Azerbaijan, Baku, Aug. 16 / Trend S.Agayeva /
Trend interviewed the Azerbaijani Ambassador to the Swiss Confederation and the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Permanent Representative to the UN Office and other International Organizations in Geneva, Murad Najafbayli.
Trend: Mr. Ambassador, recently you were appointed Ambassador to the Swiss Confederation. How would you characterize the existing relations between the two countries?
: Describing the Azerbaijani-Swiss relations, I would like to note that Azerbaijan attaches great importance to the deepening of bilateral relations with Switzerland. Today, these relations are differing with dynamics of development and are at the stage of rising. Reciprocal visits at the highest level that took place in recent years, the establishment of friendship groups in legislative bodies, the implementation of economic projects, and the days of culture are indicators of the development of bilateral relations. As you know, political dialogue, taking place at the level of heads of state, plays an important role in the formation and development of relations between the countries. I would like to emphasize that National Leader Heydar Aliyev attended the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2000 and held talks with Swiss President Adolf Ogi and other officials. This visit, of course, raised the Azerbaijani-Swiss relations to a new, higher level.
At the World Economic Forum held in February 2002 in New York, Heydar Aliyev met with Swiss President Kaspar Villiger. During his visit to Davos to attend the World Economic Forum in January 2007, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met with President Micheline Calmy-Rey. Official visits carried out, by President of the Swiss Confederation Pascal Couchepin in May 2008 to our country and Mr. Ilham Aliyev in October 2009 to Switzerland, as well as the meeting of Ilham Aliyev and current President of the Swiss Confederation Doris Leuthard held in January 2010 at the World Economic Forum, fruitful negotiations between the two leaders were the beginning of a new phase in the development of bilateral relations. The mutual visits held at the level of parliaments, foreign ministers and at other levels also contributed to the development of formed cooperative relations between the two countries.
Q: How much is the Swiss society is informed about Azerbaijan's position in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and what work is being done by the Embassy in this regard?
A: Settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the main priority of Azerbaijan's foreign policy and as each diplomatic mission of our country, the embassy in Switzerland works towards a deeper awareness of the country in which it is accredited, about the just position of our Republic resolution of the conflict. Our Embassy seeks to raise awareness among the Swiss public about the nature of this conflict by organizing various activities. In this regard, the embassy held meetings with the governmental officials, MPs, and Swiss journalists. The mutual visits play an important role in informing the Swiss public about the position of Azerbaijan in the resolution of Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Q: Is the Azerbaijani community residing in Switzerland, is active in matters relating to our country, and how do you assess the cooperation of the Embassy and the Diaspora?
A: The embassy maintains close relations with our compatriots and expands cooperation with them. Despite the relative paucity of our compatriots in Switzerland, their activities can be considered to some extent successful. The Diaspora is constantly trying to be proactive, promoting Azerbaijan, and carries out various activities making efforts to familiarize local people with the life of our country. Thus, the protest action in connection with the genocide in Khojaly organized by our compatriots in February 2010 in Geneva, the festivities associated with the Novruz holiday in the cities of Basel and Solothurn, participation of the Diaspora in a formal reception at the Embassy in Bern on the occasion of Republic Day, I can bring many examples of the activity of our compatriots.
However, all these don't mean that in the sphere of work with the Diaspora all possible potential is exhausted and one can limit himself to it. This area of our activity is increasing to achieve good organization of the Azerbaijani Diaspora in Switzerland and its closer participation in the political life of the country.
Q: Can you share your thoughts on the state of bilateral economic relations between Switzerland and Azerbaijan?
A: Azerbaijan pays special attention to the development of comprehensive relations with European countries, including Switzerland. Economic relations between Azerbaijan and Switzerland are successfully developing and expanding. At the moment there is a necessary legal and regulatory base between the two countries for the expansion of cooperation, which opens real opportunities for further development of trade and economic relations between Azerbaijan and Switzerland, for more fully utilization of the potential of both countries.
A joint commission on trade and economic cooperation between the Azerbaijani Government and the Federal Council of Switzerland operates for several years. The main goal of the joint intergovernmental commission is trade turnover increase between the two countries, deepening cooperation in industrial, agricultural, financial, banking, investment, tourism spheres and in the field of renewable energy. It was agreed to expand cooperation in macroeconomic policy, support for private sector, employment, trade and infrastructure at the Commission's meeting in January 2010.
In May 2010 Baku hosted meeting of the members of the Azerbaijani and the Swiss parliamentary friendship groups, as well as representatives of the Swiss energy companies and our country's relevant agencies. At present, Switzerland is one of the major investors in non-oil sector of Azerbaijan. The Swiss companies open their representative offices in Azerbaijan and conduct successful activity in our country. However, there are wide opportunities for further expansion of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Switzerland, which should be implemented. By the way, Azerbaijan uses the Swiss Generalised System of Preferences, which contributes to the export of Azerbaijani goods to the Swiss markets. Switzerland has implemented several projects within Azerbaijan's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). These projects were aimed at improving the skills of specialists in various state institutions of our country in the sphere of intellectual property and other issues related to WTO.
Q: What economic projects are being implemented to strengthen and develop the Azerbaijani-Swiss relations?
A: Switzerland is interested in developing cooperation with Azerbaijan in the energy sector. Thus, in 2007 Azerbaijan and Switzerland signed a memorandum on energy security and cooperation. Discussions of the Swiss initiatives that can contribute to ensuring energy security of Europe are underway.
In 2008, SOCAR opened its office in Geneva, which successfully operates. In Switzerland, Azerbaijan is considered as a reliable oil exporter. Thus, major part of the country's needs in oil is provided by Azerbaijan.
Given Switzerland's great experience in the use of renewable energy sources, at present a possibility of using Swiss technology in Azerbaijan is being considered.
In addition, the Azerbaijani side studies the technology used in Switzerland for the effective utilization of domestic waste and the possibility of its use in Azerbaijan.
Successful cooperation between our countries in the cement production is carried out within one of the investment projects for several years.
The collaboration with a number of Swiss pharmaceutical companies is underway. High-quality medical equipment produced in Switzerland is imported by Azerbaijan.
Our country exports precious metals, including gold to Switzerland. Thus, part of gold from Gedabey gold orefield is cleansed in Geneva at the plant of a local company which is highly rated in this area.
At present, works are underway to export of the Azerbaijani agricultural products to Switzerland.
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