Baku. 28 February. REPORT.AZ/ Interview of Report News Agency with the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák before his visit to Azerbaijan on March 5.
-What question will be discussed during your visit to Azerbaijan in March?
My programme is not final yet, but I plan to meet with the political leadership to see how we can best support Azerbaijan in implementing its OSCE commitments,the peace process and the activities of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs. And of course, beyond the conflict dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference, it is in the interest of us as the OSCE Chairmanship to maintain open and frank dialogue and good relations with all participating States, and to support progress on the ground. On all of my trips, I am eager to meet with and listen to our partners, whether in government, parliament, or civil society organizations. And of course, most importantly the people who are most affected by the situation on the ground. No one but them knows their daily struggles best. And we should not forget, ultimately, everything we do at the OSCE is to make the lives of our people a little easier.
- How do you evaluate the cooperation between Azerbaijan and the OSCE in recent years?
The OSCE is uniquely positioned to create a more stable, sustainable and modern Caucasus region. Our OSCE Chairmanship, the Secretariat, and our institutions can together contribute to the region’s resilience to security challenges and to creating the space for conflict settlement. No other organization takes such a comprehensive approach to security. And when we say “comprehensive,” we mean on all levels from geopolitical to individual. And the focus on the human level – on the people themselves – is something that is at the very core of Slovakia’s 2019 OSCE Chairmanship. We value our cooperation with Azerbaijan in these efforts.
- Conflict resolution is also one of the priorities of the Slovakian Chairmanship in OSCE in 2019. How does Slovakia intend to facilitate this issue? What activities can the Chairmanship take in this direction?
Our Chairmanship is focused on people, dialogue, and stability, and on all three we are realistically ambitious. The OSCE provides a forum for dialogue, cooperation and mediation, and in that can help us to focuson related humanitarian needs. One of the priorities of the Slovak OSCE Chairmanship is preventing, resolving, and mediating conflict and mitigating its humanitarian consequences wherever possible. I have already visited conflict-affected areas in Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, and I am eager to ensure that the people most affected remain at the center of all our activities in the international community.
-The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains one of the unresolved conflicts in the OSCE area. How can Slovakia support the negotiation process of this conflict?
Solving a longstanding conflict is a complex task requiring stability in the regional context, active dialogue, and the readiness of societies to move forward. And experience has shown that inclusive processes are more likely to lead to real, lasting peace and stability.
Lately, we have seen signs of progress unfolding and we are cautiously optimistic about it. The human toll of violence along the line of contact and state borders has decreased. We are seeing an increased tempo of senior level dialogue between Yerevan and Baku. And the result of these developments is increased stability in the OSCE space.
Our Chairmanship is committed to supporting a negotiated, peaceful, and sustainable resolution of the conflict.
I have reappointed Amb. Andrzej Kasprzyk as my Personal Representative on the Conflict dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference; we have faith in the Minsk Process, and will ensure it has the support needed to succeed. I am in close contact with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and took positive note of the recent meeting of the Foreign Ministers in Paris. Their understanding that concrete measures are needed to prepare the populations for peace deserves our support.
- Are you going to appoint the special representative for the South Caucasus within the framework of the Slovakian chairmanship due to the unresolved conflicts in the region?
In addition to renewing the mandate of Ambassador Kasprzyk as my Personal Representative, I have also designated Ambassador Rudolf Michalka, from Slovakia, as the OSCE Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for the South Caucasus. In collaboration with his counterparts from the United Nations and the European Union, Ambassador Michalka co-chairs the Geneva International Discussions, which address the consequences of the 2008 war in Georgia, and undertakes other responsibilities in the South Caucasus upon assignment of the Chairmanship.
-Slovakia planned to open an embassy in Azerbaijan till the end of this year. When can the opening take place?
During his official visit to Azerbaijan in November 2018, Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini confirmed our interest in openingan Embassy in Baku. We are currently working on financial and technical preparatory issues. So the question is not about “if” but “when”. I suppose our Embassy will be opened in the not very distant future.
- What will be the priority spheres of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Slovakia?
I am glad that bilateral relations between Slovakia and Azerbaijan are traditionally friendly. We do not have any open issues and this creates a good basis for strengthening political dialogue and practical cooperation in all areas. Slovakia has a strong interest in good cooperation with Azerbaijan, which was reconfirmed during the official visit of Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini to Azerbaijan last November. We see potential in areas like energy, modernization of transport infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture and tourism. We have to work on relevant treaties in order to make our economic cooperation more dynamic.
Slovakia also supports more intensified cooperation between the European Union and Azerbaijan. A new agreement between the EU and Baku is currently negotiated. We should aim for an ambitious agreement from which both sides can gain. This agreement would represent an important step forward in our relations.