Baku, 26 December 2016 – Newtimes.az
Suzanne Mohamed Gamil
Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador
of Arab Republic of Egypt To the Republic of Azerbaijan
The history of relations between Egypt and Azerbaijan dates back to ancient times. These relations have also continued during the period of the former Soviet Union. The richness of Azerbaijan in oil and gas reserves has led to occupy its important place among the former Soviet Union republics. It is known that Egypt has collaborated with the Soviet Union for a long time in military, economic and political spheres.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, favorable conditions sprang up for the independence of states that have been in captivity for 70 years, and Azerbaijan as well. On October 18, 1991 Azerbaijan gained its independence.
During and after the rule of the Azerbaijan’s national leader of Heydar Aliyev, the relations between Egypt and Azerbaijan have developed in the following three main directions:
1. Political relations
2. Economic-trade relations
3. Educational and cultural relations
We will try to provide information in respect of each of such units separately.
I. Political relations between Egypt and Azerbaijan:
Arab Republic of Egypt recognized the independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan on December 26, 1991. Thus, Egypt was one of the first states to recognize the independence of Azerbaijan.
Egypt realized the importance of the new independent states for it from the very beginning. In this regard, on April 4, 1992, the Protocol about the establishment of diplomatic relations between Egypt and Azerbaijan was signed. Since April, 1993 the embassy of Egypt in Baku, in January 1994, the embassy of Azerbaijan in Cairo began to operate.
The late President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, national leader Heydar Aliyev’s official visit to Cairo to participate in the UN International Conference on Population and Development is considered the actual beginning of diplomatic relations between Egypt and Azerbaijan and high-level visits. During the visit, the President of Azerbaijan met with the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The intensive negotiations during the meeting played a major role in the development of relations and to strengthen collaboration in various fields between two countries.
The political relations between Egypt and Azerbaijan have witnessed great development between the years of 1994-2002. During this period, a number of mutual visits at the level of government officials of the two countries have been carried out; during these visits a number of important agreements contributing to the development of bilateral relations in all areas were signed.
It should be noted that the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev’s official visit to the Arab Republic of Egypt on May 6-8, 2007 shows that Azerbaijan attaches great importance to the relations with Egypt. During this visit the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev met with the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Sheikh of al-Azhar, the President of the Egyptian People’s Assembly, the ministers of oil and international cooperation. This visit came to a result in signing of 12 agreements in different areas between two countries.
President Ilham Aliyev’s this official visit has left its great mark in expansion and strengthening relations between two countries.
On the other hand, the Egyptian side has carried out a number of visits in order to strengthen bilateral relations between the countries. Their most important is Egypt‘s former first lady’s visit to Azerbaijan in September, 2008 and her chairmanship of the Youth Employment Summit with the Republic of Azerbaijan’s first lady Mehriban Aliyeva. In addition, the former minister of foreign affairs of Egypt Mr. Ahmad Abu al-Gaytin visited Baku on May 24-25, 2010. During the visit, 3 agreements were signed on visa exemption for holders of diplomatic and special passports, especially, in the field of the youth and cooperation between Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy and Egypt Diplomatic Institute.
As part of the strong relations between Azerbaijan and Egypt , Egypt- Azerbaijan Friendship Park was built in the province of Galyubiyya for the first time in history of this country, a monument to national leader of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev was erected and a school named after the First Lady of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva was built in that province. In return, Azerbaijan-Egypt Friendship Park was built and a statute of a writer at the time of Pharaoh was erected, the Egyptian school was opened here.
Both countries have supported each other in international organizations. As a response to the support of the Arab Republic of Egypt for election of Azerbaijan’s non-permanent membership of the Security Council, the Republic of Azerbaijan also supported the election of Egypt’s non-permanent membership of this Council.
Egypt and Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict:
Speaking of the political relations between Egypt and Azerbaijan, an important aspect also should be noted that since Azerbaijan gained its independence Egypt proclaims its help and support in the international arena for the rightful stance of Azerbaijan in regard to Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the only problem of Azerbaijan. So that, as the consequence of Armenia’s occupation of 20% of Azerbaijani territories, more than one million people was displaced from their native lands. UN Security Council adopted resolutions numbered 822, 853, 874, and 884 in 1993, concerning Nagorno Karabakh conflict. These resolutions demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the occupied Azerbaijani territories. Supporting the fair stance of Azerbaijan, OIC also has adopted several resolutions criticizing the fact of occupation of Azerbaijan territories by Armenia. The resolutions adopted by OIC demand the immediate pull back of Armenians from the occupied lands as well.
Since Azerbaijan gained its independence Egypt expresses its political support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Among the peaceful efforts of international community to solve this conflict the contribution of Egypt is clearly seen. Adopting the four resolutions denouncing Armenia’s aggressive and expansionist politics, issued by UN Security Council, Egypt plays a role in the peace appeals by the international community on the settlement of this conflict, as well as making efforts to put forward a common position regarding the conflict by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Technical Cooperation Fund of Egypt on CIS and newly independent states:
The fund working under the Foreign Ministry of Egypt maintains technical support to the former Soviet republics. The Technical Cooperation Fund on CIS and newly independent states assist its full support for Azerbaijan Republic in some areas. The Fund has organized courses more than 1030 in the fields of media, Arabic culture, diplomacy, peacekeeping forces, tourism, agriculture, healthcare and medicine, law, banking, privatization, archeology, and security for about 20,000 persons since starting to operate in 1993. It should be noted that the Fund was established directly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and declarations of independence of the countries within this empire. This shows the importance of these countries as well as Azerbaijan for Egypt.
The Fund has organized more than 200 training courses for about 1200 people working in different areas. The Fund also has undertaken all the travel expenses of more than 80 persons responsible representing various important sectors during the mutual visits.
The Fund also makes financial and other kinds of aid to Azerbaijan side, such as undertaking education expenses of some Azerbaijani students studying in Egypt.
The support that the Fund makes for Azerbaijan aims to strengthen the relations between two countries and accelerate the exchange of experiences in different fields.
II. Trade and economic relations between Egypt and Azerbaijan:
The start of diplomatic relations between Egypt and Azerbaijan coincides with the signing of "The treaty on economic and scientific-technical cooperation between the government of Arab Republic of Egypt and the government of Azerbaijan Republic” between the parties in Cairo on April 7, 1994.
In order to ensure the implementation of the Agreement, a joint intergovernmental commission was established on economic, technical and scientific cooperation between the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
On October 23-25, 2002 to hold the first meeting of the Joint Commission, co-chair of the Commission by the Egyptian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Faiza Abu al-Nadja visited Baku. During the visit Faiza Abu al-Nadja met with the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, Prime Minister Artur Rasizada, Speaker of the Parliament Murtuz Alasgarov, Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov.
As a result of the work of the Commission a number of documents: Protocol of the Joint Commission, Agreement on mutual protection and promotion of investments between the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and an agreement between the Chambers of Commerce and Industry were signed.
On 25 December 2005, the second meeting of the Joint Commission was held. During the meeting, four agreements were signed on the exchange of trade between the two countries. Azerbaijan Republic participated in a series of economic forums held in Egypt, as well as in the 39th Cairo International Fair.
However, economic relations between Egypt and Azerbaijan have not been risen up to the levels desired and reflecting the economic potential of the two countries. Thus, despite of the trade and economic agreements signed between two countries, the volume of bilateral trade reached $ 163.68 million in 2011. The basis of Egypt’s exports to Azerbaijan contains medicines, clothes, rice, frozen vegetables, foodstuffs, such as sugar, ceramics, marble, and veterinary medicines. As for the Azerbaijan’s exports to Egypt, predominantly, oil and chemical products, geophysics equipment, spare parts and pipes for the pumps can be shown as example.
Currently, as a first step to increase the volume of trade exchange between two countries, talks are underway to open a direct flight to Sharm el-Sheikh. As a conclusion, Egyptian side by researching the Azerbaijani market may increase its exports, as well as take advantage of Azerbaijani oil products and crude oil.
III. Educational and cultural relations between Egypt and Azerbaijan:
Over the past twenty years, cultural relations with Egypt has played an important role in strengthening the cultural relations between the two countries and mutual understanding between the two peoples.
The role of culture cannot be ignored in diplomatic relations between the two countries. Common religion has played a major role in bringing together the peoples of Azerbaijan and Egypt.
It should be admitted that continuous development has been witnessed since the founding of cultural relations between Egypt and Azerbaijan. But these relations have increased further since 2005. Thus, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Minister of Culture, who visited Egypt and the parties signed a Protocol of Intent between Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan Republic and Ministry of Culture of the Arab Republic of Egypt on holding "Azerbaijan Culture Days” on November 2005 in Egypt and in April 2006, the "Egypt Culture Days” in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan also took part in the 17th International Theater Festival held in Cairo in September 2005. Egypt held "the Egyptian Culture Days” in Azerbaijan too, in June 2014.
In addition, the Memorandum of Understanding (2007) signed between Azerbaijan Television and the Egyptian Radio and Television Union, the protocol (2007) signed between the Institute of Manuscripts under the Scientific Research Academy and Egyptian Manuscripts and Library, Memorandum of Understanding (2007) on cooperation between the National Library of Azerbaijan and the Library of Alexandria, a cooperation agreement signed between AzerTAC and the Middle East news agency and others can be indicated as the signs of noticeable cultural relations between Egypt and Azerbaijan.
It should be noted that, Azerbaijan participated for the first time in the Cairo International Fair, in 2015, and Egypt also took part for the first time in the International Book Fair in Baku in the same year.
Egyptian Culture Centre in Baku:
For Egypt’s intentions to spread its culture in Azerbaijan and to show the importance of this country, Egyptian Cultural Centre was opened in Baku. This center is the first and only Arab cultural center in Azerbaijan. Since the Centre began to function (1999), it is playing a major role in the promotion of Arab culture in this country, as well as serving as a bridge for cultural and scientific cooperation between Egypt and Azerbaijan.
The Centre regularly organizes seminars, cultural evenings, and scientific conferences, demonstrates various Egyptian films and contributes to transmission of Egyptian art and culture to Azerbaijanis.
Also, considering the fact that there is a great interest for the Arabic language in Azerbaijan, the centre offers the Arabic language courses. In Azerbaijan, at most of the big universities, there are Arabic language departments, their students see the Egyptian Cultural Centre as a beacon for practical learning of this language and improving their language with Arabs.
In this issue, for teaching and the spread of the Arabic language, it is impossible not to mention the role of al-Azhar University represented in Egypt Partnership Agency and Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So that, this Agency sends two Arabic language specialists for teaching the Arabic language at the Azerbaijan universities for free of charge each year and the Egyptian side undertakes all envisaged expenses.
It should be noted that the Egyptian Cultural Centre has a rich library covering the scientific, cultural and linguistic themes. This library is truly considered a valuable treasure for the learners of the Arabic language.
Egyptian Cultural Centre favors the Egyptian Masters and doctorate students studying in different Azerbaijan universities. So, more than 30 Egyptian students gained their PhD degrees from Azerbaijan universities. It was realized according to the cooperation programme signed between Azerbaijan Education Ministry and Egypt Education Ministry during the visit of Azerbaijan Education Minister Misir Mardanov to Egypt on 18- 23 April, 2005. Under this program, both sides provide an opportunity to twenty students to study free of charge each year. Indeed, twenty students were sent from various universities of Egypt for studying masters and doctoral degrees. On the other hand, Azerbaijani students have been sent to study at undergraduate and graduate levels in Egyptian universities.
In March 2016, a scientific exchange and cooperation agreement was signed between Khazar University and Egypt University of Science and Technology.
Azerbaijani language in Egypt:
For the first time, the Azerbaijani language was taught at the University of Ain-Shams. So, in 2000, there was the first graduation of students studying the Azerbaijani language at the Faculty of Literature of Ain-Shams University. At the third and fourth courses of the faculty, the Azerbaijani language has been taught so far. The number of students learning this language has reached 130.
Egyptian students are showing great interest in learning the Azerbaijani language, as an integral part of Turkish. Azerbaijani language is also one of the languages of the Turkish group. At the same time, the Azerbaijani language is taught to girls studying in the department of Turkish language of the faculty of humanities at Al-Azhar University. About 550 students are learning the Azerbaijani language at this faculty. There is not this number of foreign students learning the Azerbaijani language in no other country of the world. It is also a clear indication of the interest in the Azerbaijani language in Egypt.
There is no doubt that the learning of Azerbaijani language is an important step in strengthening relations between Egypt and Azerbaijan. At the same time, there has been a huge boom in the field of translation from Arabic into Azerbaijani and vice versa in recent years. However, this process has not reached the desired level yet.
In the end, we congratulate the Egyptian and Azerbaijani nations, which have connected to each other with strong historical ties throughout many centuries, for the twenty years’ anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations.