Baku, March 24, AZERTAC
In an interview with AZERTAC, Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov answered questions about the activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Embassies and consulates of Azerbaijan in the context of the fight against coronavirus in our country and international cooperation in this area. The following is the interview.
- Mr. Mammadyarov, at a time when the coronavirus infection is spreading rapidly in the world, the government of Azerbaijan, like many other countries, is taking preventive measures. A number of restrictive measures are being taken within the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is one of the strategically important government agencies that continues to operate even in the current situation. In general, how would you assess the activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the context of the fight against coronavirus?
- The coronavirus pandemic is a threat that is being fought on a global scale today, and in this context Azerbaijan, like any other country, is taking all necessary preventive and effective measures for the health of its citizens, for the security of our society and state. This process is under the direct control of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, and the First Vice-President, Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva. To this day, our state has always been next to its citizens and showed attention to them. As part of the fight against the spread of the coronavirus infection, our state is mobilizing all its efforts and taking serious measures to protect the health of its citizens both in Azerbaijan proper and abroad. In particular, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the diplomatic missions of our country abroad continue to operate in a special mode. Our main objectives are to obtain complete information about our citizens temporarily located abroad (working, studying or traveling for other reasons), to respond to their requests, provide sound advice and coordination at a time when different countries have introduced a quarantine or a state of emergency, restricted and in many cases completely canceled overland and air transport. As is known, the Operational Headquarters has been set up under the Cabinet of Ministers to combat the coronavirus, and this headquarters regularly updates the population about the measures being taken. There is an operational headquarters under the Foreign Ministry too, which provides responses to the queries and questions sent to Foreign Ministry's 24/7 "hotline" and Emails. In parallel, there are active "hotlines" of all our diplomatic missions. We recommend that our citizens abroad contact these "hotlines" if they have any queries in the current situation.
- Minister, you mentioned the "hotlines" of the Foreign Ministry proper and Azerbaijani Embassies and consulates. Are there any statistical records of the number of appeals to these lines? What are people mainly asking about?
- The hotlines receive hundreds of calls every day. Numerous emails are sent to our email boxes and every single one of them is answered. First of all, the appeal is recorded, contact details of the caller are noted, and then the appeal is forwarded to a relevant diplomatic mission and answered. At the same time, this information is forwarded to the Operational Headquarters under the Cabinet of Ministers. This process takes 24 hours. Most of the appeals are made by our citizens temporarily located abroad to receive education or for various other reasons. People mainly seek advice on how to behave in the current situation and how they can return to the country. It is known that the government has so far organized special charter flights to return about 10,000 of our citizens to Azerbaijan, conducted the necessary checkups and placed them under quarantine. It is also known that in the current circumstances it is very important to prepare quarantine places and hospitals with special regimes and provide them with the necessary logistics to enable the return of our citizens to the country. After all, we must understand that quarantine places are also limited. From this point of view, it is very important for our citizens to support the state and show understanding in this matter.
Of course, as a parent I understand our citizens who want to bring their children home in such a difficult situation. However, in the current situation we are talking about the health of our children, the security of our people, so we must put all emotions aside and show understanding. On the one hand, the World Health Organization encourages people to avoid travel, self-isolation is promoted all over the world, countries declare a special quarantine regime and a state of emergency. The reason is to prevent the spread of a new type of the dangerous coronavirus, as this risk increases during trips. But on the other hand, there is the security of the receiving country, in our case the security of Azerbaijan. Therefore, we urge our citizens to behave responsibly, to avoid travel as much as possible and to follow the rules of self-isolation.
- Mr. Mammadyarov, international cooperation and coordination are also important for the effectiveness of the fight against the pandemic. What is Azerbaijan doing in this regard? We would like to know your opinion about this.
- It is true that for the fight against the global pandemic to be effective, it is very important to coordinate efforts at the international level, including cooperation and exchange of experience in the fight against the spread of this infection. As you know, our country closely cooperates with the WHO. A mission of this organization visited our country on 9-13 March and praised the measures Azerbaijan is taking to combat coronavirus. As a country with experience in combating the epidemic, Azerbaijan also consults with the Chinese side and regularly holds video conferences with experts. At the same time, we have cooperation with the Turkish side in this regard. I would like to note that the support provided by brotherly Turkey in the evacuation of our citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan is the best example of international cooperation.
Today, along with taking serious measures at the national level to combat the coronavirus, our country also supports the fight at the international level. The Azerbaijani government provided $5 million in humanitarian assistance to Iran in this regard. Our country has also provided $5 million to the WHO's COVID-19 Fund.
I am confident that we will achieve effective results in combating the global coronavirus threat by joining our efforts and enhancing coordination and cooperation. Of course, the difficulties we are facing are of temporary nature, and in order to shorten the life of these difficulties, it is necessary for people to support the steps being taken at state level. In conclusion, I would like to share the slogan that is being actively promoted by the Foreign Ministry these days: "Let's all stay at home and protect our country". The responsible behavior and self-isolation shown by every single citizen these days is the most useful contribution to our common efforts in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
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