Negotiations with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev

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The visit of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev to Belarus is a new step in building bilateral relations in the future, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said during the talks with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev on 19 November.

During the official negotiations the two heads of state discussed the current state of affairs and prospects of developing relations between Belarus and Azerbaijan, share opinions on international matters. The talks focused on the trade, economic and investment cooperation, joint projects. The presidents also discussed the prospects of interaction in transport and logistics, healthcare, education, information and communication technologies, sport, tourism and other fields.

The heads of state held one-on-one talks and a meeting with the participation of the delegations of the two countries. Before the talks Ilham Aliyev and Aleksandr Lukashenko toured a photo exhibition featuring the most remarkable sightseeing attractions in Belarus at the Palace of Independence.

“Belarus has been waiting for you. There has been much information about the official visit. There were various reasons for it, sometimes fake reasons. However, it is more than nothing. Even negative information that has nothing to do with the reality can sometimes be positive. There was huge interest before your visit. We have been waiting for it for a long time. A lot has been said about Azerbaijan,” the head of state said.

The President emphasized that Belarus views Azerbaijan as a very friendly brotherly country. The two states maintain very good relations at all levels.

Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out a dynamic development of the trade and economic relations. The bilateral trade has already increased almost three and a half times thus far in 2018 as compared to the same period of 2017. “I want to assure you once again that there will never be closed topics in our relations. We used to live in one state. We are very close people. We have common roots in the Soviet period. Perhaps, Belarusian and Azerbaijani people had good relations ages ago,” the President said.

He welcomed Ilham Aliyev in Belarus. “I am very happy that you are here. We need to discuss some things. We maintain good relations in all fields, be it trade, economy, politics, military sector. But we still can do a lot, we can improve these relations,” the head of state said.

The President of Azerbaijan, in turn, said that there are tangible results in all areas of Belarus-Azerbaijan cooperation.

“The distinguishing feature of our relations is that we fulfill everything we agree on. We support each other at all international organizations; our trade and economic relations are on the rise. Cooperation in the manufacturing industry has been gaining momentum. We have a history of cooperation in the defense industry, culture and education. In other words, we see good dynamics, great prospects and tangible results in all areas of our cooperation,” Ilham Aliyev said.

The head of state of Azerbaijan noted that he is happy to come to Belarus again. In his words, the regular exchange of visits at the highest level attests to close and friendly ties between Belarus and Azerbaijan, the two countries with common history. Ilham Aliyev noted that bilateral cooperation has advanced to a totally new level.

“When people in Azerbaijan talk about Belarus, they recall events related to our bilateral relations. Public opinion on Belarus is very positive there. It is very important that our friendly contacts are perceived favorably by the people of our countries. I know that there is a very good attitude to Azerbaijan in Belarus, while people in Azerbaijan consider Belarus a brotherly nation and one of the closest partners not only in the post-Soviet space, but also in the world,” Ilham Aliyev said.

He noted that it is partially attributed to good personal relations between the leaders of the two countries. “People see it and they appreciate the way we address issues and move to our goals. In recent years we have been working hard to deal with the matters we agreed upon,” Ilham Aliyev said.

He is convinced that his ongoing official visit will give another opportunity to review and analyze the bilateral cooperation over the recent period, and to discuss cooperation prospects for the future. “I am convinced that we will take important decisions today,” he said. Ilham Aliyev invited Aleksandr Lukashenko to come to Azerbaijan on an official visit.

At the negotiations in the extended format the Belarusian President remarked that Azerbaijan has always been a reliable strategic partner for Belarus. “We highly value our friendship and are ready to assist the promotion of Azerbaijan’s interests in the center of Europe,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that there are no closed issues in the bilateral relations. “We have never cooperated against third countries. We do our utmost for the benefit of our peoples. There have never been closed issues in our cooperation. We are sincere and open to the whole world,” the President said.

The head of state noted that over a quarter of a century since the establishment of diplomatic relations, the dialogue between the countries has acquired a strategic character. “High level of interstate trust is not accidental. It is based on long-standing traditions of friendship between the Belarusian and Azerbaijani peoples. This enables us to discuss even the most complex issues in a constructive atmosphere,” the Belarusian leader said.

Belarus seeks systemic and long-term cooperation in trade and economic areas, Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “The trade with Azerbaijan has been gaining positive dynamics recently. Yet it is still far from being optimal. This is what we talked about a lot today. We see the potential for increasing it,” he stressed.

During the meeting Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned the fact that Belarus and Azerbaijan are going to branch out into third countries together.

The Belarusian head of state remarked that the countries have laid a foundation for broad industrial cooperation. “A good example of this work was demonstrated by the Belarusian machine-building flagships, MTZ and MAZ, and Ganja Auto Plant. More than 10,000 tractors and 3,500 automotive vehicles have been already assembled in Ganja. Today we are prepared to begin a new stage of cooperation - joint advancement to the markers of third countries,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

In his words, the project to manufacture tractors in Turkey with the participation of the Minsk and Ganja plants is in the pipeline. “Such initiatives are the thing of the future, and they should be in the spotlight,” the Belarusian leader is convinced.

According to the President, there are also good prospects in such industries as the delivery and assembly of electric buses, elevators, grain harvesters and other agricultural equipment in Azerbaijan. “We expect that sooner or later you will stop using American and German harvesters. We know how it goes: when a harvester is broken you need to pay as much for spare parts and other stuff. Therefore, some time ago we decided to manufacture our own harvesters, and the decision was right. I think that we will win in this sector. So we are ready to set up a joint venture to produce this equipment in Azerbaijan and even focus on third countries,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state deemed it necessary to expand contacts in the agrarian sector, raise mutual food supplies. “Our dairy, meat and fish products, confectionery sell well in Azerbaijan. International trade is a road with two-way traffic. Therefore, we would like to see more Azerbaijani products on the Belarusian market,” the President said.

In this context, he mentioned the Trading House of Azerbaijan in Minsk. “This is the future. And the prospect of developing this network is in the oblast capitals.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that not only Belarusian citizens buy corresponding products from Azerbaijan. “There is a lot of movement in connection with the Ukrainian events. Azerbaijani products are in high demand. Moreover, Azerbaijani people know how to trade. We should learn from you,” the President said.

He praised the opening of the Trading House of Azerbaijan in Minsk and stressed that this project is supported. The Belarusian side will continue supporting proposals aimed at a balanced increase in bilateral trade.

“You’ve recently built an oil-processing complex in Turkey. We would be glad to welcome Azerbaijani investors in Belarus and are ready for serious interaction in strategic industries. The possibility of the State Oil Company of the AzerbaijanRepublic investing in the modernization of OAO Grodno Azot is being discussed,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“We welcome such aspirations,” noted Aleksandr Lukashenko.

Apart from that, the Belarus President said he believes there is a considerable reserve in the area of transportation and logistics. He mentioned transportation by rail as part of the efforts to create an international transport corridor North-South and the Silk Road Economic Belt as examples. “One way or another you [Azerbaijan] are already involved in these projects,” he added.

The head of state also sees great prospects in pharmaceutics. He wants to coordinate efforts in information and communication technologies, science and culture. “We will continue training personnel for Azerbaijan (as many specialists as you need in any fields), including training your rescuers at the University of Civil Protection of the Emergencies Ministry of Belarus,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“Our law enforcement agencies , social security bodies, agricultural and telecom organizations traditionally maintain close and active bilateral contacts,” the Belarusian leader continued.

He also thanked Azerbaijan for cooperation with the Directorate of the 2nd European Games, for support and assistance in the preparations for the sports event in 2019.

At the meeting with mass media representatives Aleksandr Lukashenko described the talks with Ilham Aliyev as productive. The strategic nature of Belarus-Azerbaijan relations was reaffirmed as well as the absence of problems in the bilateral relations and the presence of goodwill and aspirations geared towards cooperation. “I appreciate a lot the trustful and sincere atmosphere of meetings with my colleague. We openly and productively discuss all the items on the international agenda without an exception,” stressed the Belarus President.

In his words, the negotiations were primarily focused on successful trade, economic, and investment cooperation. Agreements were reached that will give an additional impulse to advancing the relations.

Speaking about the implementation of joint projects, Aleksandr Lukashenko drew attention to the importance of export to third countries. Belarusian and Azerbaijani companies are already working on it, implementing a joint tractor assembly project in Turkey. “It is an important and promising avenue we are going to develop. It has become possible thanks to the stance of the President of Azerbaijan,” stressed the Belarusian leader.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also mentioned Belarus’ interest in Azerbaijani investments and high-quality products. Belarus can participate in infrastructure projects in Azerbaijan: the construction of new railroads, sea ports, and logistics hubs.

The Belarus President sees untapped opportunities for cooperation in healthcare, education, information and communication technologies, sport, and tourism. “The implementation of today’s agreements will allow very soon converting our intentions into concrete deeds. For instance, work is already in progress to set up a joint venture in Azerbaijan to make Belarusian medications. I am absolutely convinced that we will implement other large-scale and interesting projects soon, too,” said the head of state.

“There are no unresolved issues or topics we don’t discuss in our relations. Belarus and Azerbaijan will always remain reliable strategic partners. I am convinced that traditionally productive cooperation, mutual support will remain a distinctive trait of Belarusian-Azerbaijani relations,” concluded Aleksandr Lukashenko.

After the talks in Minsk the presidents of Belarus and Azerbaijan issued a joint statement. The document points to the transition to a qualitatively new level of relations of friendship and cooperation that meets the realities of the 21st century.

The heads of state are confident that the further strengthening of friendly relations and mutually beneficial cooperation between Belarus and Azerbaijan is in the fundamental interests of the peoples of both countries.

The joint statement reflects common approaches to a number of foreign policy issues and mutual support in the international arena. It also pays considerable attention to the main areas of economic cooperation both in bilateral and multilateral formats. In particular, the parties expressed their willingness to develop and strengthen cooperation in the field of transportation and logistics, communications and to contribute to the development of an enabling environment for the implementation of transport operations, including within the framework of the Silk Road economic belt, the international corridor North-South and other transit routes.

Belarus and Azerbaijan will also contribute to the realization of the economic potential of the two countries, increase mutual trade, bolster ties in the machine-building sector, construction, agriculture and food industries, and other industries, including innovations. In addition, the parties support the further development of interaction between financial and banking institutions, implementation of joint investment projects, direct cooperation at the level of regions and businesses.

“The parties shall contribute to the preservation of spiritual and cultural closeness of the peoples of the two countries, deepen cooperation in science, education and culture, and also in high technology, healthcare, and tourism,” reads the joint statement.

The heads of state were present at the ceremony to sign a number of bilateral documents.

The first-day-of-issue ceremony of the joint postal project of Belarus and Azerbaijan marked 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

After the completion of the formal negotiations, the heads of state exchanged gifts. Aleksandr Lukashenko gave Ilham Aliyev a still life depicting pomegranate fruit and the Heritage of Belarus book. For his part, Ilham Aliyev gave the Belarusian counterpart a traditional Azerbaijani carpet.