Interview of Trend with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov
Question: How do the relationships between our countries develop and are there principle problems, which still require the achievement of mutual understanding? What place does Azerbaijan take among South Caucasus countries in Russias foreign policy?
Answer: Russia feels sincere satisfaction with the stable and dynamic development of relationships with Azerbaijan, which today attained the level of strategic partnership. Coming out of this standpoint, we build cooperation with the good neighbor in the Caucasus.
Our countries actively upgrade political dialogue and it is done in the high level. There is also progress in the trade-economic sphere. Last year the goods turnover grew more than 40% and it confidently moves towards the point of billion dollars. Thus, the fulfillment of tasks set by the Presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan in February 2004 on doubling the figure is not too far. Our mutually profitable cooperation covers the spheres of fuel and energy, industry, agriculture and transport. 70 provinces of the Russian Federation have foreign trade relationships with Azerbaijan.
Taking into consideration the historic and cultural proximity between the two countries, we attach great importance to growth of humanitarian component of the cooperation. Russia appreciates the successful organization of the Year of Azerbaijan in 2005 and the Year of Russia in Azerbaijan is also expected to promote the proximity of the peoples of Russia and Azerbaijan.
The absence of unresolved problems between our countries has been numerously sounded on the high level. As to concrete practical issues, which are inevitable in current scale of expansion of interaction, we seek together and find solution to them.
Further consolidation and development of manifold mutually profitable relationships with Azerbaijan remain to be one of the priorities of Russias foreign policy activities. It fully meets our countries interests and is a weighty factor of stability and security in the Caucasus.
Question: Russian President Vladimir Putin is starting a visit to Azerbaijan. What can be expected from the visit and what issues will be discussed in Baku?
Answer: The forthcoming visit will center on talks between the Russian President and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev. They assume particular significance, as the agreements reached on the top are the driving force of forward development of the Russian-Azerbaijani relationships. It is so pleasant that the leaders of our countries have excellent personal relations.
The agenda of the Russian-Azerbaijani summits traditionally includes discussions over the state and perspectives of the development of the bilateral relationships in the political, trade-economic and humanitarian spheres. As a rule, different issues of mutual interests are also put for discussions. In Baku they will obviously have an exchange of opinions on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Russia is very much concerned on the unsettlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, which impedes full-blooded cooperation in the Caucasus region, and is ready hence to contribute in the efforts taken for search of acceptable solutions as a Minsk Group cРѕ-chairing country and on bilateral basis.
A pleasant mission awaits the Russian leader to open officially the year of Russia in Azerbaijan, which will be held in 2006.
A high-level delegation comprised of state, political and public figures, heads of some regions of Russia, big entrepreneurs will accompany President Putin in this tour. On the one hand it underlines the significance that we attach to the visit, on the other is intended to contribute the establishment of favorable and mutual profitable bonds with the Azerbaijani partners.
I am sure that the Russian leaders visit will become a new step in further comprehensive consolidation of the Russian-Azerbaijani relationships.
Question: During the recent visit to Azerbaijan the Russian Vice Premier and also Defense Minister, Sergey Ivanov, announced on possible leaving of Russia the Agreement on conventional arms in Europe. Could it affect on the current situation in the South Caucasus region?
Answer: You cite not the statement by Ivanov, but its interpretation in the media. As far as I know, the statement read approximately as follows. Russia does not only adhere an Agreement on conventional armed forces in Europe (ACAFE), but in difference to many participants in the ACAFE, ratified an agreement on its adaptation. In this stage we intend to strictly fulfill the flank limitations, specified by the document. Further actions by Russia will depend on the partners positions in respect to ratification of the agreement. To date the situation around the ACAFE is alarming.
I think, it reflects the dissatisfaction existing in the country around the agreement and concerns on its further fate. The ACAFE in its current form has actually lost vitality. This is an obvious fact. Only the rapid enactment of the Agreement on Adaptation to the ACAFE signed in 1999 can rescue it. Unfortunately, some partners on strained pretexts delay its ratification. We have repeatedly warned against possible fatal outcomes of such lines for the fate of Agreement.
How can the current state affect the security of the Caucasus region? Most depends on the countries situated there. If they are really interested in the maintenance and consolidation of the ACAFE regime, we hope that it is the most right way to the goal through rapid ratification of the Agreement on adaptation to the ACAFE.
Question: How do you estimate the military-technical cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan?
Backing the cooperation with Azerbaijan in the military-technical sector, we obviously take into consideration the situation in the South Caucasus, take care of preventing the growth of such cooperation into rise of tension, ensure the fulfillment of obligations of the region on avoiding force. One of the priority directions of the Russian-Azerbaijani interaction remains a resistance to the threats of terror.
Question: Russia has sounded initiatives on possible establishment of joint naval forces of 5 littoral countries in the Caspian under the conventional title Casfor. In what form could such cooperation be possible in the Caspian Sea and how practical does it seem for the near perspective?
Answer: In January 2005 Russia offered Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to consider an idea on establishment of naval group of operative interaction in the Caspian. It is dealt not with a military-political alliance, but a mechanism on interaction of naval forces and other interested bodies of the Caspian littoral countries in the fulfillment of common tasks targeting the provision of security and stability in the region.
The key objectives of the group, to be established on the model of an agreement among the Back sea basin countries on the establishment of Blackseafor, would be the resistance to terror and spread of mass destruction arms in the Caspian region, struggle with arms, drug and human trafficking, defense of economic interests of the littoral countries. It is also planned to carry out operations on rescue of disabled vessels, participation in the humanitarian operations, measures for environmental protection, provision of security of oil platforms and pipelines.
In a conference with representatives from the Caspian littoral countries held in Astrakhan on 11-13 July 2005 under aegis of the Russian Defense Ministry we presented our visions on Casfor tasks and principles of functioning. There was achieved a principle understanding on sanctioning of designing of an appropriate agreement. In October 2005 Russia presented to partners a draft agreement on establishment of Casfor. We hope to start shortly joint discussions over the document on the level of experts.