Azerbaijan expands its focus on South America

An Interview with Mr. Mammad Ahmadzada
Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Argentine Republic

November 29, 2010
Baku/Buenos Aires, Azerbaijan/Argentina

Azerbaijan in the World:  How have relations between Azerbaijan and Argentina evolved in the post-Soviet era and what was the rationale behind Baku’s decision to open up an embassy there?

Ambassador Ahmadzada:  The Argentine Republic recognized the independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan on March 9, 1992, and the two countries established diplomatic relations on November 8, 1993.  Starting from the mid 2000’s, Azerbaijan began to build closer ties with Argentina and other South American countries, as a part of a strategy under the leadership of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan His Excellency Mr. Ilham Aliyev aimed at strengthening the country’s international standing.  The visit to Argentina by Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov on April 3, 2006 was important in this regard.  So, the opening of our embassy in Argentina, the first diplomatic mission of Azerbaijan in South America, is due to our country’s proactive foreign policy and the expansion of its diplomatic presence around the globe.  Azerbaijan views its ties with Argentina as offering enormous opportunities for greater cooperation in many fields, and considers this country as a gateway to the whole South American region.

AIW:  What are your first impressions of Argentina?

Amb. Ahmadzada:  A very interesting country!  Argentina is rich in natural resources, climate zones, fertile land, multicultural diversity, economic potential and so much more.  It is the second biggest power of South America and a member of G20, all factors that have given it a leading position in Latin America.  A posting here is important not only for bilateral cooperation, but also because, due to its academic and research centers, Argentina is the best place for gaining an understanding of the whole region. 

Buenos Aires, a huge megalopolis that has drawn people from all over the world, has a rich and vivid social and cultural ambience.  As they say in Argentina, “the city enjoys to the fullest all 24 of the 24 hours of the day.”  Considered a center of the European culture of South America, Buenos Aires is full of theaters, cinemas, museums, art galleries, French and Italian style architecture, boutique parks, gardens, antique fairs, memorable tango shows, and restaurants offering the famous Argentine beef.  And I cannot fail to mention sports, especially football and the legendary Maradona.  All these things make Argentina an important tourist destination.  I believe that this place can become an attractive tourist destination for Azerbaijanis as well, once it is discovered.  However, for us, as an embassy, promoting tourist flows is just one side of the coin, the other side being about facilitating people to people contacts, laying bridges for mutual understanding and close ties between the two cultures.

AIW:  What has already been done during the short time of the embassy’s operation in Buenos Aires? 

Amb. Ahmadzada:  The Azerbaijani diplomatic mission arrived in Buenos Aires in mid-August 2010.  We have already settled in, and today our Embassy is in full operation.  While getting organized, we also began to make contacts with government institutions, members of the legislature, the diplomatic corps, businesses, academics, media and a wide range of other groups and individuals.

Recognizing that many people in South America know relatively little about Azerbaijan, the embassy has launched an active public diplomacy.  The embassy organized a “Presentation of Azerbaijan” at the Argentine Foreign Ministry’s National Foreign Service Institute (ISEN).  In addition, La Revista Diplomatica Placet, the Argentine diplomatic magazine, recently published a special edition devoted exclusively to Azerbaijan, in a joint work with the embassy, including articles about National Leader Heydar Aliyev, President Ilham Aliyev, as well as the country’s foreign policy, its economy, history, culture, tourism, sports, and cuisine.  The special edition titled “Azerbaijan—rich heritage, prosperous present and brilliant future” is meant to serve as the very first guide on Azerbaijan ever published in Spanish.  And finally, as we believe that high-level visits and first-hand impressions about the country are important, the embassy organized the visit of Ambassador Alberto Pedro D’Alotto, the deputy foreign minister of Argentina to Baku at the end of November. 

AIW:  What were the agenda and results of the visit of Argentina’s deputy foreign minister to Baku?

Amb. Ahmadzada:  It was the first ever official visit of a high-ranking member of the Argentine government to Azerbaijan.  Therefore, in order to create the whole picture of Azerbaijan and provide insight to the overall potential sectors of cooperation, a comprehensive program was elaborated for the Argentine dignitary.  During his visit, Deputy Minister D’Alotto met with Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, Deputy Foreign Ministers Khalaf Khalafov and Mahmud Mammad-Guliyev, Minister of Agriculture Ismat Abbasov, Deputy Minister of Economic Development Sevinc Hasanova and SOCAR Vice-President Davud Mammadov.  The Argentine deputy minister also visited the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he met with Deputy Foreign Minister and Rector Hafiz Pashayev and discussed bilateral cooperation.

Among the most prominent results of his visit was the signing of “Memorandum of understanding on the establishment of political consultations between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of the Argentine Republic” and “Memorandum of understanding on cooperation between the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the National Foreign Service Institute of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of the Argentine Republic.”

Deputy Minister D’Alotto also gave an exclusive interview to Trend news agency about the current state of, and future prospects for, bilateral ties between Azerbaijan and Argentina.

Given how recently Azerbaijan’s embassy opened, I think that this visit highlights the keen interest of the Argentine government in Azerbaijan.  Deputy Foreign Minister Alberto Pedro D’Alotto repeatedly emphasized in his meetings that he was impressed by the rapidly growing economy and ongoing developments in Azerbaijan and that Argentina is keen to be part of them.  I hope this visit will lead to a variety of initiatives on both sides.

AIW:  What are the existing and potential areas for cooperation?  What are the plans for the future?
Amb. Ahmadzada:  There is a solid foundation for political dialogue between Azerbaijan and Argentina.  The principles of independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity are the basis for the development of the relations between the two countries.  Both parties are keen to have intensive political consultations on bilateral, regional and global issues.

Economic cooperation is especially important.  At present, bilateral trade between the two countries is relatively modest, but is increasing rapidly, having risen by approximately 70 percent this year.  Trade consists mainly of Argentine exports of pharmaceutical products, soybean oil, sugar, other agricultural products and foodstuff, and some Azerbaijani exports of chemical products.  But there is ample room for expansion in both directions, as well as in other sectors.  In particular, high-end Argentine agricultural technologies can be useful for increasing the capacity, productivity and export potential of the agriculture sector of Azerbaijan.  To this end, the Embassy is working to expand contacts between business people of the two countries. 

The Embassy is planning to continue the public diplomacy to promote Azerbaijani reality, including the country’s historical and cultural heritage, the ongoing development of the country, its leading regional role, the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan and the position of Baku regarding the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the religious tolerance and Azerbaijan’s role in intercultural dialogue, as well as the country’s business-investment climate and opportunities and its tourism potential, among other areas.  With that aim, the embassy will work towards creating more understanding of Azerbaijan in Argentina and the South American region, as well as foster friendship and cooperation.