Elmar Mammadyarov: “Due to the UN Security Council membership, Azerbaijan gained new partners especially in the regions like Africa and Latin America” - INTERVIEW
“Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict remains the major obstacle for the complete realization of the region’s development potential”
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov gave an interview to a number of local and foreign information agencies, including APA. Minister spoke about the Foreign Ministry’s activity, the country’s achievements in 2012. APA presents the interview.
- Mr. Minister, let’s start with our greatest achievement in the foreign policy, Azerbaijan’s chairmanship of the UN Security Council. How do you evaluate this chairmanship and generally Azerbaijan’s activity at the UN Security Council?
-As you know, in October, 2011 within the framework of the UN General Assembly, with the support of 155 member states of the UN, Azerbaijan was elected from the Eastern Europe group as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2012-2013. In May, 2012 our country assumed rotating presidency of the UN Security Council. On May 4, 2012, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev chaired the high-level meeting “Enhancing International Cooperation in the Implementation of Counter-Terrorism Obligations” within the framework of the theme on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts. UN Secretary General, ministers, deputy ministers and other senior officials attended the meeting. Prior to the meeting, Concept document giving detailed information about the goal and major topic of the meeting was distributed. The document underlined the importance of the international cooperation in ensuring the implementation of the counter-terrorism obligations, activities towards increasing the opportunities and skills of the relevant organizations and institutions of various countries for addressing such threats in time. The Statement issued by the SC President after the meeting reiterated that the members of the Council strongly condemn all forms of terrorism, underlined the importance of respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of the borders, necessity of taking into account the human rights and rule of law in struggling against terrorism, respecting religious and cultural diversity in the world.
During its presidency at the Security Council, Azerbaijan attended the meetings held in the countries such as Sudan and South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, the West Africa and Somali in the Africa, Afghanistan in Asia, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and Bosnia and Herzegovina in Europe on the threats against international peace and security and commented to the documents adopted at these meetings. In this regard, we can mention the high-level meetings held in Africa in February on peace and security and situation on Sahel region on the peace and security in Africa in December. One of the three resolutions adopted during the presidency of our country at the Security Council is related with Africa. These facts show that Azerbaijan is not indifferent to what is happening in Africa and is closely following the events in the above-mentioned region.
In addition, our country also attended the meetings of the Council on the Middle East, one of the hot spots of the world and particularly, closely participated in the discussion of the issues regarding the countries such as Palestine, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Yemen etc. The Azerbaijani side was also represented and demonstrated its position at the ministerial meeting on the Syrian situation in August, high-level meetings on peace and security in the Middle East in September and the other significant meetings.
Due to the UN Security Council membership, Azerbaijan gained new partners especially in the regions like Africa and Latin America and it paved the way to the new cooperation in the economic, political, cultural and socio-humanitarian spheres. We can generally say that the UN Security Council membership enhanced the position of Azerbaijan Republic in the international arena and increased the numbers of the countries supporting our country’s position at the international level.
During our next term of presidency in October, 2013 we will spare no efforts for the protection of international peace and security. Azerbaijan will continue its activity to ensure justice.
- What other diplomatic achievements in 2012 can we talk about?
- Alongside with our activity at the UN Security Council, another achievement of Azerbaijan is the invitation to the meeting of G-20 foreign ministers in Mexico. This shows that the developed countries are interested in Azerbaijan more and our country is the leader in the region.
Our country’s position towards the solution of Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict is strengthening year-after-year.
International organizations, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Nonaligned Movement passed resolutions recognizing Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Speaking about our cooperation with the international organization, I would like to mention Azerbaijan’s relations with UNESCO. As you know, Azerbaijan’s First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva is the goodwill ambassador of UNESCO. Mehriban Aliyeva is carrying out important activities for the development of the relations between Azerbaijan and UNESCO. I would like to mention that our country has been elected as vice-president of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. With the adoption of Azerbaijan-initiated document on the protection of cultural property in the occupied territories at the seventh session of the Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict on December 21, our country laid the foundation of the broader discussion on the protection of cultural property in the occupied territories and adoption of certain mechanisms.
The 4th meeting of the heads of Azerbaijani diplomatic missions in foreign countries was held at Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy on September 21. Attending the opening ceremony of a new teaching complex of Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy, President Ilham Aliyev made a speech at the meeting, set new tasks for our diplomats, currently we are working to ensure their implementation and will continue our activity in this direction next year.
The above-mentioned diplomatic achievements once more prove the weight and balance of the foreign policy pursued the Republic of Azerbaijan. At the same time, the achievements set new tasks for us and open new opportunities in terms of realization of Azerbaijan’s long-term interests. Our major tasks are to increase the influence of our country, effectively use the achieved positions and diplomatic potential.
- Azerbaijan is increasing the number of diplomatic missions abroad. What does this process serve to?
- Azerbaijan has more than 70 diplomatic missions abroad. Azerbaijan is represented in all continents, except Australia, our embassy will be opened in Australia soon. These missions are contributing to ensuring the country’s national interests, foreign policy, developing bilateral and multilateral relations, promoting our republic in foreign countries, protecting the rights of the citizens of Azerbaijan Republic and our compatriots.
Great measures are being taken towards the promotion of our country. It includes cultural events, various publications, exhibitions, academic meeting and the other initiatives. Besides our missions in the foreign countries, our compatriots and persons, who love Azerbaijan, must jointly work for the promotion of Azerbaijan as a young country. Of course, if we take into the consideration Azerbaijan’s increasing international prestige, developing economic potential, expanding foreign commercial relations and our compatriots living in most regions of the world, we can say that the policy to increase the number of diplomatic missions will be continued.
- Azerbaijan is geographically located in a very sensitive region. Russia, the largest country of the world, is our northern neighbor. How do you estimate the relations between the two countries?
- Our relations with Russia are at a high-level, we have friendly and strategic partnership relations and the cooperation in all spheres is being expanding year by year. The political will and personal relations of our presidents have guiding function for our relations. The two presidents have made contributions to the enhancement and extension of the traditional friendly and neighborhood relations.
Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov visited Azerbaijan in April this year. The Joint Declaration on the 20th anniversary of the relations between the two countries was adopted during the visit.
At the same time, the main parameters of the economic-commercial relations indicate the positive development tendencies of the bilateral relations. Russia was and remains the main trade partners of Azerbaijan. The volume of the trade turnover between the two countries reached record $ 2 828 000 or increased 47.4 percent compared to 2010. We intend to increase this number in the future.
I would like to note with satisfaction that our republic established direct relations with the regions of the Russian Federation and signed intergovernmental agreements with some of them. More than 70 regions of Russia are cooperating with Azerbaijan and 81.8 percent of the trade turnover between the two countries fall to the share of these regions.
At the same time, we must consider that the Russian Federation has also significant importance for Azerbaijan in the settlement of Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict as a co-chairing country of OSCE Minsk Group. Russia is continuing mediating mission in the settlement of the conflict.
I’m sure that our interstate relations, comprehensive cooperation and mutual activities will further develop thoroughly and dynamically in favor of our peoples’ welfare, the peace, stability and security in the region.
- The decision was passed at the Foreign Ministerial Meeting in Brussels for countries participating in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to establish new mission of NATO instead of ISAF operation. How do you estimate Azerbaijan’s position in the new mission of NATO?
- Azerbaijan is committed to the restoration and enhancement of the relations in Afghanistan. For this reason, we closely attended the various international initiatives carried out with the consent of Afghanistan’s government.
As regards the new mission of NATO in Afghanistan after 2014, the operation plan of the mission has not been confirmed yet. Azerbaijan has already been involved in the consultations on the creation of the mission’s parameters. Alongside with the establishment of close bilateral relations with Afghanistan, Azerbaijan has proved itself as a reliable partner by making serious contributions to the international security operations.
Azerbaijan will continue the consultations on the new mission of NATO in favor of the fraternal Afghan people and strengthening regional and international security and pass a decision on its participation after the operation’s parameters are specified.
As you know, peacemaking mission of NATO will be completed in Afghanistan in 2014. 35 percent of cargo was transported through Azerbaijan. Recently, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia have made joint presentation in ISAF format at the Northern Atlantic Council on Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and seaports and airports constructed in Azerbaijan.
I would also like to note that Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, which is being constructed now, and the new seaport under construction in Azerbaijan, will have strategic importance. These projects will revive historical Silk Road, which was historically a significant element of development and welfare in the region. First our Afghan friends will use these projects and it is our main goal.
Our country, as a reliable and loyal partner of NATO, has allocated necessary financial aid to contribute to “training, advice and assistance” efforts after ISAF mission is finished and has necessary potential in this direction. In fact, we have already started to do it in several spheres.
The Afghan people know that Azerbaijan remains committed to the common goal set forth not only in this format, but also in the bilateral format and we will make all efforts to achieve the final goal. Significant achievements have been made in the bilateral format. Thus, Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy is organizing different courses to improve theoretical and practical knowledge of the Afghan diplomats. Azerbaijan International Development Agency (AIDA) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Information Technology and Communications in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme have started the establishment of e-government in Afghanistan. The project will serve to the training of personnel and organization of efficient activity at the government ministries of Afghanistan.
Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) has also implemented a number of projects in Afghanistan. Applying to us, the Afghan side said they are interested in the participation of ANAMA and Ministry of Emergency Situations in the projects implemented in Afghanistan.
- How do you estimate Azerbaijan’s participation in the regional development and its impact on peace and security in the region, as well as in the entire world?
- Peace and security are closely interconnected with the socio-economic development. It is of strategic importance in terms of the promotion of peace and prosperity in the solution of regional problems. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (BTE) gas infrastructure projects have been successfully completed through the close participation of Azerbaijan, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project, the construction of which will be completed next year, certainly led to the economic and social development, long-term cooperation based on mutual trust and benefit in the region.
Azerbaijan is actively fighting against illicit drug trafficking, religious extremism and terrorism and cooperating with international organizations as a guarantor of security, stability and prosperity in the region.
Today, Azerbaijan is a leading country in the region. Azerbaijan has already turned from capital importing country to capital exporting country. Today, Azerbaijani investments mainly cover the countries of the region, our big projects implemented in Turkey and Georgia are obvious indicators of this. The growing economic power of our country will enable us to build more intensive activity in this direction for the development of the region in future.
I would like to add that Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict remains the major obstacle for the complete realization of the region’s development potential. Policy pursued by the Armenian side has naturally isolated the country from the regional projects. I consider that the resolution of the conflict will give an impetus to regional integration and development, and pave way for the close integration of the region into Europe.