Vladimir Putin and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attended a plenary session of the 9th Russia-Azerbaijan Interregional Forum.
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President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev: Mr President, friends, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to greet Russian President Vladimir Putin and his delegation in Azerbaijan. We are always happy to see you, welcome!
Participation of the Russian and Azerbaijani presidents in the Interregional Forum demonstrates the significance that we see in this forum. This is the ninth forum and next year we will celebrate its tenth anniversary.
We are delighted that the first Interregional Forum was held in Azerbaijan in 2010 and prompted very intense interregional cooperation.
This hall can take 1,000 people and today it is full, which shows the amount of interest in this event.
President Putin and I meet on a regular basis. Just recently, in early September, I paid an official visit to the Russian Federation and we had very productive talks and an in-depth exchange of views on all subjects on the agenda.
The fact that less than a month later, the Russian President is here in Azerbaijan demonstrates the level of relations between our countries.
Sixteen documents were signed during my visit and they cover many spheres of activity and will determine the progressive course of our relations for many years to come.
I must note that it is the fourth time that President Vladimir Putin has visited Azerbaijan. I also pay regular visits to Russia, which is a proof in itself of our partnership, as well as the friendly, neighbourly relations between our countries.
As concerns the trade and economic links, we see impressive dynamics. This growth is consistent. The Russia-Azerbaijan trade grew last year and continues to grow this year.
Russia is the largest import partner for Azerbaijan and the number-one partner for our non-oil exports. We are also involved in mutual investment projects where we have also seen positive development.
We have very sustainable ties when it comes to energy and the oil-and-gas sector. During my official visit to the Russian Federation, we signed an important document – an oil contract between Rosneft and Sokar. LUKoil has been successfully working in Azerbaijan for over 20 years now and is one of our major investors.
Our energy grids are operating in parallel in the electricity industry. During my September visit, we discussed matters linked with the construction of the second stage of the high voltage line that would allow us to further upgrade our energy exchange, and expand cooperation with third countries in this area.
Our cooperation in transport is very active. The North-South project that we are jointly carrying out is already producing results. This year freight traffic along this corridor increased more than 100-fold as compared with that of last year, and this is only the beginning.
We hope that this corridor will become one of Eurasia’s main transport arteries and will thus further promote the rapprochement of our countries and enhance our transit potential.
I would also like to point out that the Azerbaijani national airline alone has over 50 flights per week to different Russian cities. If we add Russian air carriers, we will see the intensity of contacts between our citizens and the depth of our ties.
There is a huge increase in the number of Russian tourists in Azerbaijan. In less than nine months, about 700,000 Russian citizens visited Azerbaijan. I am certain that this figure will continue growing in the future.
We have very good prospects and cooperation in the banking sector. VTB, a major Russian bank, is operating successfully in Azerbaijan. Incidentally, Azerbaijan is its largest foreign shareholder. Relatively recently Gazprombank financed Azerbaijan’s major industrial project that is worth over $400 million. These projects are important components of our cooperation.
The automotive industry is a relatively new field of cooperation. The Azerbaijan-based plants are assembling the KamAZ and Ural trucks with hundreds of vehicles already off the assembly line. An agreement has also been signed on the production of GAZ vehicles in our country. We are witnessing highly effective dynamics across all areas, and all of this is indicative of both the spirit and the nature of our relations.
Historical and cultural ties, as well as the proximity of our nations, underlie our relations. Of course, we are working together closely on expanding our cultural ties.
Another cultural forum sponsored by the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan will be held in Baku next month. This international forum has already become an important global platform for discussing cultural matters, an intercultural and inter-religious dialogue.
There are 341 schools in Azerbaijan providing education in Russian, and in addition, there are two branches of leading Russian universities, namely, Moscow State University and the Sechenov Medical University. Much is going on in the cultural sphere. I could go on and on about Russia-Azerbaijan relations, but the format of today’s event makes it impossible to cover everything. However, we will do our best to expand our relations.
The opening of the Azerbaijan pavilion at VDNKh next year will be an important step in further promoting our cooperation. Back in the 1950s, this historic building used to be Azerbaijan pavilion. Now, we are renovating it and we will showcase our achievements at what I regard as a very important exhibition venue.
We also have very close relations with Russia's regions. About 20 Russian regions have signed corresponding agreements with Azerbaijan. We are opening trade missions in the regions, as Russian regions are doing in Azerbaijan. I am confident that region-to-region cooperation will naturally complement friendly and neighbourly relations between our countries.
I would like to express my gratitude to President Vladimir Putin for being in Azerbaijan today. We appreciate this and take it as a sign of friendship and respect. Of course, the fact that we are speaking here today emphasises the importance of the work that you are doing. I wish the forum every success for the benefit and prosperity of our countries and peoples.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, friends, ladies and gentlemen.
Like the President of Azerbaijan, I am delighted that today we have an opportunity to say a few words in front of such a representative audience.
The 9th interregional forum shows that in the previous years we did not waste our time and were busy working in all areas, which is bringing results.
Allow me to repeat and remind you about a few things. In any case, in this hall we have representatives of science, the creative community, business, politics – and this help us to generally get good results.
I would like to point out that interregional links are the most important component of relations between our countries. Seventy Russian regions work closely with the regions of Azerbaijan. The leaders here are Moscow, Moscow Region, St Petersburg, as well as Stavropol and Krasnodar territories, and Astrakhan, Nizhny Novgorod, Chelyabinsk, Volgograd, Saratov and Sverdlovsk regions.
Overall, speaking about ties between Russia and Azerbaijan, I would like to stress that the relations between our states are, without question, built on the principles of good neighbourliness and mutual respect. We are always trying to look for a balance of interests and we succeed.
During the recent talks in Sochi, which President Aliyev has just mentioned, we signed a range of documents and agreements that create an additional regulatory basis for further developing our inter-state links. Let me note that there are now around 700 joint companies with Russian participation on the Azerbaijani market and the total amount of Russia’s direct investment in Azerbaijan exceeds $1.5 billion.
The Russia-Azerbaijan Business Council is a great help when it comes to establishing mutually beneficial business contacts. Last year alone, it supported 42 joint projects worth around half a billion US dollars in total.
Russian energy corporations are working successfully in Azerbaijan, as has already been mentioned. In conjunction with the state corporation of Azerbaijan, Rosneft will soon start exploring and developing the Goshadash oil and gas field.
LUKOIL has invested about $4 billion in energy projects in Azerbaijan, which was also mentioned here, and Transneft, our leading oil transport monopoly, ensures reliable export transit of the Azerbaijani oil via the Baku-Novorossiysk oil pipeline.
We see good opportunities for deepening cooperation in the automotive industry, which was also mentioned today. KamAZ has become operational, and now engages in technical assembly and vehicle maintenance. AvtoVAZ has created a wide retail network to sell Lada cars in all regions of Azerbaijan with over 40 branches now open in this country.
In turn, investors from Azerbaijan participate in building agricultural enterprises in Russia, such as a hothouse complex in Nizhny Novgorod region (with an investment of over one billion rubles) and a joint venture to produce food in Krasnodar Territory.
In 2017, the supply of Azerbaijani agricultural produce to Russia increased significantly by almost 12 percent. The total volume hit a whopping half a billion dollars.
Our partners are showing an increased interest in this area of business, which can be seen from more than 30 Azerbaijani companies participating in the international food exhibition in Moscow on September 17−20.
Russia and Azerbaijan are carrying out joint infrastructure projects. In particular, an international North-South transport corridor (Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia) is being created to bring together the European and Asian markets.
The construction companies of our countries are building a new bridge on the Samur River with a throughput capacity of over 37,000 vehicles per day as part of this genuinely large-scale effort and initiative.
The Convention on the Status of the Caspian Sea has opened new opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation between our states. This, of course, is nothing short of a breakthrough.
Of course, much has still to be done to ensure that everything works properly and to achieve full-scale implementation, but the signing of the document has created a good basis for cooperation in the Caspian region.
We hope that Russian and Azerbaijani companies will actively carry out promising projects in the Caspian Sea area, primarily, on transport, freight traffic, oil and gas production, environmental protection and, certainly, the preservation of bioresources and biodiversity of the Caspian Sea.
We are intensively developing bilateral contacts in tourism. A health resort centre has been built in Yessentuki owing to Azerbaijani entrepreneurs, and a hotel complex is under construction in Zheleznovodsk. We are also planning to jointly develop sea cruises in the Caspian Sea.
Of course, Russia and Azerbaijan are paying special attention to the expansion of humanitarian cooperation. The President of Azerbaijan has just mentioned this as well.
There are two branches of our largest universities – Moscow State University and Sechenov Medical University – in Baku. The number of scientific and student exchanges is growing.
Rostov University of Railways and Astrakhan University are elaborating joint programmes with their Azerbaijani partners on the education of top professionals, primarily in economic specialties.
Naturally, we intend to continue promoting bilateral contacts in education, culture and science. I would like to emphasise one point which I talked about with the President in Sochi and we see and appreciate this – the interest in the Russian language.
And I am referring not just to the interest of Azerbaijanis in the Russian language but also to help from the state, municipalities and cities. We see all of this.
The 300-odd schools mentioned by the President certainly form a base. But the main base is in the hearts and minds of people, their obvious striving for cooperation, to maintain and develop contacts.
Friends and colleagues,
I spoke about just some areas of our bilateral cooperation in which Russian and Azerbaijani regions are taking part. Opportunities for cooperation are really very broad.
Importantly, specific areas of our cooperation at the regional level are primarily determined by you, those who have gathered in this hall, and your colleagues at the local level. I certainly want to wish you every success in this work.