Baku, October 15, AZERTAC
In an exclusive interview with AZERTAC, Austrian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Mr. Axel Wech has highlighted the relations between the two countries, and shared his impressions about Azerbaijan and its people. The following is the text of the interview:
Mr Ambassador, how would you rate Azerbaijani-Austrian relations?
- Austria and Azerbaijan have basically the same size of population, the same size of territory. I think the most striking similarity is that our people have big neighbours to our north and to our south. Relations between the two countries are developing. Last September we had Austrian Foreign Minister here. Vice President of the Austrian Parliament Karlheinz Kopf was here for the opening of the First European Games.
What are the potential fields for expanding the economic and business cooperation?
- If welook at our statistics, Azerbaijan has a huge trade surplus with Austria. Azerbaijan is exporting a lot more than we are exporting to Azerbaijan. But what I have seen is that 98 per cent of Azerbaijani exports to Austria are oil and gas. Then we have to diversify our trade. We are very willing to work together with Azerbaijani companies. We would be looking to several sectors be it agriculture, be it positioning Baku, Azerbaijan as a transport hub on the Silk Road, be it East-West, be it North-South. So I think we would have a lot of possibilities for joint cooperation.
Austrian Exchange Service has its representative office at Azerbaijan University of Languages. What is the Embassy doing to promote Austria in Azerbaijan and strengthen the cultural and humanitarian relations?
- We have been here together with the University since, as far as I recollect, 1992. The Embassy opened in 2010. So of course it`s our aim to promote Austria, Austrian tourists destinations especially. For this several actions should be undertaken. We will try to bring more cultural events, we will also try to work closer with the University of Languages aiming at young Azerbaijani population. What I am always dreaming of is arranging another Viennese Ball, which was a very big success, as far as I heard. Tonight we might have discussions with one of the organizers of Viennese Ball. We want to implement a couple of such projects to familiarize Azerbaijan with Austria and bring more Azerbaijanis, especially young people, to Austria. We will host a reception on the Austrian national day. It will show a little bit of Austria, Austrian culture, we'll have a little bit of Austrian food products here. So it's another small step to bring Austria on the map of Azerbaijan or in the interest of Azerbaijani people. And I hope the national day will be a nice, pleasant event for all of us.
What is the position of Austria on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
- Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is, of course, a big issue. It is primarily dealt by the OSCE and by the Minsk Group. So we have actually a forum where the conflict as such is dealt. So, Austria in this respect, of course, is an EU member, and we'll follow this line. Austria has never recognized Nagorno-Karabakh, and this position will remain unchanged.
The separatist regime has recently held so-called municipal elections in Azerbaijan`s Armenia-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region. Armenian leader Serzh Sargsyan called Nagorno-Karabakh part of Armenia. What is your opinion about this?
- I think it is very clear for us that Austria has never recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state and I do not see any need or any possibility that we should change this position. I personally consider these statements as very unfortunate, because they do not give life to the negotiators. They do not contribute to any peaceful settlement, which we all are looking for. In principle, I do deeply regret about this position, these statements. Regarding the elections, as we have not recognized Nagorno-Karabakh, the elections for us are irrelevant, so to say. They do not set any pre-conditions for solving the conflict, they do not really help in solving the problem. So for us it is basically a non-issue, which we in principal, the EU has made a statement about on behalf of the member states. So I actually do not really want to say more than this statement. For us it is really a non-issue.
How do you rate the Azerbaijani government`s treatment of Austrian athletes who were injured in a bus accident during the first European Games?
- We are very grateful to His Excellency Mr. President and the First Lady as they have immediately after the accident helped us set all necessary measures to help the girls. This really was a great help and we are very grateful for this to the President and First Lady and other members of the Azerbaijani government.
We would like to learn your impressions of Azerbaijan?
- I have metvery nice and open friendly people, especially the young people in Azerbaijan. I think it is a very warm and hospitable society. What I really admire is Azerbaijani cuisine, especially excellent quality of vegetables. They are much more tasty than in Austria, this is just amazing.