Ambassador: Greece considers Azerbaijan as attractive and reliable partner
Trend interviews Azerbaijani Ambassador to Greece Rahman Mustafayev
Trend: How do You comment on the results of Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov's recent visit to Greece?
Rahman Mustafayev: First of all, it was the first official visit of the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister to Greece in the history of the Azerbaijani-Greek relations. For this reason, both sides attached great importance to it. Conducted in Athens, the meetings and negotiations Elmar Mammadyarov conducted with the Prime Minister, Parliament Speaker and Foreign Minister of Greece, the business community allowed to present the national position and exchange views on topical issues of global and regional policies, identify ways of further cooperation and interaction in political, economic and humanitarian spheres. In Athens, at the initiative of our Greek colleagues, a dialogue has begun on cooperation between the foreign ministries of the two countries in the field of European integration of Azerbaijan. The Greek Foreign Ministry does not conduct such a dialogue with all CIS countries. Discussions were also conducted on the issues related to the preparation of President of Greece Karolos Papoulias's upcoming official visit to Baku. In general, the visit confirmed that our relations are at a good level and have solid prospects for further development.
Q: The President of Greece Karolos Papoulias plans to make an official visit to Azerbaijan in April. What issues will be the focus of talks at the highest level? Are there plans to sign any documents during Greek President's visit to Azerbaijan?
A: The focus of attention during Greek President's visit will be the issues of further strengthening bilateral cooperation in political, investment, economic, humanitarian and energy spheres. And it deals not only with the possible deliveries of Azerbaijani natural gas to the Greek market based on a "direct contract" between SOCAR and its Greek partner (both sides are interested in this), but also the cooperation in the production of alternative energy. The Greek companies - both industrial and consulting - display an interest in cooperation in this regard, considering our country as an attractive and reliable partner.
Traditionally, the Azerbaijani-Greek negotiating agenda includes international and regional relations: the situation in the South Caucasus and Balkans, relations between our two countries, neighboring countries, energy security of Europe.
We also hope that Greek President's visit will further strengthen the legal framework of bilateral cooperation. Currently the coordination of draft bilateral documents to be signed during the visit is conducted at the expert level. These include inter-governmental agreements on cooperation in maritime transportation, agriculture, environmental protection, three-year working program of cooperation in science, education and culture. In addition, work has begun on an agreement on military cooperation between the defense ministries of both countries. This is a fundamentally new direction in the Azerbaijani-Greek cooperation, and its appearance indicates serious and positive qualitative changes in our relationship.
Q: What progress in Greek-Azerbaijani relations could be expected from the visit?
A: We expect that Greek President's visit will further strengthen the trust between the leaderships of both countries, develop mutually beneficial cooperation between Baku and Athens in all spheres of bilateral relations, and especially will give impetus to government agencies and business circles to intensify cooperation in trade, economic, energy and investment spheres.
Q: How do You assess the current level of relations between Azerbaijan and Greece? Which spheres are most attractive for cooperation, and has the Azerbaijani business been presented in Greece?
A: We are satisfied with the current level and rate of development of bilateral cooperation. As the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said in an interview with influential Greek newspaper "Kathimerini" during the visit, "we are in a correct way". Next year our countries will mark the 20th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations, and during this period, our countries have made such achievements as the stable dynamics of the political dialogue at high level, the growing influence of the interaction of our diplomacies in international organizations, multilateral cooperation in the cultural sphere, active sports and youth contacts and exchanges.
By the way, we attach particular importance to the humanitarian cooperation, since our countries have a unique potential for cooperation in this sphere. In this regard, I would like to particularly mention that under the auspices and with the support of the Azerbaijani Embassy in Greece, an international theatre studio was opened in February in Athens. In the studio, the best Azerbaijani, Greek and foreign teachers are training Greek students the practical disciplines of actor art. The director of the studio, our compatriot and one of the leading actresses in Greece Tamilla Guliyeva has already started to conduct training on the history of theater and art of Azerbaijan. We also plan to conduct a series of lectures on the history of Azerbaijani music, singing and dancing. This is a unique project in the European region and I am sure it will present to the Greek audience the information about the richness of Azerbaijani culture, even will make our peoples closer.
I would not like to ignore the problem spots in our relationship. These include, in my opinion, the small amount of mutual trade - a figure of $180 million does not meet the trading potential of the sides; undiversified structure of our exports - oil prevails in our supply, there are no serious investments; tours are low.
I am sure that all of these issues will be the focus of the relevant ministries and agencies, as well as participants of the Business Forum to be held during Greek President's official visit to Baku, and find their solution in the process of bilateral cooperation.