Jordan considers Azerbaijan as way to South Caucasus and Middle Asia: ambassador Elman Arasli
Azerbaijan, Baku, Jan. 21 / Trend S. Agayeva /
Azerbaijan's Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Elman Arasli spoke in an interview with Trend .
Q.: How do you assess the current state of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Jordan? What are the main priorities of your activity for the nearest future?
A.: First of all, I would like to note that the relations and friendship between our peoples are based on centuries of common history, cultural and moral values. Now we are on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the tragic events of January 1990. The Jordanians have proved once again that they value the friendship with the fraternal people of Azerbaijan and share their grief. The articles dedicated on these tragic events have been published by various media outlets for several days. But two days ago, the influential newspaper Al-Dustur published the interview with Azerbaijani Ambassador to Jordan due to this date.
Today, the relations between the Azerbaijani Republic and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan are developing dynamically. Trust and mutual respect to each other are strengthened. The cooperation expands and deepens in the entire spectrum of bilateral relations.
The meetings between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Jordan's King Abdullah II bin Hussein take special place in the bilateral cooperation. Since 2006, the heads of our countries have exchanged the official visits twice. The recent meeting of the heads of countries within Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's official visit to Jordan has once again confirmed the importance of cooperation between our two countries and set new, important directions for expanding and intensifying the Azerbaijan-Jordan relations. There is an active political dialogue between Azerbaijan and Jordan. Urgent issues of regional and world politics are being discussed. The cooperation is being strengthened within the international organizations.
I would like to emphasize that Jordan not only recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, but also actively supports the efforts of the country aimed at the complete liberation of the occupied territories from the aggressor.
The opening of Azerbaijan's Embassy in Jordan in 2006, as well as the establishment of Jordan's Embassy in Azerbaijan were also very important actions to assist in strengthening the dialogue between our countries.
Regarding the economic cooperation, there is a considerable increase of mutual interest. Our embassy faces a serious and responsible task to raise the level of trade-economic cooperation to the level of political relations. Fortunately, both sides have the potential for this. However, there is an urgent need for the relevant instances of cooperation to increase attention at constant promotion, identification of common ground in areas of mutual interest. Despite the fact that today the volume of trade still does not match the potential of our two countries, there was a positive trend in this direction over the past few years.
A solid legal base has been created between Azerbaijan and Jordan for the short time. More than 30 intergovernmental and interdepartmental agreements, covering a wide range of issues in various fields have been concluded since 2006. A joint intergovernmental commission has been created. The first meeting was successfully held in Amman in February 2009. The second meeting is scheduled for the second half of this year in Baku.
The cooperation in the humanitarian sphere is strengthened. The development of cooperation in education, youth and sports, family, women and children has particular importance. The Program for Cooperation over 2010-2012 was signed between the parties during the recent visit of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to Jordan. It provides significant development of relations in these areas.
Jordanians began to travel to Azerbaijan to get higher education. Currently, about thirty Jordanians (among them are people of Palestinian origin) have been enrolled in our college. It should be noted that more than 1,000 Jordanians have been educated in Baku during a period of the Soviet Union. Most of them are currently in contact with our embassy.
The Jordan-Azerbaijan Friendship Society was established and officially registered in Jordan with the assistance of the Embassy in 2008. The society is headed by a prominent representative of the Jordanian political elite, Senator Marwan Al-Hmoud. The Committee on the Work with Azerbaijanis living in Jordan has also been established under the society. The Friendship Society and a committee operating under it are an indispensable forum to meet and discuss urgent issues, to hold the various events with the participation of representatives of the Jordanian community and our Diaspora. If we managed to create the same kind of friendship society in Azerbaijan, this could positively influence the cooperation between countries in the humanitarian and cultural fields.
The Days of Jordan's Culture were successfully conducted in Baku in October last year.
Jordan's dance group "Tafila" preformed there within these days. The exhibition was opened. It provided an opportunity to Azerbaijani viewers to familiarize closer with the Jordanian history, culture and way of life. The days of Azerbaijan's Culture will be held in Amman this year.
Q.: How do you assess the level of trade and economic relations between our countries? What is Jordan ready to offer Azerbaijan as a trade, economic partner? How is Azerbaijani business represented in Jordan?
A.: First of all, it should be noted that both parties have sufficient potential for the development of trade and economic relations. It is very important that there is mutual interest to develop the cooperation.
Since launching its activity the embassy has been making all possible efforts to establish and strengthen contacts between business circles of both countries in active cooperation with Azerbaijan and the Jordanian governmental agencies. Thus, since mid-2006 to this day more than five business forums have been held with participation of Azerbaijani and Jordanian businessmen. Two trade fairs and visits of representatives of tour agencies have been organized. As I said the important issues of further development of bilateral trade and economic cooperation were discussed and agreed at the first session of the intergovernmental commission.
It should be noted that all these efforts already give effect. Today, more than ten Jordanian companies representing mainly the food, pharmaceutical and other industries have already presented their products on the Azerbaijani market. Recently, an Azerbaijani company began to actively cooperate with Jordanian partners in the import of agricultural products.
In general, the level of trade turnover between our countries is small. A stabile increase in indices has been observed for the past few years. Thus, according to available data, the rate of growth of trade turnover has reached at least 40 percent in 2009.
A joint Jordanian-Azerbaijani enterprise oriented on production of important products in the field of defense industry is expected to be established in 2010. Several Jordanian companies show interest in participating in infrastructure projects implemented in Azerbaijan.
It is noteworthy that Jordan sees Azerbaijan as a gateway to the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Jordanians believe that the development of bilateral cooperation between countries can soon turn Azerbaijan into a kind of springboard for the Jordanian export potential. In its turn, Azerbaijan can use Jordan to enter the markets of the Gulf and other Arab countries.
All this, of course, pleases and at the same time spurs us to further implementation of a great number of unused opportunities.
Q.: How important is Azerbaijan's membership in the Organization of Islamic Conference and its relations with the Arab world in terms of support for our position in other international organizations?
A.: The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), which is the largest and most influential international community of Muslim states, today is an important part of our country, in collaboration with the Islamic world.
The importance of cooperation with the OIC for Azerbaijan is primarily this organization's support for our country in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. As it is known, its resolving is a foreign policy priority of the republic.
In this regard, it should be noted that the Azerbaijani diplomacy has managed to form rather monolithic view for the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict within the OIC.
Three resolutions on this fundamental question, including "The aggression of Armenia against the Azerbaijani Republic", "The destruction of historical and cultural monuments in Azerbaijan's territory occupied by Armenia" and "Economic assistance to the Azerbaijan Republic" were approved at the summits, conferences of foreign ministers and other forums of the organization. The OIC recognizes Armenia as an aggressor. It calls on the immediate and unconditional liberation of occupied Azerbaijani territories and the restoration of the territorial integrity of our republic.
Secretariat of the OIC addresses regularly with political statements supporting the legitimate rights of our country and expose the illegal actions of the Armenians in the occupied Azerbaijani territories. Whenever there is a need, the Secretariat of the OIC appealed to members of the organization and gives orders to his representative at the UN to undertake the relevant work on supporting initiatives in Azerbaijan at the General Assembly and other forums of the international community. The effectiveness of such initiatives was again confirmed in connection with the March 2008 UN General Assembly resolution "State in the occupied Azerbaijani territories". As it is known, the majority of States, who supported the initiative of our country, were members of the OIC.
Rendering financial and humanitarian assistance to Azerbaijan by the Islamic states and international organizations is a part of our cooperation with the OIC. For many years, our country maintains an active relationship with the Islamic Development Bank, Arab development funds and other financial institutions of the Islamic countries that participate in the implementation of our projects socio-economic development. It is necessary to highlight the humanitarian assistance of Islamic charitable organizations to refugees and IDPs in the country. The above-mentioned resolution of the OIC "Economic assistance to the Azerbaijan Republic" is political and juridical-legal framework of this assistance.
It should also be noted that several specialized organizations envisaged to facilitate the activities of the organization operate under the OIC. Along with this, there are a large number of non-governmental organizations with which the OIC maintains direct contact. All these structures play an important role in shaping public opinion in the Islamic world and have access to public circles of Western countries.
Therefore, I am confident that our republic's membership in the OIC, which also includes all 22 Arab states, is important for us. It is of particular significance for the country.
I would like to stress the fact that, thanks to a balanced foreign policy pursued by the country's leadership, we were able to establish sufficiently strong bilateral ties with Arab countries. Today, embassies and diplomatic missions of Azerbaijan Republic operate in more than ten Arab countries. There are relevant presidential decrees on the opening of embassies in three Arab countries. Of course, the leadership of Arab States appreciates this. It has a positive effect in achieving foreign policy goals of our state.
Q.: Are there favorable conditions for cooperation between the two countries in the political sphere, in particular on the main problem of Azerbaijan - Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
A.: As it was already stated, there is full understanding in political issues between Azerbaijan and Jordan. An active political dialogue is being held. The approaches of our countries to the processes at regional and global levels are virtually identical. They differ in political pragmatism. During the annual mutual visits and meetings in various formats the Heads of States have repeatedly stressed the similarity of the positions between Azerbaijan and Jordan in solving the issues having particular importance. These moments were also registered in the joint declaration adopted during the visit of the Jordanian monarch to Azerbaijan in May 2008. They relate to the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the situation in Iraq and Lebanon, etc.
Jordan clearly supports the position of Azerbaijan to solve the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It also supports the immediate and unconditional liberation of Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenia. During the meetings with representatives of official and public circles of Jordan, I has witnessed many times that it is not just the official position of the Government of Jordan, but rather the will of the Jordanian people, formulated by officials of the country. I assure you that the Jordanians fully support the position of the fraternal people of Azerbaijan in solving this vital issue for our republic.
The position of our country in this issue has been repeatedly supported by Jordan within such international organizations as UN, OIC etc. An obvious example of this are the actions of officials of the Jordanian Foreign Ministry during the voting for various resolutions within these organizations. During the voting at the UN General Assembly on the resolution 'The situation in the occupied Azerbaijani territories' in March 2008, Jordan has supported our republic. Moreover, a year later, Jordan became one of the few countries which have contributed to the preparation of the report of UN Secretary General on implementation of this resolution. In its statement, it once again reiterated its position to resolve the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with the strict observance of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
Q.: What energy projects is Jordan ready to propose to Azerbaijan today?
A.: As opposed to its neighbors, Jordan does not have rich deposits of oil and gas. It is an importer of energy resources from neighboring countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, etc. Therefore, Jordan can not propose any projects for the Azerbaijani business.
However, there are some infrastructure projects in energy, which might be of interest to the Azerbaijani side. At resent, the Embassy is studying the issue.
Q.: You are also Azerbaijan's ambassador in Iraq. What is the current level of cooperation between the two countries in political, economic, humanitarian spheres?
A.: Iraq is certainly one of the most important Arab countries having interest to us. A large area, abundant supplies of energy resources, fertile land and skilled professionals, rich cultural and historical heritage have always been the main factors that attracted the countries for cooperation with this country. Iraq is close for the Azerbaijanis because this was the place where our ancestors made pilgrimage, where great Azerbaijani poet and thinker Fizuli lived and worked, where descendants of the Turkic-Oguz Bayat tribe compactly inhabited up to now.
Cooperation between Azerbaijan and Iraq has its own history. Iraq has opened its consulate-general in our republic during the USSR. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of Azerbaijani specialists worked or acted in Iraq. Azerbaijan scientists helped Iraqi counterparts in the development of rich oil deposits of the country.
I think that the leadership of the Azerbaijan Republic, emphasized the importance it attaches to relations with this country by appointing the ambassador in Iraq.
It should be noted that the Iraqi leadership also plans to develop mutually beneficial relations with Azerbaijan. During my negotiations with President Jalal Talabani, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and other officials in Baghdad, Iraqi leaders stressed that the appointment of Azerbaijan's ambassador in Iraq and demonstrated willingness to cooperate with our country on a wide range of issues .
Unfortunately, the complexity of the situation in Iraq, the lack of security guarantees for life in conditions of total terror did not allow the Azerbaijani side, in particular, our embassy in Amman, to fully deploy the work on the development of Azerbaijani-Iraqi relations.
Taking into account these circumstances, our embassy has to deal with issues of cooperation, mainly through the Iraqi Embassy in Amman. Our country has supported initiatives in the UN and other international organizations with the assistance of Iraq's Embassy. Our embassy pays great importance to relations with representatives of the Iraqi community in Jordan (about 600,000-700,000 Iraqi citizens have emigrated in Jordan as a result of the occupation of Iraq). Embassy officials regularly meet with representatives of business and civil leaders of Iraq, temporarily located in Jordan, and discuss the issues of cooperation with them.
We closely watch the development of military-political situation in Iraq and inform the leadership of the Foreign Ministry about the most important events. Embassy periodically make suggestions for cooperation between the two countries.
Formal talks as well as private ones, are used to inform our Iraqi counterparts on various aspects of development in Azerbaijan, in particular, the essence and consequences of the Armenian aggression against our country, the efforts of Azerbaijan's leadership to reach peaceful settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. In this context, we have worked intensively to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in the format of international organizations. Iraq, as a member of the OIC supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and reaffirmed its position on a bilateral basis and within international organizations.
During the meetings with the Iraqis, we also inform them that Azerbaijan is closely monitoring the situation in Iraq, sympathize with suffering and hardship endured by its people, and express understanding and support for the efforts of the Iraqi government to end violence and terror, achieving national reconciliation and understanding between different ethnic groups and religions, preserving the unity of Iraqi society.
In their turn, the Iraqis emphasize that their country has rich potential and will play a big role in the region in future. Stressing the interest of Iraq in establishing multilateral cooperation with Azerbaijan, they are calling for intensifying efforts from both sides.
Moreover, the fact that Iraq has an embassy in Baku (due to financial difficulties the Iraqis closed their embassies in several countries), is an important proof that the Iraqi leadership pays attention to the development of cooperation with Azerbaijan.
I would like to note that, despite all the past difficulties, during our accreditation period in Iraq the embassy actively participated in organizing the visit of Iraqi Minister of Youth and Sports J. Jafar, State Minister of Culture and Tourism K.Al-Juburi, several top delegations to Azerbaijan to participate in the conference of heads of law enforcement authorities of OIC Member States on dialogue among civilizations, as well as the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of Sheikhulislam Pashazade.