Baku. 10 January. REPORT.AZ/ Report News Agency presents an Interview with Azerbaijani Ambassador-concurrent to Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti Elman Abdullayev.
- How do you assess activities of Azerbaijani Embassy in Ethiopia since the establishment?
- Azerbaijan's Embassy in Addis Ababa was established in March 2015. Addis Ababa is Africa’s political center, where headquarters of African Union is located. As you know, the Union embodies 54 countries, and various arrangements of continental scale are held here from time to time to discuss issues concerning regional cooperation. Twice a year the African states hold summits attended by heads of states. One of them is held in January in Addis Ababa. Another summit to be held in June-July in the capital of another African state. This country is chosen with consensus taking into account readiness of the country to host the event. Last of such events was held in Kigali, Ruanda. Meetings of foreign ministers and representatives of line ministries are also held within frame of these summits.
One of main objectives of opening embassy in Addis Ababa was cooperation with African Union, particularly with African Union Commission including 8 commissioners responsible for various spheres. It is worth to note that Addis Ababa is one of major diplomatic centers of the world. Activity of Azerbaijani Embassy includes cooperation with African Union Commission. Azerbaijan is an observer member of African Union since 2011. That’s why establishment of bilateral cooperation with African nations and development of bilateral relations with Ethiopia are main objectives of the Embassy. We were also accredited in neighboring Djibouti and Kenya in June. We have also been accredited by United Nations (UN) headquarters in Nairobi, which is third largest UN office. This office carries out various programs, including UN Environment and UN Habitat.
- How relations of Azerbaijan with countries of eastern Africa and other countries of the continent develop?
- We have good relations and build positive and healthy dialog with these countries. Recent visit of African Union Commissioner on Political Affairs Aisha Abdullah to Azerbaijan to attend Humanitarian Forum in Baku is an evidence of this development. Ethiopian delegation headed by state secretary on culture and tourism, as well as Djibouti’s defense minister recently visited Azerbaijan. It is also worth to note that during visits of head of port and free economic zone and chairman of Djibouti Airlines to Baku memorandums of understanding between Azerbaijan and Djibouti and Baku and Djibouti ports have been signed. As you know, Djibouti is one of strategically important and largest ports of Africa with big history. Head of Azerbaijan Airlines Jahangir Askerov recently visited Djibouti, and signed memorandum of understanding on guidelines of air freight shipping by Silk Way Cargo. The sides agreed to establish joint freight shipping company between Azerbaijan and Djibouti.
Of course, relations with neighboring countries are developing rapidly. Djibouti, as you know, joined the Contact group of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Djibouti has always supported Azerbaijan’s fair position concerning Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in the UN Security Council.
We practically started to develop our relations with Kenya in last June. I had meetings with president, foreign minister, sectoral ministers, speaker of the country. We work with Kenya to increase trade turnover. We believe that there is a potential for economic cooperation with Kenya and Djibouti.
We consider African market attractive for Azerbaijani products, that’s why development of ties with Djibouti will facilitate access of Azerbaijani products to African market. We think to deliver Azerbaijani products to African market in nearest future. We plan to arrange Azerbaijan-Kenya business forum in Azerbaijan in 2017. This will enable to hold presentations and introduce Kenyan businessmen to representatives of private sector in Azerbaijan.
Of course, through intensifying relations with African Union, we develop ties on continental level. But making first step in this direction, we have to talk about Eastern Africa, which includes 17 countries of African Union. Kenya and Djibouti have large ports through which we can gain access to countries of Eastern Africa. This is quite a big market (COMESA) with population of 450 million for consumption of Azerbaijani products. Of course, ports and free economic zones can serve as platform for Azerbaijani products. Markets like Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia are very important. We work to provide access for our companies to these markets.
Azerbaijan has 'ASAN' facility an intellectual product, which can enjoy high demand in all Africa. As you know, exclusive presentation of 'ASAN service' was held recently for representatives of 54 countries of African Union gathered in Addis Ababa, and this presentation as a whole was on Azerbaijan’s experience on provision of public services and received worldwide recognition and high opinion of international organizations, including UN. High interest was expressed for Azerbaijan’s experience at the meeting of line ministries responsible for public services, centralization, urbanization. Of course, such presentation at African Union headquarters plays very important platform for Azerbaijan to export its intellectual product to African countries. Today Africa enters development phase and it has huge potential.
Our trade turnover is very low. Of course, this doesn’t conform with our approach and what we want to see. We have high quality Azerbaijani products which can enjoy high demand in these markets. And this will be a starting point to increase our trade turnover. We have to work in this direction.
Separate business circles are keen to come to Azerbaijan and get acquainted with our production in place.
- In soviet times African students were attending Azerbaijani universities. Do you have any plans aimed at restoration of this tradition and increasing number of African students in Baku?
- You know in USSR Baku was one of most important academic capitals. More than 5000 Africans were graduated from various universities in Azerbaijan. About 800 of them were Ethiopian students. Of course, today Africans remember Baku and Azerbaijan well. For them it is a country which laid the basis for their intellectual development and life experience. Thanks to education in Azerbaijan many African officials developed professional experience and can provide their services. Today we work in this direction. Quality of education in Azerbaijani universities is high and conforms with international standards. This is very important for Africa.
I would like to note the ADA University. This higher education institution is very popular in Africa. There are different programs where African countries participate. This year for the first time representative of African Union Commission attended program ADA Caspian Studies. The more representatives and institutions from Africa attend these programs, the more they will study Azerbaijan, know about this country, deliver information about Azerbaijan to their colleagues. This enables us to deliver information about country all over the continent. ADA is very important for African continent in terms of experience exchange. In addition to education, there are also separate ideas about trainings: for example, training for pilots from Djibouti. Today this is also one of directions of our work.
- How popular is this part of Africa among Azerbaijani tourists? And vice versa, which arrangements the Azerbaijani embassy undertakes for popularization of touristic opportunities of our country?
- At this moment there aren’t many tourists in this part of Africa from our country. This part of Africa, especially Kenya and Ethiopia, has many interesting attractions. This is very interesting direction and today we lay the foundation of future cooperation with African countries. It would be interesting to work with Tanzania and Kenya in the field of tourism. These are countries with world-famous safari, attractive places and touristic islands.
We are here already for one and a half year. We, as an Azerbaijani Embassy, also work towards attraction of African tourists to Azerbaijan. We have to provide more and more information about our country. People know our country since soviet time. These are mostly those who studied in and traveled to Azerbaijan. But there are regions where people know little about Azerbaijan. We carry out significant work with mass media in this direction and organize numerous events. The main objective is to present Azerbaijan and talk about its place in international arena.
We also presented business opportunities and sport achievements of Azerbaijan, which attracted attention of mass media. We take advantage of any thematic platform for presentation of our opportunities. Of course, Azerbaijani culture, cinematography, music especially attracts representatives of local society and diplomatic corps. Recently we demonstrated the movie “Arshin mal alan”. It was demonstrated in local TV channels during two days and its premier in one of Addis Ababa cinemas was attended by representatives of diplomatic corps and officials.
- How much are the citizens of eastern African counties informed on Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? Which steps does the embassy take to spread the information about Armenian aggression?
- This is a crucial question and the embassy intensively works in this direction. We placed several publications in Ethiopian press with comprehensive information on ongoing occupation by Armenia of internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan. All these countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti) support sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, just like all other countries of the world. Facts, especially, information about crimes committed by Armenia against Azerbaijani people were widely covered by local media. Naturally, positions of international organizations, especially resolutions of UN Security Council were also noted. African people understand when we talk about rights of refugees and internally displaced people. When we talk about ethnic cleansing, it touches their feelings; because they also suffered this. The issue concerning occupation of 20% of Azerbaijani lands and one million refugees, which is a humanitarian catastrophe, is intensively discussed with diplomatic envoys of African countries.
- Despite rapid development of number of African countries, poverty is still widely spread in the continent. What kind of humanitarian assistance Azerbaijan provides to poor countries of Africa?
- Since its independence Azerbaijan provides humanitarian aid to countries with high level of poverty. AIDA conducted more than one thousand cataract surgeries. Azerbaijan allocated funds for Somali during drought. Azerbaijan also provided significant support for fighting Ebola virus. African nations value this. Azerbaijan is one of several countries, who provided significant support to African nations.