Ambassador: Participation by Azerbaijan on Nuclear Security summit in Seoul will in itself manifest great significance

Ambassador: Participation by Azerbaijan on Nuclear Security summit in Seoul will in itself manifest great significance
# 13 February 2012 08:29 (UTC +04:00)
Baku. Viktoria Dementyeva – APA. APA Interview with Ambassador of Korea to Azerbaijan Lee Ji-Ha

- Mr. Ambassador, this March Azerbaijan and Korea celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. How do you estimate the bilateral relations between the countries?

- As you mentioned correctly, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the Republic of Korea and Azerbaijan. Our two countries have been successfully promoting friendship ever since the diplomatic ties in 1992. Especially, after former Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and President Ilham Aliyev reciprocated visits in May 2006 and April 2007, respectively, cooperation between our two nations have shown a dramatic increase, in areas ranging from politics, economy, culture, sports to education.

In 2005, the trade volume between the two countries, was just over 42 million US dollars. However, in the period between January to November 2011, the trade volume stands at 621 million US dollars, which represents a 15-fold increase compared to 2005.

Investments by Korean firms in Azerbaijan, first initiated in 2008, have reached a record of 147 million US dollars, as of end of 2011.

Also, in October 2010, the Korean government has appointed Azerbaijan as one of its 26 major partners in development cooperation, and has implemented various projects to share the development experience and know-how it has acquired during the economic development era of the last half-century.

Since 2008, our respective governments have been promoting Youth Exchange programs and as we speak, around one hundred youths of both countries are studying in the universities and graduate schools of their host countries, in fields of liberal arts, natural and social sciences etc. The two governments also host various cultural events to introduce each others’ culture to the citizens.

During his visit to Azerbaijan in January 2012, the Korean National Assembly Speaker Mr. Park Hee Tae visited President Ilham Aliyev. During this meeting, President Aliyev positively credited the development of the relationship between our two nations, and mentioned that the time is ripe for promoting our relationship to the next level of strategic partnership. It would be safe to tell you that President Aliyev’s words are the answer to your question.

- What are the priority spheres for further development?

- I think that exchange of personnel is very crucial for further development of relations. Face to face meetings and friendly conversations are often the starting point for discussions about mutually beneficial cooperation, and most frequently leads to actual cooperation. There have been plenty of personnel exchange up to now, but I would like to see it further invigorated.

Korea is a small country with a population of 50 million people, living in an area of 98,000. However, during the last 50 years, the Korean people and the government have worked hand-in-hand, to bring the nation out of poverty and into the ranks of the more developed nations of the world. Korea especially boasts prowess in areas of education, IT, petrochemicals and renewable energy all of which are areas of great interest to Azerbaijan in line with its economic development. In this light, I hope Korea will be able to become a true partner to Azerbaijan in these areas.

- How do you estimate the cooperation in energy sphere? What projects Korea can propose to Azerbaijan on energy?

- Cooperation in the energy sphere has not yet been active between our two countries, however, more recently, interest in this area is heightening.

Several Korean companies are attracted to Azerbaijan’s key Oil-Gas processing and Petrochemical Complex (OGPC) project and the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Romania Interconnector (AGRI) project. As many Korean companies have world class technologies in the energy sector, I believe Korea can become an ideal partner to Azerbaijan.

In the new & renewable energy sphere, Korean companies including Hanwha, Iian Tech and SK C&C, wish to collaborate with Azerbaijan. In December 2009, as I presented my credentials to President Ilham Aliyev, the President requested further cooperation in this field. Thus, as the head of the Korean Diplomatic Mission in Azerbaijan, I continue to pay particular attention to encourage collaboration in new & renewable energy. The Korean Embassy and Azerbaijan’s State Agency of Alternative and Renewable Energy hosted a seminar on new & renewable energy in November 2011. Since then we have been holding regular meetings and soon hope to see tangible results such as Korean companies taking part in the construction of the pilot complex.

- What kind of events your embassy plans to hold in the framework of celebration the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations this year?

-We are arranging various events in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. To begin with, around March 23rd, the anniversary, we are planning the exchange of congratulatory messages between the Heads of State. We are also discussing the possibilities of celebrating ‘Azerbaijan Day’ in Korea, while celebrating ‘Korea Day’ here in Azerbaijan.

In addition, the Korean Embassy is also preparing several events.
- We will publish an information booklet introducing Korea in Azerbaijani language, for distribution at schools and libraries in Azerbaijan. This booklet is planned for publication this week.
- We are also organizing joint performances between the two countries. We plan to invite a ‘Samulnori’ team, which is a genre of Korean traditional music, and a b-boy team to perform with artists in Azerbaijan.
- Other projects include translating Korean literature to Azerbaijani and introducing traditional foods of both countries through cooking demonstrations and tasting events.

- When the Azerbaijan-Korea Joint Commission on Economic cooperation will be created?

- For the Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation to be created, an Agreement on Economic Cooperation must be preceded. Korea has finalized all necessary domestic procedures last October and we look forward to the Government of Azerbaijan to finalize procedures within this year as well.

Once the Agreement on Economic Cooperation is concluded, I believe we will be able to hold the first Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation this year.

- Azerbaijan president was invited to the 2nd nuclear security summit, which to be held in March in Korea. Was the participation confirmed?

- I have not yet received the official letter regarding President Aliyev’s presence in the Nuclear Security Summit held in Seoul. However, on the occasion of Mr. Park Hee Tae, the Korean National Assembly Speaker’s visit last January 13th, Mr. President has expressed his intentions to participate in the Summit.

Nuclear Security Summits is a top-level forum dedicated to prevent nuclear terror, which poses a dire threat to the security of the international community in the 21st century. Participation by the President of Azerbaijan, a central nation of the south Caucasus region, will in itself manifest great significance.

- What are the agenda of the summit? What kind of questions to be discussed?

- The Summit will cover basic Nuclear Security agenda such as response to nuclear terror, protection of nuclear materials and nuclear facilities, prevention of illegal trafficking of nuclear materials, counter radiation terror initiatives, as well as issues of nuclear safety-especially in light of the recent incidents at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The discussion of nuclear safety will be conducted in relation to its possible influence and supporting role in achieving Nuclear Security, which is the main focus of the Nuclear Security Summit.

- The Korean project Baku Intellectual Transport System was completed in December last year. Was it put into operation for 100%? How do you estimate its efficiency? How effectively it helps to resist the traffic jams?

- The Baku ITS was completed in December of last year, and to my knowledge is currently undergoing some complementary measures. It is said that the ITS contributes to a 15~20% improvement in overall traffic flow.
ITS improves the efficiency of the transportation system by enabling the dispersal of traffic by providing traffic information, manipulating traffic signals to ease traffic congestion, promoting the use of public transportation system through increased convenience of the public bus system and thus keeping privately owned vehicles in the parking lots, and lastly by accumulating traffic data that may be employed to devise efficient transportation policies.

- Is there any other common projects in transport sphere?

- Korea’s Ultra Construction is carrying out the Genca-Yevlak road expansion project. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Daewoo International is in the business of supplying buses. A total of 1,200 buses have been supplied with additional plans to supply 500 more vehicles.

Besides the mentioned projects, Korean firms are biding their chances to participate in the phase 2 of the ITS project, construction of underground parking lot, railway modernization project, Guba-Samaxi expressway construction project.

- The project of a bridge over the Baku Bay?

- The feasibility study for the Baku Bay Area Maritime Bridge project was carried out by Korea’s Dongsung Engineering, using KOICA’s ODA funds (USD 1.6 million), upon the request from the Transportation Department of Azerbaijan. The final presentation of the F/S took place last July, after which all materials were submitted to the Government of Azerbaijan.

The Government of Azerbaijan will decide on the construction of the bridge, based on the findings of the F/S. If the Government comes to a positive conclusion, specific plans for the project (project size, funding schemes, contractor, future operation plans) will follow suit. Therefore it is too early to contemplate whether the construction of the bridge will actually happen, let alone the participation of Korean contractors in the project.