How would you assess the opportunities that the First European Games in 2015 have provided in promoting Azerbaijan?
For many years, it has been the European Olympic Committee's dream to arrange continental multi-sport Games for Europe. Although the Olympic movement has its roots Europe, a European level all-encompassing sporting event was not in place in the continent, unlike in Asia or other regions. To an extent, it was unfair. We are now just less than five months away from realizing this dream. On June 12, the Opening Ceremony of the European Games will take place in Baku, Azerbaijan, signaling the start of 17 days of competition between more than 6,000 athletes from all 50 EOC member countries. Sport has a unique role to promote peace, tolerance, and understanding by bringing people together across boundaries, cultures, and religions. Sport also stands for human values such as respect for your opponent, acceptance of binding rules, teamwork, and fairness, all of which are contained in the Charter of United Nations. UNESCO described sport and physical education as a “fundamental right for all." We believe that Baku Games 2015 will open a new page in Europe's sports history and will create new perspectives and opportunities for cooperation.
It was announced in 2014 that the Seventh Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) will be held in 2016 in Baku. What is Azerbaijan's main objective in this forum?
Over the past few years, the UNAOC has made a valuable contribution to the strengthening of dialogue among different civilizations. This is key for ensuring peace, sustainable development, building tolerance, and deepening mutual understanding. Azerbaijan has always fought against defamation of religions, and it is critical to stress the importance of religious and cultural tolerance. Azerbaijan enjoys membership of both the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and European institutions. Being a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, Azerbaijan seeks to contribute to the dialogue of civilizations through important initiatives and activities serving a better understanding between different cultures and religions. Over the last few years, Azerbaijan has hosted numerous events, such as world forums on intercultural and humanitarian dialogue. The first European Games in 2015 and Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017 are also testimonies to this. Having the intention to further contribute to dialogue among civilizations, the government has offered to host the Seventh UNAOC Global Forum in Baku in 2016, and this offer was supported by UNAOC Group of Friends.
What are the most notable partnerships and achievements made by the Ministry in 2014?
Azerbaijan conducts a principled, consistent, and independent foreign policy. We have cooperated with the European and Euro-Atlantic institutions, strengthening economic and energy security, developing transport corridors, and promoting a pluralistic democracy. The Armenia- Azerbaijan conflict remains a major challenge and undermines regional peace and security. At the meetings of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2014, some positive indications were observed toward the settlement of conflict, at the initiatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, US State Secretary John Kerry in Wales, and French President François Hollande in Paris. After the Paris meeting, François Hollande called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to begin working on a Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs made a statement in Basel calling for the beginning of negotiations on CPA as soon as possible. In the face of these positive steps, Armenia has resorted to provocations to undermine the negotiations. The July-August incidents and the large-scale military exercises in the occupied territories were signs of this. For the peaceful settlement of the conflict, the armed forces of Armenia must be withdrawn from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. To maintain positive relationships with our neighbors is our priority. Building on the successful bilateral cooperation model, Azerbaijan- Georgia-Turkey, Azerbaijan-Iran-Turkey, and Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan-Turkey, trilateral cooperation frameworks are being developed. European countries are our traditional partners and will remain so in the upcoming decade. The mobility of our citizens in a well-managed and secure environment is an important element of the Eastern Partnership, and, therefore, we signed mobility partnership, visa facilitation, and readmission agreements. Another development in our relations with the EU has been the signature of the protocol on Azerbaijan's participation in EU programs. This will enable Azerbaijan to have greater access to a range of EU programs. We look forward to increasing cooperation between Azerbaijani institutions and the relevant EU agencies. We are also actively involved in the UN, CoE, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Non-Aligned Movement, and the OSCE. Azerbaijan took over the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers from Austria in May 2014. Azerbaijan has assumed its Chairmanship for the first time since its accession to the Council of Europe in 2001.
How important is Azerbaijan's relationship with the UNDP?
Strengthening cooperation with the UNDP is highly important, as it has been active in our country for more than 20 years. Initially, the UNDP activities in Azerbaijan were focused on the provision of early recovery program, especially to refugees and internally displaced persons affected by the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Currently, the UNDP's role in Azerbaijan has shifted toward national objectives, such as the development of the non-oil sector, diversification of economy, and ensuring sustainable development. In close partnership with the government, the UNDP strives to strengthen the many aspects of Azerbaijan's economic, social, and cultural development. As an obvious example of excellent bilateral relationship, on October 1-4, 2014, Helen Clark, the UNDP Administrator, visited Azerbaijan to further expand ongoing cooperation in the fields of mutual interest and explore new possibilities for collaboration between Azerbaijan and the UNDP. During her visit, she held meetings with President Ilham Aliyev and several ministers. In these meetings, Clark welcomed policy choices that allowed the country to transform its natural resource wealth into human capital. She also attended the fourth annual Baku International Humanitarian Forum held in October 2014, and gave a lecture at ADA University. In order to further strengthen strategic cooperation, the UNDP and the government will continue to work together.
Azerbaijan recently met with Georgia and Turkey in Kars to discuss regional cooperation. How important are these ties for Azerbaijan, both politically and economically?
Kars was the Fourth Trilateral Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. To ensure the realization of such cooperation we adopted in the 2013 Batumi meeting, the Trilateral Sectoral Cooperation Action Plan for 2013-15, which includes detailed tasks and projects, was enacted. This cooperation serves our common purposes of strengthening stability in the region, increasing welfare of the three countries, and creating a more favorable environment for regional projects and investments. This cooperation is based on the strategic partnership, good neighborliness, mutual trust, as well as respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, and inviolability of internationally recognized borders. Such a format is important for holding consultations on issues that are of common interest and is also necessary for advancing cooperation. It is necessary to underline that the first trilateral summit of the Presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey held on May 6th, 2014 in Tbilisi, confirmed the commitment to further advance this cooperation.
Mənbə: The Business Year