This was Ilham Aliev’s first visit to Belarus. In fact, it was the first visit of the head of Azerbaijan since Belarus became an independent country in the early 1990s.
It seems Belarus has rediscovered Azerbaijan. Since the USSR ceased to exist the relations between the two countries have hardly developed, and the first move towards each other was made quite recently when the embassy of Belarus in Azerbaijan was opened (the Azerbaijani diplomatic mission to Belarus appeared roughly at the same time). Over the past three years mutual trade has tripled to about $30 million in 2005.
Belarus’ interest in Azerbaijan is natural: that country has demonstrated an incredible economic growth of tens of per cent. Oil-gas fields became the “gold vein” of Azerbaijan, and the oil industry now accounts for 70% of that country’s industrial output.
But the Azeri economy has certain interests apart from black gold, and Belarus is ready to provide the products of its engineering sector, woodworking and the food industry. Azerbaijan has enough financial resources and is ready to pay, which is an essential component of any business cooperation. It would be just logical for the two countries to get closer.
“The growing economies of the two states and the significant industrial potential may be considered natural preconditions for mutual interest,” President Alexander Lukashenko said during his meeting with the Azeri counterpart. “It is pleasant to note that trade between our countries is growing fast, however, these figures are insufficient. We could boost them several times, and I am certain this visit will promote mutual trade.” Alexander Lukashenko believes the two countries should launch joint projects in industry and power engineering.
“We have excellent opportunities of bilateral cooperation in the oil and gas sector,” the president said. “Azerbaijan possesses large oil reserves, and Belarus has powerful refining facilities, so the two countries have a basis to develop cooperation in power engineering”.
Belarus is interested in increasing the transit of crude oil, including Caspian oil, Alexander Lukashenko said. “We are ready to provide pipelines to transit Caspian oil to the Baltic States and Poland.”
By the way, Baku is looking for ways to deliver its main export commodity to the richest outlets of the world, especially to Europe. Ilham Aliev visited Latvia to address possible crude oil deliveries; and Romanian president discussed supplies to his country in the capital city of Azerbaijan. The oil pipeline Baku-Odessa-Brody could be very promising for both Azerbaijan and Belarus, which could join in to supply crude oil further to the Baltic States. Alexander Lukashenko said the two countries had a good opportunity to carry out joint projects in developing deposits and extracting oil and gas. He noted that his initiatives were backed during his face-to-face meeting with the Azerbaijani counterpart.
As for cooperation in other areas, the Belarusian president believes the assembly of Belarusian tractors in Azerbaijan and supplies of Belarusian farm machines to that country could become the foundation for business relations.
“Our economies are developing very fast, and our industrial potential is huge. Naturally, we are ready for more intensive economic cooperation,” Ilham Aliev said. He is certain the two economies were complementary. “The commodities you produce in Belarus are in demand in Azerbaijan. The commodities made in Azerbaijan are of interest to your country.” Ilham Aliev invited Alexander Lukashenko to pay a visit to Azerbaijan “to continue the dialogue”.
As a result of the visit the two presidents signed an agreement between the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Azerbaijan on socioeconomic cooperation until 2015. According to Ilham Aliev, the document will lay the foundation for bilateral cooperation, determine further cooperation projects and result in a considerable increase in mutual trade.