Ambassador: Mexico and Azerbaijan have a great potential for cooperation in multiple areas - INTERVIEW

Mexico supports the resolutions adopted by UN Security Counci on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Baku. 16 September. REPORT.AZ/ Interview of Report News Agency with the Ambassador of Mexico to Azerbaijan, Rodrigo Labardini.

- Mr. Ambassador, how would you assess the political ties between our countries?

- Relations are developing and they are growing very well. Upon Azerbaijan regaining its independence in 1991, Mexico promptly recognized the country the same year and established diplomatic relations on January 14, 1992. Azerbaijan opened its embassy In Mexico City on 2007 with a resident ambassador in 2009. Shortly after opening its embassy in Baku at the end of last year, Mexico's first resident ambassador, myself, arrived in Baku three months ago, evidencing its strong desire to develop a close relation promoting bilateral ties in a vigorous and robust form. Azerbaijan is the most important country in the Caucasus, Both Mexico and Azerbaijan have natural links in oil and gas but contacts abound in several areas. Azerbaijan's growing economy is equally attractive. Its culture is millenary as is Mexico's. Throughout the years an interest has grown in both countries to better know each other. Evidencing this is the recent resolution adopted by Mexico's Congress to promote links with Azerbaijan in all areas, including cooperation, oil and gas, technology, trade, and culture. Mexico is moving in the direction of having a partner in the region, to cooperate and to share. Opening an embassy is one thing, but the arrival of an ambassador changes the dynamics. The opening of the embassy confirms that we have multiple connections sprouting in all areas. Mexico is in Azerbaijan because we can learn and share.

-The Mexican embassy has organized several cultural events in recent months. Can we expect more soon? What similarities can you spot between Mexicans and Azerbaijanis?

- I am convinced that culture is the way people do things to resolve their reality using the elements nature provide. After arriving, I have discovered several similarities which shows how much we can learn from each other. Mexico is notorious for its hot and spicy chilis and food, but I have found that many azerbaijanis like them when they taste them, probably because you already have "pul bibar"Azerbaijan and Mexico use tarragon. You make lemonade with it and eat it in its fresh form; we use it as a spice. We both have the same plant which you call "perpetuin" and we call "verdolagas"; you use it as an appetizer and we make stews with it, you mostly use the stem and we eat the leaves; the same plant, different uses, all to satisfy the quest for a savory taste. The same elements provided by nature, used in similar yet diverse ways. This is an expression of culture, of how to do things, of how to cooperate and assist each other, of how to learn in mutual benefit. In three months we have been able to have four cultural activities. We are working to promote Mexican culture, paintings, photographs, films, literature, poetry, singers, dancers, mariachi, food and drinks. We will continue to do so. Mexico is the sixth country in the world with the most sites (31) and intangible (7) UNESCO World Heritage. Culture is an excellent vehicle to get to know each other in what I call "show and share". You have mugham, we have mariachi; both are UNESCO World Heritage. You have lavash, we have tortilla. On Tuesday September 15 gusts had a chance to find examples of Mexican food during the celebration of Mexico's Independence Day, including sweets with chili and you will like them.We can learn from paintings in Gobustan and pyramids throughout Mexico. When I visited Nobel House I saw pictures about oil in Baku and reminded me about Mexico. We are bringing photography and films as they evidence impressive insights into the other people's lives. Two peoples, two ways of life, resolving reality with nature's elements.Show and Share.

- Does Mexico plans to establish a park of Mexico or to install monuments of notorious Mexicans in Azerbaijan?

- We have to explore this and other possibilities. First names that come include Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Siqueiros (who visited Baku), Maria Felix. Maybe think about poetry, a universal language, a poem of Nizami Ganjavi in Azerbaijani, Spanish and Chontal (an indigenous language of Mexico) portraying links between cultures.

- What can you say about our economic cooperation? What is the turnout between our countries?

-Trade is currently rather small with less than 2 million dollars. It includes oil equipment, electronic parts. But this is also evidence of the vast potential between both our countries. Last year, there were 200,000 dollars in tequila and 70,000 dollars in Mexican beer. Mexico is the largest beer exporter in the world, with almost one out every five beers being Mexican.

-Mexico's soil is very gooçd and in some places have two or three harvests per year. Hence, Mexico is the main exporter to the U.S. market of strawbery, artichoke, zucchini, corn, tomato, pimento, cucumber, eggplant, olive, spinach, garlic, papaya, avocado, and onion. We could try and bring them during the winter season. As well as sugar, meat, fish, dairy products, electronics. Mexico is the top world's producer in tomatoes and avocadoes (one out of two tomatoes is Mexican, one out of three avocadoes is Mexican). We are working to identify the economic niches that can work for both Mexico and Azerbaijan.

-We both produce oil and gas. You have 25 years of working with Production Sharing Agreements (PSA). We can learn from your experience.

-We are trying to develop more "business-tourism" to Mexico, i.e., go to Mexico, do business and visit the pyramids, beaches, churches, colonial sites which are nearby.

-Mexico is the seventh largest producer of automobiles. Nineteen of largest brands are in producing in Mexico. In 2016, Mexico will produce 4 million cars. Imagine, almost half of Azerbaijan's population in cars.

-Mexico is also the top producer of flat TVs, which requires lots of technology. We have strong aerospace industry as well.

-We are the third top producer of cell phones. Maybe your mobile phone was made in Mexico.

-We are the 14th top economy in the world. We are poised to be the 7th by 2050. There are vast opportunities to trade, learn, share, and invest.

-We are working so that Azerbaijan and Mexico realize that we are closer than what we think.We are just one stop away. There is the AZAL flight to New York from where you can have multiple flights to Mexico City. Additionally there are more than 40 weekly non-stop flights from Mexico to London, Paris, Madrid, and Frankfurt. And next year I envision another through Istambul.

- In which areas Mexico and Azerbaijan can establish good cooperation?

- Mexico and Azerbaijan have a great potential  for cooperation  in multiple areas. Sports, for example. Several days ago I met with the Minister of Youth and Sport Azad Ragimov. We had a very good conversation. This area benefits both countries. We could explore disciplines where we excel: Azerbaijan in weightlifting, wrestling and gymnastics; Mexico in box, taekwondo, and diving. We both have great experience to share. Azerbaijan's national boxing team visited twice Mexico City this year to train with Mexicans.Sport is a natural way to develop and do things together.

- How many Azerbaijani tourists visited Mexico last year? What can you say about tourism potential of Mexico?

- Mexico is one of the 10 most visited countries in the world. More than 27 mlllion tourists in 2014. Mexico developed the concept of"Pueblos Magicos"(Magic Towns). These are places where several cultural and social facets mix and offer impressive places, combining colonial, indigenous or modern sites, where food and cultural expressions are unique, thus offering the tourist a variety of options in one trip. We can share experience on how to develop tourism. Mexico is a must-see country.

I do not have the number of Azerbaijani tourists in Mexico. But I am certain the number will increase presently, in view of being made aware of business, culture, sites, and more things to do in Mexicco, as well as knowing that we are just one-stop away.

- What is the position of Mexico on Nagorno Karabakh?

-The situation on Nagorno-Karabakh has been going on for a long time and wish for a solution in accordance with UN-Charter principles. Mexico supports the resolutions adopted by the Security Counci on the issue, calling for a cease of fire and particularly to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, including the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

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