BAKU, Azerbaijan, Feb. 25
The state visit of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev to Italy can be called historical both in nature and content, Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan, Head of Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the Presidential Administration Hikmet Hajiyev said in an interview on the state visit of President Ilham Aliyev to Italy, Trend reports.
Hikmet Hajiyev noted that Italy recognized the state independence of Azerbaijan on January 1, 1992, and diplomatic relations were established between the two countries on May 2 of the same year.
"Since that time, our ties have been continuously and positively developing. The first state visit of President Ilham Aliyev to Italy is of particular importance in terms of the status, quantity and quality of signed documents, bringing bilateral relations including trade, economic, military-technical, cultural relations, to the level of strategic partnership This was the first state visit of the head of Azerbaijan to Italy. In previous years, the Azerbaijani president visited Italy five times with three being official and two business visits," Hajiyev said.
"Italian President Sergio Mattarella made his first official visit to Azerbaijan in July 2018. A state visit is considered the highest in terms of status, and they are made to a limited number of countries during a year. The range of issues discussed during a state visit is broader, the essence is more profound. In addition, this was the first state visit made by the head of a foreign state to Italy in 2020, which is a manifestation of special respect for our country and its president," Hikmet Hajiyev noted.
"During the visit, President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva were paid special respect and attention. This can be seen in every detail of the organizational and protocol aspects of the visit of the head of state, and in the richness of the visit program. President Ilham Aliyev held meetings with his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella in one-on-one and expanded formats, as well as with the President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic (Prime Minister) Giuseppe Conte, the presidents of the Italian Senate of the Republic and the Chamber of Deputies," Hikmet Hajiyev said.
"The state visit of President Ilham Aliyev to Italy has ensured a new level of relations between Azerbaijan and Italy. At present, relations between Azerbaijan and Italy are at the level of strategic partnership. Italy is the main political, economic and trade partner of Azerbaijan among the EU countries. We have high level political ties. Experience shows that the superiority of political relations between the two countries has created a comprehensive guarantee in other areas, including for the development of cooperation in the economic, commercial, cultural and other fields," Hikmet Hajiyev said.
"In addition to strategic partnership in a bilateral format, both countries also have close and multidisciplinary cooperation within international organizations. In particular, Italy actively supports the strengthening of Azerbaijan's cooperation with the EU and NATO. Italy, being the 7th economy of the world, a member of the G-7, as well as organizations such as the EU and NATO, has its weight and plays an important role in international relations," the assistant to the Azerbaijani president added.
"At the meetings, Italian side noted such important factors as the strategically favorable location of Azerbaijan, pursuing a successful policy, despite being in a difficult region, and close friendly relations with neighboring countries, as well as secular traditions," Hajiyev noted.
"Other events during the visit included a state reception in honor of President Ilham Aliyev at the Italian Presidential Palace, a concert program for the heads of state and delegations on the occasion of the launch of the "2020 - Year of Azerbaijani Culture in Italy" project, a working lunch with leaders of more than 10 world-famous leading Italian industrial and financial groups, an Azerbaijani-Italian business forum, and a visit to the Rome city hall. Consequently, this visit can be called historical in nature and content," Hajiyev added.
The assistant to the Azerbaijani president emphasized that 28 documents were signed between the two states during the visit.
"These documents cover cooperation in the fields of politics, defense, economics, trade, energy, high technology, transport, infrastructure, culture, science, tourism, sports, food security as well as between the capitals. Seventeen of them were signed with the participation of President Ilham Aliyev and Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Other documents were signed on the sidelines of the business forum," Hikmet Hajiyev said.
"Among the signed documents, the 'Joint Declaration on Strengthening Multidimensional Strategic Partnership between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Italian Republic' is of exceptional importance. The signing of the document personally by President Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte indicates the political weight of the document. This is the first such document signed by Azerbaijan with another country, as well with as a G-7 and EU member state. Thanks to this document, relations between the two countries are reaching a new, higher level. Thus, the parties not only accept each other as strategic partners, but also express a desire to strengthen the partnership in all directions," Hajiyev added.
The Joint Declaration includes very important points for Azerbaijan, Hajiyev said noting that the preamble of the document sets out the principles underlying bilateral relations, including the parties' mutual support of the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and internationally recognized borders. The parties emphasize the inadmissibility of acts of aggression in international relations, Hajiyev stressed.
"The Joint Declaration reflects the unequivocal position of the parties in connection with the most painful problem for Azerbaijan - the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The political part of the document includes a very important article regarding the settlement of the conflict on the basis of the fundamental principles of the Helsinki Final Act, in particular, the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of international borders, as well as relevant documents and decisions of the UN and OSCE," the assistant to the Azerbaijani president said.
“Italy has always supported Azerbaijan’s fair position in the process of resolving the conflict and its efforts have always been highly appreciated by the Azerbaijani side,” Hajiyev added. “Italy is one of the members of the OSCE Minsk Group and is very active as part of the Minsk process. At one time, namely Italian diplomat Mario Raffaelli, was the first chairman of the CSCE (currently OSCE) Minsk Conference and subsequently the OSCE Minsk Group. In 1993, a UN Security Council resolution was adopted on the basis of a report prepared precisely by Mario Raffaelli to UN secretary general after the occupation of Agdam city.”
“The document also reflects Azerbaijan’s relations with the EU, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project - the last segment of the Southern Gas Corridor, and their role in strengthening Europe’s energy security, as well as other important points for Azerbaijan,” the presidential assistant noted. “As Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev emphasized, the provisions covering both the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and other issues reflected in the Joint Declaration can lay a solid foundation for a new partnership agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan.”
“As a result, Azerbaijan and Italy express their will to comprehensively develop strategic partnership in the political, economic, trade, energy, cultural, humanitarian and other fields, and a sustainable strategic dialogue mechanism is being established between the two countries for advancing this process,” said Hajiyev.
The presidential assistant added that the high level of strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and Italy is characterized by political ties as well as intensive cooperation in other areas.
“First of all, the interaction between the two countries in the trade and economic sphere is of particular importance,” Hajiyev noted. “Italy is the first trade and export partner of Azerbaijan.”
“Last year alone, the volume of trade between the two countries amounted to $6 billion,” the presidential assistant said. “Some 92 percent of Italy’s trade with the countries of the South Caucasus accounts for Azerbaijan. The very high level of cooperation in the energy sector should be particularly noted. For many years, Azerbaijan has been supplying crude oil to Italian consumers, and last year Azerbaijan was the biggest supplier of these products to Italy. Seventeen percent of oil consumed in Italy accounts for Azerbaijan.”
“This year, after the completion of the TAP project, which is the last segment of the Southern Gas Corridor, this figure will increase even more,” Hajiyev added. “The implementation of this project won’t only make significant contribution to Europe’s energy security, but will also serve the interests of the two countries and the well-being of their peoples.”
“Italy is the 7th world economy and a member of the G7,” said the presidential assistant. “Italian companies with advanced technological innovations and know-how participate in more than 300 various projects with a total value of over $10 billion in Azerbaijan’s oil and gas and non-oil sectors. Over 100 Italian companies operating in the field of industry, construction, trade, agriculture, communications, services and others are registered in Azerbaijan.”
It is no coincidence that as part of the state visit, President Ilham Aliyev met with heads of the leading Italian companies, Hajiyev noted.
Furthermore, a business forum was held with the participation of the Azerbaijani president. About 100 companies representing both sides in the field of industry, including textile and food industries, energy, agriculture, logistics, ICT, healthcare, tourism, consulting and construction took part in the business forum.
"The previous business forum was held in July 2018 in Baku as part of the official visit of Italian President Sergio Mattarella to Azerbaijan. The holding of such meetings between businessmen of the two countries with the participation of the presidents became not only traditional; this also testifies to a high level of state attention to the development of bilateral trade and economic relations," said Hajiyev.
The presidential assistant added that Azerbaijan and Italy also reached an agreement on cooperation in the military-technical sphere. Cooperation in this sphere is the demonstration of a high level of mutual trust between the two countries and Azerbaijan’s large scale interaction with numerous countries in military-technical sphere, he stressed.
"While speaking about other spheres of bilateral cooperation, it is worth stressing the successful initiatives which have been implemented recently in the cultural and humanitarian sphere. In this regard, it is necessary to emphasize the role of Azerbaijani First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva and of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation," Hajiyev said. "The Heydar Aliyev Foundation is implementing various projects in Italy. The Azerbaijani side is actively supporting the restoration of cultural monuments in Rome city. Azerbaijani film and culinary festivals which are held in Italy regularly serve to popularize the country's culture. The announcement of 2020 as the Year of Azerbaijani Culture in Italy by President Mattarella contributes to the wider dissemination of Azerbaijani culture in Italy and Europe, further strengthening of contacts between peoples and intensification of the Azerbaijan-Italy relations."
"As is known, the monument to great Azerbaijani poet and thinker Nizami Ganjavi was unveiled in famous Villa Borghese park in Rome in 2012. During the visit to Italy, President Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva visited this monument and laid flowers," added the head of presidential administration department.
"Another important project is the opening of the Center of Azerbaijani Culture in the central part of Rome. Such centers are currently operating in Paris, Berlin and Vienna. During the visit, President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva reviewed the building envisaged for the Center for Azerbaijani Culture in Rome," Hajiyev said.
"As for the humanitarian sphere, the cooperation between scientific and academic circles, higher educational institutions of the two countries has recently become more intensive. Currently, students learn the Italian language at the Azerbaijan University of Languages and the Italian Language Center is operating there," he noted. "The research and training courses are conducted as part of Azerbaijani studies at two leading universities in Italy - the Sapienza University of Rome and the Ca Foscari University of Venice. The number of Azerbaijani students at Italian universities has recently increased up to 1,500."
"The first state visit of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to Italy, as well as the Joint Declaration on Strengthening Multidimensional Strategic Partnership and bilateral documents in other spheres signed during the visit, will ensure the effective development of strategic partnership between the two countries in new spheres," Hajiyev stressed.