Azerbaijani-Italian diplomatic relations at 30: Almost strategic allies
By Ayya Lmahamad
In 2022, Azerbaijan marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with the subjects of international relations - both individual states and international organizations.
Azernews, the nation's first English language media outlet, has launched a new project, designed to cover the major points of the 30-year-long diplomatic ties between Azerbaijan and individual states and organizations.
Italy, being almost an ally with Azerbaijan, comes next on the long list of states/organizations with no special preference for it.
As was mentioned, this year, Azerbaijan and Italy are marking the 30th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations.
The relations between the two countries, which are based on historical roots and traditions of friendship, have developed dynamically in all directions over the past 30 years. Azerbaijan and Italy have a multidimensional strategic partnership in political, economic, trade, energy, humanitarian, and so on.
Q: When did Azerbaijan and Italy establish diplomatic relations? What do we know about the history of ties?
A: Italy was one of the countries to establish diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan back in 1918. The restoration of Azerbaijan's independence in 1992 opened a new page for the Azerbaijani-Italian relations. Italy recognized Azerbaijan's independence on January 1, 1992. The diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on May 8, 1992.
The first embassy of Italy among the Southern Caucasus republics was opened in Azerbaijan in 1997 and the embassy of Azerbaijan to Italy has been functioning since 2003.
Azerbaijan’s national leader Heydar Aliyev paid his first official visit to Italy in September 1997 and, between 1998 and 2003, government officials of Italy visited Azerbaijan, which resulted in the signing of agreements on cooperation in different spheres.
Q: What is the current state and spheres of economic cooperation between the two nations?
A: Over the past years, Azerbaijan has become increasingly important for Italy, turning into the center of its foreign policy in the Caucasus region.
Over 100 Italian companies operating in various sectors are registered in Azerbaijan. At the same time, Italian firms have contracts worth more than €10 billion ($11.8 billion) for Azerbaijani projects both inside and outside the country.
The trade turnover between the two countries totaled $9.6 billion in 2021, with Italy being Azerbaijan’s main trade partner. It should be noted that Italy being the largest trading partner for Azerbaijan is also the country’s largest export point. The product-based structure of the foreign trade turnover of the two countries is dominated by exports of crude oil and oil products to Italy. The structure of imports includes machine-building products, special mechanical devices, machines, machine tools, spare parts, as well as medicines, transformers, construction materials, furniture, food, and knitwear.
The latest state visit Ilham Aliyev paid to Italy was in February 2020. This visit became historic in the bilateral relations of the two geographically remote nations. As a result of the visit, 28 documents were signed between the two countries, that covered a wide range of bilateral cooperation in such areas as energy, culture, tourism, agriculture, defense, space technology, education, health, and many others. Moreover, among the signed documents was the Joint Declaration on Strengthening Multidimensional Strategic Partnership.
Simultaneously, on April 2022 during the visit of Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio to Baku, a protocol for the first strategic dialogue was signed.
Q: What is the state of energy cooperation between Azerbaijan and Italy?
A: The relations between the two countries are based primarily on energy sources. Azerbaijan is a major supplier of energy to Italy.
With the completion of the TAP (Trans-Adriatic Pipeline) construction on December 31, 2020, Azerbaijan began commercial gas supplies to Europe via the Southern Gas Corridor. About 7 billion cubic meters of Azerbaijani gas were exported to the Italian market. It is expected that this year the export of Azerbaijani gas to Italy will grow to 9.5 billion cubic meters.
In this regard, Azerbaijan ranks first in terms of oil supplies to Italy and third in terms of gas supplies.
Italy is very determined about expanding TAP and has repeatedly spoken in favor of it at meetings and discussions in Baku.
Q: What is Italy’s role in the restoration of Azerbaijan’s liberated territories?
A: Italy is one of the first countries to express support for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, as well as an interest in participating in restoration efforts in Azerbaijan's liberated territories. Italian companies were second, after Turkish companies, to join projects to restore liberated territories.
Italy, along with Israel, is working on a joint project to transform the liberated Zangilan region into a smart city. Azerbaijan also invited Italian architects to restore the country’s historical monuments and mosques in Shusha. In addition, an Italian company was actively involved in the construction of the Victory Museum in Baku.
Q: How do the two countries cooperate in international, cultural, and other spheres?
A: During the Soviet era, in 1972, Italian Naples city and Azerbaijani capital Baku were declared sister cities. Since that time, the cultural ties between the two countries have become more intense.
There are different paintings by well-known Italian painters in museums of Azerbaijan, and many carpets and jewelry articles made in Azerbaijan are in different museums and private collections in Italy.
Since the end of the XIX and the early XX centuries, different buildings were built by famous Italian architects in Baku.
Italy is among those countries that render humanitarian assistance to Azerbaijan. In this regard, the agreement on humanitarian aid between Azerbaijan and Italy was signed on June 1, 2005. The Italian government also helped a number of medical and social institutions in Azerbaijan.
Additionally, during the visit of Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio to Baku in April 2022, a groundbreaking ceremony for the Italian-Azerbaijani university building took place. The conference “Azerbaijan-Italy: Road to multidimensional strategic partnership” was held at ADA University.
The Azerbaijani-Italian relations have always been developing dynamically as both countries are extremely keen on cooperation and ready to move forward.
Ayya Lmahamad is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @AyyaLmahamad
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