President Vaclav Klaus: Czech Republic interested in energy cooperation with Azerbaijan (INTERVIEW)
Azerbaijan , Baku, May 10 / Trend E.Ostapenko /
President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Klaus will pay the first state visit to Azerbaijan on May 16-19 .
"I believe that my visit will represent a clear signal that the Czech Republic is interested in intensive relations with your country," Klaus said in an interview with Trend on the eve of the visit .
The president will be accompanied by a business delegation of 40 people . Klaus said this shows a great interest in economic cooperation.
The CzechRepublic, Klaus said , is interested in energy cooperation with Azerbaijan .
"As a country which does not have its own gas, we have a great interest in the import of natural gas. That is why we support the project of South Corridor and the project of Nabucco gas pipeline," Klaus added.
The Czech Republic covers 20 percent of its oil demand by imports from Azerbaijan .
Azerbaijan is the largest trading partner of the Czech Republic in the South Caucasus.
The turnover is increasing every year. It hit $38 million in 2010. Roughly $37.78 million fall to the share of imports of Czech goods, $0.23 million - the share of export of Azerbaijani goods to the Czech Republic.
"I have never been to Azerbaijan, or to any country of the Caucasus. I hope that I am paying off a certain debt to this region by this first state visit," Klaus said noting that he looks forward to meeting with President Ilham Aliyev.
Earlier, the leaders met personally only once at the founding summit of the Eastern Partnership in Prague in May 2009. The Czech Republic was one of the initiators of the project .
Klaus believes one of the visible results of the Eastern Partnership is the initiation of negotiations about the Association Agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan. Conclusion of Free Trade Agreement should be a part of it, he added.
The first round of negotiations on the EU Association Agreement with the three South Caucasus countries - Azerbaijan , Georgia and Armenia - was held in mid- July 2010 .
The agreement is based on a commitment to develop common values and cover areas including political dialogue , justice, freedom and security, as well as issues of trade and cooperation .
Regarding the urgent issue for Azerbaijan as prolonged conflict with Armenia, Klaus said the Czech Republic follows the developments related to the peace process on Nagorno - Karabakh settlement, while is not directly involved in the resolution .
"We are, however, convinced that the solution of this conflict must come from within the region, not from the outside. That is why we welcome the direct talks between presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia which have been taking place since 2008," Klaus said. "There is no other way which would lead to a solution."
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.