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    State Secretary of Latvian FM: We consider Azerbaijan as very important EU partner - INTERVIEW

    We expect Azerbaijan's participation in all activities, including discussions on the creation of an energy alliance

    Baku. 22 January. REPORT.AZ/ The State Secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Andrejs Pildegovičs gave an interview to Report News Agency. 

    - How do you assess the results of his visit to Baku and what agreements were reached during the negotiations?

    -This visit has a special context. And this context - the first Latvia's presidency in the European Union, to which we started on January 1. Of course, during these 6 months of the special responsibility, we would like to put on the EU level agenda the European neighbourhood policy- the revision of the neighbouhood policy and the adaptation of this Eastern Partnership to the needs, ambitions and interests of all our partners. Within this framework, we consider Azerbaijan as a very close bilateral friend and also a very important partner of the EU.

    The aim of my visit was to synchronize the schedule of events for the next 6 months we will have more than a dozen of different meetings at the ministerial level. The first such event will take place next week in Riga. It will be a meeting of Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs. We will also have a meeting of trade ministers, ministers of the digital market, a number of events on the rural development, business, health care. The combination will be in the Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga, in the end of May.

    -Speaking of the EU Presidency, what are your expectations from the results of the Latvian Presidency?

    - In general, broadly speaking, of course, the main subject what is on the agenda is the growth, the restoration of economic development in Europe. For a number of years, we have had rather slow economic development. We are looking for the areas where we can make more sustainable and dynamic growth. Speaking about other areas, we will have a special empasis on digital sphere. We will pay special attention to the creation of so-called European Energy Union. In this regard, we consider Azerbaijan as an important partner. We hope that, we will be able to fulfill all provisions, which we have discussed: redefinition, rethinking of the neighbourhood policy, how to adapt the neighbourhood policy to the changable environment. Of course, we will facilitate as much as possible issues relating to peace. Saying widely, they are terrorist attacks, which the Europe faced with during the early days of our presidency, that's to say, they are practical steps for preventing such danger. We will try to "advance" common European legislation on passenger name records (ISP). We will discuss the ways how to tighten our legislation regarding foreign fighters - a phenomenon that we have all seen recently. We will our forces as much as possible to contribute to the restoration of peace in Ukraine. The Foreign Minister of Latvia visited Moscow and Kiev last week and we will use every opportunity in any format to try to stabilize the situation.

    - Speaking of security, what steps is Latvia going to take to strengthen security in Europe after the attack on the magazine "Charlie Hebdo"? Moreover, the EU intends to tighten the issuance of Schengen visas, will these measures affect Azerbaijani citizens?

    - I think when the ministers of Home Affairs and Justice meet next week in Riga, they will discuss the practical steps that should be done in the coming days and weeks. I mentioned the passengers name records (ISP) is one of the implementations, as well as common legislation or common attidutes regarding foreign fighters. Of course, you need to have more exchange of information, there must be practical cooperation. Some countries have proposed the idea of csetting up new institutions. All these proposals will be debated, but I hope that those measures will not undermine the positiove dynamics in relation to Azerbaijan. We think that the agreements on visa facilitation work reached last year. They are working pretty well. Based on the information that we have now, we should continue this cooperation and see how we can adjust our legislation and make it easier for the flow of people.

    -Was President Ilham Aliyev invited to participate in the Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga?

    - Technical invitations have not been issued yet, they will come shortly. But we very much hope that that Azerbaijan will be represented at the summit at the highest level. We hope that Azerbaijan will be an active participant in all events- more than a dozen events. In mid-February, a youth forum will be held. We expect Azerbaijan's participation in all activities, including discussions on the creation of an energy alliance.

    - How do you assess Azerbaijan's role in ensuring energy security of Europe?

    - In mid-February, one of the first meetings about "Southern Gas Corridor" will take place here, in Baku and the representatives of the European Commission will participate. Vice-President of the Commission Mr. Shevchovich will arrive in Baku. We have also invited the Azerbaijani representatives to participate in the conference in Riga on February 5-6, where we will discuss the frameworks of the Energy Union. Of course, one of the pillars of an energy alliance will be debates or instruments regarding security diversify of energy resources. Of course, in that sense, Azerbaijan is really a partner of huge importance for Europe.

    - How is Latvia going to assist to the settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh and other frozen conflicts on the border of EU during its EU presidency?

    - As I mentioned, the Latvian Foreign Minister has just visited Kiev and Moscow. Of course, those visits are taking place in close coordination with the head of European foreign policy Federica Mogherini. We are working as a team and as I said, we think that the European dimensions of those formats should be strengthened. Any format that will lead to a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine, should be used.

    We certainly support the activities of the OSCE Minsk Group, the regular high-level meetings between the leaders of state and foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan. We hope that they will lead to a sustainable solution that will be based on international law and take into account the interests of all parties involved.

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