Interview with Elmar Maharram oglu Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Azerbaijan

Your Excellency, what are the main priorities for the foreign policy of Azerbaijan?
Azerbaijan has several priorities on the top of its foreign policy agenda, of which contribution to international and regional peace and stability is among the most important. Azerbaijan spares no efforts to practically contribute to this end. We are active in peace keeping, cooperate bilaterally and whining international for a on flight against terrorism, and engage into the regional arrangements which facilitate regional peace.
One of the most pressing issues of the contemporary international affairs became the energy security. European as well as many other nations expresses their high concerns about the current stance of the energy supplies and their reliability. Given Azerbaijan’s significant oil and gas resources as well as a transit country capability for the Central Asian resources, we put contribution to the European and world energy security very high on our foreign policy priority list.
Integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures is another priority. Azerbaijan sees itself as a member of the European family in terms of values, history, culture and vision; and therefore, develops bilateral relations with European nations and moves forward in its cooperation with EU, NATO, Council of Europe and others.
Azerbaijan’s foreign policy, unlike those of European nations, has been significantly affected by military aggression of the neighboring Armenia and subsequent occupation of the fifth of Azerbaijani territories. For that reason, Azerbaijani Foreign Service has been forced to deal with the issue of restoration of the territorial integrity, which became one of the most important priority issues for us.
Q: From its independence in 1991 and up to date, what do you consider the main achievements of your country on the international scene?
We proved ourselves. I’m not sure not many believed that smaller nations like ours would have survived internationally and predicted our easy fall under the influence of stronger countries. Azerbaijan has managed not only survival, but also strengthening of its position as a regional leader and a player with its say on the international arena. Azerbaijan, with fastest growing economy in the world (35 % in 2006), initiated and led several transnational energy projects, including Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum natural gas pipelines, and was among the founders of the regional GUAM and BSEC organizations. We forget cooperation with NATION and European Union, became full-fledged members of Council of Europe, OSCE, and today we are the elected member of UN’s ECOSOC and Human Rights Council.
Q: In the current international situation several actors tend to claim that multilateralism is in danger. What is your opinion? Do you tend prefer bilateral relations on the detrimental of multilateral relations or do you find these two complimentary in serving the interest of your country?
I think that, on the contrary, current international situation is more multilaterally shaped. The role of institutions is rising, and United Nations, the only universal organization, needs to be even more effective today than a decade a go. In this context, we continue supporting UN reforms which should be aimed at making it more effective and able to exercise strict control over the decisions it has adopted. Expemple of that can be four UN Security Council resolutions (822, 853, 874, 884) adopted in 1993, demanding immediate withdrawal of the neighboring Armenia’s occupational forces from the Azerbaijani territories. UN Security Council Permanent Five is still negligent in forcing Armenia to implement these resolutions,
Political, economic activities of international organizations and their efforts on human rights and good governance spheres make it impossible to solve international issues bilaterally without involvement of these organizations. At the same time, multilateralism can not effectively function without equilibrium of bilateral relations. Therefore I believe that it would be more correct to say that it is a juncture of multilateralism and bilateralism, which definite and will define international relations in a foreseeable future.
Q: Sir, you have been in your position since 2004. What would you consider from a personal point of view the issues that have given you most satisfaction? Satisfaction is not the word I like to play with. I don’t believe that there will be a moment when I feel satisfied as far as foreign policy is concerned, for very simple reason: satisfaction comes with complete elimination of problems, which is most of the time, impossibly hard to achieve. Look at it this way, as soon as you deal with one issue, the globalized world presents you with another one, equally deserving your attention, But there were several successes, and I will state a couple of them. Inauguration of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the transport route for the Caspian oil to the Western markets, was a huge achievement for Azerbaijan and was a culmination point for the decade of efforts we applied. Recently launched Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad is another one to mention. The project, being a big step in modernization of the transportation infrastructure in the framework of the Historic Silk Road uniting participating countries, will create opportunities for the further development of the Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor.
Q: From what I have observed, your diplomats are young, enthusiastic and dynamic. What is the average age and do you have « old ones at all »?
Don’t forget that our diplomacy is also young. We restored our independence in 1991 an there was no school of international relations in Azerbaijan. The only two Foreign Service institutions existed in Soviet Union were in Moscow and Kyiv – I am among those who graduated from Kyiv Institute of International Relations- and very few Azerbaijanis were admitted to these schools. Therefore, we did not have that rich diplomatic cadre and we had to train new diplomats after regaining independence. This is exactly what we are doing through the Diplomatic Academy, which celebrates its first birthday these days. So, average age our diplomats is mid 30s and I am among the old-timers at 46. Yes another thing about our young diplomats is that almost 40 percent of them are ladies.
Q: Finally, where would you like to see your country in 15 years from now?
As a full-fledged European family member, with its citizens content at happy at home, with economic prosperity and political stability, and with full resolution of Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict upon the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.