Author: Namig HASANOV
The recent visit of a Russian delegation of deputies and experts to Baku has become a significant event for both Azerbaijan and the neighbouring countries. Russian politicians took part in the commemoration of the 27th anniversary of the Khojaly tragedy and were informed about the bloody events of February 1992 and the importance of preventing such events in the future. In fact, the assessment of the event by the general public and political elites of neighbouring countries was considerably different. Armenia, for example, views the visit of Russian officials to Baku as a "treachery" by the Kremlin of the interests of its "long-suffering" ally, Armenia, while for Russia, this is a new milestone in the strategic partnership with Azerbaijan. Indeed, it was the first time when the visit of the Russians to Baku was widely covered by the Russian media, which presented Azerbaijan as a reliable ally and age-old partner, who knows the value of friendship in turbulent times.
In his interview with Region Plus one of the members of the Russian delegation, a deputy of the State Duma and the Chairman of the Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group Russia-Azerbaijan, Dmitry SAVELIEV, discusses this and other aspects of cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan.
"Dmitry Ivanovich, you often visit Azerbaijan. How would you rate the ongoing development in the country?"
"Over these years, Azerbaijan has become a strong state, which is open to the world and plays an instrumental role in the region. The achievements of modern Azerbaijan are particularly noteworthy considering the extremely difficult conditions in which your state gained independence.
The existing complex political and economic situation in the world underlines the weight and stability of Azerbaijan's accomplishments. The results of the recent presidential elections demonstrated very clearly that Azerbaijanis fully support the course set by President Ilham Aliyev, an important part of which, by the way, is based on a strategic partnership with Russia."
"What are the main directions of modern Russian-Azerbaijani cooperation?"
"Stability, predictability, continuity, and optimal balance of interests are the main factors shaping the relations between Russia and Azerbaijan. The essence of strategic partnership between our countries is not only geographical proximity and common history, but also strong cultural ties. Our cooperation is based upon good-neighbourly relations and dialogue, which is largely due to the constructive foreign policy of our countries. I always note that the personal friendship of our presidents Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev can be an example for leaders of other post-Soviet states. Our presidents met six times in the last year alone. At the end of each meeting both sides signed very productive agreements. As a result, today Russia and Azerbaijan have a program of cooperation intended to last until 2024. Thanks to the course set by our leaders, we can increase trade and investment volumes every year and deepen cooperation in all areas of common interests from culture to science. Our countries have identified joint priorities for economic cooperation, including five road maps, which specify the details of cooperation in trade and transport, digitalization of the fiscal sector and the creation of joint ventures, as well as cooperation in the humanitarian sphere. Our joint prospects expand the scale pf ongoing projects in the Caspian. Yet another important milestone of progressive rapprochement of our countries was a decision to establish the High Commission between Russia and Azerbaijan. We are currently discussing the date of signing of this decision."
"What is your assessment of the results of the Russian-Azerbaijani conference recently held in Baku?"
"The conference has been held for some time now becoming a fairly effective platform for exchanging opinions among the experts, politicians, and public representatives. We have been discussing a variety of issues concerning the rapprochement of our two states and ideas that will be realised in the future. I think it is necessary to have even more such discussion platforms."
"You took part in a memorial procession on the occasion of the anniversary of the tragic events in Khojaly. How well are Russians aware of the tragedy?"
"Khojaly is a horrible tragedy. The world is gradually recognising it as a genocide against the people of Azerbaijan. I have noticed that some states in the U.S. have already recognized this fact. In Russia, this process is just beginning. I, speaking regularly, talk about it. Recently, a round table was held in the State Duma devoted to cultural bridges between our two states, and I was just stopping on this topic: I said that this terrible massacre must be recognized as the genocide of the Azerbaijani people. I think that it is necessary to work more actively in the Russian information field, to bring information to the Russians, what happened then. Many people still do not know the truth, in Russia not everyone is aware of what was happening in general in Karabakh. We heard, of course, but many, I repeat, do not know the details."
"How does Moscow view the ways to address the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and what is the role of parliamentarians in this process?"
"As deputies, I think my colleagues and I should make every effort for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. I always say that Azerbaijan will never give up the idea that has become its main national idea. There are various formulas or solutions to the conflict. The main thing is the return of territories around Nagorno-Karabakh based on the so-called '5+2 formula', the return of Azerbaijani refugees, and the holding of a referendum on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. It is obvious that the solution of the conflict is beneficial for the Armenian population too. It is enough to mention the existing stagnation in Armenian economy, social programs, and in all other areas. Due to unfriendly and hostile actions in the early 1990s, Armenia actually plunged itself into a critical situation when it became isolated from its neighbours. If Armenia voluntarily leaves the occupied territories, Azerbaijan is ready to go forward. This may include the construction of a pipeline to provide dividends to Armenia from the transit of hydrocarbons, various social programs related to education and other spheres of social life, and so on. But now we can see two different countries when Azerbaijan is flourishing, while Armenia is in stagnation."
"What would you tell the Russians who are going to make their first visit to Azerbaijan?"
"I remember how I felt when I first came here six years ago. I saw how warmly and reverently your people treats the veterans of the Great Patriotic War. President Aliyev personally approached the veterans, hugged and talked to them, thereby paying tribute to their heroism. I would like to see more Russian tourists here every year so that they can see how beautiful and safe it is in Azerbaijan. We are aware of the propaganda that your opponents are spreading in Russia to form a negative impression about Azerbaijanis. But a personal visit can change the vision completely. Russians cannot help but fall in love with your country. This is very important!"