Aliyev: Baku will align policy to region’s new realities

April 30, 2009, Thursday/ 17:49:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has said Azerbaijan will adapt its policy to the new realities of the region that will be established as a result of the ongoing normalization efforts between Turkey and Armenia.

Aliyev met with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on Tuesday in Brussels, after which the two held a joint press conference. Aliyev also gave a speech in a conference titled "Azerbaijan: An increasingly important partner for the European Union," organized by the European Policy Centre (EPC), a Brussels-based think tank.

Asked about his country's position regarding the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement, he indicated that it was up to Turkey and Armenia to decide on their bilateral relations but that Azerbaijan will adapt its policy according to the changing realities of the region, with particular reference to the possible border opening. "If I am to talk about the issue's historical roots, the Turkish border with Armenia was closed because of the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories, which is still continuing," he said, reiterating that Azerbaijan is not in a position to prevent bilateral relations between the two but that they do have the right to align their steps to a potential future situation in the region.

Aliyev also pointed out his expectations for a clear answer if the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis is linked to the agreement between Armenia and Turkey. "We are hearing contradictory statements about whether the resolution of the regional crisis is a precondition in the ongoing process between Armenia and Turkey. It is indeed a simple question and requires a simple answer," said Aliyev. Armenia and Turkey earlier announced that they had agreed on a road map to normalize their relations.

Barroso stated that he understands how sensitive the issue is for Azerbaijan. "But you should also understand that the European Union will be happy with any reduction in tension," he noted, adding that this does not mean that Azerbaijan doesn't want the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis to be resolved. "We also urge Azerbaijan and Armenia to look for a solution and hope their efforts deliver one," he concluded.

‘Gas price needs to be recalculated’

In his speech at the EPC, Aliyev said the price of natural gas from the Caspian Sea that Turkey buys from Azerbaijan, which is transported through the Şahdeniz pipeline, needs to be recalculated according to the market price and the provisions of the agreement between the two.

Reminded of the speculation that Azerbaijan will increase natural gas prices for Turkey because of the talks the country is holding with Armenia, Aliyev said the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) is not the only company involved in the Şahdeniz project. "The validity of the ceiling price for 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas [$120] expired in April 2008, so the price needs to be recalculated, but it is hard to tell if it will be a higher or lower price. Petroleum prices are diminishing so natural gas may be cheaper, too, but it has to be the market price," the Azerbaijani president explained.

Aliyev highlighted that Turkey was buying natural gas from Russia and Algeria for a much higher price than it was paying to Azerbaijan. "Those who follow it know very well that Turkey has bought natural gas from Russia for $400-500 and from Algeria for $300 and more. When we were selling it for $120, the market price was about $400-500. You can now calculate how much loss we bore last year," stated Aliyev. He added that everything needs to be done in line with the agreements signed.

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