Interview with ambassador: Cooperation with UAE to develops in growing line

Azerbaijan, Baku, September 10 /Trend, S.Agayeva/

Trend interviews Azerbaijani ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to United Arab Emirates Elkhan Gahramanov

Trend: Mr. Ambassador, a short time has passed since your appointment as the head of the diplomatic representation of Azerbaijan in the United Arab Emirates. How would you characterize the relationship between the two countries in political and humanitarian spheres?

Elkhan Gahramanov: The political ties existing between Azerbaijan and the United Arab Emirates began to develop mainly after the establishment of our embassy in this country in 2001. A number of mutual visits were made within a short period. Documents have been signed, covering various spheres, required for the initial development of ties. President Ilham Aliyev's visit to the UAE on Nov. 20-21, 2006 and his meeting with the country's President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan assumed great importance in strengthening the existing links and identifying future development prospects. During the visit, agreements were signed, covering political, economic, cultural and tourism spheres. Most of the provisions of these documents have been successfully implemented. After Ilham Aliyev's visit, the political, economic, cultural ties and cooperation between the UAE and Azerbaijan began to grow.

After Azerbaijani President's official visit to UAE in 2006, the number of bilateral visits at the level of senior officials has increased between the two countries. March 17-19, 2008, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov made an official visit to the UAE and met with his counterpart of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister for Foreign Trade Sheikh Lubna Al Kasymi and Minister of Economy Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansuri.

A delegation headed by Foreign Trade Minister, Sheikh Lubna bin Khalid Al Kasymi visited our country in May 2008. During the visit, he was received by the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov.

A series of reciprocal bilateral visits were made between the UAE and Azerbaijan in 2009. Thus, May 26, 2009, the delegation headed by the UAE Minister of Energy Mohammed Al Hamili, April 20-21 - the delegation headed by UAE Minister of Economy, Chairman of the Federal Transport and Structures of the Federal Civil Aviation Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, and July 8-9, a delegation led by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited Azerbaijan.

The meetings held during these visits with the leadership of Azerbaijan expressed satisfaction with the successful development of relations between our two countries, stressed the active bilateral cooperation and noted the strengthening of Azerbaijan and UAE bilateral relations in all spheres. At the same time, the meetings covered the prospects of relations between the two countries in the spheres of energy, tourism, economy and private sector, and also discussed possibilities of cooperation within the joint regional projects between the two countries. Under current legislation, both countries widely discussed issues of joint investments by businessmen, legislation of both countries in economy, and especially in the sphere of tourism.

In addition to these visits, the representatives of our country made a series of official and business visits to the UAE in 2009. A large delegation consisting of deputy ministers from different ministries of Azerbaijan, led by Minister of Economic Development Shahin Mustafayev, made an official visit to the UAE December 21-22. During the visit, Minister Shahin Mustafayev met with UAE Minister of Economy Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansuri and other officials. The meeting expressed satisfaction with the level of development of economic and trade relations between the two countries, as well as was mentioned an idea to create conditions for the further development of cooperation.

Q: How is the UAE public informed of Azerbaijan's fair position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement? What activities do you conduct in this regard?

A: The activities of the embassy are consistently expanded at all negotiations and meetings, relevant activities are conducted to familiarize them with Azerbaijan's position on the issue of the Armenian aggression against our country. At all events and meetings held by the embassy, the UAE public is informed about Azerbaijan's fair position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement peacefully and within international organizations. Furthermore, at events organized by the embassy on this conflict, interviews are given to the media outlets. Recently, we have published information about the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan in some media outlets of the UAE.

Q: How does the Azerbaijani community in the UAE conduct activities in this country, and what role it can play to increase UAE interest towards Azerbaijan? What are the links between the embassy and the community?

A: With regards to this matter, I would note that our fellow citizens, temporarily or permanently residing in the United Arab Emirates, working or studying here, are registered at the consular section of the embassy in accordance with the rules and on the basis of their own appeals. Despite that their number is small, the embassy is in constant touch with the community, organizes meetings in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, hold discussions on joint activities of the community to raise interest in the UAE towards our country, makes recommendations to the Azerbaijani students to demonstrate greater activity in social activities carried out at various institutes and universities in the UAE, where they study, and ensures their participation in international student fairs and festivals, and furnishes them with CDs, various books and materials needed to promote our country in these events. Also, the embassy provides members of the community, working in various companies UAE, with necessary literature for propaganda to distribute and ensures the participation of community members in all activities conducted by the embassy.

Q: What can you say about the economic relations between Azerbaijan and the United Arab Emirates and prospects for their development?

A: Since the opening of our embassy in the UAE, that is, since 2001, we have been paying special attention to the development of economic relations between our countries. Currently special importance is attached to this matter. We have carried out relevant work on establishing a legal framework in the economic sphere of our countries to expand trade, attract UAE investment in Azerbaijan, as well as build cooperation between business circles of our countries. We have signed agreements in the sphere of protection and attraction of mutual investments as well as to eliminate double taxation of income and assets. Then it was necessary to determine the mechanisms of economic cooperation. Studying international practices and conducting discussions with the other side, we have come to the decision it needs to establish a joint economic commission on trade-economic and scientific-technical cooperation. Thus, thanks to the efforts of both sides, we could establish the commission in 2008, of which first meeting was held on May 26, 2008 in Baku. A UAE delegation headed by Foreign Trade Minister Lubna bin Khalid al-Kasymi arrived to participate at the meeting. This meeting was very useful for establishing and developing economic ties between our countries. This identified the future direction of our economic ties. A protocol was signed as a result of the first meeting of the joint commission. According to the protocol, making presentations on the investment environment and business environment, the countries will develop cooperation in such spheres as oil and gas industry, agriculture, food production, transport, tourism, education, health, customs, environment and others.

Later the second meeting of the Commission was conducted in Abu Dhabi in December 2009 in connection with the intensification of economic ties between our countries.

It is worth to note that the second meeting has further expanded our economic ties and spheres of cooperation, which in addition to the energy sector, included other economic sectors, particularly, non-oil sector. The protocol signed as a result of the meeting reflected concrete cooperation projects in such spheres as energy, industry, renewable energy, agriculture, banking and finance, customs, transport, ecology, water resources. After the second meeting, was held a business forum Azerbaijan-UAE, and organized meetings of business circles of both countries.
It should be noted that in addition to bilateral economic ties, there are multilateral relations between us. These ties continue to develop. Our countries have established active and constructive relations within the Organization for Economic Cooperation, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), as well as international financial institutions. Abu Dhabi Fund for Development has allocated long-term preferential loans for the construction of the Baku ring road and power station "South".

At this stage, we pay special attention to a number of issues in order to further develop economic cooperation. We are working to establish a business council Azerbaijan-UAE to organize more intensive contacts between business circles of both countries. In addition, there is a need to expand the legal framework to ensure the long-term cooperation, and we're working on signing a number of projects on economic cooperation.

Our countries have great potential to develop agricultural ties. In our country, agriculture is supported by the State and subsidies are provided for the development of this sector. Currently, Azerbaijan provides its domestic market and also exports agricultural products to neighboring countries. We believe that the UAE market will also be favorable for our agro-industrial products. In this regard, we are going to organize agricultural exhibition in the Emirates.

Favorable conditions have been created between our countries for mutual investments and joint ventures. During our meetings with colleagues from the Emirates, the UAE representatives said that they were interested in investing in our country. They invited Azerbaijan to cooperate in this regard. Therefore, in order to attract investments from the Emirates in our country, we are working on organizing an investment forum in Abu Dhabi to make a presentation of economic opportunities in Azerbaijan.

At the same time I must say that almost every year business forums are held between the two countries. Four such forums have been conducted in Baku and Abu Dhabi over the past three years. Conducting such business forums results from the mutual interests of business representatives of both countries. It creates a basis for business cooperation.

Thus, it testifies that there is huge potential between our countries to develop of economic ties. We hope that all these will give a boost to further development of economic relations and the formation of a new phase of our ties in the future.

Q: Are any reciprocal visits envisaged in the near future?

A: A number of mutual official visits have been made between the two countries in 2010 and official and business visits are also planned by the end of the year.

In this regard, I can say that the delegation headed by UAE Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Tarig Hidan made a visit to our country on June 9-10 this year. During the visit, the first consultations were conducted between the foreign ministries of Azerbaijan and the United Arab Emirates. During the meeting, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the governments of Azerbaijan and the UAE on visa-free travel of citizens holding diplomatic passports. The memorandum will enter into force soon.

At the same time I want to emphasize that in general, one of the priorities set by our embassy is to arrange the exchange of high level visits between the two countries.

A number of mutual visits are expected to be made during the last quarter of this year and in 2011.

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