Azerbaijan, Serbia draw closer
By Nigar Orujova
Azerbaijan and Serbia will continue cooperation in trade, industry, investment, finance, transport, energy, agriculture, information and communication technologies, health, youth, sports, etc.
This was mentioned in a protocol signed between the two countries during the IV meeting of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation held in Baku.
The document was signed by the co-chairmen of the commission -- Azerbaijani Economy and Industry Minister Shahin Mustafayev, and Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, Rasim Ljajic.
“The legal framework [of more than 30 documents] established between Azerbaijan and Serbia allows for developing relations without any limitations and problems,” Mustafayev said at the meeting.
“Our countries already have made some achievements in the field of economic cooperation. I would particularly like to acknowledge Azerbaijani investments in the construction of a highway in Serbia. Azerbaijan allocated a loan for this project,” the minister said.
He went on to add that both sides noted with satisfaction the successful implementation of the project, and that the Serbian side is willing to continue cooperation in this sphere, as the Azerbaijani side is considering the opportunity.
In 2012, the government of Azerbaijan provided a 308 million euro loan for a period of 25 years with a three-year grace period at a rate of four percent per annum for the construction of the highway in Serbia. The loan financed the construction of the Ljig-Boljkovci, Boljkovci-Takovo, and Takovo-Preljina sections of highway E-763.
Moreover, Serbia is considering the possibility of joining the Southern Gas Corridor, Mustafayev said.
“This issue will be additionally considered today during the meetings held in SOCAR and the Azerbaijani Ministry of Energy.”
More close cooperation
The two countries plan to cooperate closely as Azerbaijan and Serbia have agreed on an air service agreement between them.
“We think that this area is a priority for the development of relations between our countries and we will strive to get it signed quickly,” Mustafayev said.
Moreover, Serbia is considering the introduction of a visa-free regime with Azerbaijan, Rasim Ljajic said.
“We offer a full liberalization of the visa regime, where citizens of both Azerbaijan and Serbia could travel without a visa from one country to another,” he said.
In addition, the Deputy Prime Minister said Serbia has offered to open direct flights between Belgrade and Baku.
“This will help to expand and improve both the tourist and the overall economic relations between our countries,” he said.
Political cooperation at a high level
Political relations between Azerbaijan and Serbia are at a high level, said Mustafayev at the meeting.
“Our countries support each other on many issues in the framework of international organizations,” he said.
He noted that one of the most important aspects of relations between Azerbaijan and Serbia is that the two countries support each other in the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Kosovo, as reflected in the report prepared after the meeting.
Armenia occupied over 20 percent of Azerbaijan's internationally recognized territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions after laying territorial claims against its South Caucasus neighbor, which caused a brutal war in the early 1990s.
The mutual visits of political leaders between the two countries demonstrate a high level of political relations, Mustafayev added, highlighting that Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic attended the opening ceremony of the Baku 2015 European Games this June.
During the Baku visit, the Serbian delegation was also received by President Ilham Aliyev.
Noting that Azerbaijan and Serbia enjoy friendly relations, the head of state hailed the political ties between the two countries.
The president said the countries have already achieved good results in the economic area and expressed hope that the next meeting of the Azerbaijan-Serbia Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation in Baku would be fruitful and create opportunities to discuss issues related to furthering ties.
In turn, Ljajic said political relations between the countries were developing successfully, and stressed that there were no unresolved issues in this area.
He noted that the Serbian side was interested in economic cooperation and establishing good relations between business leaders from the two countries.
Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’s staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar
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