Baku, November 4, AZERTAC
In his exclusive interview to AZERTAC`s correspondent, Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Mr. Irfan Siddiq has spoken of Azerbaijani-UK relations across the last years, and highlighted prospects for the future cooperation.
-Mr. Ambassador, the Azerbaijani-UK relations have been successfully developing in recent years. How would you assess the current state of the relations between the two countries?
-UK and Azerbaijan have excellent relations. These relations are built on years of effective and mutually beneficial cooperation. The main area of cooperation has been in the energy and business sector. I think the presence of BP and other British companies in the oil and gas sector in Azerbaijan has been a wonderfully successful and productive presence and we look forward to continue for a long time. But it is not only the area of energy that we have cooperation, I think the good cooperation that started in the energy sector has now spread to many other areas, to trade and different areas, to education, culture, sport, politics, and I think it is a point of pride to United Kingdom to be the biggest, largest foreign investor in Azerbaijan, and to be such a close partner of Azerbaijan. We hope that this cooperation will continue to grow and grow for the strength of relationship for both our countries.
- What about potential of cooperation between the two countries?
- I think the energy sector clearly has been an area of strong cooperation. But I am very keen to build upon the objectives of the Azerbaijani Government and aspiration that the President has set out to build cooperation in other areas, help diversify the Azerbaijani economy so I think in the areas like infrastructure, IT, education, health these all areas where Azerbaijan continue to grow which UK has big expertise these areas I hope to see greater cooperation between our two countries.
As I said there many other sectors in which UK has business and economy expertise, for example like education, just this week we will have a major UK-Azerbaijan education fair. Almost 50 British Universities and colleges will be coming to promote greater cooperation between Azerbaijan and UK and I have discussed this issue with the Minister of Education a number of times, in areas like infrastructure where you are building more roads, hospitals, water treatment plants, and your transport, your metro, trains. These are areas where again we can have greater cooperation and also in terms of developing Azerbaijan`s economy to be more competitive in the global world. We had very good cooperation with the Minister of Communication and High Technologies and he was in London early in this year to discuss with British companies areas technology and communication where we can also greater cooperation. I think absolutely there are areas apart from energy where there is great scope where is good potential for more cooperation.
- Can you please elaborate on the Azerbaijan`s relations with the European institutions?
- I think all countries in the world will be benefiting from the cooperation and coordination with the partners. EU is one of the strongest regional associations in the world and model of success. If we look back to middle of 20th century European countries were fighting with each other if we look at the situation now we have some problems in terms of economic growth and some issues like migration the record is one of absolute success in terms of vanishing the memories of conflict and division and working together to have great cooperation and unity. I think the model of success that we have seen in the EU is one that Azerbaijan can cooperate with. I don’t mean that EU will be lecturing or imposing Azerbaijan it is model of Azerbaijan. But I think as a market, as a model of growth, as a model of cooperation is certainly the one Azerbaijan should be cooperating with more. Europe will continue to be a major player in the world every country should look to develop the good relations with the European Union.
-Our people suffering from the Armenian-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and how you know we have more than 1 million refugees, IDPs and the OSCE Minsk Group and other international organizations adopted resolutions. But there’s no any resolvement of the conflict and how you see the settlement of the conflict?
-So I think that the fact of this conflict is still ongoing and has not been resolved is a source of great concern and pain to many countries and we see the suffering of the as you say million refugees and IDPs who suffer as a result of this conflict it makes clear to us that we should not waste any more time in trying to find the solution. Twenty years of lack of progress is too many and certainly my government would like to see much faster progress on a peace process. Having said that its clear that there is an international structure for the immediate resolution. This is the OSCE Minsk Group and the co-chair of the Minsk group have been doing a lot recently to try to bring the parties towards the resolution and we saw that his Excellency Mr. President Ilham Aliyev was in Paris last week to meet with the Armenian President to discuss this issue. So we will all support efforts to try to accelerate these discussions to get into the discussing the substance of the issue. But at the end of the day it’s not something that international community can dictate or impose on the parties. Ultimately the parties themselves must come to a solution and this will require a compromise because the positions of the two parties are quite far apart. If there is to be a solution it has to be some that is agreed between the two parties, so we as concerned international players encourage both parties to embrace the negotiations in the spirit of openness and compromise and try to find a way forward so that we can resolve this conflict and end the suffering of all the people who are still displaced away from their homes and unable to return to the life they want.
- What you heard about Azerbaijan before arriving here and is Azerbaijan is the same as you imagined?
-So I did a lot of research on Azerbaijan and I read a lot about Azerbaijan before I first came here. Unfortunately it is still a case that in the United Kingdom and I think in Europe more broadly there is not a great deal of knowledge about Azerbaijan. People maybe probably know that it is a former Soviet Union country and that it is a Muslim country. They do not know much about the country. Azerbaijan is becoming more prominent at the global stage and its contribution to energy security is becoming more understood. And that it is becoming more prominent in many big international events like next year we going to have European games aftermath we will have the formula 1 Grand Prix for the first time. This will only help us I think in putting Azerbaijan on the map. But I think Azerbaijan is a country is one that enjoys the fantastic, the rich culture, heritage, food, literature, opera, theatre, as we were discussing earlier it was the first Muslim country to have a full democratic structure with full votes for women. All of these achievements are testaments of Azerbaijan’s history and its potential. I’m sure that if Azerbaijan continues to develop, continues to integrate with Europe that it can continue to make a strong impact in the world.
-What are you doing in your leisure time? Which places you most like and in which places you are walking in our country?
-So unfortunately I spend more time in Baku than I would like to. I have done some visiting around the country I’ve been to Nakhchivan and to Guba, Gusar, Ganja, Gabala, Shaki all these place but I would like to visit more places. I spent most of my time in Baku. In my free time I like football a lot. This is a passion in the UK and in Azerbaijan as well. So I play football and I watch football as well. I spent time with my family, I like to go for walks on the boulevard then to go to the very nice restaurants here. But my wife and I were lucky recently have a new child, our first child. So in the recent time I spent all of my time at home with the baby which is taking up a lot amount of time.
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