Norwegian ambassador: Azerbaijan's entry into WTO to attract investments in non-oil sector

Norwegian ambassador: Azerbaijan's entry into WTO to attract investments in non-oil sector

Azerbaijan, Baku, May 17 / Trend E.Ostapenko S.Agayeva /

Azerbaijan's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) may attract additional investments in the development of the economy's non-oil sector, Norwegian Ambassador Jon Ramberg said.

"Norway is the second largest foreign investor in Azerbaijan, and our investments are mainly concentrated in the petroleum sector. Azerbaijan's membership in the WTO could be the most important factor to stimulate interest [investment] in other sectors of the economy," Ramberg said in an interview with Trend on the eve of Norway's Independence Day.

Several Norwegian companies, the largest of which is Statoil, operate in Azerbaijan. The company participates in the development of the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli and the Shah Deniz fields. The company also takes part in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and is a commercial operator selling gas in the Phase 1 of Shah Deniz.

In the process of accession to the WTO, Azerbaijan is now involved in negotiations with 10 countries and the EU. Azerbaijan has been represented in the WTO since 1997 as an observer.

Ramberg said energy is the basis of the Azerbaijan-Norway cooperation.

"Norway is not included in the EU. Like Azerbaijan, Norway is an oil-producing country, which supplies most of its oil and gas to the European market," he said. "I think Azerbaijan and Norway are of crucial importance for EU's aspiration to diversify its energy supplies."

The EU actively lobbies the Southern Corridor project to diversify energy supplies. According to Nabucco Gas Pipeline International, gas demand in the EU will reach 617 billion cubic meters in 2012 and 656 billion in 2015.

Ramberg also noted significant bilateral contacts in science and culture, and emphasized the need to deepen the political dialogue.

Azerbaijan shows significant interest in Norwegian culture thanks to Thor Heyerdahl's research on the historical relations between the two peoples. The Norwegian side has financed archaeological excavations and restoration of a church in Kish near Sheki in northwestern Azerbaijan.

The sides also have relations in communications and education. A baccalaureate program to study Scandinavian countries opened in Baku in 2006. Today, about 40 Azerbaijani students study the Norwegian language, history, economy, politics and literature.

"Any embassy should feel that the potential for cooperation is always greater than the present level of relations. I also take the same attitude," Ramberg said.

Norway-Azerbaijan relations began to develop in the early 1990s. Diplomatic relations between the countries were established in 1992 and the country opened an embassy in Baku in June 1998.

Ramberg said Norway is involved in several major projects in Azerbaijan, mainly through the UNDP.

Norway has also provided humanitarian assistance to Azerbaijan. The Norwegian Council for Aid to Refugees and IDPs operated in Azerbaijan in 1995-2008. The Norwegian Red Cross has worked with the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society in various projects for over 10 years.

Cooperation in security should be deepened given the situation in the South Caucasus, Ramberg said.

"The current level of security cooperation needs enhancement - between Azerbaijan and NATO and between Azerbaijan and Norway," he said.

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