Ticket to Prosperity of Caucasus Caspian Region is integration: Slovenian Foreign Minister

Ticket to Prosperity of Caucasus Caspian Region is integration: Slovenian Foreign Minister

Azerbaijan, Baku/ corr. Trend А. Gasimova/ Trend's exclusive interview with the chairman of Caucasus Caspian Commission, the Minister of foreign affairs of Slovenia Dimitrij Rupel

Question: Could you inform about goals and tasks of the Commission? What are the priority tasks?

Answer: The Caucasus-Caspian Commission was launched as a civil society initiative to which eminent persons from Europe, the US, Russia and from the wider Caspian region were invited to consider improving and increasing the dynamics of the relationships - both political and economic - in the region and between the region and the EU. Given that both the EU and the region are in the process of evolution we need to think of ways to capitalize on the new political and economic opportunities. Not least, the region is important for the EU as an energy source and it is a land link to Asia. In short, Commission is reviewing the developments and may issue recommendations in four areas: sustainable regional economy, political stability, conflict resolution and Europe-Caspian affairs.

Question One of the objectives of the Commission is to define a strategy to encourage regional cooperation on political, economic and security platforms, taking into consideration the presence of several "lingering conflicts" in the region, how do you see the chances for such comprehensive cooperation?

Answer: I am optimistic. There is a real chance and a need to promote cooperation in the broader Caspian Sea region. It is important that the South Caucasus states have good relations with the EU. The region will also benefit from a vibrant regional dynamic. The ticket to prosperity is integration. At the same time, division, conflict and political instability drives away investors, dries up profit margins and undercuts productivity. The general public in the end pays the price. EU is about stability and prosperity and the EU's Neighborhood Policy was designed to push this stability and prosperity beyond our immediate borders. I see the South Caucasus as a real link for Europe into Asia. The strategy to integrated Europe and the South Caucasus has to be long-term based and predominantly economically driven.

Question: What are your views on failure of Azerbaijan, a country imposed to Armenian aggression, to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in a peaceable way, despite efforts taken for 10 years? What essential role can the Commission, the EU and the international community take in this respect?, a country imposed to Armenian aggression, to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in a peaceable way, despite efforts taken for 10 years? What essential role can the Commission, the EU and the international community take in this respect?

Answer: The Nagorno-Karabakh solution will have to be reached by the parties. Armenia and Azerbaijan are neighbors, that is a fact and that will not change. Both will be better off if they can resolve this dispute, but I am aware of the fact that my friends from the region know this. I also know that genuine political will exists on both sides to move beyond the conflict phase and focus on the more positive aspects of the inter-state relationship - like the chance to develop a meaningful economic exchange. The solution will have to be a peaceful one. Europe can play an important role in helping resolve the frozen conflicts. The role of the Commission is not to produce magic answers to the frozen conflicts - I don't think we have them nor is it up to us - but by helping through drawing international attention to these regional issues, this region, and to the opportunities for economic cooperation in the wider Caspian region.

Question: The Commission is reported to have an intention of dispatching its fact-finding mission to Nagorno-Karabakh. What tasks will be put set for the mission and when it might occur?Question: The Commission is reported to have an intention of dispatching its fact-finding mission to Nagorno-Karabakh. What tasks will be put set for the mission and when it might occur?

Answer: Fact-finding missions have been a topic of our discussions. However, no agreement has been reached to actually launch them. In any case, I can assure you that the activities of the Commission will be transparent and fully coordinated with the local authorities.

Question: How could the Caspian-Caucasus Commission help the region, particularly, Azerbaijan in improvement of relationships with Europe? What are the Commission's plans in this respect?

Answer: The Commission Report will be released sometime at the end of November. The matter of improved relations between Europe and the region will be addressed in full in the Report. It is relevant only to stress that the Caspian-EU axis is growing increasingly relevant in the economic and energy exchange between the regions, and thus we need a more comprehensive and streamlined political and security dialogue.

Question: Do you plan to act as a co-chair at an international conference on "Role of media in encouragement tolerance and mutual understanding" to be held in Baku in April? How do you estimate Baku's initiative on arrangement of such discussions and how much are they significant?

Answer: Unfortunately due to prior NATO and other government engagements I was unable to attend this year. The role of the media in promotion of tolerance is an important issue and it is very good to see Baku taking the lead on this. We need to find a way to balance the principal of freedom of speech and protect free press, but at the same time use our media to promote tolerance, intercultural dialogue and peace. I hope to see Baku continue this great initiative and I hope to have another chance of participating in the future.

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