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Monday, 30 December 2013 13:06

“Azerbaijan is a strategic partner of Belarus in South Caucasus” - Nikolay Pashkevich, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Azerbaijan Featured

“Azerbaijan is a strategic partner of Belarus in South Caucasus” - Nikolay Pashkevich, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Azerbaijan

Caspian Energy Investor (CEI): Your Excellency, how do you assess current level of relations between our countries?

 

Nikolay Pashkevich, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Azerbaijan: Azerbaijan is a strategic partner of Belarus in South Caucasus. Common history, friendly relations and mutual economic interest make a bond between us.

In coming year our countries will celebrate the 20th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations.

Our cooperation turned into a mutually beneficial dynamically developing strategic partnership over this period. Established were trust-based relations between the heads of our states as well as stable relations on the level of governments, parliaments and departments. Solid contractual legal framework of bilateral relations was developed.

It may be said with confidence that bilateral cooperation benefits both the Belarusian and Azeri people.

 

 

CEI: Which spheres are attractive in the issue of cooperation between our countries?

Nikolay Pashkevich: President of the Republic of Belarus A.G.Lukashenko noted repeatedly during the meetings with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev that there were no closed subjects between Belarus and Azerbaijan.

The same formula is applicable in issues concerning the development of cooperation: we are ready to cooperate in all directions.

I would like to note that the range of Belarusian-Azerbaijani relations is broad enough today. It is exemplified in intensive visits of Belarusian representatives to Azerbaijan. I will tell you frankly that there is no week that passes without the visits of delegations from Belarus: representatives of government agencies, businessmen, science workers, doctors, teachers, actors, sportsmen and many other people. It shows that we have a mutual interest toward each other, tight contact which promote expansion of already established relations.

Considering global trends we actively seek for new spheres and forms of cooperation that represent a mutual interest for our states.

Cooperation in the field of innovations is one of the priority directions. It is noteworthy that both Belarus and Azerbaijan realize that there is no option but innovative way of development, its paramount role for modernization of economy and competitiveness at global markets. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev called the idea similar to Belarusian approaches: “The road which leads a state to prosperity and progress goes through development based on science and innovations.

We also find implementation of joint projects concerning IT technologies, pharmaceuticals and bio-technologies, agriculture, power saving, production of food products, logistics, transit, investments and chemical production to be perspective. All of these spheres have big economic potential.

I think that big attention should be paid to cooperation between youth organizations of our countries. I am absolutely confident that arrangement of mutual exchanges between schools and universities, trips of students to summer camps will only benefit and expand international communication of our youth. Besides, there is a necessary legal base for it: Belarus and Azerbaijan signed an Intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field of youth policy.

I wish tourist cooperation would develop broadly between our countries. We have little information about our opportunities. Though, serious changes took place both in Belarus and Azerbaijan over the past years. Comfortable resort houses, hotels, sanatoriums and sports bases were built. We have a lot to offer to each other.

In conclusion, I once again would like to note that Belarus is ready for cooperation with its Azerbaijani friends in all spheres as well as for implementation of new ambitious projects.

 

CEI: Does Belarus plan to expand investment cooperation with Caspian countries especially with Azerbaijan?

Nikolay Pashkevich: Belarus has an open economy and maintains external trade contracts with over 180 countries of the world. The geography of investment cooperation of our country is broad enough. Investments flow into Belarus from over 50 countries of the world. The main countries investors are CIS states (Russia, Ukraine), EU (Switzerland, Austria, Great Britain, Germany), Asia (China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, UAE), as well as the USA, Canada, Australia and SAR.

A favorable investment climate was developed for attraction of investments into Belarus. All foreign investors were guaranteed equal protection of rights and legal interests. Investments made by an investor can not be nationalized or confiscated since the state provides an investor with a right to manage the results of investment activity independently. Companies with foreign capital get a number of privileges and preferences.

In Doing Business 2011 report Belarus gained a position among top three leader-countries which have actively implemented reforms concerning the regulation of entrepreneurial activity for the past 5 years.

The work on improvement of investment climate yielded tangible results. Belarus attracted about $19 bln investments in 2011. It is twice bigger than the volume of 2010. A number of large scale projects such as creation of the National science-technology park in the field of pharmaceuticals, nano and bio-technologies (BelBiograd), creation of Belarusian-Chinese industrial park, construction of a range of new enterprises engaged in machine-building, energy, ICT, woodworking and other spheres are underway now.

The Caspian region is also of big interest to our country. We feel very pleased to note about growing volumes of investment projects both in Azerbaijan and Belarus.

Signing of the agreement about encouragement and mutual protection of investments during President of Belarus A.G.Lukashenko’s visit to Azerbaijan in 2010 gave a big impulse to bilateral investment cooperation.

Belarusian projects concerning different spheres of industry are implemented in Azerbaijan by joint enterprises.

Azerbaijani business eyes up the Belarusian market pretty carefully and implements projects concerning infrastructure, logistics, business centers, residential estates and public catering.

We do hope that the range of investment cooperation with Azerbaijan will keep growing since it is always nice to gain mutual benefits while cooperating with friends. As to us, we have what to offer to our Azerbaijani partners.

 

 

CEI: What could you tell about the development of business of Belarusian companies in Azerbaijan?

Nikolay Pashkevich: Nowadays, over 300 Belarusian enterprises engaged in all branches of industry present their products in Azerbaijan. Over 40 Azerbaijani companies are permanent dealers of Belarusian enterprises.

Qualitative natural Belarusian dairy products including Savushkin product, condensed milk, meat products, tinned stew, confectionary products of Spartak and Kommunarka and tinned fish Santa-Bremor are in big demand among Azerbaijani consumers. Atlant refrigerators and clothes washers, Gefest stoves, Belita Viteks cosmetics, Belkosmeks, light industry products from Serge, Milavitsa, Konte,  cut-glass ware Neman, Belarusian medications and other products are popular enough here.

Noteworthy is the active development of supply of industry products including busses, municipal and road-construction equipment from Amkodor, ceramic tiles, Belshina tires, construction materials, woodworking products, etc.

 

 

CEI: What role does a supply of Azerbaijani oil to Belarus play and what are the prospects of development of this direction?

Nikolay Pashkevich: The Republic of Belarus does not have sufficient amount of own oil reserves. We import over 90% of oil which is refined at Belarusian plants.  

On the one hand, every country-importer attaches importance to seeking for more favorable and balanced terms of oil supplies in order to gain a maximal economic effect. On the other hand, an issue of diversification plays a certain role for energy–dependent states. Our country understands it perfectly well. President of Belarus A.G.Lukashenko assigned a corresponding task.

We also seek and work on new options of oil supply together with our strategic partner Azerbaijan. It is noteworthy that certain results have already been reached. The first shipment of Azerbaijani oil (1 mln tons) was made to Belarus in 2011 on basis of the swap-contracts between Belarus, Azerbaijan and Venezuela.

Meanwhile, the global oil price trends, optimality of the route for delivery of energy resources (there is an over 3,000km distance between Belarus and Azerbaijan) and finally the economic efficiency of contracts are the main factor of stability of supplies. Besides, the economic interests of all the three states (Belarus, Azerbaijan and Venezuela) should be taken into account. No oil has been supplied this year yet. However, here it is noteworthy that the fact of the beginning of supply of Azerbaijani oil to Belarus became a significant event in bilateral Belarusian-Azerbaijani relations.

 

 

 

CEI: Which projects may be of interest to Azerbaijani businessmen in Belarus and what kind of information and other assistance may the embassy lend in this issue?  

Nikolay Pashkevich: Today Belarus offers its Azerbaijani partners such advantages as beneficial geographic location in the center of Europe, favorable climate conditions, political and social stability, qualified and comparatively cheap labor resources, high science-technical and industrial potential, large domestic market (including entrance of Belarus into the Customs Union),  legal and organization support of the investment process.

Azerbaijani business already operates in Belarus. The volume of the non oil export from Azerbaijan to Belarus grew more than 1.5 times within 5 months of the same year. The size of Azerbaijani investments made into the Belarusian economy totaled over $10 mln in 2011. We expect another growth by 25-30% in 2012.

Investments now flow mainly in logistics, transport, trade, catering and tourism. However, Azerbaijani investors already eye up such projects as development of mineral deposits, construction, banking and insurance services, food industry, machine building, ICT.

The scope of possible perspective projects is broad enough but it remains unchanged. Belarus is open for cooperation with its Azerbaijani friends in all spheres that are of mutual interest as well as ready for implementation of new projects within the framework of mutually beneficial cooperation.

The embassy regularly places relevant information for potential investors on its website azerbaijan.mfa.gov.by. Here one can get familiarized with a list of facilities of privatization and investment projects, information about investment climate in Belarus, privileges and preferences provided to foreign investors as well as auctions for sale of shares of enterprises that belong to the state.

Broad information which starts from the list of free immovable property items right up to a sample of an investment contract is given in the Investment atlas of Minsk city. Here Azerbaijani businessmen may get information about Belarusian legislation including taxation, currency regulation, about creation, registration, activity and elimination of legal entities.

 

 

CEI: To what extent is Belarus popular for tourists from Azerbaijan and vice-versa?

Nikolay Pashkevich: The beauty of Belarusian nature along with its numerous lakes, rivers and forests is always attractive for traveling and tourism. Such popular tourist facilities as national parks Belovejskaya pusha, Braslav lakes, Narochan, Mir and Nesvij castles, Khatyn memorial complex and other sights are well known in many parts of the world.   

Health-related tourism is a very attractive direction. Skilled specialists, perfect balanced feeding and a complex of procedures provided in Belarusian health centers help to strengthen health, get rid of illness, cheer up and get an energy boost.

Ecological tourism is interesting for people who like hiking, water hikes and recovery in the natural environment. Agroecotourism is developing broadly now. It enables to get rest in estates, in certain houses that have a fireplace, billiards and a bath-house. Lots of activities such as fishing, forest hiking, ride on a horse or grass cutting are offered. Full load of direct air flights made from Baku to Minsk by the Belarusian air company Belavia three times a week confirms the growth of interest. We are pleased with this trend which pushes toward the consideration of opening of the 4th additional direct flight. 

Belarusian citizens show a peculiar interest to a well known Azerbaijani resort center in Naftalan. Many of our countrymen get treatment there. Noteworthy is also the beauty of Baku city. All those who came to the Eurovision song contest were lucky to enjoy its beauty. Conduction of the song contest on a high level, arrival of many tourists presented a new Baku to the entire world. I assume that Belorussian citizens who saw Baku on TV now wish to visit both the city and Azerbaijan in general. I would like to note once again that the availability of the direct flight as well as a visa free regime between our countries is the main support in this issue. We may and should use it in efficient manner.

 

 

CEI: How does the Embassy plan to develop culture and language of Belarus in Azerbaijan?

Nikolay Pashkevich: We have already made an important step in this direction. A center of Belarusian language and culture opened by President of Belarus A.G. Lukashenko within the framework of his official visit to Azerbaijan in June 2010 was created under the Baku Slavic University. One may get familiarized here with Belarusian national clothes, books about history, nature, architectural monuments and compositions of the Belarusian literature.

A group of students of the University has been learning Belarusian language since 2011 and making big success. We have recently held a presentation of miniature books which contained works of classics of the Belarusian literature (Yanka Kupala, Jacob Kolos and Maxim Bogdanovich) in the Baku museum of miniature book. Here the students of the center read favorite poems of millions of Belarusian people in the original language. One of the poems of the Belarusian poet M.Bogdanovich was translated into an Azerbaijani language. I hope that this experience will develop and Azerbaijani readers will be able to get familiarized not only with poets but also with novels and plays of Belarusian authors.

The Embassy participates in different festivals such as Global Village culture fair and annual festival held in Baku under the aegis of the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. We present Belarusian souvenirs, our national music and cuisine within the framework of the given projects.

We rest big hope on conduction of Culture Days of Belarus in Azerbaijan fixed for 2013. We assume that the Azerbaijani audience will be presented various types of scenic art and the best Belarusian films.

 

 

CEI: What could you tell about minuses and pluses of the diplomatic work?

Nikolay Pashkevich: You know it is no coincidence that diplomatic work is called a diplomatic service. This term reflects the essence of this profession very precisely. According to the specific character of this work, you fulfill your duties 24 hours per day, i.e. you always stay on duty. Considering it negative or positive depends on a character and rules that a person follows. 

An exclusively high responsibility imposed on a diplomat is another important feature of the diplomatic service which may be presumed as a heavy load. It is strongly felt when fulfilling a diplomatic mission abroad. Being an official representative of his state, a diplomat has no right for making mistakes or even a delay. Fates of simple citizens and development of interstate relations fully depend on timely and competent actions of a diplomat.

An opportunity not only to see a world through own eyes but also feel other peoples, live their life is an absolute advantage of the diplomatic service. Communication with interesting people is also a big plus in the work of a diplomat. My personal example is not an exception. My personal imagination about Azerbaijan was enriched considerably over 6 years of working in your country.

 

CEI: What is your impression of Baku and the country in general?

Nikolay Pashkevich: I guess I will not be wrong if I say that a harmonic combination of wise East and pragmatic West amazes all foreigners. Neighborhood of fashionable hi-tech and delicate stone ornamentation, tea houses where tea is served in pear-glasses and boutiques of global brands seems quite natural and creates a unique aura of the capital of Azerbaijan. Each guest finds in Baku both exotics that take us to alien lands and something native that makes a person feel like home. I guess it is what the phenomenon of Baku is.

However, no architectural uniqueness would draw people in Baku if it were not the intelligence, hospitality and heartfulness of Baku people, their love to their city. In general, I guess people living in Azerbaijan make the deepest impression on me. I have never run into wicked eyes over the years of working here. I have been working here for 6 years. I saw upset, anxious and angry people but I have never seen acid people here.  

I also would like to note a rapid growth of the Azerbaijani economy over the past decade as well as a construction boom that makes a deep impression. I heard several times the way Baku was compared with a certain well known city in the Near East. I guess there is a ground for making such comparison. Baku will indeed turn into a new standard of mega-city and a guideline for many cities of the world less than in 10 years. 

 

CEI: Which similar and distinctive features do you come across while comparing Azerbaijan with your country?

Nikolay Pashkevich: We were a part of a single state for a long period. Both the Belorussians and Azerbaijanis overcame common joy and grief that certainly bring people together.  Foreign interventions, political repressions, industrialization and collectivization, Great Patriotic war all of this is a part of history of Belarus and Azerbaijan.

It is not only a common history that makes a bond between us. Hospitality, kindness and tolerance are the national features that distinguish the Belorussians and Azerbaijanis. We have common approaches on key contemporary problems and similarity of social policy implemented by the governments of Belarus and Azerbaijan.

The same amount of residents currently resides in Azerbaijan and Belarus. Unfortunately, unlike in Azerbaijan the dynamics of the population amount has a tendency toward reduction in Belarus. The “war echo” is also noteworthy here: grandchildren of a small-numbered generation which was born during the war reached the active child-bearing age. High rate of the urban population in Belarus also makes its contribution since families follow the European reproduction system and make one or two children.

Dominating religions, climate conditions and economic structures also distinguish our countries. But all of these differences do not hold our peoples away from one another but quite the reverse. These differences arouse interest toward each other and create a good platform for Belarusian-Azerbaijani partnership.

 

 

CEI: Which regions of Azerbaijan have you already visited? Which of them did you like most?

Nikolay Pashkevich: You know I find each region to be attractive and I guess there is no place that I would not enjoy because we were met in a warm and hospitable manner in any part of Azerbaijan. It is a great pleasure to hear positive opinions about the Republic of Belarus and its residents during my visits to regions. It is certainly a result of establishment of brotherhood relations between district administrations and cities of our countries.

As far as the range of visits within Azerbaijan is concerned, I would say that it is broad enough. I regularly attend a unique pomegranate holiday in Goychay. Gusar and Guba keep attracting me with unforgettable beauty of mountains. Craftsmanship of craftsmen living in Lagic made a big impression on me as well as secrets of longevity of your compatriots in Lerik district.

I showed big interest to modern technologies of fruit processing in Samuh district. Architectural monuments of Sheki especially the Sheki Khans’ Palace amazed me too. I was also impressed after visiting unique saline clinics and tasting fruit in Nakhchivan AR.

We have established tight relations in Ismayilly district twinned with the Nesvij district of Minsk region. I visited a well known Ivanovka village several times where I enjoyed communication with the molokans. I managed to meet the Udins who reside in Nij village.

It was interesting to visit Mingechevir which is not only the biggest energy hub of the country but also one of the leading centers for training of world level sportsmen and conduction of international contests on water sports.

On behalf of the Head of the Belarusian state I awarded medals on “65th anniversary of liberation of Belarus” in many local districts that I visited. For this purpose I visited Khachmaz in order to give a service medal to ethnic Belarusian Efrosinya Lipovka who met her future husband at the front and moved to his hometown Khachmaz after the war. I also managed to visit Lenkoran which is the hometown of Azi Aslanov who was found to be the hero of the Soviet Union twice and gained one of the Hero stars for the liberation of Belarus during the Great Patriotic War.

I often visit Ganja where Ganja automobile plant successfully implements a project on assembling of Belarus tractors and MAZ cargo vehicles. New perspective projects are planned to be implemented.

 

 

CEI: Could you please tell about your family? Do you have children and how often do you spend time with them?

Nikolay Pashkevich: I stay in Baku with my wife whom I have been together with for over 40 years. Our children (a daughter and a son) live in Minsk. We have 6 grandchildren and find them to be our greatest joy and wealth. To my regret, I manage to embrace them only when I come to Belarus for vacation and during rare business trips to Minsk. Sometimes one of our children and grandchildren visit us in Baku. But we regularly stay in touch, hear and see each other owing to advanced technologies.

 

CEI: How do you prefer to spend your free time?

Nikolay Pashkevich: I like getting rest outdoor when I am in Belarus. I have been fond of fishing and river trips since I was young. I really enjoy driving a car. Therefore, we set out for long trips by car of course if we have time.  There are many beautiful and interesting places in the world that are worth visiting.

Unfortunately, here in Baku we have very little time. Once I have free time and I try to spend it outdoor in order to get some rest and get rid of tense urban rhythm.

 

Thank you for the interview.

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