Azerbaijan Tops China's Economic Partners In The South Caucasus
The Chinese Xinhua agency has published President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev’s interview.
-Last year marked the 26th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Azerbaijan. Mr. President, what do you comment on the current Sino-Azeri relations? What is the position of China in Azerbaijan’s overall foreign policy?
In 1994, President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev paid an official visit to China and that visit laid foundation for bilateral relations between our countries. Since that time our relations have been developing very successfully. Azerbaijan and China are friendly countries. My official visit in 2005 and state visit in 2015 to China once again proved our mutual will to further develop and deepen bilateral relations. We have active political contacts.
We also have active cooperation in economic area. Azerbaijan joined the Chinese initiative and became the co-founder of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. A number of Chinese companies have successful activity in Azerbaijan and we want to see more Chinese companies as investors, traders and contractors in our country. Since in Azerbaijan there’s a very good investment climate, we hope to see more Chinese companies also in the areas of industrial production, information technologies, agriculture and in many other areas.
There is a positive dynamic in the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and China. Our trade turnover has already reached $ 1.3 billion. Import from China has increased by 40 percent. Azerbaijan is China’s number one trading partner in the South Caucasus. Our country has a trade office in China and also has established Azerbaijan Trade Houses in Urumchi, Luzhou and Shanghai. Azerbaijan organizes trade missions to China’s different regions. Chinese companies are involved in the implementation of industrial projects in Azerbaijan. Chinese ICT companies operate successfully in our country.
Development of our cooperation in the humanitarian field can play an important role in enhancing our relations. I think more active cooperation is needed in the area of education.
Azerbaijan pays big importance to the development of its tourism industry and we made big success in this direction during last years. There is 53 percent increase in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan applies simplified electronic visa procedures for Chinese citizens. Visas can be obtained in the international airports of Azerbaijan. Regular direct flights are carried out between Azerbaijan and China.
Relations with China is one of the main priorities of our foreign policy and I’m sure that in coming years friendly relations between Azerbaijan and China will further successfully develop and strengthen for the prosperity and benefit of our peoples.
-During your visit to China in 2015, Azerbaijan and China signed the memorandum of understanding on construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt. How do you evaluate the progress made by the two countries in this “Belt and Road” cooperation recent years? What fields do you think are the priority for future Sino-Azeri cooperation on the Belt and Road project?
During my visit to China in 2015 a number of important documents were signed. Among them was the Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Encouragement of the Establishment of “Silk Way Economic Belt” between our countries. Azerbaijan fully supports One Belt, One Road Initiative of China. Azerbaijan and China have very good prospects for cooperation in the area of transportation. We are investing in modernization of our railroads, last May inaugurated new international sea port on the Caspian Sea with the capacity of 15 million tonnes of cargo, if necessary capacity can be increased to 25 million. The construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad that connects Asia and Europe is the shortest transportation route to bring goods from China to Europe and vice versa. Nineteen trains have shipped cargo from China to Central Europe through the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad in 2018. By taking advantage of our geographical location and investing mainly in infrastructure and transportation sector Azerbaijan turned into one of the international transportation hubs. Our country is situated in the historic Silk Road. The creation of modern infrastructure is one of the main goals of Azerbaijan. We are largely investing in infrastructure to build roads, highways, airports. East-West and North-South transportation corridors cross our country and Azerbaijan is actively participating in both of these transportation corridors and has offered a number of initiatives in this regard.
-As you know, the 2nd Belt and Road Forum of International Cooperation will be held in Beijing this month. What is your expectation on further deepening cooperation on the Belt and Road and building a community of shared future for the mankind?
I am sure that any transportation project connecting countries has a geopolitical basis. These projects have a positive impact on the geopolitical situation, on stability, on predictability, because they create interdependence. Without our neighbors, we will not be able to become a transit country. So this is a chain of countries, and we are located on the road from East to West and from North to South. In this way, we connect continents, countries and create a more predictable future. One Belt, One Road Initiative can expand economic cooperation among countries, regions along with making a great contribution to ensuring stability and security in the region. This project serves noble ideas such as strengthening intercultural and intercivilizational ties, enhancing the economic development and prosperity of countries, people to people contacts. I hope that the 2nd Belt and Road Forum of International Cooperation will be a step forward in this direction and will create a good opportunity to conduct effective and productive discussions.
-This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. How do you evaluate China’s development in recent years?
The Chinese people with their ancient historical traditions and rich culture have contributed greatly to the development of world civilization for many centuries. Since the establishment of the People's Republic of China, the country has gone through a great development. As a result of far-sighted and wise policy of China’s leadership, the country has gained unprecedented achievements. Strong economic development, stability and security in the country, growing welfare of the population are a clear indication of this. In Azerbaijan we follow with interest big achievements gained in different fields in China.
I am confident that China will continue to move along the path of development, prosperity and progress. To that end I wish the people of China and its leadership new successes and extend my sincere congratulations and best wishes on the upcoming 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.