Azerbaijani ambassador to France Elchin Amirbeyov: “We try to accurately inform French society and political elite about Azerbaijan’s realities” – INTERVIEW

Azerbaijani ambassador to France Elchin Amirbeyov: “We try to accurately inform French society and political elite about Azerbaijan’s realities” – <font color=red>INTERVIEW</font>
# 29 June 2010 10:02 (UTC +04:00)
Strasbourg. Fuad Gulubayli-APA. APA’s interview with Azerbaijani ambassador to France Elchin Amirbeyov

-How do you assess current state of relations between Azerbaijan and France?

- Relations between France and Azerbaijan were established in 1992 and are being continued successfully. France assumes great importance for Azerbaijan among the world countries and it has some reasons. First, it is a significant role that France plays in the level of Europe and world. At the same time, France chairs OSCE Minsk Group. Moreover, France is a very important partner for Azerbaijan from the economic standpoint and Azerbaijan also is the most important countries for France in our region. That is why, taking all these into consideration, the relations are being developed and dialogues between our states had been established in the highest level. Azerbaijani President has paid 4 visits to Paris over last 5 years and was on an official visit to this country in December, 2009. And it shows that Azerbaijan has become an important strategic partner for France and at the same time, France is one of the main partner countries for us. Indeed, we have to note that there are some subjective factors here, and these factors impact on our relations. As you know, France has the strongest, most authoritative Armenian Diaspora in Europe and there are 500-550 000 Armenian citizens living here. Of course, this Diaspora has a big negative role in making stereotypes about Azerbaijan, in general, about Turkic Nations. And that is why we take it into consideration while establishing our work and try to accurately inform French society and political elite about Azerbaijan’s realities.

In general, we want this high-level political dialogue between the two countries to be continued continuously and some works are being done in this direction by our embassy. Now we try to achieve such high-level visit to Azerbaijan as well. We want to increase the activity of French companies in non-oil sector of Azerbaijan. There is potential for it and several French companies are interested in making business in Azerbaijan. And currently, there are about 20 projects. We are working on them. If we give attention to relations in cultural sphere, then we will see that there is potential in this sphere and we try to organize Culture Days of Azerbaijan in France as in other European countries. It may be considered one of the productive methods for bringing realities about Azerbaijan to French society and nation.

-Are there considered any mutual visits between the two countries in the near future?

Some works are being done in this direction and we come to an agreement with diplomatic channels about the dates of visits. I can not give any concrete information on these issues now. But we want to achieve some results until the end of the year. By saying high-level visits, I mean the possibility of French President’s visit to Azerbaijan. Such a visit has not taken place in the history of the two countries so far. President Ilham Aliyev invited President Nicolas Sarkozy for official visit and President of France accepted the invitation. Views are being exchanged on the date of the visit. I suppose French President intends to pay an official visit to Azerbaijan, simply appropriate time should be found for this, the embassies and foreign ministries of the two countries are exchanging views on this issue. We want this issue to be clarified by the end of the year.

-The recent visit of a group of French National Assembly members to Armenian-occupied Nagorno Karabakh is regarded as the disrespect to Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and national interests. Is our embassy in France investigating this issue?

-Of course, Azerbaijani embassy in France is one of the bodies pursuing the state’s policy in connection with this issue, we held a meeting at the French Foreign Ministry that day, expressed our concern and sent our note to them. The French side said the member of the parliament were free in their activities and they did not demonstrate the official position of the state. The official position of France is that Azerbaijani territories have been occupied. France recognizes Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and of course, does not welcome such visits. It is not in competence of the executive power of France to give any instructions to the legislative body – parliament. They asked us not to take seriously such kind of visits. Such visits certainly contradict Azerbaijan’s national interests, we should carry out explanatory activities in the National Assembly and Senate to prevent such unpleasant visits. It should also be noted that almost all of the parliamentarians, who visited Nagorno Karabakh, are pro-Armenian persons. For example, member of French delegation to PACE Francois Rochbloine is at the same time chairman of the French National Assembly’s committee for France-Armenia interparliamentary friendship relations and his wife is Armenian. As regards the others, since there are a lot of Armenians in the regions, where they live and from where they were elected, they need their votes, take biased steps and believe that in exchange for this the Armenians living there will support them during the elections. So, this is a real political issue and though we want to contact them, they stick to their positions. But it does not mean that this is the position of the French parliament. But there are also parliamentarians, who understand and support Azerbaijan, we have deepened our contacts with these persons.

-There are reports that French co-chair of OSCE Minsk Group will be replaced. Do you have information about it?

- As far as I know, these reports are groundless, the Azerbaijani side has not been given an official notification about the replacement of Bernard Fassier. As there is no notification, this diplomat will continue fulfilling his duties. In this case, we are ready to continue working with Mr. Fassier. If there is any replacement, we will be informed through official channels.

-How do you assess the activity of Azerbaijani Diaspora in France?

-Unfortunately, it is not right to speak about Diaspora here, because Diaspora is a strongly-organized community having strong potential in terms of number and quality. Our Diaspora is strong neither in terms of number, nor quality. Of course, we have Azerbaijani community in France and it includes several hundreds of people. Some of them are Azerbaijanis of Iranian origin, some are Azerbaijanis from Turkey, others are from Azerbaijan. We are trying to work with them. We have held several events here, tried to bring together our compatriots. We are trying to use the human potential efficiently. Frankly speaking, this is a very long process and of course Diaspora is not formed within a year, two years or five years. Our disgraced neighbors have spent hundreds of years on this issue and it should be admitted that they have gained some achievements in this. Therefore, being Azerbaijani ambassador I am trying to bring these people together, use their potential appropriately, achieve some progress in the protection of the interests of Azerbaijan, our people. We have some plans and though we can not make balance towards the Armenian Diaspora, we are trying to inform the French people about the position of our compatriots using our opportunities.

-The Azerbaijani citizens living in France and our compatriots having French citizenship used to complain of the consular service of our embassy, they faced some bureaucratic obstacles in getting documents. What can you say about it now? Is the embassy going to carry out reforms to facilitate these issues?

-You know, these obstacles are not only connected with our embassy in France, it also happened in a number of other embassies. Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry is taking facilitating measures and certainly in order to facilitate the travel of French citizens of Azerbaijani origin to Azerbaijan, the issuance of visa, passports or any other documents are considered in a centralized form. I believe that there will be progress in the abovementioned issues in the near future. But I have not observed such problems since I was appointed as ambassador. All issues are completely transparent. All know what requirements are to be fulfilled to get visa, these requirements have not been invented by us, these are rules accepted by everybody. Every citizen meeting these requirements gets visa and other necessary documents in time. we are trying to prefer humane approach to the bureaucratic approach, so that our compatriots can see the embassy as the place that may help them.

-The Armenians, who have recently come to France as refugees with counterfeit documents, show in their documents that they are Azerbaijanis. When they commit any crime here, the French police record them as Azerbaijanis. This has negative influence on Azerbaijan abroad. Is the embassy taking any measures in this direction?

-This is a very serious issue and can be regarded as a blow to the image of Azerbaijan in France. We hold regular meetings with the French Justice Ministry and other immigration bodies of France and carry out explanatory activities. We tell them that if anyone introduces himself as Azerbaijani, it does not mean that he is indeed Azerbaijani. Our embassy receives 30-50 appeals every day, they want new passports, certificates proving them to be Azerbaijani citizens. After analyzing their documents, in most cases it becomes clear that they are simply swindlers. Such persons want to gain political or other statuses. We offered our French colleagues to use the investigations of our consular service, if they indeed want to put an end to this illegal immigration. For example, if an Armenian comes and say he was born in Baku, Ganja or any place of Azerbaijan, we are ready to interview these persons to determine whether it is right or not. Of course, the French themselves do not have such an opportunity, while we can speak to them in Azerbaijani, ask questions and expose them. The French side is aware of this issue and we are trying to explain the problem to them and give some proposals.
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