Baku. 23 December. REPORT.AZ/ Newly accredited ambassador of Morocco to Azerbaijan Mohammed Adel Embarch gave an interview to Report News Agency.
- First of all, could you please present yourself to our readers?
- Thank you very much for this opportunity and I am happy that my first interview in Azerbaijan is with such a professional media outlet as yours. I am career diplomat and I have served in various countries and in different capacities. Before coming to Azerbaijan I served as deputy chief of mission in Paris and before that at the embassy of Morocco in Washington, Beijing, and Bangkok. Let me tell you how delighted I am to be in this beautiful and vibrant city of Baku.
- How do you assess the bilateral political and economical ties between Morocco and Azerbaijan?
- Morocco was among the very first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan when it gained independence. Henceforth, relations kept growing and both countries decided to open up embassies. The Moroccan embassy opened some 8 years ago and a lot has been done so far. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor, Ambassador Hassan Hami, as well the Azerbaijani embassy in Rabat for the great achievements in such a short period of time.
Many officials on both sides exchanged visits. Agreements were signed. Cultural events were held and tourism started in both ways.
Political relations are outstanding. Contacts through the diplomatic channels take place on a regular basis and also in the form of political consultations at various levels both in Rabat and Baku and also during international forums.
Morocco and Azerbaijan are active members in numerous international organizations and, as such, they need to keep close contacts and discuss matters of common interest.
Both countries served as non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council in 2012-2013 and, once again, cooperation and coordination were taking place on a daily basis in New York and elsewhere. It was the case because both countries share the same views with regard to many issues of common interest such us territorial integrity, fight against terror, promotion of the true values of Islam that is tolerant and moderate etc.
However, if it is a fact that the political relations are outstanding, we should definitely not take them for granted. Even between a husband and wife, relations should be nourished, closely monitored and efforts must always be made to develop and strengthen them through more political dialogue, trade, investments, culture and people to people relations.
As far for my goals and objectives here, I will try to promote economic relation because I see huge potential, very interesting opportunities that we need to develop.
- What is the amount of trade turnover between our countries and what need to be done by both sides in order to increase this number?
- In recent years, we noticed that the volume of trade is not steady and keeps fluctuating. At this level, I can tell you that figures do not reflect anything. As I have just mentioned, official relations are relatively new and the business communities still have a lot to learn about each other. What I can say for sure is that, when I look at the patterns of our economies, the production bases and fabrics are quite different and therefore complimentary. As such, the potential of growth both in terms of trade and two-way investments is quite high. I am very optimistic.
His Majesty King Mohammed VI initiated bold reforms of the already open Moroccan economy. The country has signed free trade agreements with the US, the EU, Turkey, the Arab countries, the EFTA and we have other preferential custom agreements with various other partners in Africa. Today, Morocco has the largest free trade network in the world, which is basically the equivalent of a one billion customer market.
Is it also known that Morocco is both politically and economically one of the most stable and safe countries and although the world is going through a economic crisis, the Moroccan economy proved to be resilient and substantial investments both public and private kept funding major infrastructure projects that turned Morocco into a modern, competitive and efficient economies.
Today, when I look at the new vision of Azerbaijan 2020 and the priority sectors set by the authorities to diversify the economy, Morocco has a serious advantage to effectively help with Azerbaijan reach this goal. Indeed, both in agriculture, tourism, logistics and transportation, green economy, renewable energies and the human capital, Morocco has not only a story to tell, but a success story to share.
Besides, Morocco strongly believes in South-South cooperation and acts accordingly. Indeed, the recent visit by King Mohammed VI to many countries in Africa during the last couple of weeks is a strong evidence of this commitment. In Ethiopia and Nigeria, for example, multibillion dollars investment projects were inked to create fertilizer plants in both countries and a 5000 km pipeline that will link 10 West African countries from Nigeria to Morocco. This is not something new. Moroccan companies are heavily active in Africa with banks and insurance firms in 35 countries and Morocco is the largest foreign investor in West Africa.
Besides, Azerbaijan is interested in making business in Africa. I think SOCAR and businessmen here can benefit from using Morocco as a platform to work in Africa. SOCAR is an important company. It enjoys a lot of respect in Morocco. Before coming to here I met a lot of people from different sides and they are welcoming SOCAR because there are many opportunities. There are opportunities not only about Morocco, but all the region.
- What can you say about cooperation in tourism sector? How many Azerbaijani tourists visited Morocco this year?
- In term of tourism it is never enough. You know that Morocco is one of the largest tourism destinations in the world with 12 million tourists per year. The number of visa applicants from Azerbaijan is growing every year. Both countries signed a cooperation agreement in the field of Tourism and we are in contact with many travel agencies to promote the Moroccan destination. Tourism is a sector where you have to make a lot of promotion. But financial crisis doesn't help a lot when it comes to remote destinations. Also, the absence of direct flights hampers the development of this sector. Still many people are interested to go to Morocco and more and more Moroccans are interested to visit Azerbaijan. Surprisingly, although there is a big distance separating the two countries, there are many similarities between the two nations. Azerbaijan is a Muslim country, with good tourism infrastructure and very welcoming people.
We will try to promote both destinations because we want people to get to know each other. As you know, business relations and investments are not very high, mostly because people don't know each other. It needs to make sure we benefit from the success of each other.
- Which steps are taken by Morocco in order to solve the issue with Southern Provinces and what's the position of Morocco regarding Nagorno Karabakh issue?
- We have the same thought, the same beliefs. We believe in the importance of the territorial integrity of countries. Both Morocco and Azerbaijan make it a point of honor to respect territorial integrity of both countries. Azerbaijan is supporting the fact that Southern Provinces are Moroccan territory. In response to a call by the UNSC to parties to find a political solution to the Southern Provinces, the Kingdom of Morocco proposed an initiative in the form of an autonomous status for the Sahara region, within the sovereignty, the territorial integrity and national unity of the Kingdom.
This initiative is part of the ongoing process to build a democratic and modern society based on the rule of law, individual and collective freedoms as well as economic and social development. It holds the promise of a better future for the people of the region, and will put an end to the separation and exile.
The people of the Sahara will manage their own affairs democratically through legislative, executive and judicial bodies with exclusive powers. They will have the necessary financial resources for the development of the region in all fields and will actively participate in the economic, social and cultural life of the Kingdom.
As for the sovereignty domains, such as the defense, the foreign relations and the constitutional and religious responsibilities of His Majesty the King, they will remain within the responsibility of the central government. In the meantime, His Majesty announced 14 billion dollars worth of investments in the region for the upcoming decade. Therefore, as we commit to the ongoing process under the supervision of the UN, we keep developing our country and we remain confident in the future.
As for the Nagorno Karabakh issue, the Moroccan position supporting the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan has always been crystal clear. We believe that the best guarantee for a long lasting solution for this problem is a serious dialogue based on strong political will.
Morocco joined the OIC Contact Group on the aggression of the Republic of Armenia against the Republic of Azerbaijan which held its first meeting on Monday 19 September 2019 at the ministerial level on the sidelines of the Annual Coordination Meeting in New York.
- Can we expect any visits from or to Morocco next year?
- Definitely. This year we will try to hold our first joint commission headed by the Ministers of foreign affairs. We will try to bring our business community here. There are many agreements that are ready and need to be inked. Morocco had elections, that's why we need to wait a little bit for the establishment of the new cabinet. We try to make exchange of visits more frequently.