The interview of the Trend Agency and AzerNews with the Ambassador of Italy in Baku Giampaolo Cutillo.
Q: Where do you place Azerbaijani-Italian relations after the visit to Italy of President Ilham Aliyev?
A: Starting from cultural affinities, Italy and Azerbaijan share, if I may say so, a kind of southern temperament which makes us quite close to each other, and of course there are big economic interests. We look at Azerbaijan as a very interesting new emerging market and so I am sure that we will go further and further in this relation.
Q: What do you regard as being the pressing areas of perspective cooperation?
A: Right now of course, energy is the cornerstone of our cooperation because of the Southern Corridor and TAP because we are of course strongly committed. I wouldn't say it's only that.
We believe in Azerbaijan's potential. This country as often stated by its highest authorities needs more industry and more diversification. And from our side, I believe the Italian economy, Italian companies have exactly that kind of know-how, of knowledge, of technologies, of quality which places Italian products in the highest ranks globally. And so I think that this can be a very good match, mutually beneficial for both countries.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: I used to say that I feel to be in the right place at the right time. It's a matter of great satisfaction and pride professionally but also personally for me to be in a country where people at large love Italy in a very sincere way because of our culture because of our past. What we can offer also to Azerbaijani tourists and friends.
I wouldn't say I have a very big challenge. I feel I am here to increase and strengthen and intensify our relation. So this is really my goal. On that I enjoyed great support from Rome of course, and I have found the doors are open here at the highest level and that's a very good feeling for me.
Q: What is Italy's position on Nagorno-Karabakh keeping in mind that Italy was on the initial Minsk Group?
A: We still think the Minsk group is the main instrument that the International Community has to help Azerbaijan and Armenia to solve this very painful issue.
This has been reasserted also during President Aliyev's visit to Rome. Of course we stand by the group of Minsk, we support the triple chairs, Russia, the U.S. and France in their reports, in their work, which requires of course long term commitment.
We also understand, and I personally understand, having been here for the past year the deep sensitivity and sincere pain which this has caused in this country.
Of course, I'm fully aware of the absolute importance of this issue. Italy as well as the European Union stands with the Minsk Group. We believe that this can only be dealt with this issue through peaceful means to a negotiated solution of course because from that point of view the status quo is something which is not acceptable.
Q: What do you see as the biggest threat to the region?
This is a difficult region and Azerbaijan as I always hear in this country when I talk to my interlocutors, of course, is in a difficult neighborhood, if you look north, if you look south, wherever you look, there are challenges. I believe that Azerbaijan can play an important role in the stability in this region. Actually it is playing an important role for the stability of this region. But at the end of it, I don't think there can be solutions other than working for a deeper regional cooperation.
You have different players with different agendas, different interests but some kind of wider cooperation, regional cooperation can be found among different states in the region.
Q: Where do you see improvement in commerce and business between Azerbaijan and Italy?
A: You are struck when you come to Baku by the fact that walking along the Boulevard it seems to be as though you are in Via Veneto, you see all our big brands. This is just a part of it. I think from the point of view of technologies, industries infrastructures, this is a sector where we have a lot to do.
Italian companies specialize in many of the fields that right now Azerbaijan is considering as a priority, starting from transportation, health, big road works, all that is needed to support the development of this country we are there of course with are technologies our companies and ready to work on that.
Q: How can we improve business and commerce between Azerbaijan and Italy?
Well, of course, political contacts help a lot. This is what we have done in the last year, bringing with us some of the high-level delegations which have come from Italy, many companies have followed because this kind of helped them to pave the way for further contacts.
First, what is needed are more contacts among the respective business communities, private to private, institutions are there to help them. We are there to, let's say, scout for opportunities and spread information among these business communities. But of course, I think there is a big work ahead of us, for Italian companies but also for Azerbaijani companies that Italy can be a very interesting destination for Azerbaijan.
Claude Salhani is a political analyst and senior editor with Trend Agency