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Newly-appointed Hungarian ambassador: We consider Azerbaijan as reliable partner for NATO - INTERVIEW

'Personally, I would like to learn more about your rich historic and cultural heritage'
© Report

Baku. 29 September. REPORT.AZ/ Report News Agency presents an interview with the newly-apponted Hungarian Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Viktor Szederkenyi.

- Could you please introduce yourself to our readers? What will be your goals on you current posting?

- I arrived to Baku on September 4, 2017 and presented my credentials to His Excellency President Ilham Aliyev on September 12. I am a career diplomat, with 25 years of service behind me. My previous foreign postings included two terms in Washington and one term in Brussels at NATO. Prior to coming to Azerbaijan, I was Director for Eastern Europe in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Budapest. My responsibilities included supervising relations with Azerbaijan but one has to be here on the spot to acquire a more in-depth knowledge of your country. My goals are simple: to further enhance the already friendly relations between our countries. Our political relations are excellent and on this basis, I will do my best to expand our cooperation to all possible fields. During my term here, I would like to see more mutual trade and investment, more cultural, educational and scientific exchanges, more tourism, more people-to-people ties. Personally, I would like to learn more about your rich historic and cultural heritage, to explore your natural beauties and to make friendships.

- How could you evaluate the current bilateral ties between Hungary and Azerbaijan?

- Our relations evaluate themselves. There is a declared strategic partnership between Hungary and Azerbaijan which was adopted during President Aliyev’s visit to Hungary in 2014.

- Recently the Embassy of Hungary observed problems with visa issue. Were these problems solved and what was the problem?

- We had a technical malfunction in the Embassy’s building which forced us to partly suspend our consular operations. But even during this time the long term visa applications were processed. After solving the technical problem, we resumed all our consular operations within less than a week. We welcome all visitors – tourists, business people, students – who wish to come to our country. It is important for those who would like to travel to Hungary to get familiarized with the visa conditions in advance on our web page. This will smooth the visa process.

- How can you generally evaluate economical ties between our states? What was the trade turnover between our countries last year?

- Azerbaijan is our most important economic partner in the region and our cooperation is quite diverse. However, our economic relations so far fall short of its potential. There are different statistics, by our offical statistics the bilateral trade turnover was around $ 60 million last year. The current trends are positive but still, these numbers clearly do not correspond to the intensity of our political relations. Beyond these relations, the regular meetings of our Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation, the regular B2B fora as well as the Hungarian Trade House in Baku provide the necessary framework for enhancing our trade relations. The direct flight between our capitals operated by Wizzair also facilitates these ties.

- What projects in economical sphere were already implemented and which one are expected in near future?

- It would be a long list to name all projects, thus I would like to highlight just a few. Our pharmaceutical companies have present in the Azerbaijani market for a long time. The Budapest Waterworks Company and AZERSU has also long standing cooperation. Your CTC Holding and the Hungarian Kész company is building a greenhouse in the Xizi region. Azeryolservice has a partnership with our Dunaaszfalt company in road and bridge construction. Hungarian IT companies are participating in the development of the Baku Data Center.

Generally, we intend to move from simple turnover of goods towards long-term project-based cooperation. We see great potential in construction industry, agriculture, food processing, logistics, IT, water management and health industry. And needless to say, we consider Azerbaijan as a strategic partner in energy security as well.

- Hungary did a big contribution to developing human resources by providing 3 years study program for Azerbaijani students. Can we expect new study program?

- We are extremely pleased that this year 200 Azeri students started their studies in Hungarian universities within the framework of Stipendium Hungaricum program. We see this program as an investment in our future relations. The new working program of educational cooperation between our relevant ministries - that contains the provisions for these scholarships for Azeri students - is being finalized as we speak. And there many more other opportunities for Azeri students to study in Hungary.

- Since 2017 the Embassy of Hungary implements the mandate of NATO contact point in Baku. What projects can we expect in this regard?

- We consider Azerbaijan as a reliable and credible partner for NATO and as Contact Point Embassy, we want to contribute to the further improvement of NATO-Azerbaijan cooperation. Beyond helping the information flow between Baku and Brussels, and supporting the organization of visits here, I intend to reach out to local audiences and explain NATO policies. In this context we plan to hold some public events in partnership with local organizations.

Let me use this opportunity to highlight one project as it has been launched recently: the 3rd phase of the Jeyranchel Project on mine clearing. Hungary donated 100.000 Euros to the project which helps local people to get back to normal life.

- Can we expect any Hungarian cultural programs this and next year?

- Later this year we plan an event devoted to the work of the world-famous Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály. We will also participate in the Imagine Euro Tolerance Festival in October and the European Film Festival in November. Having had the very successful “Hungarian Days in Baku” last April, we also plan a robust cultural program for the next year. In this endeavor we will helped by the arrival to our Embassy of a new diplomat responsible exclusively for cultural and educational affairs. We’ll let your readers know about our plans as soon as they are finalized.

- Can we expect any visits between Azerbaijan and Hungary in short period of time?

- The nature of our strategic relationship is such that mutual high-level visits are always on the agenda and are being coordinated through diplomatic channels. The next event will be an Azerbaijani export-mission to Hungary in early October.

- After the release of Ramil Safarov Armenia decided to cut all ties with Hungary. In what conditions can Hungary re-establish diplomatic connections with Armenia and what's the position of Hungarian government with regards to Karabakh conflict?

- It was Armenia’s unilateral decision to suspend diplomatic relations with Hungary, thus, it is the Armenian Government’ s competency to initiate the re-establishment. With regard to the Karabakh conflict, Hungary supports a peaceful solution based on the respect for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.

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