Vasiliy Istratov: “Russia and Azerbaijan are not rivals” - INTERVIEW PHOTOSESSION

Vasiliy Istratov: “Russia and Azerbaijan are not rivals” - <font color=red>INTERVIEW PHOTOSESSION </font>
# 29 December 2008 13:39 (UTC +04:00)
-How do you value last year from the view of Azerbaijan-Russian relations? How the change of head of state in Russia influence on these relations?

-I would like to underline with great pleasure that the positive dynamic of the Russian-Azerbaijan relations is continued in all directions. Earlier I said that our goal was to celebrate Russian Year in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani Year in Russia. My worlds are realized now and our cooperation is developing actively and very usefully in all directions. The political dialogue is held permanently and heads of states are meeting almost every month in the different formats. Regarding the last tendencies since election of Dmitriy Medvedev, I can say that he continues the course of strengthening of cooperation with Azerbaijan. This tendency started eight years ago and became stronger year by year. Two months later after his election, Dmitriy Medvedev paid official visit to Azerbaijan, which is very important fact characterizing the relations between our countries. Opening of Baku branch of the Moscow State University can be an example of development of our relations. Two and half years ago, when I arrived in Azerbaijan, one of the main problems was closing of the branches of Russian education centers. We achieved normal solution to this problem and closed only waxwork (not real) branches and made so serious step to open the Moscow State University’s branch. Such decision demands very high cooperation. Over the past few months, I visited the concerts of Russian world-known artists, which is very good state.

- Volume of the trade turnover between the two countries increased for two times. How do you see prospects of economic cooperation?

- We are neighbor countries, whose economies complete each other and we are doing mutual trade. There is well-organized Azerbaijani Diaspora in Russia. All these circumstances enable us to provide goods exchange. Both Russia and Azerbaijan have a stable developing economy. The strong economy increases welfare of populations on two sides of the borders and intensifies the bilateral trade. The presidents urged to level the goods turnover up to 2 billion USD. We reached this figure before the yearend and there was no need to make special efforts. The main task of the countries to achieve this goal was not to prevent each other and to let the trade to develop of its own accord. Regarding the results of the year, growth was observed in all directions, but there are specific elements of the trade relations. Azerbaijan is an exporter of energy resources and its trade balance is always positive. Until recent years it was so in Russia too, but now the balance of Russia and Azerbaijan is negative. The energy resources don’t play important role in the trade between our countries in the past two years, but the volume of trade turnover is increasing. Russia exports to Azerbaijan vehicles and equipments, fertilizers and corn and Azerbaijan exports to Russia agricultural products. The trade balance is in favor of Russia because these goods are very cheap. So far everything is going within the mutual consent and I am sure that it will be continued further. Of course, there are resources can be used further. We should expect for the impact of world financial crisis on our trade relations. There are two ways out from the situation expected in future: to worsen the situation or to find additional resources. We have common interests in a number of spheres. There is a tendency which attracted attention recently. The countries with energy resources are more interesting during the crisis than in the period of economic activeness. Our countries are cooperating with each other and with OPEC as well to determine fair oil price. Our countries are not rivals, they are allies from the view of energy resources.

-What can you say about Gazprom’s buying Azerbaijan’s gas?

- Gazprom and SOCAR are holding the negotiations on this issue. Azerbaijan stated several times that Gazprom’s proposal was being discussed. The decision will be passed in terms of maximum commercial profit. Gazprom wants to pay European price minus transit tariff for Azeri gas at the border. Azerbaijan has also other proposals. But one of the points at the advantage of Russia’s proposal is the existence of gas pipeline in Russia. Other directions require construction of additional pipelines.

-There is an opinion that Russia is against Nabucco project, but if Azerbaijan participates in this project only as a transit country, Russia will not object. Is this really Russia’s position?

-Such a position is possible. Two factors are necessary for Nabucco’s operation: pipeline and gas resources. There is no pipeline yet, and where gas resources will be bought from remains undecided. New deposits and construction of pipe require funds. It is not known where the funds and gas will be obtained from. As regards the transit, this is a very serious issue. Theoretically this pipeline may come from three directions – north, south and east. There is no need to transport Russian gas through this pipeline, there are pipelines from our country to Europe and new ones are being constructed. It is not clear why Iran should deliver gas to Europe through Azerbaijan. Why should Turkmenistan be interested in the construction of this pipeline? All these issues are of strategic character and they have no final reply. That’s why it will be possible to say whether Russia objects to this project or supports it, after all algorithm of Nabucco project is made clear. Where is the gas, the pipe, who allocates funds, who buys and other questions should have answers. Nabucco concept was prepared in the economic and political condition different from the present and the situation has changed now. Impact of these changes on Nabucco depends on its authors and their corrections to the project. Now it is difficult to find funds for the development of new deposits and construction of big pipelines. Maybe the amount will be found, but now we do not know the answers to these questions.

-Early this year Azerbaijani and Russian officials said delimitation of state borders would be completed this year. Why it did not happen?

-At the beginning of the year we thought that the issue would be solved. But all the issues should be viewed altogether and it does not include only border line. Understanding has been reached on 99 percent of the border line, but there are other related issues. For example, delimitation of Samur river. This is a very serious issue. The USSR left two formally contradicting issues for us. On the one hand, almost 100 percent of the Samur river collects in the territory of Russia, on the other hand most of this water meets the needs of Baku and Sumgayit for about 50 years. This is the contradiction. Both sides understand that there should be a balance between the collection and usage of water. It is not yet known when it will be achieved. Of course, the sides have their own positions and neither of them wants to damage its position while making decision. I can say that compromising variant is being discussed. Water is a vitally important resource. Maybe water shortage will be felt more than shortage of oil and gas in future. Both sides want to solve this problem.

-Has the problem of the Russians living in Khrakhoba and Uryanoba villages of Khachmaz been solved?

This issue is of judicial and humanitarian character. It is difficult in terms of judicial character. These people live there for tens of years. It is difficult to solve their judicial problems. It is one more problem inherited from USSR. There was not any problem in composition of common state. Then problems created. The issue should be solved without causing danger to people.

-Azerbaijan proposes citizenship to these people. Why do not they want to receive it?

-There are various versions. This issue is enough difficult. The positive fact is that nobody tries to solve the problem with strict methods immediately.

-Russia and the US conduct negotiations on missile defense system . Do these negotiations cover joint usage of Gabala radar?

-Russia has not taken back proposal presented to the US officially. These proposals are on the table of negotiations.

-Co-Chairs urged parties to accelerate coordination of core principles on the settlement of Nagorno Karabakh conflict in their last statement. Is it real?

-As Russian Ambassador to Azerbaijan I am not engaged in Nagorno Karabakh conflict. There are other institutions in Russian Foreign Ministry for it. There are proposals on the table of negotiations. They should be mutually coordinated. Co-Chairs actively function and there are various formats for negotiations of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Turkey organizes a meeting within any format and Russia within other format. Co-Chairs supported Moscow meeting and stated that the meeting supplemented their initiatives. It is real. All formats supplement each other and they should not be confronted. There is progress on the process of settlement. Positive dynamics should be continued after Moscow meeting.
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