By Vafa Ismayilova
President Ilham Aliyev has said that Azerbaijan counts on cooperation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in reconstructing territories liberated from Armenia's occupation in a 44-day war in 2020, Azertag has reported.
He made the remarks at a video format meeting with EBRD President Odile Renaud-Basso and other members of the Bank's senior management on March 11.
"As a result of the Armenian occupation for more than 25 years, almost 30 years, everything is destroyed... We will have to rebuild the big area of more than 10 thousand square kilometres to provide decent living conditions... for more than one million former refugees who are waiting to return to their homeland... We are now building the international airport, we are building highways, building railroads, already started. We plan by the end of this year to complete almost 100 percent energy supply to the whole Karabakh area. We have many other plans and, of course, we count on cooperation with EBRD on these issues," Aliyev said.
He reminded the liberated territories were declared to be a green energy zone and Azerbaijan plans to use mostly renewable energy sources there.
"We already have good experience in working with big international energy companies, by the way, EBRD is part of the financing to these investment projects. We hope that the same pattern will be applied to the liberated territories because there is a big potential in renewable energy sources. In other words, it is a new period or even a new era in the development of Azerbaijan and the development of the region," he added.
Aliyev spoke about new opportunities for regional development, cooperation and connectivity emerging after the conflict.
"I already publicly elaborated on that saying that we are ready for cooperation, we are ready to turn the page of hostility and to work with our neighbours in the good face to provide better situation and the more predictable situation in the region... Of course, during the discussions, we will discuss more broadly about practical steps of our future partnership," the head of state said.
Aliyev highly assessed strong partnership relations between Azerbaijan and EBRD over the past 30 years.
"The bank supported us in the transformation of the country and the diversification of our economy. The fact that we have more than 3 billion euros in project financing is a clear demonstration of that. Also, it is very important that now half of this portfolio is the funds that were channeled to the private sector. This is also a very good indicator of our cooperation," the president said.
He noted that state companies implementing infrastructure projects had almost completed them and that 12 of 13 projects had already been fulfilled successfully.
Aliyev thanked EBRD for its support to Azerbaijan's energy projects.
"I am also very grateful for support from EBRD to our energy projects, particularly the Southern Gas Corridor, and its last portion - TAP, which EBRD financed at the amount of 1 billion euros. As you know last day of last year we celebrated the inauguration of TAP and the Southern Gas Corridor. So, that was really a historical achievement that changed completely the energy map of Eurasia," the head of state noted.
He described diversification of the economy as the country's main objective.
"The results, I think, are very promising, especially this year and last year, despite pandemic, despite some contraction of our GDP we have growth in non-energy related industry production. These two months we have growth of more than 12 percent. So, this is a good indicator of the diversification of our industry. We managed to channel the funds which we accumulated from oil sales to support the private sector, to support our industrial potential and the 12 percent growth in the non-energy industry really is a remarkable event," Aliyev stressed.
In turn, the EBRD president congratulated Aliyev on the successful management of the COVID-19 crisis. She said that in 2020 socially significant and environmental impact assessment projects in local currency in support of small and medium enterprises were implemented successfully.
"We are also pleased to cooperate with the Central Bank in financing projects in local currency by concluding a SWAP agreement. This, in turn, is important in terms of supporting small and medium enterprises. It is gratifying that the Southern Gas Corridor project, to which we have made a significant financial contribution, has been completed. We were closely involved in this project and are glad that the project has already been fully implemented. We appreciate our cooperation in the field of energy,” she said.
Odile Renaud-Basso said that they cooperate with the Azerbaijani government in the field of wind and solar energy and stressed the importance of adopting a legal framework in this area.
During the meeting, the sides also hailed the level of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and expressed confidence that this cooperation would deepen further.
The sides exchanged views on transport, renewable energy, Ganja-Green City projects, those related to the Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company, telecommunications, banking sector, as well as projects to be implemented in the liberated territories, Azertag said.
Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz