By Abdul Kerimkhanov
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s recent visit to Italy and the signing of Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership will strengthen bilateral relationship between the two countries, former Paraguayan Commercial Attaché in Washington Dc/Miami USA, Dr. Blas Oddone, said in an interview with Azernews.
"Based on the sound historic and positive advancement of cultural and commercial relationship between the two countries, President Aliyev’s recent visit to Rome can only strengthen the already excellent bilateral relationship which in turn will bring significant economic and trade growth, further strengthening of friendship as well as important advancement in the critical “Joint Declaration on Strengthening Multidimensional Strategic Partnership between Azerbaijan and Italy” between both nations," he stated.
Commenting on the signing of the “Joint Declaration on Strengthening Multidimensional Strategic Partnership between Azerbaijan and Italy, Oddone called the Joint Declaration as a strong and critical step towards facing potential future challenges in critical issues of bilateral interest, which will provide to both countries high level of social, economic, peacekeeping capacity and the continual harmony and wellbeing of their people.
Touching upon Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the expert emphasized that Italy will continue to support Azerbaijan’s democratic and legitimate efforts to bring the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to a final peaceful resolution as well as to provide all the needed international diplomatic support in favor of the Azerbaijan efforts on this long dispute.
Speaking about the trade turnover between Italy and Azerbaijan, he recalled that the commercial turn over between Italy and Azerbaijan increased by 10.5 percent from January to September year-over-year, according to Azerbaijani Energy Minister Parviz Shahbazov
"Italy is one of Azerbaijan's main trading partners and that some 113 Italian companies operating in several sectors are registered in Azerbaijan. So far, Italy has invested $770 million in Azerbaijan's economy, and Azerbaijan has invested $1.7 billion in the Italian economy," he told.
Commenting on the sectors that are most attractive for Italian companies in Azerbaijan and in which sectors the expert sees the greatest prospects, Oddone said:
"Considering that Azerbaijan is one of the major supplier of oil to Italy, this sector is currently the most important for Italy as well as of great economic importance to Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, addressing the event, Manlio Di Stefano, Secretary of State of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said that the executive meeting would play an important role in assessing existing cooperation and developing relations in new areas. During the meeting, joint measures were identified to deepen cooperation in trade and economy, logistics and infrastructure, agriculture, culture and tourism and other fields. AZPROMO, Azerbaijan Investment Company, the Agency for the Development of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, the State Petroleum Fund of Azerbaijan and the relevant Italian agencies reviewed investment opportunities in both countries," Oddone explained.
As for Azerbaijan’s significance in ensuring energy independence of Italy, he underlined that the energy factor in Azerbaijan's foreign policy continues to maintain an important position.
"Although there have been notable changes in Azerbaijan's overall foreign policy strategy during the tenure of several leaders, Azerbaijan's energy policy has focused on mainly similar targets for more than 25 years. Azerbaijan, as a result of these policies, can now provide its own energy security and also play a role in ensuring the energy security of some other states," Oddone said.
Furthermore, Oddone recalled a statement by TANAP executive Ardahan Posof, who said that the current stage of construction of the Southern Gas Corridor ‘TAP’, is well over 80 percent compete and is expected to be operational by 1 July 2020 after the pipeline crossed 20 provinces of Turkey, 67 regions, 600 villages and connected to Ipsala region in Edirne, near the Turkey-Europe border.
"TAP routing can facilitate gas supply to several countries in southeastern Europe. Its presence in Italy provides multiple opportunities for greater transport of Caspian gas to wider European markets. At the macro level, TAP will help Europe move to a low-carbon economy, diversify supply sources, strengthen gas competition on the continent and improve its gas connectivity," Oddone said, quoting Luca Schieppati, the Managing Director of TAP AG, the company responsible for pipeline development.
The expert noticed that the Ukraine crisis brought European energy security issues and the Southern Gas Corridor project back to the spotlight.
"The pipeline will initially be able to supply 10bcm/a of natural gas, which can be doubled in the future by installing two additional compressor stations in Serres in Greece and in Bilisht in Albania," he concluded.
Note that the development partners for the pipeline are BP (20percent), the State Petroleum Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR, 20 percent), the Italian natural gas infrastructure company Snam (20 percent), Fluxys (19 percent), Enagás (16 percent), and Swiss energy company Axpo (5 percent).
Abdul Kerimkhanov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AbdulKerim94
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