Trendexclusive interview with Artis Pabriks, Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Republic of Latvia
Question: When do you plan to visit the South Caucasus countries? What questions will be discussed during meetings with regional leaders?
Answer: We have a certain plans organize a visit to the states of the South Caucasus in spring of this year.
Latvia attaches great importance to co-operation with the countries of the South Caucasus. We have a serious common experience in the past, and we have a mutual interest to promote our co-operation.
There are lots of issues of common interest. The agenda of the meetings will include the questions on different aspects of our bilateral co-operation вЂ" political, economical. An important issue is our experience in the framework of reform issues.
In Azerbaijan we have many questions to discuss. We have significant potential of economical co-operation and, in spite of rapid growth of trade between Latvia and Azerbaijan in the recent years. This is a task for the Intergovernmental Commission. Political dialogue between our countries is very active and constructive вЂ" in the last two years diplomatic representations were established; we have regular political consultations; inter-parliamentary relations are very strong; there are regular and sustainable contacts between different types of ministries вЂ" in the sphere of defense, economics, finance, transportation, information technology, education, health, and others. There is a strong legal basis between Latvia and Azerbaijan but we are still working to create an even wider legal framework. These are all important topics of our discussion.
Our relations can be characterized as very friendly. Now it is time to come closer at all other levels вЂ" economic, cultural. In this regard very important are people-to people contacts and there is a good basis for it вЂ" active Azeri minority in Latvia, growing interests of the economic co-operation, embassies both in Riga and Baku, direct flights between both capitals.
Question: What assistance could Latvia, a member of NATO and the European Union, render Azerbaijan in its integration to Euro-Atlantic organizations?
Answer: Latvia, as a member of the EU and NATO, attaches great importance to co-operation with Azerbaijan. We understand that reform process is very complicated and sometimes it is hard to get support from society, but it is necessary for further development. We are always ready to share our experience of integration into the European and the Euro-Atlantic structures. This will facilitate the dialogue between Azerbaijan and the EU and NATO.
Question: Is it necessary to develop new methods of resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the contemporary level with the consideration of Azerbaijan's dominating role in the region and its close co-operation with Euro-Atlantic organizations?
Answer: Latvia fully supports the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group and is encouraged, that negotiations in 2006 have brought the sides closer to an agreement on the basic principles for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We consider that the resolution of the conflict can only be achieved on the basis of generally accepted principles and norms of international law and on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries.
Question: What economic fields do you regard as the most prospective for bilateral co-operation? Does Latvia plan to buy Azerbaijani energy resources?
Answer: An important step in promoting bilateral economic activities between Latvia and Azerbaijan has been the creation of broad legal basis between the two countries. Agreements in such important fields as economic co-operation, taxation, investment promotion and protection, customs co-operation, information and communication technology and finance have been signed. Also, an Intergovernmental Commission has been established to promote mutual co-operation between the two countries, specifically by eliminating existing barriers that impede economic and trade co-operation, as well as by enhancing co-operation between small and medium size enterprises.
However, it is important not only to work at a governmental level, but also to have closer co-operation between the business communities of Latvia and Azerbaijan. Business contacts should be developed further through various bilateral activities such as business seminars, conferences, meetings, trade missions, etc. A very good example of such co-operation is business forums that have been organized during official visits of our presidents. Another such forum is planned for this year as well.
We consider financial services, tourism and information technology as prospective fields for bilateral economic co-operation that could also yield benefits in the future. There are some good prerequisites for development of tourism between our countries. Latvian air carrier AirBaltic operates direct flights between Baku and Riga. We opened our embassy in Baku in 2006, which makes it easier for people from Azerbaijan to get Latvian visas. And last but not least, there is an interest in Latvia to learn more about Azerbaijan and visit your country, and we also hope that Azerbaijani people are willing to come to Latvia to spend their free time in Riga, Jurmala and other beautiful places in Latvia.
There is an increasing interest in our financial sector to work with the Azerbaijani market. Parex Bank has been active in the financial market of Azerbaijan and is registering its subsidiary. At the end of 2006 Aizkraukles Banka`s subsidiary AB Consulting has opened its representative office in Baku Latvia also welcomes closer co-operation with Azerbaijan in developing transport corridors, using the transit potential of both countries. Latvia can also offer Azerbaijan its ports and infrastructure for imports and exports of goods to and from Azerbaijan.
One of the EU energy policy priorities is to diversify routes and origin of energy resource supply. EU energy co-operation with Azerbaijan plays a considerable role in this context. The importance of Azerbaijan's resources is reflected in the European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan, Memorandum of Understanding on co-operation in the field of energy and other instruments of EU вЂ" Azerbaijan co-operation.
Latvia is interested to deepen its co-operation with Azerbaijan, and therefore in the light of enhanced EU co-operation with Azerbaijan in developing new transport routes, it is very important that we work towards the further development of Azerbaijani oil and gas supply routes based on a north-western axis, which would include Latvia.