Interview with Tadahiro Abe, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Azerbaijan
Question: How do you estimate the current level of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Japan? Which spheres have good perspective for deepening the relationships between the two countries?
Answer: The mutual understanding and mutual relationships between Azerbaijan and Japan are well maintained in a comprehensive manner. After gaining its independence in 1991, Azerbaijan has been making every effort towards its democratization and economic development. Through my experience in Azerbaijan for the past 10 months, I have an impression that the government and people of Azerbaijan have been making steady progress toward this direction. Though geographically our countries are located far from each other and there is a long distance between the two countries, we have nurtured warm and friendly feelings to the Azerbaijani people.
As it is written in our Constitution, Japan is striving for global peace. We highly appreciate AzerbaijanвЂ™s efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region and worldwide. In this respect the government and people of Japan are ready to further cooperate with Azerbaijan to ensure the economic development of the country, which provides necessary conditions for the peaceful environment of Azerbaijan.
In our activities we emphasize the importance of rendering economic assistance to your country. For Azerbaijani it is very important to achieve peace and stability of the nation through economic development.
Providing the economic assistance to the countries in need is one of the major pillars of JapanвЂ™s foreign policy. In this context we successfully implement our Official Development Assistance (ODA) in Azerbaijan. We are pleased to see that Azerbaijan has been successfully developing since 1991. As to the level of bilateral cooperation, I should say that we have made a real progress. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992, the total amount of Japanese assistance to Azerbaijan has reached $690 million. The Japanese Embassy has been functioning in Azerbaijan since 2000 and I am the third Ambassador in Baku. During my term of duty for the past 10 months, I have already materialized $280 million assistance to Azerbaijan. We make utmost efforts to cooperate with the people and the government of Azerbaijan in order to promote the development of this country. Our cooperation encompasses a wide range of areas, including the development of economic infrastructure, social sector, improvement of the irrigation system, road construction, as well as agricultural sector. We realized from our own experience that for reaching economic development, it is needed to upgrade the level of all above-mentioned aspects of economy and social sphere; and we are always ready to assist Azerbaijan in this regard.
Another aspect of cooperation can be seen in the cultural cooperation. We think that mutual cooperation should be promoted through both economic and cultural activities, because cultural activities also help us to strengthen and deepen mutual understanding between our two countries. We have implemented various cultural activities here. We provided schools with equipment and musical instruments. This year we held exhibition Expo-2005 in Japan where Azerbaijan actively participated. Over 22 million visitors came to the Expo and the pavilion of Azerbaijan caused a big interest. It was a good opportunity for Azerbaijan to introduce itself to the Japanese people and to the visitors as a whole. Besides, in the framework of the exhibition, the Day of Azerbaijan was celebrated in May with participation of Azerbaijani delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister Abid Sharifov. The Day of Azerbaijan attached great interest of the Japanese to the culture of your country.
Speaking on perspectives of our cooperation, I would simply say that since my arrival in your country, I have been trying to make the relationships between our two countries more significant and steadfast. I hope I will do all my best to attain this objective during the term of my duty in Azerbaijan. I am optimistic about the future of our bilateral relations.
Question: Have there been any changes in the priorities of cooperation with Azerbaijan since the opening of the Embassy of Japan in Baku?
Answer: As I have already mentioned, after establishing its independence, Azerbaijan has made great efforts toward democracy and market economy. During 7 or 8 decades of the Soviet period Azerbaijan had gone through various hardships and it was not easy to get the new independent Azerbaijan adapted to the world democracy and market economy. Japan is ready to work with Azerbaijan for the latterвЂ™s materialization of democracy and market oriented economy, as Japan has tremendous experience in this regard, which it wants to share with Azerbaijan. Japan concentrates its efforts on economic development. Azerbaijan needs to improve its economic infrastructure and peopleвЂ™s standards of life. We receive a number of requests from your government for such assistance. These priorities were reconfirmed on the opening of our Embassy and I think, they have remained unchanged until today.
Question: What do you think of preparations for the Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan, and which problems do you think are there in this regard?
Answer: This is a very interesting and at the same time difficult question. I frequently hold meetings with the Azerbaijani officials and I have an impression that your government tries to apply democratic system and mechanism in the country. I think this operation can succeed when there is cooperation and coordination between the government and the people of Azerbaijan. Besides, the international organizations make recommendations to Azerbaijan how to materialize the transition to democracy. However, it is a time consuming work to establish a real democratic system in one country.
The Azerbaijani people themselves should understand what the concept of democracy is; this can be possible through education. At present the people of Azerbaijan is in the process of narrowing the gap between the concept of democracy and the reality of democracy. Your Government is trying to introduce various measures to make the coming election more reasonable and more democratic. IвЂ�d like to congratulate the people of Azerbaijan on its effort toward democratic election keeping in mind the process of narrowing the as gap I mentioned above.
Question: How do you estimate the results of parliamentary elections?
Answer: It is understood that various improvements in election-related measures have been introduced this time either through Presidential decree or through legislation process. All these efforts certainly deserve our appreciations. Important point is whether the people of Azerbaijan really feel that this free and fair election was secured during the course of election. Now, the Central Election Committee and the Constitution Court are to start their operation to compile their report with regard to the result of the election. Implementation of a fair election is one of the most important factors, which enable the country concerned to be a real democratic country.
Question: How do you estimate the cooperation of the two countries within the international organizations?
Answer: There are a number of international organizations in the international community, where Japan closely works together with Azerbaijan. Our experience of cooperation has shown that the two countries successfully support each other in their activities in the international organizations. We are trying to utilize every chance to make Azerbaijan a real member of the world community. We hope it will bring about more fruitful results in our bilateral relations.
Question: Japan has always supported AzerbaijanвЂ™s fair position in the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Which role could Japan play in peaceful resolution of the conflict?
Answer: After the collapse of the former USSR, a number of conflicts broke out in the post-Soviet area. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is one of the corollaries of them. The settlement of any such regional conflict is not easy. The world community hopes for peaceful settlement of conflicts concerned. Japan supports the resolution of these conflicts via peaceful means and negotiations, not by force. Japan hopes that every effort to the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, such as those implemented under the Minsk Group, will have steady progress. In the current situation, JapanвЂ™s contribution to this issue consists of assistance to internally displaced people of Azerbaijan who were suffered as a result of this conflict.
Question: Does Japan intend to participate in implementation of rehabilitation programs in the occupied areas in case of peaceful settlement of the conflict?
Answer: We can consider this matter when you succeed in reaching the mutually acceptable solution to this problem. If peaceful solution is reached, our government will certainly take it into account for exploring the possibilities of rendering assistance to Azerbaijan.
Question: Today Japan is actively involved in the development of the Azerbaijani energy resources, as well as their transportation to the world markets. What are the prospects of this cooperation?
Answer: Azerbaijan possesses rich natural recourses and the most significant wealth is its oil and gas. Azerbaijan has prosperous future. If you can combine your natural resources with financial resources and your human resources, you will have a bright future. Concerning the development of oil and gas, as you know, the prices of oil in the world markets have recently reached $60 per barrel and this sector assumes invaluable importance for the development of the country. Azerbaijan now stands in an important position in increasing energy supplies in the world market. The Japanese companies are involved in the development of the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli project and their share in this project comprises 13.9%. They also have 5.9% share with regard to BTC oil pipeline project. It should be pointed out that Japanese share of the extracted oil goes to European oil market rather than to the Japanese market, and contributes to improve supply and demand situation in the global oil market.
We participate in the development of Azerbaijani oil projects because Azerbaijan supplies its oil to the world market and facilitates the stability of the international oil market. We want to be a part of this important process. Azerbaijani oil helps to stabilize the level of oil supply in the world. Japan appreciates the role of Azerbaijan in this regard.