Trend's excusive interview with the Georgian Foreign Minister, Gela Bezhuashvili
Question: How do you estimate the current level of mutual relationships between Azerbaijan and Georgia? How do you find the strategy on partnership between the two neighboring countries in the near future in the political and economic spheres?
Answer: The relationships between Azerbaijan and Georgia are characterized by traditionally good neighborhood and partnership character. This tendency has strengthened over the past few years and our relationships have grown to stable and strategic partnership. Georgia and Azerbaijan are united with a common history, common interests and projects of local and geological significance.
The people of Georgia appraise goods relationships with Azerbaijan. The special character of the relationships has been reiterated by a recent decision by Azerbaijan to support to Georgia in a critical moment and begin delivery of Azerbaijani gas, which enabled Georgia to reduce its energy dependence on one supplier.
We can bring a number of examples testifying for successful cooperation in the development of economic and political bilateral relationships. It is also promoted by top-level contacts вЂ" visiting by the heads of states. In the beginning of February Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev will visit Georgia. During the visit the two countries will sign an agreement on construction of the Baku-Akhalkalaki-Kars railway route, which will give additional impetus to further development and deepening of bilateral relationships in favor of the national and region in whole.
Question: How do you estimate the state of national minorities in the territory of Georgia? Particularly, the Georgian President issued a decree on development of proposals on improvement of socio-economic situation of the Azerbaijani community of Georgia. What is the progress in the development of this issue?
Answer: In my turn I want to state that Georgia as a democratic country offers all opportunities to the national minorities residing in its territory for self-expression and development. All citizens of Georgia, irrespective of their origin or religion, enjoy equal rights and commitments.
There is an Azerbaijani Theater, 160 schools, Azerbaijani language publications and news programs in Georgia. Moreover, Azerbaijani culture days will be held in Georgia in May 2007. Azerbaijani citizens of Georgia greatly contribute in the establishment and prosperity of the statehood of Georgia.
As to problems of socio-economic character, they exist in many regions of Georgia and the Government attaches special importance to the economic revival, rehabilitation of infrastructure and improvement of social state of the regions.
Question: Azerbaijan and Georgia are the key players in the ongoing transcontinental energy and transport arteries. In what direction should the countries unite their efforts for more efficient use of these serious arguments in the international policy? What is the progress in the resolution of issues concerning the implementation of transport projects in the territory of Georgia, provision of security of the existing oil and gas pipelines, as wells those currently under construction?
Answer: the theme of energy security for Georgia is very actual as never before. We should intensify our efforts for further deepening the strategic cooperation between Azerbaijan and Georgia with respect to ensure full-fledged energy security and implement new scaly regional projects. One of the most important directions of diversification of transport infrastructure and its adjustment to advanced European standards.
We are successfully cooperating in this sphere. The implementation of grandiose projects such as Baku-Supsa and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan [oil pipelines], as well as the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum project, can serve as best examples of successful joint cooperation. At the same time we have almost concluded the intergovernmental procedures concerning the implementation of a next important project вЂ" Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi-Baku railway route. The projects assume strategic importance for Georgia and Azerbaijan, as well as turkey.
The energy security and diversification of routes for energy supply assumed extreme importance for the countries of Europe. The European Union began putting active efforts to stop its energy dependence on one supplier, which is abrupt enough and posed a number of definite problems for Europeans. Thus, our interests in this issue absolutely coincide to the EU's interests.
Georgia and Azerbaijan are the bridge connecting the East with the West, and possess tremendous potential which is used the diversification of routes for energy supply to Europe.
I am sure the role of Georgia and Azerbaijan in the sphere of establishment and diversification of global energy and transport ways in future will gain more importance and in this aspect our coordinated policy will assist in successful implementation of these projects.
Question: How do you view the ways and perspectives of resolution of conflicts in the South Caucasus? What urgent measures would be expedient for rapid rehabilitation of peace in the region?
Answer: Until resolution of the conflict in the South Caucasus any stability in the Caucasus and nearby regions is out of question. These conflicts damage the economic development of the countries of this region, hinder the integration processes and put obstacles in the implementation of regional projects.
Let no one have illusions on peace in the region. Absence of armed actions does not means peace at all. Until the resolution of conflicts there is a threat of rehabilitation of armed actions and it at least a negative and hazardous reality. Every progress occurred in the region and in our countries can be invalidated.
One should recognize that it is necessary to seek and find compromise variants and ways for the resolution of conflicts so that to restore peace in the region, as well as the progress and prosperity of nations residing in the South Caucasus. Otherwise, the region will never achieve real prosperity and stability. Much time has been lost and we ought not to leave the unresolved conflicts in heritage to the futures generators.
A resolution by the UN General Assembly on inclusion of an issue on lingering conflicts in the territory of former USSR in its agenda on the initiative by GUAM member-countries can be regarded as great progress. It testifies for serious concerns by the international community on the existence of unresolved conflicts in this part of the Earth and intends to attach much attention to their implementation.
It is necessary to take more active part in the international organizations and actors in the resolution of conflicts in the post-Soviet area. It is necessary to establish new forms of dialogue and formats of talks through attracting unbiased mediators. Unfortunately, at the present time traditional mediator enjoys less confidence.
Question: What are the priorities in the cooperation within the framework of GUAM in 2007? How do you view Georgia's future within CIS?
Answer: Georgia attaches great importance to the development of international and regional cooperation and the cooperation within GUAM gained a special importance after Kiev Summit 2006, which resolved on the establishment of an international regional Organization for Democracy and Economic Development вЂ" GUAM.
In the first half of 2007 our priority task is the accomplishment of the institutionalization process and commissioning of the Organization's potential. Other priority directions are contribution to the development of democracy in GUAM member-countries, the development of trade and economic relationships, cooperation in the sphere of energy and energy security, military-political and law-enforcement spheres, as well as cooperation in the resolution of conflicts in the territory of GUAM member-countries.
As to CIS, it is not secret that over the last period the CIS member-states demonstrate concerns in connection with the inefficiency of the organization. In case Georgia adopts a resolution to leave CIS, we will take into consideration our national interests, as well as the interests of our partners in CIS so that not to allow the vacuum in our relationships.
Question: UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran. How could this factor influence on the development of the situation in the region and cooperation among the Caspian littoral countries?
Answer: Of course, sanctions remain to be the absolute measure and it would be better to live in the world without sanctions. We hope the tension to be relaxed, it would be better for Iran, for the region and for the world. No one is interested in tensing the situation in any pat of the world. If there is a will for dialogue, the compromise can be found.