Albania-Azerbaijan relations beyond TAP

Wed 06 Feb 2013 06:23 GMT | 10:23 Local Time

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News.Az reprints from Tirana Times interview with Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Albania Rahman Mustafayev.

Mr. Ambassador, Minister of youth and sports of Azerbaijan Azad Rahimov recently paid an official visit to Albania. What was the purpose of this visit?

This visit should be considered as another concrete and important step in the process of strengthening comprehensive cooperation between two our friendly countries. So the main purpose of the visit was to open another one direction in Azerbaijani-Albanian cooperation agenda, to establish legal basis for cooperation in the fields of youth and sports, to promote direct contacts between national sportive and youth associations and organizations and implement concrete projects and programs in these fields.

In recent years Azerbaijan achieved great success in the field of sports and youth., can you tell us a little more about this?

Yes, you are right. Azerbaijan has become a recognized leader in the world sports movement, one of the leading European countries in terms of the number of international sportive events, held nationwide. For example, the year 2012 has been very successful for Azerbaijani athletes. In 2012, they won more than 700 medals in various international competitions, including 255 gold. Our country has hosted a number of prestigious international competitions. Among them, I want to emphasize the World women football cup U-17.

The presidents of FIFA and UEFA have both praised the championship held in Azerbaijan as one of the most successful championships. Of course, speaking about sports events of 2012, we can’t but mention the London Olympic Games. In these Olympics, our athletes have achieved the greatest success, delighted all our people and succeeded in making Azerbaijan one of the leading sporting nations. Ten medals, including two gold, two silver and six bronze – this is our historic achievement. It is the 30th place in the world, and the 15th - in Europe. On December 8, the session of the General Assembly of the European Olympic Committee in Rome decided to award the first 2015 European Olympic Games to Baku.

This is also a historic decision. First of all, these will be the first European Games. Although the Olympic movement historically originated in the European region and the modern revival of the Olympic Games also occurred on the European continent, European Olympic Games have never been held before. The first such games are a serious step, a turning point in the Olympic movement. The fact that these Games have been entrusted to us, that we have been given this responsibility, of course, is an event of great historic importance. If you add to this, that in 2016 we will host World Chess Olympics and in 2017 - Islamic Solidarity Games, you will understand, that Azerbaijan plays increasing role in world sports movement.

At the same time, we have continued efforts to develop the sports infrastructure. The number of Olympic sport centers built in different regions of Azerbaijan has reached 35. The construction of eight other sportive complexes is under way. All these achievements are the result of the great attention given by the government and the president of the country to the development of sports and transformation of Azerbaijan into a truly sporting country. In general, this particular field of sportive activities plays increasingly important role in social and economic life and development of our country. And we are ready to share all these achievements and experiences with our Albanian colleagues.

As far as youth movement is concerned, I would like to mention, that the President of the country approved in 2010 state program "The youth of Azerbaijan in 2011-2015", which plays important role of all-embracing national program for development of national youth movement and youth organizations, assistance in implementation of different youth programs in social, economic and cultural fields, opening of "Youth centers" in different regions of Azerbaijan (till now 18 centers were opened and another 15 are under construction), promotion of international cooperation of Azerbaijani youth organizations.

So, what are the results of the visit, what can we expect in this sphere of bilateral cooperation?

First of all, our delegation, headed by Minister A. Rahimov, had very fruitful meetings and discussions with Prime Minister S. Berisha, Speaker the Parliament J. Topalli, Minister A. Bumci, Mayor of Tirana L. Basha and the Rectors of the University of Tirana D. Kule and University of Sports of Tirana V. Rizvanolli, during which wide range of bilateral cooperation issues and concrete projects in the field of youth and sports were discussed. Important fact is that the legal basis for partnership in this field was established, and inter-ministerial Cooperation Program in the field of youth and sports for 2013-2015 was signed. This document will provide for strengthening of cooperation between relative sport institutions, National Sports Federations and National Olympic committees of two countries, promote the realization of joint youth activities.

During our meeting at the University of Tirana we have agreed with our Albanian colleagues on implementation of "What do I know about Azerbaijan" essay competition among the students of the University. The idea of this project is to send 10 winners of this contest to Azerbaijan for cultural tourism. This is joint project of ministries of Youth and Sports and Foreign Affairs, which have been already realized in more than 15 countries of Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa among the students of 40 universities, academies and colleges. This project proved to be a very efficient mechanism for youth and cultural exchanges, strengthening relations between young people of different countries. And we hope that Albanian students will successfully join this project.

Last year was marked by high activity in the development of bilateral relations between our countries. What are the plans of your Embassy for 2013?

Indeed, we are really witnessing strengthening bilateral political relations between Azerbaijan and Albania in the course of 2011-2012. Our countries are opening to each other more and more, and you are right, last year was very active and successful in terms of high-level visits and strengthening of legal basis for cooperation in different areas. We had arranged with our Albanian colleagues official visit to Azerbaijan of Prime-minister of Albania and working visits of 3 Albanian ministers to Baku, as well as official visits to Albania of the Speaker of our Parliament (Milli Mejlis), minister of economic development and minister of culture and tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan. As a result of this activity, we elaborated solid agenda of bilateral relations, comprising of political, economic, energy, cultural and even city-to-city cooperation issues.

Establishment of legal basis of our cooperation is also under way - we have 6 basic agreements signed, and 8 are in the process of consideration. At the end of last year we arranged in Tirana - with the partnership with the Ministry of tourism, culture, youth and sports of Albania - concert of Azerbaijani music, performed by our famous jazz pianist Emil Afrasiab and his group, which opened to local audience and music-lovers the world of Azerbaijani classical and jazz music. So, all these visits and events proved once more, that our countries have serious intentions to develop bilateral relations in all areas, and that Baku and Tirana consider each other important partners at present and for long future. In the year of 2013 we plan to keep this positive trend in our relations with more focus on implementation of concrete projects and programs. We have in our schedule for the first half of this year official visit of deputy prime-minister, minister of economy, trade and energy, Mr. Haxhinasto, to Baku with the aim at discussing concrete projects in the fields of economy and energy.

We also hope that Albanian delegation headed by the Minister of tourism, culture, youth and sports will take an active part in the 2nd World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, which will be held in Baku on May 29-June 01 under the patronage of H.E. Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ministry of culture and tourism of Azerbaijan, UNESCO, ISESCO, Council of Europe, UN Alliance of Civilizations, UN World Tourism Organization. I would like to mention, that initiative of holding a high-level international annual forums in Baku devoted to various aspects of peaceful coexistence and dialogue between different cultures and religions of the world has been proposed by the President of Azerbaijan at the 65th session of the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2010 and was supported by leading international organizations. The 2nd Baku Forum on Intercultural Dialogue will be one of the major political and cultural events in our country this year and we would like to see our Albanian friends and colleagues in Baku.

And the last but, may be, the most important thing is, that we strongly believe, that this year will mark - if TAP project is selected as final route for the export of Azerbaijani gas to Europe - stronger cooperation between our countries in the field of energy security. Azerbaijan is ready, as I have already mentioned on many occasions, to cooperate bilaterally with the Government of Albania to decide jointly how TAP`s success could contribute to our bilateral cooperation in the field of gas sector development in Albania. We are also ready to share with the government, public and private companies of Albania our experience in the development of oil and gas sector, and are open to discuss and implement concrete projects in this field on the basis of feasibility and mutual advantage.




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