President Papoulias begins visit to Azerbaijan

President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias and the ministerial delegation accompanying him held talks on Tuesday with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and the country's government in Baku, focuisng on the already existing close cooperation in the sector of energy and the further considerable ground for its development between Greece and Azerbaijan.

President Papoulias and the Greek delegation were officially received at the Presidential Mansion on the Caspian coast by Aliyev. The very good level of bilateral relations was stressed during the talks between the two presidents and shortly afterwards in the widened talks between the two delegations as well as the need for them to be developed further.

"We ascertained however that our bilateral relations can and must develop further, particularly in the trade and economic sector," the President of the Republic said.

President Papoulias and Aliyev also discussed developments in Libya and the wider Middle East, while the one briefed the other on the Cyprus issue and the question of Nagorno Karabakh and expressed support for the implementation of international law and the UN Security Council's resolutions.

Three agreements were signed durging the talks. Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas with his Azeri counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov on the development of cultural relations, Marine Affairs, Islands and Fisheries Minister Yiannis Diamantidis with Mamadiarov on cooperation and facilities in marine transport and Deputy Energy Minister Yiannis Maniatis with the Environmentg Minister of Azerbaijan Hussein Bakirov on the protection of the environment. A memorandum of understanding was also signed for the continuation of cooperation between DEPA and the corresponding Azeri natural gas company SOCAR.

The President of the Republic toured at noon the preserved old city of Baku, while in the afternoon he met with the country's prime minister Artur Rasizade and attended an official dinner hosted in his honour by Ilham Aliyev.

Official dinner

Speaking during the official dinner, President Papoulias referred to the high level of friendly and economic relations between Greece and Azerbaijan, with emphasis on the energy sector.

"Tomorrow we shall jointly inaugurate the 4th Greek-Azeri Business conference which aims at the development of bilateral economic and trade relations. Many important businesses from the two countries are participating. The targert is a joint one and I believe that it deserves support so that we can achieve the best possible results."

"I am ascertaining the progress noted in the discussions taking place that include the entire spectrum of energy cooperation, particularly the implementation of the natural gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to Italy, through Turkey and Greece," he added.
President Papoulias pointed out to Alyev that "the foreign policy of Greece is based on respect for international law and adherrence to the principles of good neighbourliness."

The Greek president assured his Azeri counterpart that Greece supports efforts for an association agreement between Azerbaijan and the EU, while referring to the issue of Cyprus stressed that it is "an international issue of offence of international legality. The resolutions of the UN's Security Council must not be implemented selectively. Greece supports the negotiations that are taking place under the auspices of the UN secretary general, negotiations that must reach a viable and workable solution. The recent demonstrations by the Turkish Cypriots constitute tangible proof that while Turkey declares that it protects them, in reality it is functioning as an occupation force."

On the occasion of the crisis in Libya, he said that "the developments in the Middle East are considerable with unpredictable, for the time being, geopolitical, as well as economic consequences. The crisis may have local characteristics but it is not unrelated to the international economic crisis. Generally speaking, the political leaderships not only in Asia and in Africa, but in the West as well must see again the way with which governance is exercised."

On Wednesday, President Papoulias and Aliyev will inaugurate the business forum. Before leaving for Athens late in the afternoon, the Greek president will visit the Parliament of Azerbaijan and meet with representatives of the Greek community in Baku, while he will also be proclaimed an honourary lecturer of the Slavic University.

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