It is the first physical meeting of the GUAM Council of Foreign Ministers (CMFA) since the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020 and I am very pleased to join it.
I express my appreciation to the Georgian Chairmanship for arranging this important meeting. When countries as close as ours get together, we always look for operations and opportunities to do more, and today will be no exception.
As a regional organization, GUAM provides an important platform to build sustainable peace and development. Our cooperation is based on shared commitment and respect to the universally recognized rules and principles of international law, mutual trust, and respect for each other’s interests. These have enabled us to register important achievements across a wide range of areas, including trade and economic cooperation and people-to-people exchange.
In 2021, under the Georgian chairmanship, we have developed serious efforts to further advance our interaction in a coordinated, action-oriented, and forward-looking manner. I believe our cooperation can further develop by strengthening the project-oriented dimension of activities. It is necessary to continue focusing primarily on joint economic projects in spheres like trade, transportation, ICT, and tourism, as they will gain new opportunities for cooperation in the post-pandemic period.
As for the sectoral cooperation, I am pleased to inform that we are finalizing internal procedures necessary for signing the “Protocol on regulations determining the country of origin of goods” and the GUAM Consular Convention.
Azerbaijan remains a strong supporter of enhanced cooperation in the framework of “GUAM+” format aimed at ensuring peace, security, stability, and prosperity at both regional and inter-regional levels. Azerbaijan welcomes GUAM-Israel Joint Declaration, which was planned to be signed today. We have strong relations with our partners, but extra effort is needed to bolster cooperation with all our partners, including by revising the cooperation agendas with the other partners and designing our work based on common priorities.
The communique of the GUAM Parliamentary Assembly 13th session reiterates the intention to continue cooperation with international and regional interparliamentary associations. In this regard, GUAM PA might also consider strengthening inter-parliamentary cooperation with other states at bilateral and multilateral levels as means of consolidating dialogue between national parliaments, deepening their network, and creating a climate of trust.
Forging close cooperation with the UN system organizations in areas of common interest will reinforce national efforts to build resilience and enable our countries to be better prepared to respond to common challenges. In this context, a greater focus should be placed on the joint implementation of projects with relevant international and regional organizations.
Active collaboration and mutual support in advancing our interests within international organizations remain essential. We have to build on the positive experience we have. In this vein, we invite the GUAM Member States to join the statement on the impact of landmines on human rights initiated by Azerbaijan and to instruct their permanent missions in Geneva in this regard. The joint statement will be delivered on behalf of like-minded countries on September 24 under agenda item 4 of the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
The resolution of the conflict opens up new perspectives for regional cooperation, development, and prosperity through normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The 10 November 2020 joint statement has been further complemented with a trilateral Azerbaijan-Russia-Armenia statement of 11 January 2021, which specifically deals with opening of communications in the region.
Trilateral working group dealing with the opening of communications has started to work on concrete directions in the region. Despite the fact that opening of communications can be a critical and achievable breakthrough, Armenia attempts to prevent progress by obstructing negotiations and resorting to delaying tactics. We remain constructively engaged in the process and seized of the matter. It is crystal clear that re-vitalization of communications will significantly boost trade and transportation through Armenia and Azerbaijan for the benefit both of these countries and our partners. It will be a significant factor of normalization and play its positive role for laying down the conditions for sustainable peace and stability in the region and beyond.
Rehabilitation, reconstruction and reintegration activities in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan are in a full swing. Our vision for post-conflict reconstruction is centered on our people’s needs and priorities. Securing political, legal, economic, and social conditions needed for livelihoods and dignity of IDPs are among our top priorities. Azerbaijan is resolute to re-integrate its citizens of Armenian origin residing in conflict-affected territories into its political, social, economic space, guaranteeing the same rights and freedoms with all the citizens of Azerbaijan regardless of their ethnic, religious affiliation.
Massive mine contamination of the liberated territories seriously impedes the realization of wide-ranging rehabilitation and reconstruction plans the Government of Azerbaijan has embarked on. Most importantly, it affects the realization of inalienable right of the hundreds of thousands of IDPs to return to their homes in safety and dignity.
It is our principled position that the international community should exert pressure on Armenia to abandon revanchist approaches and instead, seize the unique opportunity for sustainable peace and development. Full implementation of the trilateral statements both in letter and spirit has no alternative on the way to eliminating all the consequences of the war and building a prosperous future for all countries and their peoples in the region.
Enforcement of international law is a prerequisite for peace, security and development. Unfortunately, protracted conflicts in the territories of GUAM Member States continue to endanger peace and security and these conflicts must be resolved on the basis of the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of internationally recognized borders of states.
In conclusion, I reiterate our interest to advance our partnership towards greater mutual benefit and prosperity. I firmly believe that we should seize on the existing and emerging opportunities and make our organization more successful. I once again thank the Georgian Chairmanship and the GUAM Secretariat headed by our distinguished Secretary-General Ambassador Altai Efendiyev for today’s meeting and wish us all a very productive week in New York.