Baku-Moscow friendship tuned in rising trend

13 January 2017 17:21 (UTC+04:00)

Moscow is optimistic on the future of its relations with neighboring Azerbaijan and believes it to keep on growing. 

"Russian-Azerbaijani relations will continue to develop in 2017," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated as she was commenting on prospects for bilateral relations between the two countries.

'We are developing relations with Azerbaijan. All directive documents, which determine Russia's foreign policy, guarantee that bilateral relations with Azerbaijan will continue to develop. Last year we planned to address a number of issues in political, economic, and humanitarian spheres, and they will find solution this year," Zakharova added.

In a contemporary world with dominating unstable political relations, change of partners on the global scene is no more new. In this context, good neighborly relations between Azerbaijan and Russia, characterized with deeply rooted historical sympathies, catches attention.

Geographically, Russia occupies what classical geopoliticians called the “heartland”, while Azerbaijan significantly resides at the crossroads of East and West. 

The steady relationship features cooperation alongside intensifying efforts to figure out how to work together amid the global political and economic changes. Political dialogue between Baku and Moscow are potentially improving the economic ties, simultaneously bringing the humanitarian and cultural cooperation to a qualitatively new level.

Moscow's political elite makes a huge stake on a perspective partnership taking its vectors from Baku. For instance, Moscow brings Eastern partnership project on table, giving a high value to the role that Azerbaijan together with other countries can play in. 

Having warm relations with the neighboring countries, Azerbaijan was able to gain friends in the person of giant regional actors.     

The ties between Azerbaijan and Russia remain stable and are secured with long-standing friendship between the two countries’ peoples, while the joint activities provide an overall positive touch to the international relations.

In this sense it is worse to mention personal relations maintained between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Russia have had a real influence on the strengthening of the mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields between the two nations.

The August meeting of the two presidents in 2016, for instance, could be assessed as a starting point for a consolidated Moscow-Baku alliance. Then President Putin announced Russia’s intention to forge a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan, while expressed interest in expanding Russia-Azerbaijan trade links and strengthening Moscow-Baku military cooperation in the Caspian Sea region.

The Baku-Moscow military ties are good enough, as Russia among main exporters of weapons and military equipment to Azerbaijan. The Russian and Azerbaijani military authorities plan to expand their cooperation, including in the area of military exercises. The Defense Ministers signed a cooperation plan for 2017.

In terms of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Moscow is regarded as a key force able to change the status-quo. Baku has repeatedly voiced its hope that Moscow will press its strategic partner and force it to make concessions. Russia is one of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries and in April 2016, the protracted conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has shown signs of becoming a hot war, while the ceasefire was restored after Moscow’s mediation. Moscow’s energetic diplomacy was a kind of expected move as the giant northern neighbor could play a key role in the conflict resolution given its leverages. 

The April crisis was very serious and possessed a great threat to the outbreak of a war, which is unfavorable for Russia. That is why, many expect Russia and especially Putin to play a role of a peacemaker in this conflict.

Last year, Russia was a very active mediator to move towards a fair settlement to the problem, while Moscow already vowed to do utmost for the conflict resolution in 2017.

 “Everything that depends on us will be carried out, so that the settlement process does not stop, but rather intensifies,” Zakharova said earlier.

Economic sector

Azerbaijan, seeking to maximize trade volumes and geopolitical influence, brought together Moscow and Tehran last August to realize the momentous North-South Transport Corridor, which along the regional benefits, also opens the way for serious interaction between the three countries and contributes enormously to the economic prosperity.

The Baku meeting was followed by intensification of the Azerbaijan-Russia interaction in the economic field, while the two signed 12 documents that envisage cooperation in the humanitarian and economic spheres at the 7th Azerbaijani-Russian interregional forum.

In terms of interregional cooperation, around 40 Russian regions have already signed agreements with Azerbaijan on cooperation in different directions, and a number of business delegations representing the Russian regions will visit Baku starting March to boost the trade.

Growing bilateral energy ties between Russia and Azerbaijan appear to be the next logical step in shifting this regional climate. Russian companies participate in Azerbaijani oil and gas projects, while under the development strategy for 2015-2025, SOCAR is studying the possibility of joint development of oil and gas fields on the Russian shelf.

The forum allowed enhancing 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. 

Meanwhile, Baku has recently begun to lead the rankings for popularity among Russian tourists. Much plays its role: absence of language barrier, unique beauty of nature, the proximity, and frequent flights.

Humanitarian sector

As for the cultural and humanitarian cooperation, it mostly develops due to regular cultural events both in Azerbaijan and Russia.  

That includes the performances of national artists, exhibitions and commemorative events marking the national holidays of the two countries.

The activity of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and Azerbaijani Youth Association of Russia (AMOR) in Moscow and other regions are of particular importance. The charity events, exhibitions, fairs are just a small part of the activity of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in Russia.

Leyla Aliyeva, the Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, was awarded the Medal of Pushkin for her contribution to strengthening Azerbaijan’s friendship and cooperation with the Russian Federation, the development of economic ties, the preservation and popularization of the Russian language and culture abroad.

In the fields of education and science, the development of Russian language is one of the factors bringing the two countries and nations closer to each other. 

Branches of two prestigious Russian universities – Lomonosov Moscow State University and Sechenov State Medical University in Azerbaijan and a branch of Azerbaijan State Economic University in Derbent successfully operate. Azerbaijani students study at Russian educational institutions, while a total of 90,000 students receive education in Russian language in secondary schools of the country.

Overall, Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation signed more than 90 agreements in various spheres of science, culture and education, which attest to the development of the humanitarian relations. 

The two countries lately inked a program for cooperation in the field of culture for 2017-2019, that covers such issues as folk art, library and museum development, prospects of bilateral cooperation in cinema, exchange of experiences between musicians, educational institutions and much more.

There are strong ties between the Muslim and Orthodox communities of Azerbaijan, where equal conditions for all peoples and religions are created. The Baku Eparchy of the Orthodox Church has been established back in the 20th century, while recent opening of Orthodox Religious and Cultural Center of Baku and Azerbaijan Eparchy is an example of continuous friendly relations also in the religious terms.

Also, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia have greatly contributed to serving the task to overcome the Nagorno-Karabakh problem for many years now. He repeatedly voiced readiness to do all that is possible to help the good cause of settling the conflict.

And most importantly there is a large Russian diaspora in Azerbaijan, and Russian people are an important factor in the life of Azerbaijan. The same thing can be said about the Azerbaijanis living in Russia. Among them there are those who are engaged in politics and business. Azerbaijan and Russia will soon sign two bilateral agreements on cooperation in the spheres of pension provision and labor migration to ensure legal base in the spheres of pension provision and labor migration.

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