Azerbaijan, Baku, Jan. 13 / Trend E. Ostapenko /
The upcoming visit of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to Latvia will be a positive impulse in further development of Latvia-Azerbaijan relations. It will be marked by signing of several agreements in priority areas, including the cooperation in preventing and liquidating emergency situations and exchanging tax information.
"Therefore during the visit Agreement on Cooperation in Prevention and Liquidation of Emergency Situations and Agreement on Mutual Administrative Assistance and Exchange of Information on Matters of Tax Legislation Compliance will be signed," President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers said on the eve of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's visit to Riga scheduled for January.
The relations between two countries are based on stability, mutual understanding and deep respect, President Zatlers said.
Latvia supports the strengthening of relations between the EU and Azerbaijan by considering Azerbaijan as one of the most credible partners for the EU, the president said.
The Eastern Partnership is a new and unprecedented framework for political and practical co-operation with the EU eastern neighbors.
It has the potential to provide us with the tools in supporting reforms and bringing stability to the whole region. We would like to encourage Azerbaijan to make use of those tools to facilitate its reform agenda and to promote relations with the EU, he said.
"Eastern Partnership" is aimed at political and economic rapprochement of six post-Soviet states - Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus with the European Union. The program does not provide opportunities for EU membership, but also involves facilitating the visa regime, energy cooperation and introduction of free trade zones. There will be carried out projects on student exchange, environmental protection and energy supply.
The first round of negotiations on the EU Association Agreement was held with the three South Caucasus countries - Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia in July 2010. The agreements cover a wide range of areas including political dialogue, justice, freedom and security, as well as the issues of trade and cooperation.
The program's constituent summit was held in Prague on May 7, 2008. The next summit will be held in Budapest in May 2011, chaired by Hungary.
The Budapest summit will assess the progress and set the goals for the next period of cooperation, he said.
"We should use this opportunity to tailor the Eastern Partnership to the individual needs of each partner. I am sure that Azerbaijan will continue to play active role in setting our common future agenda," the president said.
Latvia supports the soonest possible resolution of the conflict according to the recognized principles of the international law and the United Nations. That is crucial to ensure peace and stability in the South Caucasus region, the president said.
"I hope that the continued efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group would give impetus towards resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict one the basis of the Basic Principles proposed in Madrid in November 2007," he said.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 surrounding districts.
Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. - are currently holding the peace negotiations.
Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council's four resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.
Economic cooperation and power engineering
The positive political climate and the legal base between our countries have created ample opportunities for expanded economic cooperation, he said.
He also stressed the positive dynamics in our mutual turnover over the last few years.
Still, Latvian entrepreneurs view Azerbaijan as a country with wide business opportunities. The main products of Latvian exports to Azerbaijan are processed foods, metal products and pharmaceuticals. There is a great interest to expand cooperation in the IT sector, he said.
Azerbaijan has special interest from the standpoint of ensuring energy security of Europe.
"Latvia as an EU Member State is interested in diversification of energy supply routes and sources. Therefore we view Azerbaijan as one of the key players in the supply of energy resources from the Caspian Region to Europe," he said.
Nabucco is currently one of the most important alternative gas supply projects for the EU.
This pipeline envisages transportation of natural gas from the Caspian region to European countries, bypassing Russia through Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Austria.
The gas main channel, with a length of 3,300 kilometers, will be a continuation of the already-constructed Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline and is intended for transporting 20-30 billion cubic meters of gas annually.
"Nabucco" project is worth 7.9 billion euro.
The agreement on construction of Nabucco pipeline signed on 13 July by Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria is a strong signal on positive development of the Nabucco project and diversification of gas supply to Europe in general.
While Latvia is not participating in Nabucco directly, we are most interested in its success and hope that in the future Azerbaijan's natural gas reserves will be delivered to Europe through Nabucco gas pipeline," he said.
Its construction scheduled to start in 2011 and the first supplies to be commissioned in 2014.
The project's participants include the Austrian OMV, Hungarian MOL, Bulgarian Bulgargaz, Romanian Transgaz, Turkish Botas and German RWE, each having an equal 16.67 percent share.
Roughly 30 percent of the total project cost will be invested by the Nabucco Gas Pipeline International shareholders, based on equity, the remaining 70 percent will be paid by loans.