Details about cultural cooperation added after the 14th abstract (the first version was published at 02.05)
Azerbaijan, Baku, Oct. 15 / Trend, E.Ostapenko/
Colombia sees various opportunities in getting closer to Azerbaijan by fostering collaboration in all range of spheres, from trade intensification, energy collaboration, exchange of experience in infrastructure and railway system to developing of academic and cultural ties.
These days Baku is hosting first Colombian delegation at the level of vice-ministers.
"We are here to identify opportunities and to introduce Colombia to Azerbaijan," Colombian Vice-Foreign Miniter Patti Londono Jaramillo told journalists today. "We are very proud and happy being the first, strengthening relations with this beautiful country we have encountered".
Gabriel Duque Mildenberg, Vice-Minister of Trade at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism mentioned some similarities between Azerbaijan and Colombia that could help the people from both better understand each other.
"We have undergone very difficult time in our histories, we are working and going ahead, we want integrate our economies effectively into the world market. We are oil exporter-countries, and we are trying to diversify not our production capacity, but our trading partners. We both are situated in very strategic locations in different parts of the world," he said.
Distance between the two countries is in lack of contacts, he believes. "So we are trying to build bridges," he said.
Current trade turnover between Colombia and Azerbaijan is approximately $500,000 a year. Duque Mildenberg admits that the figure is small, but with big potential.
Colombia considers Azerbaijan as a good market for more exports. Colombia is leader in producing bananas, it has large production of other tropical fruit, coffee, flowers and many other things that Azerbaijani market might be interested in.
There is a small export of roses from Colombia to Azerbaijan now (around $100,000 a year). However Duque Mildenberg believes that if there is opportunity to export few flowers, there must be space for more of them.
Colombian side also got interested in collaboration in the sphere of infrastructure, including the railway system.
"Azerbaijan has good experience in building not only national, but also international railway systems. So we would like to use your experience for Colombian railway system construction," said Maria Constanza Garcia Botero, Vice-Minister of Infrastructure at Colombian Ministry of Transport.
Colombia is a big producer of coal which is transported mainly by train, she said. 2200 km of railways is planned to build in the country during the next four years. "The expertise of Azerbaijani specialists in this field could be very useful," she told journalists.
The Colombia railway network has a total length of 3,304 km. There are 150 km of 1,435 mm standard gauge connecting Cerrejón coal mines to maritime port of Puerto Bolivar at Bahia de Portete, and 3,154 km of 914 mm narrow gauge of which 2,611 km are in use.
Garcia Botero said that the two countries are planning to sign an agreement on cooperation and investment facilities in infrastructural sphere till the end of 2011. Beside the railway system, Colombia expects to apply Azerbaijani expertise in construction of ports, airports and roads.
Azerbaijan and Colombia will exchange high-ranking official delegations soon. Thus Colombian Ministers of Energy and Agriculture are expected to visit Baku very soon. The official visit of the Foreign Minister of Colombia is prepared next year. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister is also invited to Bogota.
Interest of Colombia in Azerbaijan covers not only economy and trade, but also deepening of cultural and academic ties.
As a result of the current visit an agreement was signed between Diplomatic Academies of Colombia and Azerbaijan, which is a first step in establishing academic collaboration between the countries.
There are plans to organize a meeting in Colombia next year with the participation of academic staff from Azerbaijan, Londono Jaramillo said. The issues to debate may vary from regional problems in the Caucasus to Colombia's opportunities in the region, as well as many other.
On Saturday Colombian dancers will perform at Russian Dramatic Theatre in Baku.
In September 2012 week of Azerbaijani culture is expected to take place in the capital of Colombia.
"We plan to show various spheres of Azerbaijani culture, including national music Mugam, classic and modern films, as well as painting and pieces of fine art", Azerbaijani Ambassador to Latin American countries Ilgar Mukhtarov told journalists.
Integration is multidimensional, Duque Mildenberg believes. "I am sure there are opportunities in economic integration, as well as cultural exchange in Azerbaijan. You can not aim at one thing. You have to facilitate things on several dimensions".
"We leave with many ideas that we will convey to the other ministries, to the private sector, to the economic sector," Londono Jaramillo said. "We are going to push the relationship forward to really grow and strengthen in the near future".