Israel hopes its companies to be part of renewable energy projects in Azerbaijan – ambassador [PHOTO]
Israel hopes its companies to be part of renewable energy projects in Azerbaijan, Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan George Deek said in an exclusive interview with Trend.
He pointed out that Israel is a world leader in green energy technology.
“I think we can work closely with Azerbaijan, with the government, the ministry of energy, the agency for renewable energy in order to bring Israeli technologies in solar and wind energy mostly. I was very impressed in Azerbaijan by the existing infrastructure for solar energy. I visited Nakhchivan and have seen five solar power plants, which can in the sunny days supply almost 100 percent of energy needs of Nakhchivan, which is extremely impressive. I was also impressed by the Agency of Renewable Energy and its plans to come out with options and with tenders for renewable energy projects in Azerbaijan, including in Karabakh, but not only. Our companies will also be interested in coming and partnering with Azerbaijan on that front as well.
We’re hoping that Israeli companies will also be part of renewable energy projects in Azerbaijan. It hasn’t happened yet, we regret that and we hope that will happen soon,” added the envoy.
Projects in Karabakh
Through the Israeli embassy 10-15 Israeli companies have applied to take part in projects in Karabakh, said Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan George Deek.
“Even higher number of companies from Israel have applied directly, not through the embassy. I assume that we’re talking about tens of companies that are applying for various projects ranging from building smart cities, to green energy, agriculture, building a hospital, spa treatment center. There are various projects on the table and not all of them go through the embassy. We have a very active private sector, it works independently,” he said.
Deek pointed out that Israel has always stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Azerbaijan in its support for the territorial integrity of the country.
“We are very happy that Azerbaijan now has the opportunity to rebuild and to revive Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur. We think that this creates a huge opportunity for cooperation between Azerbaijan and various countries in the world. We think Israel also has a lot to contribute in several fields, such as water management, agriculture, health, innovations, smart cities and green energy. So, I believe that in each one of these areas Israel can be a good partner of Azerbaijan,” said the envoy.
He noted that right now, there are several projects that are in the pipeline with the Israeli agricultural private sector.
“Many Israeli companies in the agricultural sector are coming, negotiating, seeing, inspecting and meeting with Azerbaijani partners in order to look into projects. There was one that was announced in Zangilan, which we are very optimistic about. It will be ready in the near future. An Israeli company is going to establish and to run a farm and smart village. We do not sign these agreements as a government, but there are companies from Israel which sign agreements with our partners. For example, there is an Azerbaijani company in charge of the smart city agreement in Zangilan. They are signing it between two private companies. There have been negotiations. I believe it has been finalized and there should be a farm for hundreds of cows and buffaloes to provide milk, which will also go for processing to provide food, employments and expertise for the people of the region,” said Deek.
As for other areas, the ambassador noted that in Aghdam, for example, there have been projects in the water sector, that have been negotiated with companies like Mekorot, Baran Group and others.
“We hope that soon something tangible will be finalized between the two sides,” he added.
Deek went on to add that Israel is ready also for its companies to take part in projects in the field of green energy in Karabakh or in other parts of Azerbaijan.
“There are now projects in Absheron that Israeli companies may be interested in, especially in solar and wind energy. We’re trying to create more cooperation between the companies in this field. There is no doubt that the cooperation is going to grow. We have to remember one thing: the reconstruction of Karabakh is a historic momentum, challenge and effort for Azerbaijan. What we have proven as Israel is that we are here in our partnership and friendship with Azerbaijan for the long run. We’re not looking only on one year or two years term, but longer run. Wherever Azerbaijan decides that Israeli expertise and assistance is needed, we’re going to be ready to assist,” he said.
As for the demining of Azerbaijan’s liberated lands, the ambassador said he had several meetings with Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action about cooperation in demining.
“Several Israeli companies came here and had consultations with the Agency. They even toured those territories to see what is needed. Many of them presented their offers to see what they can take forward,” he added.
Prospects for SOCAR’s participation in Israel’s energy market
Israel hopes that in the future, Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR will be part of its energy industry, said the ambassador.
“The first aspect of energy cooperation is the import of oil from Azerbaijan. That is ongoing, we import one third of our oil from Azerbaijan. We will continue further in the future. The second area of cooperation is consultation. Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR has vast experience in the oil and gas industry, while we’re very young in this sphere. We can learn a lot from the expertise and the know how that companies like SOCAR in the world have,” he noted.
The envoy recalled that SOCAR had several delegations to Israel over the years and there have been several delegations from Israel to Azerbaijan on this field over the years.
“This is something that we will be more than happy to continue. SOCAR itself was part of an exploration in Israel several years ago, which didn’t turn out to be fruitful. But this is the nature of exploration, sometimes you find, sometimes you don’t find. We hope that in the future, SOCAR will be active in Israel and will be part of its growing energy industry,” added Deek.
Cooperation in fighting climate change
Israel and Azerbaijan may cooperate in reducing global warming and fighting climate change, said George Deek.
“We’ve just seen COP26 in Glasgow, where leaders from all over the world, including Israeli prime minister were taking part. We’re extremely committed to fighting the climate change that is causing the fact that we have years of droughts and suddenly years of floods in Israel. In Shah Dagh in Azerbaijan it is almost 10 degrees. Icebergs are melting, hot places are becoming unlivable. We believe that we have a lot to contribute also in that front,” said the envoy.
Deek pointed out that Israel is the only country in the world that has more trees today that it had a hundred years ago.
“Israel is the only country that is putting water into its reservoirs, into the lakes, instead of taking water from there to make them alive and to fill them by desalination for example. We have a lot to contribute and we think that together with Azerbaijan we can do good not just for the two countries, but for the world,” he added.
Work of the Israel-Azerbaijan joint commission
The next meeting of the Israel-Azerbaijan joint commission is expected to be held in Baku in the next three months, said the ambassador.
“The joint commission between Israel and Azerbaijan has convened the last time online last year. We are planning to hold a commission meeting in Baku this year, probably sometime in the next three months. This will be the first time that the joint commission is convening in Azerbaijan. The co-chair of the commission from Israel, the minister of tourism Yoel Razvozov will visit Azerbaijan for this event. He will come with a delegation. It is also planned to hold a business forum,” added the envoy.
George Deek recalled the visit of Azerbaijan’s minister of agriculture to Israel in November 2021.
“He also come with a business delegation. That was a very fruitful visit with a lot of good outcomes in research, in opening production lines for Israeli companies in Azerbaijan and for cooperation in training of Azerbaijani farmers by Israeli technology and know how both in Israel and Azerbaijan,” said the diplomat.
He announced that on Feb.24 it is planned to launch a demonstration farm in cooperation with the University of Ganja and the USAID in Azerbaijan’s Ganja city to show how to grow orchards.
“Together we’re going to create a place where Azerbaijani farmers can come and learn the best practices on how to work in the field of orchards. Companies from Israel like Netafim are opening demonstration farms in Azerbaijan now together with the ministry of agriculture for best practice on irrigation. This is where you will learn our experience on how to use the latest expertise to grow more food using less water, less effort and less time. We’re looking forward for the visit of the minister of tourism Yoel Razvozov to Azerbaijan. We’re hoping that until then one more minister from Azerbaijan will visit Israel,” said George Deek.
Azerbaijan’s Tourism Representative Office in Israel is working to increase the number and diversity of tourists from Israel to Azerbaijan, George Deek said.
“I think there is a huge potential in the sphere of tourism. If we look at the numbers before COVID-19, in 2016 there were 10,000 tourists, in 2019 we had 50,000 tourists from Israel coming to Azerbaijan. There is no reason why by now this number would have doubled if not for COVID-19. COVID-19 is the real murderer of tourism across the world. In Israel we’re suffering from the lack of tourists comparing to the past. Also, in Azerbaijan you have the same problem. It is a global problem, not a local one. We have to see how we’re fighting this pandemic to move to the post-COVID stage, where tourism can revive,” he said.
Deek noted that even as the pandemic is still going, there are still direct flights between Israel and Azerbaijan around once or twice a week.
“That’s a good sign, it means that there is a movement and I believe that the Tourism Representative Office in Israel which was opened lately, will be able to work with the Israeli audience to increase and diversify the number of tourists coming to Azerbaijan. Not everyone is Israel is aware that Azerbaijan has ski sites. Why not to do winter tourism? Why are all the tourists coming in the summer? That’s one example. The youth are not visiting Azerbaijan enough. Mostly families and adults are coming from Israel to Azerbaijan. So why not to talk to the youth. This is what the Tourism board is doing right now in Israel to try to broaden both the number and the diversity of the target audience for tourism to Azerbaijan,” added the envoy.
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