President Ilham Aliyev said the hostages must be exchanged on the principle of “all to all”

19:16 | 7 December, 2018

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had a conversation at the event in St. Petersburg, Head of the Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration Hikmet Hajiyev said in an interview with Trend on Dec. 7.

He stressed that at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Aliyev took part in the unofficial summit of the CIS heads of state on Dec. 6.

“An unofficial summit of the CIS heads of state was held in Moscow in 2017,” he said. “At these summits, the views on the work carried out during the year within the CIS are exchanged, directions for further activity are discussed.”

“The St. Petersburg informal summit was held in a sincere atmosphere,” Hajiyev said. “There was a joint dinner for the presidents. Then, the presidents watched the ‘Nutcracker’ ballet at the Mariinsky Theater.”

“I would like to stress that while watching the ballet, President Aliyev was sitting to the right of President Putin, which testifies to special respect for the president and his personality,” Hajiyev added.

President Aliyev had conversations and discussions on the issues of mutual interest with all the heads of state participating in the event, he said.

“President Aliyev talked with Pashinyan during the event,” he added. “Discussions were held to continue active negotiations on the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and observe the ceasefire regime.”

“It is necessary to take into account that these two factors are closely related to each other and must remain in the spotlight,” he said. “Recently, the situation on the contact line of Azerbaijani and Armenian troops and along the state border has been relatively quiet, which creates a good background for conducting substantive and intensive negotiations to resolve the conflict.”

“This should in no way mean freezing the conflict or maintaining an unacceptable status quo,” he added. “Azerbaijan’s decisive position is that the status quo based on the occupation must be changed soon.”

Hajiyev stressed that the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries repeatedly at the level of heads of state stressed the importance of changing the status quo.

“As a result of negotiations on the conflict settlement, Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders must be restored,” Hajiyev said.

He added that during the conversation, the issue of exchange of prisoners and hostages between Armenia and Azerbaijan was also discussed.

“Focusing on Azerbaijan’s position on this issue, President Aliyev said the hostages must be exchanged upon the “all for all” principle and Dilgam Asgarov and Shahbaz Guliyev must be among them,” he said.

“Such humane steps can have a positive impact on the negotiation process,” he said. “This position is also supported by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, therefore, the Armenian side must take this into account. During the meetings with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Andrzey Kasprzyk and others, the president always raises the issue of liberating Dilgam Asgarov and Shahbaz Guliyev and their return to Azerbaijan. The president is making big efforts to liberate Dilgam Asgarov and Shahbaz Guliyev and pays special attention to this issue.”

Hajiyev also touched upon the agreement reached during the conversation held between President Aliyev and Pashinyan.

“During the conversation, the sides agreed on ensuring opportunities for establishing contacts in case of necessity,” he said. “These contacts are not systematic and are not the communication at the level of heads of state, foreign ministers and defense ministers. They are used in case of necessity and at a low level.”

He also commented on the issue regarding the new CSTO secretary general.

“The conversations on the sidelines testify that before the unofficial summit of the CIS heads of state, the issue of the CSTO secretary general was discussed at the summit of the Eurasian Economic Union,” he said. “According to the information received from some sources, the meeting was tense due to the issue of the CSTO secretary general.”

“According to the available information, we can say with confidence that Armenia has lost the position of the CSTO secretary general,” he said. “Probably, a representative of Belarus will be appointed to this position without taking into account Armenia’s opinion. Armenia’s all efforts to retain the position of secretary general were futile. This is another failure of Armenia’s policy and diplomacy.”

He said Azerbaijan is not a member of the CSTO and does not intend to interfere in the processes in that organization.

“I would like to mention the president’s remarks voiced while receiving the Belarus ambassador in November,” he said. “President Aliyev said, ‘Armenia is a country occupying Azerbaijan’s territory, of course, we want to know who and which country’s representative heads the CSTO – a military-political organization. Discussion of these issues between partners and friends is natural.”