By Rashid Shirinov
The head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan Kestutis Jankauskas has visited the frontline areas of the country – Tartar and Barda regions. The trip was organized with the assistance of the International Eurasia Press Fund (IEPF) to acquaint the diplomat with the socio-economic life of the region and the living conditions of refugees and internally displaced persons.
During the visit, Jankauskas met with the head of the executive power of the Barda region Vidadi Isayev. He informed the EU representative about the activities carried out in Barda in recent years in the agricultural, educational and business spheres. Isayev highly appreciated the EU’s initiatives to develop small and medium-sized businesses as well as vocational education in Barda.
Speaking about the successful implementation of the IEPF social and humanitarian programs in the frontline regions of Azerbaijan, Isayev spoke about the possibilities of joint cooperation.
“Today, in accordance with the presidential decree on the development of the non-oil sector, various works are carried out in the country. We are trying to create the Barda brand through several products by using the agricultural capabilities of the region. In this regard, we are ready to use the European experience,” he noted.
Jankauskas, in turn, said that the EU supports professional education programs in frontline regions. He noted that the project aimed at the development of vocational education of Barda has just started and is the first large-scale program in the region.
The diplomat also touched upon the positive changes in Azerbaijan as a whole. He said that the recently signed documents between Azerbaijan and the EU will play a leading role in improving education and public life in the country.
IEPF President Umud Mirzayev, in turn, noted the importance of social and infrastructure projects in frontline zones. He praised the EU's efforts to improve the living conditions of refugees and IDPs, as well as to develop their educational and professional skills. Mirzayev stressed the importance of peacekeeping activities and programs for the peaceful settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for the return of refugees and IDPs to their homes.
During his visit, Jankauskas got acquainted with the daily activities of the Barda professional school, the historical and cultural heritage of the region and the development of cotton production.
The head of the EU delegation and IEPF representatives also met with the head of the executive power of the Tartar region Mustagim Mammadov and discussed the economic and agricultural potential of the region. Mammadov said that last year the Tartar region was the first in the country to produce wheat, beet and cotton. He also stressed the importance of employment of local residents in the agricultural sector.
During the meeting, it was noted that local farmers face water shortages. In general, residents have serious problems with irrigation in summer, as the Armenian side blocks the flow of water coming from the occupied Sarsang reservoir. Thanks to 600 artesian wells drilled with the financial support of international humanitarian organizations and the government of Azerbaijan in the Tartar region, the problem was partially solved.
Jankauskas stressed the importance of increasing the productivity of skilled workers in the agricultural sector and the use of innovative methods.
At the end of the meeting, the parties said that the implementation of EU projects in the regions where refugees and IDPs live will contribute to the development of the agricultural sector.
Jankauskas thanked the IEPF team for organizing this visit.
“Last year, when I arrived in the country, I said that Azerbaijan consists not only of Baku. For this reason, it is important to visit other parts of the country to better understand their problems and improve life there,” the diplomat said.
He added that this two-day visit is not his first trip to the regions of the country, but it was the first time he had the opportunity to meet with local businessmen, farmers and municipalities.
Due to the ethnic cleansing policy carried out by Armenia and the Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions of Azerbaijan, the number of refugees and IDPs in Azerbaijan hit more than 1.2 million. With a population of about 9.8 million, Azerbaijan is among the countries carrying the highest IDP caseload in the world in per capita terms.
Thanks to the measures taken by the government over the past 13 years, the level of poverty among IDPs in Azerbaijan decreased from 75 to 12 percent.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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