Ambassador: Latvia exploring possibilities of assisting Azerbaijan in mine clearance

Ambassador: Latvia exploring possibilities of assisting Azerbaijan in mine clearance Relations between Latvia and Azerbaijan are actively developing on the basis of diplomatic contacts and cooperation in various fields, including trade, economy, education, etc.
Foreign policy
April 19, 2024 14:43
Ambassador: Latvia exploring possibilities of assisting Azerbaijan in mine clearance

Relations between Latvia and Azerbaijan are actively developing on the basis of diplomatic contacts and cooperation in various fields, including trade, economy, education, etc. Both countries are members of international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which helps strengthen their interactions.
In addition to trade and the economy in general, Latvia and Azerbaijan also cooperate in the cultural sphere, organizing exhibitions and events that promote mutual understanding and friendly relations between the peoples of both countries.
In an interview with Report, Latvian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Edgars Skuja spoke about the development of economic cooperation, possible support for demining liberated territories, joint projects on renewable energy sources, etc.

- What role does Latvia play in strengthening EU-Azerbaijan cooperation?

- Let me start by saying that we are already 20 years in the European Union and exactly this year we celebrate 20 years since our accession, both in NATO and in EU. And this gives us already a lot of experience within the discussion in the European Union. And I must say that the European Union, as the biggest partner for Azerbaijan, is really committed to continue and to deepen relations with Azerbaijan. And this is also the position of Latvia.

As the member state, we support the projects of the European Union here, like demining, and then financial projects, like the Economical and Investment plan, which is also a big program. And this is where we stand in line with other EU members to support EU relations with Azerbaijan. There are maybe some sensitive elements in this political debate within the EU, because there are different views from different countries, but we have our, I would say, our own historical expertise from the beginning of the nineties.

We still remember the situation in the Baltics at that time, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and also the situation here. And I think this gives a better chance to understand the complexity of relations and the situation in the South Caucasus. So, we share this expertise from the beginning of nineties as a Baltic state with our EU partners.

And what we appreciate, and I think what is really good in this sense is that since September of last year, we see the stability in the South Caucasus region.

And this is our argument also for our colleagues in the European Union, there is stability and we should enlarge and strengthen relations with Azerbaijan. Also, from this perspective, that stability should remain and stay here. But again, as any process, as any dialogue, it is a two-way street and it depends on both sides.

In one-word Latvia supports strengthening and enlarging EU relations with Azerbaijan.

- In what way could the relations between Azerbaijan and Latvia be brought to a new level?

-A new level would mean something really extraordinary and new. We have currently very good positive and friendly relations. And I think that we can only enlarge and deepen our relations in different areas. We have a good level of trade-economic relations. And I think that what we have is very good political dialogue, strategic partnership, political consultations, exchange of experience and expertise on different international issues. But we have to work more for trade, we have to work more for business contacts and exchange of trade, exchange of investments.

This is where we really have to develop. But what concerns intergovernmental and interstate relations, I think there is a very good level.

- Latvia has expressed interest in cooperation with Azerbaijan in the field of Renewables. Are there any concrete projects expected in this field?

-Yeah, we have already some concrete projects in the sphere of green energy and renewables. We have a company, Vizulo, which works in Shamakhi, in Ganja, to provide the lighting of public buildings. So, they are working successfully in that area. We have our technologies, how to sort the garbage automatically -plastic, glass bio garbage. We are also in the process to share that experience with Azerbaijan. So, we have our knowledge, we have our technologies, and we are planning to enlarge contacts between particular companies to exchange this experience. First half of May there will be a business delegation from Riga – biggest producers of milk and meat products and beginning of June Azerbaijan business delegation is planning to visit Riga.

- In 2018, the first EU Trade House of Azerbaijan was opened in Latvia. Could you tell us how it influences the development of economic cooperation and the increase in trade turnover?

-As far as I know, in the trade house in Latvia there are people who have real business background, so they know how to do business. And in this sense, I must say that any institution which works to promote business relations is good. And I would wish that we would have in our embassy here, an investment agency or a trade house or something like that. Unfortunately, we do not have it. But I must say that definitely a trade house in Latvia is a good opportunity for any Azerbaijani entrepreneur, any businessman because it can consult and provide assistance when they show interest in Latvia, be it trade, be it investment, be it another project.

- Could you please provide exact data on trade turnover?

In 2023, according to the data of the Central Statistical Office, the total volume of foreign trade with Azerbaijan was 29.8 MEUR, increasing by 9.5% compared to

In 2023, the export of goods amounted to 23.4 MEUR

In 2023, the import of goods amounted to 6.4 MEUR, increasing by 90.7% compared to 2022.

The biggest part of our export is dairy products, meat products and fish products. The next position is pharmaceutical medicine.

- Latvia is very active in organizing cultural exhibitions in Azerbaijan, so how would you assess the humanitarian cooperation between the countries?

-it is excellent and has been so already for 100 years, when Azerbaijan was a host country for our writers and our painters and artists.

For example, Julijs Straume – master of applied arts – this year we celebrate his 150 years anniversary. During his scientific expeditions in the Caucasus mountain villages he focused on drawing textiles and learning weaving traditions. Today we can present his tangible cultural heritage to people in Azerbaijan and in Latvia.

Latvian writer Ernests Birznieks-Upitis lived in Baku and Lenkoran (1893-1921) working as a teacher and later as a head librarian, also as an official in oil company and his book “Caucasion stories” brings into the Latvian literary scene the theme of friendship between nations;

These are just few examples of the level of cultural heritage and projects.

And I think this is remarkable. We will present some of this heritage during the visit of our speaker of in the second half of May.

- Are Latvian companies interested in reconstruction works in Karabakh? If yes, could you please tell us about the expected joint projects?

- We are interested, but I think that our companies should really pay more attention to this area of cooperation and we should talk more about this in our political dialogue. It has been mentioned also from Azerbaijani side, that we can come with our investment to Karabakh. For example, we have the project of one of Latvian architects “How we see Lachin in 15 years” this is a presentation and his vision of so-called smart village

I already mentioned company “Vizulo”. But as I said there is a potential for cooperation in future.

- It is no secret that most Azerbaijani students choose Latvia to study. What could you say about this? Is any student exchange program expected between our countries?

-Yes, there is. There are already several contracts, which are concluded between particular universities, Latvian State University and ADA university. Our Riseba university, which is also the private high school, has the contract with Mingachevir university. And there are also exchange programs for bachelor's, for masters. Latvian university, Turiba, as well, has a good cooperation and contracts with universities here. Currently, there are 255 Azerbaijanis who study in Latvian high schools. And I think this is creating even greater interest from young people from Azerbaijan.

I expect that next school year we will have more students from Azerbaijan.

-You've mentioned that Latvia supports the demining operations in Karabakh. Are there any expected joint projects with the Azerbaijani government in this sphere?

-Yeah, we are now trying to find out what and how we can do more. Our resources really went to support Ukraine in the demining. But we supported the whole EU program and nationally we are exploring idea to teach instructors. I am optimistic, but let's see how it goes.

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