruitful discussion. Let me mention (inaudible). Let me mention Afghanistan. Let me mention the fight against terrorism. Let me mention an initiative which is called Cooperative Airspace Initiative.
There are a number of issues where we should seriously work together, but we should not shy away from difficult issues where we fundamentally disagree. Let me mention the principle of territorial integrity again, and Georgia. Let me mention the future of the conventional forces in Europe Treaty which is certainly an issue we should discuss in the NATO-Russia Council as well. So that is what we are aiming for, and Russia is an important nation, is an important player. So I'm looking forward to this meeting this afternoon. It does not mean that we suddenly will agree on everything. We have interests who not always converge. That is my answer to your question.
APPATHURAI: I'm afraid that's what we have time for.