Baku. 18 August. REPORT.AZ/ Report News Agency presents an interview with chargee d’affaires of Costa Rica in Azerbaijan, Jairo Lopez Bolanos.
- Could you please introduce yourself to our readers and give information about your country?
- I am a lawyer who became diplomat. I studied at the University of Costa Rica. After my graduation, I started working as a lawyer in the Presidential House of Costa Rica. I stayed there over 10 years and then I was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2004 I was posted to Israel. I was there for almost 6 years and went back to Costa Rica. Then I was posted in Dominican Republic and after that I moved to South Korea. In Korea I stayed for 4.5 years and moved back to Costa Rica a year ago to work at human rights department of the MFA before getting appointed to Azerbaijan.
My country is very old democracy. Actually, we are one of the oldest democracies in Latin America and we are known for being a very peaceful country, which doesn’t have an army. In the Constitution of 1949 we completely abolished the army. Since then, we have relied on the international system and believe in international solution of controversies. So, we are proud of that.
Also, in 1970-s we decided to make a turnover in environment protection. We were one of the countries with the highest rate of deforestation in our region. That was worrying us at that time. One of our presidents decided that we needed to do something about that issue; and that’s how we started protecting natural resources and drastically changed that rhythm of deforestation by growing trees all over our territory. After a while we were one of the first environmental protection countries in the world. Now 26% of our territory is protected as a national park or private reserve. Right now, 40 years after that decision we have in Costa Rica 5% of all the world biodiversity. Also, currently 99% of the energy in Costa Rica is produced by renewable sources. And we are incentivizing with money people who are trying to preserve the nature. We have very good initiative called “green hub” and we are trying to share our knowledge with other countries in order to protect the environment. That’s one of the initiatives that Costa Rica can bring to the world.
- Did you have any information about Azerbaijan prior your arrival here?
- Yes. In Korea I had a chance to make friends with Azerbaijani diplomats. Usually, in many countries Latin American diplomats stick together among them and some lose the opportunity of meeting people from different countries, but in my case I always liked to know people from other regions. Azerbaijani people were very friendly at that time and I started to know more about your country from them. Indeed, when Azerbaijan and Costa Rica decided to strengthen their relations by opening embassies, the ambassador of Azerbaijan to Korea told me ‘maybe you are the one who is going to be posted in Baku’. He was right, now I am here.
Here, I like the food and people. I think, people in Azerbaijan and Costa Rica have something in common. We like hospitality, we like to host our guests. At the beginning of 1970-s when lots of tourists started to visit Costa Rica, we opened the doors for foreigners. And I feel the same here. Every time I have some problem, there is someone who tries to help me. And so, I feel here like home.
- What would be your goals as a chargee d affaires in Azerbaijan?
- There are many things to do. This is the beginning of bigger and better relations. Luckily, our ministers are really good friends and after we decided to open embassies in both countries, was because my minister had lots of ideas of how we can improve our relations. We want more business between our countries, we want more cooperation, we want you to know Costa Rica better and, in a way, we want Costa Rica to know what’s happening in this part of the world. We have a lot of duties at this time.
- How can you generally assess the political and economical ties between our statesand in which areas Costa Rica is interested to cooperate with Azerbaijan?Can Costa Rica be the hub for Azerbaijan to promote its good to the region of Central America?
- Costa Rica which is located in the Central America is like a hub. It would be great for Azerbaijan to have Costa Rica as a center of your operations in Latin America. We have free trade agreements with many countries of the world. I am sure many of your companies can come and utilize those assets in other to get to other markets in the region. Also, in our case, we want to know more about this part of the world. We want to share our experiences and we want to learn from you as well. I think it would be a mutual fruitful cooperation.
Usually, when two countries are too far from each other you don’t see them as an economic partner. Usually, you are focused on neighbor countries. But for both our countries it would be great to open and to expand our economic possibilities. To see Latin America with different eyes and for us to see Caucasus as a market. We have a turnover but the numbers are really small. But the positive thing is that we know the data and we know what we can improve. Starting from there I am sure that in next years we will improve our ties.
- Are there any data on how many tourists visited Costa Rica last year?
- There are not so much tourists from your country. Last year we had 7 Azerbaijani passport holders who visited Costa Rica for business or for leisure. But your Minister was really right when he talked about moving forward in the immigration issues. Maybe if we work on that visa issue it will help people of Azerbaijan to go to Costa Rica and vice versa. I am sure, if they know all the beauties that you have here many Costa Rican would come here. And vice versa.
Coming to Costa Rica is not that difficult. If you have Schengen, USA or Canada visa or if you have Green Card you don’t need to apply for Costa Rican visa. We have plenty of things for you to enjoy and we are happy to start that relation.
- Are there any information regarding the opening of Azerbaijan's embassy in San Jose?
- When your Minister visited Costa Rica there was a discussion on that issue. But we made a first step and now we have an embassy here. Hopefully, before the end of the year, Azerbaijan will have an embassy in San Jose. That’s our goal.
- Can we expect any bilateral visits in near future?
- During my Minister’s visit to Baku, he extended the invitation of Costa Rican President to your President. Also, H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev invited President Luis Guillermo Solis to come to Baku. We have elections in February and the government will end its term in May. So, if our President will come to Baku, this would happen before May 2018. We really want to work on that. For a diplomat, if your president is visiting your country of posting, it is like the main goal of your tenure. But, so far, our FM visited Azerbaijan twice. Hopefully, not only the Minister of Foreign Affairs, but also other ministers will visit Azerbaijan.
- What's the position of Costa Rica regarding Nagorno-Karabakh issue?
- Costa Rica firmly supports the settlement Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan within its internationally recognized borders in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.