[b]Belarus and Azerbaijan intend to bring joint projects to the third country’s markets. That was the announcement made by Alexander Lukashenko during the meeting with his Azerbaijani colleague Ilham Aliev [/b]This was the second official visit to Belarus, with the first taking place three years ago. In 2007, a Belarusian delegation, headed by Alexander Lukashenko, visited Baku. Over the past few years, prime ministers and speakers have exchanged visits; we can say that Belarus and Azerbaijan enjoy intensive interstate dialogue. In Minsk, the President of Belarus admitted that, while preparing his welcoming speech, recalling previous meetings with Mr. Aliyev, he asked himself, “What makes Belarusian-Azerbaijani relations unique?”
This was the second official visit to Belarus, with the first taking place three years ago. In 2007, a Belarusian delegation, headed by Alexander Lukashenko, visited Baku. Over the past few years, prime ministers and speakers have exchanged visits; we can say that Belarus and Azerbaijan enjoy intensive interstate dialogue. In Minsk, the President of Belarus admitted that, while preparing his welcoming speech, recalling previous meetings with Mr. Aliyev, he asked himself, “What makes Belarusian-Azerbaijani relations unique?”
“It can happen that two countries have potential but fail to co-operate,” speculated Mr. Lukashenko, adding, “Almost everything on which we’ve agreed is being implemented.” His idea was supported by Mr. Aliyev, who said, “Moreover, this has happened in a short period of time and with good quality.”
The result of these liaisons is three-fold growth of Belarus-Azerbaijan turnover in the past three years. This year’s 9 percent growth is especially impressive — a rare case against the background of the global financial recession.
Figures are based on joint projects, such as the assembly of Belarusian tractors and trucks — launched at Gyandzha Automobile Works. Lifts and lorry cranes are in focus now, with solid financial support needed to set up new factories. Our two states have also discussed the establishment of direct ties between our banking systems in Minsk.
Bilateral turnover could be further improved considering the strategic relations between Minsk and Baku. Last year, we traded $112m and the presidents are convinced that this figure could reach $500m in a few years’ time.
Mr. Aliyev arrived in Minsk with a large and diverse delegation of ministers. At the Presidential Residence, the agreements on co-operation in the fields of national security, education and collaboration between border guards were signed. According to Mr. Lukashenko, Belarusian-Azerbaijani relations are based not on conjectural profit but on national interests. “This is why we need to strengthen our institutional and co-ordination mechanisms,” he stressed.
The Belarusian President also noted that the Belarusian-Azerbaijani Intergovernmental Commission for Trade and Economic Co-operation is operating efficiently. However, other forms of collaboration need encouragement. For example, a Business Co-operation Council uniting famous businessmen could be established. Its recommendations would help create a more favourable investment climate for our countries.
As regards the international agenda, Mr. Lukashenko told his guest about his recent meetings with EU heads and his visit to Ukraine. “Joint projects are possible,” he admitted during the protocol part of the meeting, but did not elaborate further. However, Mr. Lukashenko added that, as always, he pins hopes on support from Baku. Journalists later discussed the issue, supposing that he had been referring to co-operation in the energy sphere and the Eastern Partnership.
Speaking about energy, Mr. Lukashenko gave detailed answers to the Azerbaijan Information Agency during his interview, saying, “Russia is a friendly state to us. However, diversification is necessary. We cannot depend on deliveries of raw hydrocarbons from only one country. We’ve calculated supply routes of oil via Ukraine and have discussed this issue with its President. During our last meeting, we spoke of this at length,” said the President. “At present, the export price of Azerbaijan oil is too high. The economy at the other side of the pipe — at oil processing plants — is not going well. However, this could change. Deliveries via the Odessa-Brody pipeline are possible. We could deliver good quality Caspian oil to Mozyr without difficulty. Of course, we’d be penetrating an already formed market, where long-term ties have been established, so it wouldn’t be easy. We’re making calculations and, as soon as we agree and it becomes economically feasible, we’ll immediately start this project. Azerbaijan, the Caspian States, Ukraine and Belarus are interested in this.”
As regards the Eastern Partnership, suppositions have been confirmed. A declaration signed during the visit reads that Belarus and Azerbaijan will co-ordinate their activity within the framework of the EU’s new initiative. The parties have also agreed to exchange experience in the field of European integration.
By Ignatiy Kovolev