What have been the most significant foreign policy achievements of 2012?
Azerbaijan took its seat at the UN Security Council in early January 2012 for the very first time in its history and chaired the Council during May 2012. This is a very significant achievement for a country that has come a long way from the brink of total political and economic collapse in the early 1990s. To put it into context, Azerbaijan is the first country to have been elected as a UN Security Council non-permanent member in the whole South Caucasus and Central Asian region, and only the second in the CIS region. As President Ilham Aliyev said during his address to the Security Council, “Azerbaijan will always support international law and justice," and this role has allowed us to put into practice our long-standing commitment to the fundamental principles of international law as well as the existing international system. We have actively contributed to discussions on international issues ranging from terrorism and crisis to environmental protection. It goes without saying that alongside the prestige and influence it brings, our seat on the Security Council also puts heavy responsibilities on our shoulders to contribute to ensuring peace, stability, and prosperity for the whole world. I would also like to underline that Baku has been in the spotlight as it has successfully hosted a range of regional and international gatherings, including the Baku International Humanitarian Forum, the Heads of State Summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), and Eurovision Song Contest 2012; Azerbaijani diplomacy has actively engaged in making arrangements for these events. In September 2012, we also held the Third Conference of Azerbaijani Ambassadors in Baku, which gave us an opportunity to look back at the achievements and look ahead to the coming challenges for our foreign policy. The conference was a great success as it coincided with the inauguration of the new campus of the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy, a state-of-the-art building to educate and train Azerbaijani diplomats and students in the future. In his address, President Ilham Aliyev touched on the achievements of Azerbaijani diplomacy and identified the concrete tasks lying ahead, which we are now concentrated on.
How is your Ministry working to expand non-oil relations and cooperation with the EU?
Developing and strengthening partnership with the EU in political, economic, and humanitarian spheres is one of the priorities of Azerbaijan's foreign policy. Mutual cooperation with the Union can undoubtedly help us in achieving many of our goals, and we are therefore interested in advancing our bilateral relations. It is vital that the cooperation between Azerbaijan and the EU is built on the basis of efficiency, equal partnership, mutual understanding, and respect.
Azerbaijan is steadily pursuing the modernization of the country in all areas, and it is important that the EU, as one of our partners, closely participates in this process. The approximation of Azerbaijan's legislation with European standards, the strengthening of democracy and the rule of law, the development of trade and economic ties, and integration into the common European education sphere remain among our priorities. Hence, our cooperation should embrace all areas of common interest based on a balanced approach, and in this regard the EU should take into account the priorities and needs of Azerbaijan. In particular, areas of cooperation such as agriculture, agribusiness, health, culture, tourism, and ICT, which are of interest to Azerbaijan, should be further explored and developed. Furthermore, Azerbaijan is highly interested in working closer with the EU in the field of human capacity building, including education, research, and youth development, as a foundation for our future growth. Azerbaijan actively cooperates both in the bilateral and multilateral formats in the framework of the Eastern Partnership (EaP). In our view, the EaP provides a useful framework for enhancing cooperation opportunities and deepening integration process. The core values set in the EaP, namely joint ownership, responsibility, and accountability, should be regarded as fundamental for the successful achievement of our commonly agreed goals. Azerbaijan envisages its relations with the EU in a broader context and does not intend to limit these relations to the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy or EaP. From this perspective, our country intends to build strategic partnership with the EU beyond the energy sector. According to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on strategic partnership in the energy field signed between Azerbaijan and the EU in 2006, it is possible to extend this strategic partnership to other sectors. Since the very first days of the establishment of the EaP, Azerbaijan, as the only energy rich country and net exporter of hydrocarbons, expressed its genuine interest and political will in helping the EU develop the concept of the Southern Gas Corridor. The participation of our Head of State in the Southern Corridor Summit in Prague in May 2009 demonstrated the continued interest of Azerbaijan in making its contribution to energy security in Europe not only through diversified routes of supply, but most importantly by enabling diversified sources of those supplies. Furthermore, in January 2011 Azerbaijan reiterated its position to enhance the ongoing dialogue on energy security with the EU during the visit of the President of the European Commission to Azerbaijan, when the two Presidents signed the Joint Declaration on the Southern Gas Corridor. The signing of that document represented a milestone for maximizing opportunities through enhancing regional transportation infrastructure, and Azerbaijan was recognized as the enabler of the development of the corridor. Currently, there are a few projects on the transportation of natural gas from Azerbaijan as well as from the larger Caspian basin area to the European market. However, decisions to be taken by Azerbaijan along with our partners will be based first and foremost on the principles of commercial viability, profitability, transparency, and long-term predictability of various segments of the European market. We believe that enhancing our contribution to the energy security of Europe will also reciprocate and deliver many benefits to Azerbaijan, among which we put an emphasis on access to the European market.
How can Azerbaijan capitalize on the increasing global economic significance of Eastern countries such as China, and how do you assess Azerbaijan's relations with its Eastern counterparts?
It is well known that the East has now become a new powerhouse for global economic growth at the current time of deep economic uncertainties. Azerbaijan's foreign and economic relations embrace all geographic directions, including countries in the East. Azerbaijan is located on the historic Silk Road, and in fact we were the very first country to join the Transportation Corridor Europe Caucasus Asia (TRASECA) program, which envisages the revitalization of this lifeline for development and prosperity. Azerbaijan enjoys developing trade relations with most countries in the East, in particular China, Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia. We have made formal decisions to open new diplomatic missions in countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Oman in recognition of the importance of diversified foreign and trade relations and increased economic opportunities for our country. Azerbaijan is the key initiator of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars rail link, which once completed will undoubtedly increase the economic interaction between Azerbaijan and the East. Moreover, the new seaports and airports that are being constructed will also provide vital transportation infrastructure for the increasing trade and economic activities in the wider Caspian and Central Asian region.
How has Azerbaijan contributed to regional trade and cooperation in the Caucasus?
Azerbaijan is interested in developing mutually beneficial economic and trade relations with all countries. Within the South Caucasus region, Azerbaijan has been sustainably developing economic relations with its strategic partner Georgia, which is a party to major regional projects in the energy and transport spheres. As a result, bilateral trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Georgia grows yearly. Meanwhile, our country has no bilateral economic links with Armenia, whose armed forces still continue to keep under occupation around 20% of Azerbaijan's territories. Azerbaijan wants peace so that we can continue to grow our economy, develop our energy resources, and advance our relations with the Euro-Atlantic communities and our neighbors. Armenia also has a stake in peace with Azerbaijan. It is isolated in the region because of this unresolved conflict, and excluded from all the regional infrastructure and energy projects, like the oil and gas pipelines passing from the Caspian Sea to Turkey and Europe via Georgia, as well as the new railroad line that will be inaugurated in 2014. When we can agree on lasting
peace, Armenia could become one of the stakeholders in these regional projects. Azerbaijan has been keeping its leading status in economic performance in the South Caucasus. It is widely known that our country is the initiator and driving force of major regional projects in areas such as energy, transport, ICT, and continues to maintain and develop those projects also with the active involvement of regional and international organizations. Huge regional energy and transport projects such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum, and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars can serve as best examples of successful regional cooperation.
Mənbə: The Business Year