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Estonian FM: International community should make greater efforts to solve conflicts in South Caucasus region - INTERVIEW

'Eastern Partnership remains a priority for us'

Baku. 24 January. REPORT.AZ/ Report News Agency presents an interview with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, Mr. Sven Mikser.

- Dear Mr. Mikser, how do you assess the current level of Estonia-Azerbaijan cooperation?

- The relations between Estonia and Azerbaijan are traditionally good, in the spirit of mutual understanding. We see further opportunities to develop and expand our ties and are open to new avenues of cooperation. Estonia also pays particular attention in its foreign policy to the Eastern Partnership and we are very much interested in intensifying cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan for our mutual benefit.

- Which spheres of bilateral cooperation with Azerbaijan Estonia wants to develop more?

- I believe we have a huge potential to boost our cooperation in very different fields. For example, at the end of the November a high-level transport and logistics delegation from Estonia had meetings with their partners in Baku. We can conclude from the outcome of the visit that Estonia and Azerbaijan have mutual interest in the field of transport and logistics and we are looking forward to the further developing this sector.

Furthermore, Estonia has an impressive track record and experience in reforms, be it strengthening the functioning of the democratic institutions, user-friendly and effective tax system, or ICT solutions. Azerbaijan is one of the countries which has benefited from our knowledge of e-government and e-services solutions that has created also new opportunities for economic cooperation, and we are ready to continue to share our best expertise.

We also seek to expand and diversify of our trade and economic relations. Estonia would like to focus on areas where we can provide added value, especially through business contacts, based on reciprocal interest.

I would also like to highlight our good partnership in education. For instance, our main universities have several co-operation agreements. We wish to expand the contacts between our universities, and Azerbaijani students are very much welcome to study in Estonia. Currently 31 Azerbaijani students are studying in Estonia within the framework of cooperation between our universities. Therefore, the recent agreement on cooperation signed by our Academies of Sciences in Tallinn is the outcome of our mutual interest and efforts to strengthen the collaboration between our academia circles.

- In late 2017 Estonia is going to chair the EU Eastern Partnership summit. Though there is still a lot of time till the summit, what's the position of Estonia towards this program and what new ideas in regards to this program Estonia is going to present?

- Eastern Partnership remains a priority for Estonia, and we will work hard to contribute to the success of the Summit that will take place in Brussels. The essential focus of the Summit will be delivering on tangible results for citizens – in terms of ongoing projects and in the future. There has been much progress in different sectors and in the legal framework concerning of our relations with our Eastern Partners. In this respect, starting the negotiations for a new bilateral cooperation agreement between EU and Azerbaijan is an important development in the framework of Eastern Partnership.

Our goal is to reconfirm the common political commitment to this Partnership and improve the communication of its content so that that people could more clearly appreciate the concrete benefits. These benefits are clearly there, e.g. improved business relations between the EU and the Partner Countries, increased transparency of governance, better access to educational grants and study opportunities, and easier mobility, etc.

- What's the position of Estonia in regards to the protracted conflicts in the OSCE area, especially in regards to Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

- Protracted conflicts in the South Caucasus region endanger the security situation and hinder stability and development. Thus, international community should make greater efforts to achieve resolution of conflicts in the region.

Estonia supports the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Azerbaijan. It is clear that there is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The status quo is not sustainable and the peaceful resolution of the conflict must remain a priority.

We support the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs’ mediation efforts and expect them to be active and visible in order to find a sustainable political settlement of the conflict in accordance with international law. The core responsibility lies in the hands of Armenia and Azerbaijan – both sides should show the necessary political will and intensify high-level talks to achieve peace.

- As Europe face serious challenges like migrant’s crisis, terrorists threat, lack of confidence, what Estonia can offer to solve these problems?

- In the context of the European migration crisis, which has laid a particularly heavy burden to a handful of countries, Estonia, is certain that we cannot and will not leave these countries alone who have been most directly affected by the migration. We all have to contribute in a spirit of solidarity and burden sharing by using different policies and means available. We are determined to do our part in tackling the current situation, and in shaping the sustainable long-term solution.

Preventing and countering the terrorism threat is definitely one of the priorities for Estonia and the European Union. In that regard we need better cooperation and exchange of information both inside the European Union and with other partners. In the long term, we must focus on prevention – addressing radicalization and stopping the movement of foreign terrorist fighters. Much should be done in terms of tackling grassroots of the radicalization, this is where more attention on education, integration, employment etc.

- Presently Estonia is represented in Azerbaijan by Office of Estonian Embassy. Are there any plans to shift the office to the level of the embassy?

- Azerbaijan is an important political and economic player in the region and there is an untapped potential to develop our relations further. We value highly our diplomatic presence in Baku that we opened more than 2 years ago. In the near-term future we will remain in Baku at the level of Office of Estonian Embassy as resources of the Ministry are always limited.

- Are there any visits on high level expected between our countries?

- As I mentioned before, Estonia is devoted to advancing the Eastern Partnership, therefore I wish to visit our Eastern Partners before the Estonian presidency in the European Union. I hope to have soon an opportunity to discuss the bilateral agenda and issues regarding the European Union with my Azeri counterpart. We are also planning for the next session of the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation between Estonia and Azerbaijan. 

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