– Mr. Ambassador, businessmen with achievements in developing trade-economic ties between Russia and Azerbaijan have recently been awarded the Progress Premium. What is your evaluation of the tendencies of forming trade turnover in 2012 and the spheres of extra attention of business?
– A record was set in 2011. Trade turnover between Russia and Azerbaijan increased 60% compared with the previous year. It totaled $3 billion according to Russian statistics and $2.8 billion according to Azerbaijani ones.
There are serious developments behind these figures. Russia remains one of the most essential trade-economic partners of Azerbaijan in the non-petroleum sector. This means that trade growth is followed by a real increase in the number of jobs, income for more people and the budget allocations of the two states. Azerbaijan does not have that many trade partners with such high volumes.
Azerbaijani development in 2012 has been the same as last year. Our analyses show that there is a seasonal factor. For example, the cold winter reduced supplies of gas, growth of vegetables and other products in Azerbaijan. Statistics have improved and there is hope for greater results.
Russia and Azerbaijan have many spheres of successful business. There was ambition, readiness for risks and honest work.
– You said in your speech that Azerbaijani businessmen have started active work in Russia’s South. How can such regional cooperation benefit realization of programs for development of the North Caucasus? Does the program take inter-border cooperation into account in general?
– This is one of the main purposes of the program. Azerbaijan shares Moscow’s approaches to resolving the problem of the North Caucasus and is trying to help its realization, as well as using projects that could boost industrial production and reduce social tensions in the region.
Russian Vice Premier and Special Presidential Envoy to the NCFD A. G. Khloponin visited Baku in mid-2011, heading a delegation of North Caucasus republics. Azerbaijani Minister for Economic Development Sh. Mustafayev visited seven republics of the North Caucasus right after that. Contacts were initiated in other spheres, businessmen made visits and held meetings. There are the first clear results, including the appearance of investment projects.
Cooperation between the North Caucasus and Azerbaijan is developing and will develop, based on market and mutually-beneficial foundations. The main role should be played by business. But taking into account the topic’s importance, the governments of the two states pay extra attention and plan to support business.
– It has recently been announced that Russia and Azerbaijan had fully resolved the border issue of villages, the inhabitants of which had moved to Dagestan. Are there any nuances left in border delimitation concerning Russia?
– The truly delicate humanitarian situation for Russian citizens living in the villages of Khrakh-Uba and Uryan-Uba has been fully settled in an atmosphere of good-neighbourly relations between Russia and Azerbaijan. Some of the villagers, as recommended by Azerbaijan, have become citizens of the country. The majority moved to Dagestan voluntarily. They received aid from the governments of Azerbaijan, Dagestan and the Russian Embassy in Baku to sell their property, issue documents and other issues. The resettlement process was concluded without any incidents in April this year.
Regarding the border, the agenda has two points. Firstly, demarcation. Part of the agreement on the state border signed in 2010 is a detailed description of the border line of the border and a map. It needs to be put on the landscape, frontier posts, borderlands and so on.
Practice shows that there are difficulties at this stage. The map cannot depict all the nuances of the landscape. But specialists say that the chances of such problems occurring with Azerbaijan are minimal.
Secondly, there is infrastructure equipment. Reconstruction of a bridge and construction of a new one was delayed by lack of agreements on the frontier for a long time. There are such agreements in force now. We need to move on fast.
– How can you characterize the level of political contacts between the Russian Foreign Ministry and Azerbaijan and official groups? Is there any information on visits of state leaders being organized?
– Political dialogue between Russia and Azerbaijan is regular. President I. Aliyev has visited Russia twice since the start of this year. Chairman of the Federation Council V.I. Matviyenko, Foreign Minister S.V. Lavbrov and other officials visited Baku. It is a necessary dialogue and it will continue for this reason.
– How much attention does the Russian Foreign Ministry pay to the situation in Azerbaijan without taking into account the fact that it borders on Iran, the crisis around which is aggravating? In this case, how topical is the problem of the Qabala Radar Station, being discussed by experts of the two states?
– Russia pays lot of attention to Iran. It is a state with which we have excellent bilateral relations, a state playing a key role in world policy, a state developing such aspects as the nuclear program, which has become an international problem that Moscow is actively helping resolve. We certainly need to know the evaluations and opinion of Azerbaijan, as the closest neighbor of Iran, in all these issues. I can state with satisfaction that our positions on the Iranian nuclear program have common grounds: a political and diplomatic solution to the problem needs to be found.
The Qabala Radar Station has nothing to do with Iran. It operates to detect threats to Russian security from the Pacific Ocean. The problem of further lease of the radar by Russia is part of the bilateral relations of Russia and Azerbaijan. Negotiations continue. They are discussed by the expert community. Sometimes, unfortunately, they are carried out in an unconstructive manner and with distorted interpretation of the sides’ positions. This is most likely a result of poor knowledge of all the nuances of the topic and poor understanding of the relations between Russia and Azerbaijan. Let’s wait for the negotiations to conclude and then we can comment.
– Rossotrudnichestvo has recently had a new chief appointed. How will this affect the humanitarian projects Russia is realizing in Azerbaijan?
– I hope in a positive way, although there has been no neglect from Rossotrudnichestvo towards Azerbaijan. K. Kosachev is a gifted supervisor who could bring organization of work to a much higher level to benefit our projects. One of the first capitals the head of Rossotrudnichestvo visited was Baku. This is a good sign.
Interviewed by Yevgeny Krishtalyov, a representative of “Expert-SM LTD” in Moscow, Russian Federation.