Vol. 4, No. 12 (June 15, 2011)

Foreign ministry expands to meet Azerbaijan’s growing international ties

Nadir Huseynov
Deputy Minister
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Azerbaijan

The basic tasks of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are defined by the Constitution, the President and the Government of Azerbaijan and include in the first instance, the protection of the sovereignty, security, and inviolability of the territorial integrity and borders of the Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as the rights and the interests of Azerbaijanis abroad, the promotion via diplomatic means of the interests of Azerbaijan, international peace and security, and the broadening of bilateral and multilateral contacts.

In recent years and under the direction of President Ilham Aliyev, the foreign ministry has expanded its operations in all of these areas.  It continues to open ever more embassies and consulates.  Over the last year alone, it has established embassies in Argentina, Estonia, Croatia, Serbia, and Libya, a consulate in Batumi, and in the coming year, it will open additional diplomatic missions in South Africa, Brazil, Iraq and Vietnam.

To staff these new posts and to carry out its responsibilities, the foreign ministry has had to recruit and train new diplomats.  Since 2005, it has recruited new ones on the basis of examinations which are administered to those who have training in international relations and international law.  It has established special educational programs for junior diplomats and constantly sends them to special courses to increase their skills in languages, negotiations, diplomatic correspondence, and other diplomatic requirements.  And it has given them time to study both in Azerbaijani and foreign higher educational institutions.

Particularly important in this regard is the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy.  Headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Hafiz Pashayev, ADA currently prepares diplomats for the foreign ministry as well as for other government institutions which play a role in international affairs.  At the present time, all new hires at the foreign ministry are sent to ADA for a six month course which introduces them to diplomatic work.  After the successful completion of this course, the young diplomats are sent for a month-long internship at an embassy or consulate abroad.

One increasingly important part of the foreign ministry’s work concerns consular issues, particularly the protection of the rights and freedoms of Azerbaijanis abroad and the preparation or improving of the regulations for visitors to Azerbaijan.  Unfortunately, there are a number of problems in this area which have not yet been overcome.  Among these are the difficulties Azerbaijani embassies face in registering all Azerbaijanis living abroad, the lack of diplomatic missions in countries where Azerbaijanis are visitors or resident, and the existence of a certain number of Azerbaijanis who for one reason or another are living in another country illegally.

In order to try to overcome these and other problems and to improve the protection of the rights and interests of Azerbaijanis abroad, the foreign ministry is now conducting biennial conferences of the heads of consular staffs in embassies and consulates in general to discuss how best to proceed and to share best practices.  

Consular services involve another set of issues as well.  The foreign ministry routinely intervenes when citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan confront difficulties in embassies or consulates of foreign countries accredited in Azerbaijan in getting the necessary visas to travel abroad.  And the foreign ministry is responsible for the granting of visas to foreigners who want to visit Azerbaijan for tourism, work, and other purposes.

This last task has become especially important after President Ilham Aliyev’s decision to declare 2011 the Year of Tourism in our country.  In order to boost the number of tourists, the Republic of Azerbaijan has simplified the visa application process so that no one will have to wait more than 15 days after applying and is allowing almost all applicants to apply electronically.  Moreover, under the rules set by President Ilham Aliyev on September 13, 2010, some foreigners—falling under a category specified in the rules—arriving at Heydar Aliyev International Airport can apply directly for a visa at the consular office which the foreign ministry maintains there.

Given the variety of these tasks, it should not surprise anyone that the foreign ministry which almost did not exist at the end of Soviet times is now a large and growing enterprise working on behalf of Azerbaijanis and the Azerbaijani state.  Given the increasing interconnectedness of the world and the growing role of Azerbaijan in international affairs of all kinds, the foreign ministry will continue to grow in the years to come.