President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Serbia represents historic moment in bilateral relations - Ambassador Dragan Vladisavljević
The official visit of President Ilham Aliyev to Serbia, after 11 years, represents a historic moment in our bilateral relations which will give a new impetus to our hitherto cooperation in several ways, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Serbia to the Republic of Azerbaijan Dragan Vladisavljević said in an exclusive interview with Trend Nov.25.
“As you already know, since 2013, the relations between the two countries have been developing within the framework of a strategic partnership, with full understanding and observance of our mutual interests. During this visit, we have additionally expanded the legal basis for this partnership, with seven new bilateral documents, but also laid foundation for more practical aspects of our cooperation in the form of the Strategic Partnership Council, co-chaired by two heads of state,” he said.
The ambassador pointed out that the visit has also served to discuss on the highest level the most important issues of mutual interests, such as political cooperation, mutual support in international arena, energy, agriculture and their practical implementation.
“Finally, the fact that Serbian President already announced his working visit to Baku in December, speaks volumes about the effects of President Aliyev’s stay in Belgrade,” added Vladisavljević.
Promising areas of economic cooperation
He noted that in terms of economic cooperation, there are various spheres which have enormous, yet unused, potential.
“First and foremost is, of course, energy, in the context of Serbia’s endeavors to ensure its energy security and continue energy transition process. With that aim, we have already initiated some concrete talks about purchase of Azerbaijani gas and electricity, which are now gaining momentum. Agriculture is another field which offers plenty of possibilities for cooperation, particularly in terms of exporting some of Serbian agricultural products to Azerbaijan. As far as construction is concerned, our cooperation is already on a very high level, given an extremely successful engagement of Azerbaijani AzVirt in civil engineering projects in Serbia. At the same time, the process of reconstruction and revitalization of Azerbaijani liberated lands provides an opportunity for an engagement of Serbian companies in various areas – construction, smart technologies, ICT etc. Given the chance, Serbian companies will do their utmost to live up to the expectations and trust vested in them,” said Vladisavljević.
“Of course, we must not forget international transport, as another very topical issue these days. As a regional transportation hub, Azerbaijan has great potential in this field, whereas Serbia has great interest in using this transport infrastructure as part of its shortest route towards eastern Asian markets.”
Finally, the ambassador said there’s tourism, as one of very promising, but slightly disregarded spheres of cooperation.
“Our countries already have a very solid legal basis for joint activities in tourist sector and an important prerequisite in terms of visa free regime. However, both countries should invest additional efforts to promote its tourist potentials to the citizens of the other side, with a special focus on young population.
Unfortunately, the modest trade turnover between our countries does not reflect the high level of our political and cultural relations, even though we have the necessary legal base, the potential and, most important, clear support of our leaders. This obliges both sides to work much harder to unlock this potential, not only in terms of trade in gas, electricity or agricultural products, but also with the active work of our Joint Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation, cooperation between our free economic zones and more frequent business forums and direct contacts between the representatives of our countries’ private sectors. I am certain that our joint efforts, supported by our firm friendship and excellent political relations, will soon yield great results,” added Vladisavljević.
Serbia’s joining the Southern Gas Corridor
The envoy pointed out that the importance of the Southern Gas Corridor for European energy security is widely recognized and is growing rapidly, given the current global energy crisis.
“As part of its regional connectivity policy, Serbia started construction of a gas interconnector with Bulgaria on February 1, 2022. The pipeline, which is to be completed by the end of 2023, will allow our country to connect to the Southern Gas Corridor via Bulgaria and Greece, enable the much-needed diversification of energy suppliers and energy security of Serbia. For that reason, our two countries are involved in active discussions on potential purchase of Azerbaijani gas in the coming years.”
Prospects in clean energy
He noted that even though Serbia is in a process of energy transition, clean energy and renewables are not widely used in his country, due to the lack of adequate infrastructure.
“Azerbaijan, on the other hand, has enormous potential in renewables and is working actively on building the necessary infrastructure for their exploitation, especially in terms of production and export of green electricity, which is where we see the possibility for cooperation. As our President Vucic announced during his meetings with President Aliyev, Serbia is interested in joining Azerbaijan-Georgia-Romania Black Sea Submarine Cable Project and connecting with Romanian and Hungarian power grids, so that, in the future, it could provide electricity from Azerbaijani sources as well,” Vladisavljević explained.
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