By Amina Nazarli
Representatives of central and regional authorities of Azerbaijan and Russia got together in Baku on November 1 to join the 7th Joint Interregional Forum.
The forum attended by many officials, MPs, representatives of companies from the fields of economy, industry, tourism, agriculture, construction, trade, consulting, logistics, pharmaceutics, ICT and finance, is considered an important platform in the relation of the two countries.
The officials of the two sides discussed a wide range of issues of cooperation in the economic, industrial, agricultural, trade and humanitarian spheres, as well as youth policy, relations between NGOs and media.
The event started with the message of Azerbaijan's President Aliyev, who said, the Azerbaijani-Russian interregional forums make positive contribution to strengthening strategic partnership and helping to enhance the mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries.
Undoubtedly, a specific agenda of the next meeting will allow the participants to identify ways to enhance trade and economic cooperation, discuss the prospects of tourist flows, exchange experiences in the fields of industry and agriculture, talk about the dynamics of cultural and humanitarian component of bilateral relations, said President Aliyev.
This is very important in the current difficult time, when the global crisis has led to serious changes across the world, says the message.
“I hope that you will be able to coordinate positions on various issues regarding economy and investments, culture and education, determine priorities and develop more effective forms of cooperation,” noted Ilham Aliyev. “I am confident that this forum will be held in a constructive atmosphere, will be remembered for interesting projects and meaningful discussions, and most importantly, will bring real benefits to our countries.”
Following the message of Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed to the participants was read out. "It is gratifying that the forum develops the traditions of trust and mutual understanding, based on common pages of the two countries’ history, helps to enhance the integration processes and mutually beneficial cooperation."
“I wish you fruitful work and successful implementation of the plans for the benefit of our countries and peoples,” added the Russian president.
Speaking at the event Azerbaijan’s Economy Minister Shahin Mustafayev emphasized that relations between Azerbaijan and Russia are at the level of strategic partnership.
Russia invested over $3 billion in Azerbaijan's economy, said the minister, adding that Azerbaijan, in turn, invested more than $1 billion in Russian economy.
A solid legal framework is created between the two counties, he added.
Successful cooperation has been established between the countries in the spheres of trade, investments, industry, cargo transit, energy, transportation and agriculture, as well as in the humanitarian sector, Mustafayev said.
The sphere of trade relations is one of the significant areas of the Azerbaijan-Russia cooperation, according to the Economy Minister, who said that the first nine months of this year were marked by positive dynamics in trade turnover. "Russia ranks third in the list of Azerbaijan’s trade partners," he added.
In turn, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Economic Development Alexander Tsybulskiy invited Azerbaijani companies to start operating in Lotus special economic zone (SEZ) in Russia’s Astrakhan region.
“Lotus is ready to provide Azerbaijani investors with the most optimal conditions for doing business. As far as I know, there are already decisions of some Azerbaijani companies to become residents in this area,” he said.
The corresponding agreements will be signed on the sidelines of this forum, the deputy minister mentioned.
Generally, some 11 documents including inter-municipal, interregional, inter-company documents and others have been prepared for signing, Tsybulskiy said.
Russia remains one of Azerbaijan’s main foreign trade partners, he noted, saying that it is noteworthy that almost 20 percent of the trade turnover accounts for services.
Tsybulskiy further explained that the services turnover amounted to nearly half a billion dollars by end of 2015.
As for interregional cooperation, around 40 Russian regions have already signed agreements with Azerbaijan on cooperation in different directions, the deputy minister said.
“It is expected that similar agreements will also be signed with Leningrad Oblast, Ulyanovsk Oblast and with the Republic of Bashkortostan,” Tsybulskiy said.
“Azerbaijan’s major economic partners are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tatarstan, Dagestan, Stavropol Krai and Krasnodar Krai, as well as Moscow Oblast and Chelyabinsk Oblast - they account for about 75 percent of the total turnover."
Azerbaijan and Russia have the widest prospects for development of relations in the non-oil sphere, Chief of the Russian Presidential Directorate for Interregional Relations and Cultural Contacts with Foreign Countries Vladimir Chernov said during the forum.
“The more we get to know each other, the more new areas for the development of relations we find,” said Chernov. “If one looks at the non-oil sector, one should surely note agriculture and high technologies. Azerbaijan has advanced a lot in these areas and is a very interesting and promising partner for Russia.”
He also noted that interregional forums have become a kind of a brand of the relations between Azerbaijan and Russia.
“It's hard to say what results we’ll come up with at the end of this forum, but I’m sure that the forum will bring new ideas and opportunities to the relations between our countries,” said Chernov.
The friendly cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan is doomed to succeed, Polad Bulbuloglu, Azerbaijani ambassador to Russia made the remark at the event.
"We are very pleased that this important area of our cooperation, cooperation with the regions of the Russian Federation, is being successfully developed,” the ambassador said. “It has become one of the most important and essential components of the strategic cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia."
“One of the most promising projects of cooperation is the North-South large-scale transport project, which will connect the Russian ports to Asia and the Indian Ocean,” the ambassador said, adding that the project will open new prospects of cooperation among Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia.
The implementation of the project will contribute to the financial stability of all participating countries in general and those Russian regions, through which the route will stretch, according to the ambassador.
Head of Dagestan Republic Ramazan Abdulatipov, addressing the event, emphasized that Azerbaijan has become an important regional power.
“Russia and Azerbaijan are the states, which grow out of heavy post-Soviet crisis, and today both are still in the process of formation. Over the past years, Russia has managed to restore its great power status, and Azerbaijan has become an important regional power. Azerbaijan and Russia conduct an independent and sovereign policy on an international scale," he said.
During the forum Azerbaijan and Russia signed 12 documents that envisage cooperation in the humanitarian and economic spheres.
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