BAKU: Vasiliy Istratov: "Russia And Azerbaijan Are Not Rivals" – Int


Azeri Press Agency
Dec 29 2008

Lachin Sultanova -APA. Russian ambassador to Azerbaijan Vasiliy
Istratov interviews with APA.

-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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