Azerbaijan expects Paris to send a serious message to the new Armenian leadership about the need to take a constructive position on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijani ambassador to France Rahman Mustafayev said in an interview with Trend.
Mustafayev was commenting on the results of the recent visit of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to France.
"First of all, I would like to stress that the Azerbaijani president updated the new French president about our position on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” he said. “I think that for the first time President Macron was updated about an objective situation and the conflict assessment.”
“Our position is simple and based on the principles of international law and the corresponding resolutions of the UN Security Council,” Mustafayev said. “We hope that the new Armenian leadership will not repeat the mistakes of the former president, imitating the negotiation process and making deliberately unacceptable demands, but will return to the negotiating table for a substantive dialogue and real negotiations. By the way, the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group are also calling for that."
“As for France, the country is aware of its special responsibility for the establishment of stable peace in the South Caucasus region and it invariably declares its readiness to work to find a peaceful solution to the conflict,” he said.
"Therefore, we can reasonably expect the new French leadership to continue active and initiatory involvement in the peace process in accordance with the mandate of the OSCE Minsk Group, which is based, inter alia, on the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council,” Mustafayev said. “Of course, we expect Paris to send a serious message to the new Armenian leadership about the need to take a constructive stance and return to the peace talks."
“Strengthening of the political dialogue with the country’s new leadership, first of all, the president of France, the heads of the National Assembly and the Senate, was indeed the most important task of this visit,” he said.
"It is no secret that trusting relations based on mutual respect and understanding, taking into account each other's interests, are the most important prerequisite for the development of political and economic cooperation between the countries,” Mustafayev said. “Therefore, from the point of view of further development of our relations, I assess the results of the visit as very positive. Azerbaijan’s president held substantive talks with his French counterpart, as well as the heads of both chambers of the parliament, and these relations will continue to develop."
The diplomat stressed that the visit to Paris was made after several successful European meetings of Azerbaijan’s president at the highest level, namely, with the president of the EU Council in Brussels and Italy’s president in Baku.
"Other meetings with European leaders are planned to be held,” he said. “All these facts testify to the strengthening of the international authority of our country, the recognition of the independent nature of its foreign policy, its important regional significance."
Mustafayev said that today many European leaders understand that the pro-European orientation of Baku is important not only for the country, but also for Europe itself.
"Azerbaijan is a secular Muslim country, an active bridge of dialogue and cooperation between Europe and Asia, Europe and the Islamic world,” he said. “It is a factor of stability and security for the entire region, struck by the viruses of national chauvinism, religious fanaticism and extremism.”
“It is also a development factor, as Baku initiates and implements projects that connect the continents today and create thousands of jobs in Asia, the Caucasus and Europe,” Mustafayev said. “This strategic role of Azerbaijan today is more and more understandable and supported in the EU countries, interest of which in dialogue and cooperation with our country is growing.”
“Therefore, the invitation of President Macron addressed to President Aliyev to visit Paris should also be considered in this context,” he said. “As for the prospects, if our French colleagues manage to preserve this positive atmosphere and dynamics in bilateral political relations and eliminate some existing misunderstandings, we will be able to reach the level of strategic partnership in trade, economic, investment and other spheres."
The diplomat stressed that negotiations and meetings in Paris also focused on the issues of economic and investment cooperation.
"Azerbaijan is the leading trading partner of France in the South Caucasus region,” he added. “However, unfortunately, there has been a decline in economic relations recently. Trade turnover decreased from $1.6 billion in 2014 to $492 million in 2017.”
“France is not among the top 10 trade partners of Azerbaijan any more, ranking 12,” Mustafayev said. “Its share in our market today does not exceed 2 percent.”
“All these figures do not meet either the capabilities of the French business or the needs of the Azerbaijani economy,” he added. “The non-oil sector, the agro-industry, the sphere of communications, tourism sector, services, that is, those sectors of the economy in which French companies have experience and knowledge, are actively developing in our country today. They could use these opportunities, in particular, use the logistical capabilities of Azerbaijan, which play the role of a bridge between the North and South, Europe and Asia."
Mustafayev stressed that French companies may also use the tax-free free trade zones of Baku to establish their production facilities there and export their products to Azerbaijan and neighboring countries.
"Taking these factors into account, priority areas for economic cooperation between our countries, such as air and land transport, energy and ecology, banking, infrastructure projects, including the construction of new metro stations, urban planning and architectural projects were considered and outlined during the meetings in Paris,” he said.
“During the visit, Azerbaijan’s president held meetings with the leaders of more than 10 leading French companies,” Mustafayev said. “Eight agreements and contracts were signed in the fields of air transport, ecology and cyber security.”
“In fact, the work has already been launched to prepare for signing a big package of agreements and contracts in other spheres and sectors of the economy,” he said. “The growing economy and population of our country require the presence of strong foreign economic partners and France may hold an important place among them.”
Mustafayev also spoke about the role of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in strengthening the relations between Azerbaijan and France in the humanitarian sphere.
"The Heydar Aliyev Foundation continues to play a huge role in the development of all spheres of cooperation between Azerbaijan and France, primarily in the cultural sphere, and this is the great merit of President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva,” he said. “I will not be mistaken if I say that it was the Heydar Aliyev Foundation that laid the foundation of the Azerbaijan-France relations in the cultural, scientific and educational spheres not only figuratively, but also literally, taking into account beautiful Azerbaijan’s Cultural Center built in the center of Paris under the Azerbaijani embassy in France.”
“Today, the Cultural Center has become a popular venue in Paris for events and projects involving figures of culture, scholars, politicians and businessmen of France and Azerbaijan, conferences, round tables, presentations, concerts and business meetings,” Mustafayev said. “The representatives of the diplomatic missions and international organizations accredited in Paris often appeal to us to conduct their events and projects in our Center.”
“Thus, today, the Cultural Center really fulfills its mission, founded several years ago by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and personally by First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva to serve as an authoritative European platform for strengthening a dialogue and cooperation not only between Azerbaijan and France, but also in a wider international format," he said.
Moreover, as for the role of France in the process of European integration of Azerbaijan, the ambassador stressed that this process will be beneficial not only to Azerbaijan, but to the European Union in general, and France in particular.
The diplomat reminded that on July 11 in Brussels the presidents of Azerbaijan and the Council of the European Union signed a very important working document entitled "Partnership Priorities between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the EU".
"French diplomacy has supported these priorities,” Mustafayev said. “The signing of this document is intended to speed up the process of coordinating the text of the main agreement between Azerbaijan and the EU, which we expect to sign soon,” he said. “By the way, in the "Priorities" the emphasis has been made on the fact that our relations with the EU will be based on common values, respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of Azerbaijan’s borders."
Mustafayev stressed that the press-statement published by the Elysee Palace following the Paris meeting of the two presidents, has also implied France's support for a new agreement on Azerbaijan's cooperation with the EU.
"Therefore, we are entitled to hope for active support of the European integration process of Azerbaijan and we believe that this process will be beneficial not only to Azerbaijan, but to the EU in general, and France in particular,” he said. “The EU does not have a more reliable, predictable, economically and politically stable partner in our strategically important region today, a partner who does not create problems, but solves them, which is open to a dialogue and cooperation with all countries and conducts a balanced foreign policy. And as I have already mentioned above, more and more European politicians and leaders now understand these obvious facts.”