Azerbaijan important partner, says German FM, OSCE chair (exclusive)

Azerbaijan important partner, says German FM, OSCE chair (exclusive)

Baku, Azerbaijan, Jan. 22

By Anakhanum Khidayatova - Trend:

Trend Agency's exclusive interview with the new OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Foreign Minister of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier

How do you assess the current state of bilateral political relations between Germany and Azerbaijan? What will be the main priorities of Germany in its relations with Azerbaijan in the future?

For us, Azerbaijan is an important partner in the region of the Southern Caucasus, strategically located at the Caspian Sea and blessed with enormous energy resources. Our economic exchange increased in 2015, and this was not only due to the fact that Germany buys significant quantities of oil from Azerbaijan. The German-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce is very active.

Other than that, we are also interested in increasing our cultural and humanitarian exchange. Our Embassy and the German Cultural Centre "Kapellhaus" run many cultural activities like concerts and exhibitions. There are nine schools in Azerbaijan that teach German as the first foreign language and we have a number of scholarships for Azerbaijani students. All of these are important vectors of our bilateral relationship and we intend to develop them further. We want Azerbaijan to be an important element of stability in the region.

Germany will be chairing the OSCE this year. Considering the protracted conflicts in the OSCE area, what can Germany do to bring Azerbaijan and Armenia closer to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and start working on the peace agreement?

The theme of our chairmanship in the OSCE is to renew dialogue, rebuild trust and re-establish security. We will put an active focus on trying to find solutions to regional conflicts within the OSCE framework. But we also want to develop the OSCE further as a platform for an open and constructive dialogue.

Concerning Nagorno-Karabakh, we think that the recent escalation we have witnessed is in nobody's interest. Therefore, as OSCE chair we will support the efforts by the Minsk Group to work towards a resolution of this conflict. It would be very important for the overall stability of the region and we count on a constructive approach by all sides.

How can Germany as OSCE chair contribute to reducing the tension between Russia and Turkey?

Russia and Turkey are important members of the international community and of the OSCE. They both have an enormous responsibility for peace and stability in the region. They also have a crucial role to play in the current international efforts to stop the civil war in Syria and in the fight against ISIL. We therefore encourage them to find constructive ways out of their bilateral crisis.

Europe is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since World War II. What are the keys to resolve this crisis?

The immense number of refugees is a big test and a challenge for our countries and societies which we urgently need to solve. Of course, we must work on securing our external borders. We cooperate with Turkey on this question. And we do what we can to find solutions to the conflicts that cause people to leave their home country, such as the civil war in Syria. This means that we have to tackle the root causes of the refugee problem. No single country can solve this crisis alone and there is no single solution. Therefore, we need to act in unison and solidarity within Europe, but also with our partners beyond Europe.

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