By Claude Salhani- Trend:
French President Francois Hollande wrapped-up a two-day official visit to Azerbaijan Monday where he combined European business, Caspian politics and French charm, all rolled into one.
Arriving in Baku on a two-day visit accompanied by a legion of French business people, the French president spearheaded a business blitz hoping to see more than a dozen lucrative business contracts signed, sealed and delivered by the time his presidential jet headed back to Paris on Monday night.
Indeed, it was announced on Monday that Azerbaijan and France will create a trade and industry chamber, Azerbaijan's Economy and Industry Minister Shahin Mustafayev said.
"The corresponding agreement will be signed today. Aside from that, dozens of commercial agreements on Azerbaijani and French entrepreneurs' joint projects, worth billions of dollars, will be signed as part of this forum," Mustafayev added.
A total of 45 contracts and various documents have been signed between the two countries - with 17 of them related to economic cooperation.
"Last year the trade turnover between the two countries stood at $1.56 billion and over $370 million in the first quarter of 2014, while this figure has grown by over 50 percent compared to the same period of last year. Joint projects worth over $1 billion have also been implemented," the minister stated, adding that France was one of the most important trade partners of Azerbaijan.
"France has invested about $2.4 billion in Azerbaijan's economy. The greatest part of these investments accounted for the oil sector," Mustafayev said, pointing out the role of the French 'Total' and 'GDF Suez.'
More than 90 French companies are involved in oil and gas projects in Azerbaijan as subcontractors.
Mustafayev also said a total of 200 million euros was invested in the non-oil sector.
Delving into Caspian politics, the French leader reminded his audience of the precariousness of the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region where "tens of thousands of people have been killed."
Hollande said that France in its capacity as vice chair of the Minsk Group, trying to help Azerbaijan and Armenia reach a settlement in the long running conflict, would do all that it could to help.
Paying tribute to his host, the French President said Azerbaijan was a country "that was developing at a considerable speed."
Addressing the French community in Baku Sunday night the French president described the capital of Azerbaijan as "the principal and the most important city in the Caucasus."
"If Azerbaijan is developing at such a rhythm, it is because it has the resources from oil and gas," said Hollande, adding, "and it is using them rather well."
The French president said that Azerbaijan was using those resources for its infrastructure, its environment, and its security, its necessary, and to integrate the technology that we French can offer.
Turning to the issue of education, the French president stressed the importance of laying ground for future generations by encouraging and promoting the number of student grants France will offer to young Azerbaijanis.
Emin Aliyev contributed to this report