News.Az interviews Nikolai Patskevich, Belarus ambassador in Azerbaijan.
The year of 2010 which is called the start of going out of the global economic crisis is nearing completion. In this view, we would like to hear your opinion of the cooperation between our two countries in the ending year in political, economic and other spheres?
First of all, I would like to say that you have mentioned crisis. It is possible to say with confidence that there is no crisis between our countries and I am confident there will never be. This is proven by figures. In the hard 2009, when crisis really had a negative impact on the world economy, the trade turnover between our countries continued to grow. The growth rates were probably not so impressive compared to previous years, just 14%, but on the background of the world recession and including, unfortunately, the drop in foreign trade turnover separately with other countries and in Belarus and Azerbaijan, we have recorded this growth. This is an undoubted success and this year this dynamics is even brighter. Today our growth rate of the trade turnover in 9 months made up over 140%, we are bringing the trade between our countries this year of $150m. If just 4-5 years ago we appealed to figures of $20-25m, today this is already $150m and today there are grounds to say that the next year will also record positive dynamics and the trade turnover will reach if not exceed $200m. That is there will be an impressively good result.
Going back to this year, this is a very full year in our bilateral relations. This is because the series of mutual visits continued this year. Ilham Aliyev visited Belarus in November of the last year. This visit give a serious impulse to our bilateral relations and by the way this became one of the main reasons of that in crisis year we increased mutual trade turnover. In early June of this year Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko visited Azerbaijan with a three-day visit. A great many of contracts and agreements have been signed during these visits. Today our contractual legal basis accounts for more than 60 documents. This means that it is possible to speak about the formed contractual basis, allowing normal, large-scale cooperation between our countries.
This year we have held a national exhibition in Azerbaijan. We have already reached the situation when no exhibition in Azerbaijan is held without participation of Belarus enterprises. But the conduction of a big national exhibition and participation of our enterprises showed the potential and capacities for cooperation and during the exhibition most enterprises concluded due contracts and agreements. And today we see this. I have said that the trade turnover is growing thanks to the fact that our enterprises are actively cooperating.
Certainly, most visits were held on the level of ministers, heads of enterprises and regions. Most of our regions are cooperating and these contacts continued this year. But I would like to note another feature of this year. It is possible to say that this year will become remarkable in the resolution of a wide range of issues, probably not directly related to the trade and economic subject but probably this is the most important thing which lays a good and stable foundation of our bilateral mutually profitable cooperation. The Center of Belarus Language and Culture opened during Lukashenko's visit to Baku at the Baku Slavic University. As is known, this university is implementing such a wonderful project of opening of national centers. This is already our seventh Belarus center, it has been functioning there, the embassy and the society of friendship Belarus-Azerbaijan, headed by respected academician Arif Mehdiyev and his deputy Ziyad Samadzade . They hold huge work to strengthen friendship and cooperation between our countries in humanitarian sphere in the fields of science, art and culture.
In addition, the foundation of our future embassy was laid during the visit. All issues of construction are currently being settled. This proves our intentions to built work on the long-term solid basis. And this approach gives an impulse for business. People are confident that our countries are strengthening fraternal relations. Our countries establish systematic long-term activity and certainly this is inspiring for them and we see this and figures show this.
Certainly, I would not be right if I did not note that this year is remarkable with the new development for our main project of cooperation. This is the organization of the assembly production at the Ganja automobile plant. You know and we have repeatedly talked to you that this is already the fourth year that the assembly of Belarus tractors is going on. This is almost the mass, series production. All demands of agriculture are being met by this plant. Peasants who are also able to successfully settle these tasks are ensured with good technique. But production and assembly of Belarus MAZs is going on there. Production has been established on the basis of MAZ cars and the first part of autocranes has already been sold. The agreement on cooperation for the term of 10 years has been signed with German Haller for the term of 10 years on the joint assembly of communal technique on the basis of Belarus car. This technique will be assembled on the Ganja automobile plant. And finally the Ganja automobile plant started production of the attached technique for Belarus tractors, that is the task is to produce the whole series of agricultural technique, which is successfully produced by Belarus enterprises and will now be produced by the Ganja plant. We are confident that Ganja has qualified working and engineering staff, competent leaders, who under supervision of director Khanlar Fatiyev are seriously approaching the raising of volumes. Today this is a serious enterprises and we are seriously thinking about the supplies of technique produced to the third countries at this plant. The developments are made and we are confident that production at this plant will further grow.
Much can be said about other projects which have been implemented and are under implementation and there are many plans for cooperation. I can only list what is related to such a sphere as agriculture which receives much attention in Azerbaijan and the heads of the state and the government are constantly providing assistance to the village workers. Belarus partners are ready and implementing real projects for provision of assistance to increase crops, cattle productivity and agricultural production. This is primarily cooperation in construction, medical, humanitarian spheres and a number of other directions.
And how is cooperation developing in energy sphere?
Belarus is today working at diversification of routes of supplies of hydrocarbon. And certainly all projects which will be economically expedient will be considered. If we receive economically normal proposals and projects we will study them and implement them with pleasure.
We would like to ask is there an issue of exchange of students between the two countries, education of Belarus youth at Azerbaijani universities and Azerbaijani youth at Belarus universities within the framework of humanitarian cooperation?
Well, I would have put the question in a bit different way. Certainly, today we are working at the agreement on mutual recognition of diplomas. Definite work is carried out in this direction and I think this agreement will be signed and open new opportunities. But today dozens of students from Azerbaijan are working at Belarus universities and we know their sentiments and their position. They are satisfied with the educational level and this is generally proven by life and recognition of most other countries. The level of training of specialists at our universities complies with international standards. Today many students study at medical university, Belarus State University. I think the number of students will certainly grow with the adoption of this agreement. We are working at this and the number of students is growing every year.
In which spheres of bilateral cooperation are documents prepared for signing?
I want to say that the preparation of agreements is a continued process. I have already said that all basic documents have already been signed. The framework agreement between Belarusbank and the International Bank of Azerbaijan was signed in October during the serious banking conference here in Baku. This is the first serious document of this kind in the banking sector. There was a paradoxical situation, when almost all structures and ministries signed such an agreement or are working at them, especially because there was no such agreement in the banking sector. Today we are working to fill in this gap. The first step has been made, the framework agreement has been signed and as far as I know an agreement has been attained on the work over definite projects to reach the implementation of definite projects of cooperation of our banks within the framework of this agreement. Certainly, this will promote new impulse and make both representatives of business optimistic.
When do you expect to hold the next session of the intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation Azerbaijan-Belarus?
Indeed, we have already entered the regime when we hold the session of the intergovernmental commission and next year it is Belarus's turn to hold such a session and it will be held by all means. Today we are planning and coordinating terms. But this event will be held for sure. But I can say with a great pleasure and satisfaction that there is a plan to hold the National Exhibition of Azerbaijan in Belarus. This will be the first national exhibition and we hope it will be held on the high level and will demonstrate the growing and worthy potential of exporters from Azerbaijan. I hope so and this will also allow increasing the trade turnover through raising supplies of the production which is not produced in Belarus but is produced in Azerbaijan. By the way, this year the export growth rates from Azerbaijan to Belarus is almost twice as high as the last year indicators.
How are the legal issues of Belorussians, residing in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis, residing in Belarus, are settled?
You have told about legal provision. You know, the issue is even not raised this way since there are no problems. I must say that the number of Belorussians in Azerbaijan is low. Through the whole period of the activity of the embassy, we have been working here for already fifth year, we have not faced any complaints about violating the rights of Belorussians here in Azerbaijan or any conflicts. That is there are no such issues here. We see the level of tolerance and international communication in Azerbaijan. One can only welcome the work the country's leadership holds in this direction and the policy it conducts.
As for the situation in Belarus, it was featured positively during the visit of the Belarus president to Baku. We have a big Azerbaijani diaspora which is organized in a form of the Congress of Azerbaijani communities. In every big city, in every center and in other big cities, there are associations, Azerbaijanis have a chance to hold definite work and maintain ties with their historical homeland, observe their religious canons. They have an opportunity to communicate. By the way, the annual festivals of national cultures always involves Azerbaijani diaspora, which demonstrates its folklore art, art of songs and dances and I must say that the Azerbaijani diaspora enjoys a great influence in Belarus and any violation of the rights of representatives of Azerbaijani nationality is out of the question. Like our president says, these are our people, our citizens who are ensured will all rights and opportunities not to lose spiritual contacts with their homeland. It is a great pleasure that most Azerbaijanis in Belarus are participants of an active process of cooperation in spiritual and sociocultural sphere, therefore, there are no problems here. On the contrary, the situation of Azerbaijani diaspora in Belarus and Belarus diaspora in Azerbaijan gives a good positive example of the way the police of international communication and friendship between the states should be built in all countries.