Exclusive interview for Argumentum.al with the Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Albania H.E. Mr. Anar HUSEYNOV
By Marjana Doda
The visit of President Ilham Aliyev to Albania is indeed the first in the history of the bilateral relations between the two countries, but it became remarkable since it was not of a purely protocol, reciprocal nature, but opened a new page in the bilateral relations through the specific accords reached, has said the Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Albania H.E. Mr. Anar HUSEYNOV in an exclusive interview with Argumentum.al.
The high-level delegation of Azerbaijan paid a visit to Tirana on November 15 this year.
The ambassador said the issue of mutual investments is of great interest to both sides. “We are in favor of investments in Albania and mainly in the field of energy infrastructure. Considering the rapid growth of the number of incoming tourists to your country in recent years, I think that investments in tourism infrastructure can also be discussed within the framework of the relevant format of upcoming interactions,” said Huseynov.
According to him, Baku wants to discuss the possibility of investing in the gas infrastructure of Albania and first to start with a separate settlement and if the investment is successful, its scope may increase.
Further he said that Azerbaijan has always been and will remain one of the key and reliable EU partners contributing to energy security of Europe.
In a comment on the relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia the Ambassador said that during these two years, Armenia, despite the agreements reached, keeps trying in every possible way to resist the full implementation of its commitments. “There is only one reason for this approach – the retention of territorial claims against Azerbaijan. In other words, Yerevan tries, on its own or at the behest of its patrons, to maintain the status quo in the region with the hope to win the time. She makes the same mistake as used to do for almost 30 years.”
According to him, Azerbaijan in its term has been pursuing the policy of normalization of relations with Armenia based on principles of international law including the respect to territorial integrity and inviolability of internationally recognized borders of both countries.
Asked about Albania’s attitude towards the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, Ambassador Huseynov said Tirana has always been supportive to our territorial integrity and not just in meetings in camera, as many do, but also in public and within international organisations. “We highly value this position of Albania, which significantly contributes to development of our bilateral relations,” said the Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Albania H.E. Mr. Anar HUSEYNOV in the following interview:
Argumentum.al: Dear Mr. Ambassador, thank you for the opportunity to have this exclusive interview after the official visit of the high-level delegation of Azerbaijan to Tirana on November 15 this year.
– The visit of President Ilham Aliyev has been described as a historic one, being the first time that a President from Azerbaijan visited Tirana and marking a significant landmark in the bilateral relations between Albania and Azerbaijan. Could you specifically mention some of the most important highlights of the visit to Albania?
H.E. Mr. Anar Huseynov: First of all, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts on the outcome of the state visit of President Aliyev to Albania as well as latest developments in our region. This visit is indeed the first in the history of our bilateral relations, but it became remarkable since it was not of a purely protocol, reciprocal nature, but opened a new page in our relations through the specific accords reached. Among them, I would first note the decision taken by the Milli Meclis (Parliament) of Azerbaijan to establish a separate embassy in Albania already on the third day after the visit. This decision is another prove of Baku’s serious intentions for development of a long term and mutually beneficial cooperation with Albania.
In general, the agreements reached can be divided into short and mid-term ones as regads their implementation period. So, already next year, the year of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries, we plan to hold a series of meetings to discuss the possibilities of upgrading cooperation in the political, economic and humanitarian spheres. A great emphasis is also given to cultural interaction, in particular, a week of Azerbaijani culture is expected to be held in Tirana in 2023. Both sides also intend to strengthen our legal framework of cooperation. As for a mid-term perspective, we will proceed with direct talks on mutual investment possibilities in areas of common interest.
– Relations between Albania and Azerbaijan, both politically and economically, seem to be taking a new turn. In addition to the energy and gas field, will we have investments and cooperation between the companies of Azerbaijan and Albania in other areas of the economy, such as in the tourism sector?
– As I noted above, the issue of mutual investments is of great interest to both sides. We are in favor of investments in Albania and mainly in the field of energy infrastructure. Considering the rapid growth of number of incoming tourists to your country in recent years, I think that investments in tourism infrastructure can also be discussed within the framework of the relevant format of upcoming interactions. I believe that in addition to the commercial attractiveness of this area, exchange of tourist flows can enormously contribute to people-to-people contacts between our countries.
– The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is one of the most important foreign investments in Albania, above all for the strategic importance it gives to the country. However, Albania doesn’t have the infrastructure for the gasification of the country. Can Albania turn from being a transit country within TAP into a beneficiary of Azerbaijan’s natural gas?
– I do believe that Albania can become a beneficiary of Azerbaijan’s natural gas, but as you yourself noted, the lack of appropriate infrastructure complicates the issue. Therefore, Baku wants to discuss the possibility of investing in the gas infrastructure of Albania, and first to start with a separate settlement. If the investment is successful, its scope may increase.
-Mr. Ambassador, in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war and in the face of the threat of the energy crisis, the interest in the Caucasus as potential source of energy has been renewed, thus becoming an important alternative to Russia for oil and gas. But are the relations between Russia and Azerbaijan endangered due to this development?
– If you mean Azerbaijan referring to the Caucasus, then I would say that our volumes of oil and gas exports are not comparable with those of Russia, and we have never been competitors in European markets. Although for the last decades most of our regional and intra-regional initiatives in the energy field have faced certain resistance but together with international partners we succeeded in their implementation.
– A Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Partnership in the field of energy between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the European Union was signed in July this year. What exactly does this Memorandum contain?
– On 18 July 2022 President Aliyev and Ms. Ursula von der Leyen, President of EU Commission, signed a new Memorandum of Understanding on a Strategic Partnership in the Field of Energy. This MoU became a new milestone in our relations with EU and includes a commitment to double the capacity of the Southern Gas Corridor to deliver at least 20 billion cubic metres to the European markets annually by 2027. This will contribute to EU’s diversification objectives. Azerbaijan is already now increasing deliveries of natural gas to the EU, from 8.1 bcm in 2021 to an expected 12 bcm in 2022. The EU and Azerbaijan also share the ambition to accelerate the development and deployment of renewable energy generation and transmission capacity to fully reap the synergies between the EU’s clean energy transition and Azerbaijan’s strong untapped renewable energy potential, in particular in the offshore energy sector. The two parties also acknowledge the importance of the Global Methane Pledge, and recognise that making the natural gas supply chain as efficient, environmentally and climate friendly as possible is a collective responsibility. The MoU supports the creation of schemes to collect natural gas that would otherwise be vented, flared or released into the atmosphere. Following the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding, the parties agreed to hold EU-Azerbaijani energy dialogue on a ministerial level to discuss the practical implementation of this MoU. Azerbaijan has always been and will remain one of the key and reliable EU partners contributing to energy security of Europe.
– Azerbaijan’s natural gas is contributing to Europe’s energy security. Is this an opportunity for Brussels and Washington to prioritize and elevate relations with Baku?
I guess it is better to put this question to Brussels and Washington. Baku is ready to strengthen its relations with its Western partners based on equal partnership, mutual interest and respect for principles of international law.
– Mr. Ambassador, two years have passed since the signing of the tripartite declaration by the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia on November 9-10, 2020, but despite this agreement the truce between the two countries has been fragile being violated several times, as it happened in September of this year. Who is not adhering to the agreement and why?
Following November 10 trilateral statement all the efforts taken within different formats were mainly aimed at fulfilling the paras of the November 2020 statement, which serve the purpose of normalizing relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Regretfully, Yerevan in contradiction to para 4 of the said statement still keeps and finances Armenian troops in our internationally recognized territory where “the peace-keeping forces of Russian Federation” are temporarily deployed. Implementation of para 9, which reads “The Republic of Armenia shall guarantee the security of transport connections between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan in order to arrange unobstructed movement of persons, vehicles and cargo in both directions” is also artificially delayed, I would say due to various absurd grounds. Para 7 refers to internally displaced persons and refugees to be resettled into their places of origin, implementation of this para is also not possible not only because of full destruction of the liberated territories but also due to its heavy mine contamination by Armenia.
During these two years, Armenia, despite the agreements reached, keeps trying in every possible way to resist the full implementation of its commitments. There is only one reason of this approach – the retention of territorial claims against Azerbaijan. In other words, Yerevan tries, on its own or at the behest of its patrons, to maintain the status quo in the region with the hope to win the time. She does the same mistake as used to do for almost 30 years.
Azerbaijan in its term has been pursuing the policy of normalization of relations with Armenia based on principles of international law including the respect to territorial integrity and inviolability of internationally recognized borders of both countries. Despite the peaceful agenda of Azerbaijan built on implementation of the relevant trilateral statement, international law and restoration of good-neighborly relations, Armenia and Armenian diaspora not only misleads the political circles and societies of different countries on realities on the spot but also tries to disrupt our bilateral relations with those countries by inciting hatred and enmity towards Azerbaijan.
– How do you assess the international approach to this conflict? Do you think it is time for the US and the EU to engage more in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, thus moving towards an international mediation for its solution?
As of November 10, 2020 mediation on implementation of the relevant trilateral statement and normalization of Azerbaijani-Armenian relations has been fulfilled by mostly Russia but since the end of 2021 EU (on the level of President of European Council) and mid of this year US (on the level of State Secretary) have also got involved in mediation process. Today, we can talk on common position of West, which is rather rational insisting on signing of peace agreement till the end of this year. Initially, Armenia was supportive to this position but following 2 November Sochi Summit meeting, as it happens always, Yerevan again started to deviate from previous agreements inclining towards Kremlin’s new proposals. Next trilateral EU, Azerbaijan and Armenia Summit meeting is scheduled to be held on 7 December in Brussels but Armenian President insisted on President of France to join the high level meeting. Our authorities agreed to this format of the meeting held in Prague recently but after well-known latest developments Baku does not consider France as a fair mediator any more. So, President Aliyev had to refuse from the next meeting in Brussels unless the trilateral format is remained. We know our neighbor and have witnessed these kind of moves, hypocrisy and manipulations for many decades. Nevertheless, we hope that peace and full-fledged cooperation in our region will soon prevail.
– How do you evaluate, Your Excellency, the attitude of the official Tirana towards the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan?
Tirana has always been supportive to our territorial integrity and not just in meetings in camera, as many do, but also in public and within international organisations. We highly value this position of Albania, which significantly contributes to development of our bilateral relations.
-Mr. Ambassador, as Azerbaijan is increasingly important for the long-term stability of the region which is the best way to end this destabilizing war and bring final peace to the South Caucasus?
-The best way to bring peace to the South Caucasus is to refrain from territorial claims, restore good-neighborly relations and promote bilateral and regional cooperation based on international law.
© 2022 Argumentum