BAKU: Saakashvili, Aliyev reaffirm two nations commitments

AzerNews, Azerbaijan
March 11 2004

Saakashvili, Aliyev reaffirm two nation’s commitments

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s March 4-5 official visit to
Azerbaijan, after only Russia and the United States, as well as
signing of a joint Declaration by the two presidents and the
settlement of the problems impeding

the development of bilateral relations, confirmed the continuation of
the relations established between the two governments by former
Azerbaijani and Georgian presidents Heydar Aliyev and Eduard
Shevardnadze in 1993. The Georgian President was welcomed at Bina
Airport by Prime Minister Artur Rasizada, Foreign Minister Vilayat
Guliyev and other state officials.

Talking to journalists at the airport, Saakashvili said that his
visit to Azerbaijan, after only Russia and the United States, proved
that he attached great importance to this country. He noted that he
would discuss a number of important issues with President Ilham
Aliyev. The Georgian President left Bina Airport for the Cemetery of
Honors to pay tribute at the graves of Heydar Aliyev and his wife
Zarifa Aliyeva. The Georgian President was accompanied by Mayor of
Baku Hajibala Abutalibov. Then, visiting the Cemetery of Martyrs,
Saakashvili put a wreath in front of the memorial complex for victims
of the 20 January tragedy and Garabagh war. He made notes in the Book
of Memory.

Presidential meeting
The same day Saakashvili held a private meeting with President Ilham
Aliyev. The two presidents focused on the development of bilateral
cooperation and the continuation of economic relations. The private
meeting was followed by a large meeting with the participation of
government delegations of the two countries. At the end of the
meeting, a number of bilateral agreements were signed. Aliyev and
Saakashvili signed a joint Declaration between Azerbaijan and
Georgia. Then the two countries’ ministers for education and foreign
affairs signed agreements on educational cooperation, as well as on
cooperation between the Azerbaijani and Georgian governments in the
sphere of information. Following the sighing of the agreements, the
two presidents held a joint news conference. President Aliyev said
that it was important to maintain and expand traditional friendly and
fraternal relations between the two neighboring countries. “Our
countries are strategic partners,” said Aliyev. Touching upon
bilateral economic cooperation including the implementation of huge
energy projects, President Aliyev noted that the constructions of the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum
gas pipeline would be completed on schedule. He expressed his hope
that the economic projects would give impetus to the expansion of
bilateral cooperation. Saakashvili, in turn, said that the goal of
his Baku visit was to discuss with Azerbaijani state officials the
opportunities for expanding bilateral cooperation, the construction
of the BTC pipeline as well as the pre-parliamentary election
situation in Georgia. Noting that this was his first official visit
to Baku as Georgia’s President, Saakashvili underlined that
Azerbaijan remained as an exclusive partner for Georgia.

Georgia determined to realize Caspian oil, gas projects
Stressing that his country intends to develop bilateral relations in
all spheres, the Georgian President said, “This visit is a rare
opportunity for me to closely get to know the new leader of
Azerbaijan. I have a great respect for him and I’m ready to learn
from him.” Touching upon large energy projects, the Georgian
President stressed that the BTC pipeline was a “vitally important
issue” for his country. “A generation of new presidents, as well as
new energy and new force has come to Azerbaijan and Georgia,” he
emphasized. Saakashvili went on to say that Azerbaijan was not only a
neighboring and friendly country but also a fraternal one for
Georgia. He stated that during his meeting with President Aliyev the
further improvement of relations, the establishment of a unified
tariff system, the removal of a number of economic, customs and legal
impediments and the synchronization of the tax systems were in focus.
“Both countries have an opportunities to become the countries of a
common market and we will achieve our goals,” Saakashvili stressed.
According to the Georgian President, the establishment of a common
economic area between the two countries may lay the groundwork for
integration into Europe. Underlining that the Georgian government is
interested in developing relations with the United States, Russia and
Turkey, Saakashvili stated that the relations with Azerbaijan
shouldn’t be limited to oil pipelines. Touching upon joint energy
projects, the Georgian President said that his country would do
everything to complete the realization of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil
pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline projects, which
are issues of energy security for Georgia. Saakashvili noted that he
had information on the attempts by certain forces active outside
Georgia and Azerbaijan to hinder the construction of the BTC pipeline
under the pretext of ecological problems. “However, Georgia’s new
leadership won’t allow these forces to achieve their goals and the
project will be completed on schedule,” he stressed. Asked what kind
of measures will be taken in order to improve the living standards of
the Azerbaijani population of Georgia, the Georgian President said,
“The Azerbaijani population is ‘the most faithful’ to the Georgian
state. Their integration into all socio-political processes should be
ensured. If Azerbaijanis, by maintaining their own language and
culture as well as by learning Georgian, take an active role in the
country’s life, they can be represented in the governmental
structures. Commenting on the issue of granting Armenians living in
Javakhetiya province of Georgia autonomy, Saakashvili stated that
such demands originate not from the local population but from
‘foreign centers’. The Georgian President returned home in the
afternoon on March 5. Prior to leaving Baku the Georgian President
visited the Sangachal terminal and Deepwater Jacket Factory. Briefing
journalists at Bina Airport, Saakashvili said his talks with
President Ilham Aliyev were fruitful for the two countries. Stressing
that the Azerbaijani-Georgian relations would continue to develop,
the Georgian President called the two friendly countries ‘a unified
organ’. Expressing satisfaction with his visit, the Georgian
President voiced his confidence that the construction of the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline would be completed on schedule. “No
one should doubt it. We will take measures against those who oppose
the project,” he emphasized.

Saakashvili was born the son of an educated man in Tbilisi on
December 21, 1967. His father Nikolos Saakashvili is a doctor and his
mother – a historian. After leaving secondary school in Tbilisi with
a golden medal in 1984, Mikhail Saakashvili went to the faculty of
international law of Kiev University. He worked as the head of the
office for the Committee on Human Rights and International Relations
in Georgia in 1993. Then he continued his education at the Strasbourg
University on Human Rights and Columbia University getting a master’s
degree. Saakashvili also graduated from George Washington University
with a PhD. He also attended Florence Law Academy and Hague Academy
of International Law, worked for the Norwegian Institute of Human
Rights and then acted as an advocate at a legal company in New York.
He is married to Sandra Roelofs, who is Dutch. Returning to Tbilisi
in 1995, Saakashvili was elected an MP from the bloc of the ruling
Union of Georgian Citizens, became chairman of the committee on
constitution and legal issues and then the leader of “The Union of
Georgian Citizens” faction in 1998. He represented Georgia at the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in 1999 and worked as
the Georgian Minister for Justice in 2000. Resigning from this post
in 2001, Saakashvili took the side of opposition and sharing the
majority of votes with the Labor Party during the municipal elections
the same year, he was elected a chairman of Tbilisi Sagrebulos
(council). Together with his supporters Saakashvili, founder of the
National Movement political union, managed to invalidate the results
of the parliamentary elections held on November 20, 2003 and forced
former Georgian President Shevardnadze to resign. Saakashvili was
elected President on January 4. This is his first official visit to
Baku as Georgia’s President, but he visited Baku to attend the
funeral of Heydar Aliyev before presidential elections in Georgia.

By Azernews Staff