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Romania is a strong supporter of further development and deepening of Azerbaijan's cooperation with EU and NATO

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Baku, 15 May 2017 – Newtimes.az

Daniel Cristian Ciobanu

Ambassador of Romania to the Republic of Azerbaijan

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the restoration of state independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan, I would like to sincerely congratulate and to address greetings of prosperity to all the people of Azerbaijan. This is a significant historical event. It’s important to underline that Romania has been the second state in the world to recognize the independence of Azerbaijan (on December 11, 1991). Following that moment, diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Romania were established on June 19, 1992.

After the restoration of state independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan, presidents of Romania made eight visits to Baku (four of them having the status of official visits and four having the status of working visits). The first official visit to Romania of an Azerbaijani President was paid by H.E. Mr. Heydar Aliyev in July 1995. After becoming President of the Republic of Azerbaijan H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev paid an official visit to Romania on October 11-12, 2004, during which a bust of National Leader Heydar Aliyev was inaugurated in one of the most beautiful parks in Bucharest. Since then H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev visited Romania four more times. On September 24, 2007 H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev took part in Bucharest at the opening of Heydar Aliyev Foundation. On September 28, 2009 President of Romania and President of the Republic of Azerbaijan signed in Bucharest a Declaration on establishing a Strategic Partnership between our countries, with a focus on energy.

I have the great honor and privilege to serve as Ambassador of Romania to the Republic of Azerbaijan since November 2011 and I am the third head of mission since Romanian Embassy opened in Baku (on November 3, 1998). In my diplomatic tenure I witnessed remarkable developments in Azerbaijan. According to different opinions, Baku became a real pearl of the Caspian Sea and a diamond of the Caucasus. The other cities of Azerbaijan that I visited (Ganja, Sheki, Qabala, Quba, Nakhchivan, Shamakhi, Shamkir, Mingachevir, Barda and Lankaran) are also very impressive from the point of view of their modernization. I want to congratulate people of Azerbaijan for all the achievements accomplished after the restoration of state independence.

Since my arrival in the Republic of Azerbaijan in November 2011, I focused on successfully bringing into life the measures included in the Joint Action Plan for the implementation of our bilateral Strategic Partnership, signed on the occasion of the official visit of the President of Romania to Azerbaijan (18-19 April 2011), in all fields it refers to: political dialogue, economic cooperation and investment, cooperation in the fields of energy and security, cooperation in multilateral framework, development of human contacts and cooperation in the field of culture.

The dynamic dialogue and the good cooperation between the President of Romania and the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan contributed to the flourishing development of partnership relations between our countries. Good contacts are being pursued also at the level of representatives of Presidential Administrations. On 6-9 June 2013 Presidential aide on defence issues Vahid Aliyev paid a visit to Bucharest in response to the visit paid in Azerbaijan by the Romanian Presidential adviser on national security issues (27-29 February 2012). Counsellor on Strategic Affairs and International Security to the President of Romania also visited Baku on June 28, 2012 and April 4, 2013.

The intergovernmental cooperation steadily enhanced in the last years. I had the pleasure to organize together with Embassy’s team and Azerbaijani colleagues the first official visit to Baku in the history of our bilateral relations of the Prime Minister of Romania ( June 26-27, 2013). We prepared also the two stopovers in Baku on 28 and 29 June 2014 of Prime Minister of Romania and his meetings with the Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Ismat Abbasov for discussing possibilities to expand mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries. In June 2015 an important Romanian delegation led by the Romanian Prime Minister and including Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Health and Minister of Youth and Sports, visited Azerbaijan and participated at the opening ceremony of the first European Games.

The cooperation at the level of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Romania and of the Republic of Azerbaijan also increased substantially. Official visits paid by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania to the Republic of Azerbaijan (25-26 April 2013) and by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Romania (15-16 September 2014) contributed to consolidation of our partnership. Furthermore, three rounds of bilateral political consultations at the level of State Secretary/Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs were held in Bucharest (October 10, 2012) and Baku (March 14, 2014 and March 10, 2016).

Official visits to Romania paid by Minister of National Security (30 June- 1 July 2014) and Minister of Defence of the Republic of Azerbaijan (27-28 August 2014) were important moments for the dynamics of the relationships between our countries.

Parliamentary dialogue plays a positive role in the overall complex of our relations. I had the pleasure to prepare together with Embassy’s team and our colleagues in Millli Mejlis the first official visit to Baku in the history of our bilateral relations of the President of Chamber of Deputies of Romania (13-16 March 2013).

Since my arrival in Baku I paid special attention to strengthening economic bilateral relations, with the aim of making them match the level of the excellent political dialogue. According to the State Customs Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Romanian exports to Azerbaijan increased for 4 years in a row and reached in 2015 the highest level since Azerbaijan became an independent state (Romanian exports in 2015 were more than 4 times higher than in 2011, increasing from 14,90 million USD to 64,71 million USD). Despite the fact that exports from EU countries in Azerbaijan decreased in 2015 compared with 2014 by 5.18%, Romanian exports in Azerbaijan rose by 15.87% in the similar period. In 2015 Romanian exports in Azerbaijan were 2.3 times higher than Hungary’s exports, 5 times higher than Bulgaria’s exports and 15 times higher than Serbia’s exports, neighboring countries of Romania that are also strategic partners of Baku. Romanian furniture, textiles, footwear and pharmaceutical products are highly appreciated in Azerbaijan. I’m very glad that in the last years the number of shops selling Romanian furniture raised significantly. Drilling equipment and products of aeronautical and optical industries enjoy also a very good demand. Cooperation in ICT field achieved very good results. Azerbaijani investments in Romania also increased substantially. In 2011 SOCAR entered the Romanian market and currently has a network of 33 gas stations all around Romania. "Nobel” Oil Services Company which is owned by an Azerbaijani citizen opened its first gas station via its branch in Romania on November, 2015.

Energy issues constitute a strategic priority of our bilateral economic cooperation. Romania is supporting the opening of the Southern Gas Corridor, which will contribute to diversifying energy supplies and transit routes towards the European Union and South-Eastern Europe. Bucharest and Baku have been consistent supporters of the development of the gas interconnector Azerbaijan – Georgia – Romania – Hungary (AGRI), which can provide the shortest route between the gas fields in the Caspian Sea and the European market. In the last three years Minister of Energy of the Republic of Azerbaijan Natig Aliyev visited Romania twice (on 13-14 April 2014 and on 23-24 June 2015).

Romania plans to develop cooperation with Azerbaijan in the field of transport. The project of the Freight Transport Corridor between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, using the advantages held out by the port of Constanta and the Danube river, creates huge opportunities for boosting the exchange of goods and increasing the volume of trade at the regional level.

As President of Romania H.E. Mr. Klaus Iohannis underlined the traditional relations of friendship between Romania and Azerbaijan, raised to the level of Strategic Partnership and continuously enhanced through the Action plan for implementing this Partnership, provide the premises for capitalizing the growth potential of the Romanian-Azerbaijani economic cooperation.

Cooperation between our countries in multilateral framework is strengthening year by year. Romania is a strong supporter of further development and deepening of Azerbaijan’s cooperation with EU and NATO. Romania acts in the position of a NATO member that can share its experience of Euro- Atlantic integration, presenting best practices and providing expertise on the implementation of reforms in the security and defence sectors in accordance with NATO standards.

Exercising for the fourth time in a row the mandate of NATO Contact Point Embassy in the Republic of Azerbaijan (the only current case of such a long involvement of a country as a Contact Point Embassy) is a clear indicator of trust and of the excellent level of our bilateral relations. In the last eight years Romanian diplomatic mission organized in cooperation with relevant Azerbaijani stakeholders a large number of public diplomacy activities (conferences, roundtables, workshops and seminars). These events contributed to shaping a favorable image of NATO in Azerbaijan and increased public awareness, especially among the Azerbaijani young generation, regarding North-Atlantic Alliance and the benefits of NATO-Azerbaijan cooperation. Administration of the President of Azerbaijan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defence and Parliament of Azerbaijan especially the Committee for Foreign Relations offered valuable support in our public diplomacy activities. Our main local partners were Centre for Strategic Studies under the President of Azerbaijan, NATO International School of Azerbaijan, Institute for Human Rights of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Azerbaijan, ADA University, Azerbaijani Youth European Integration Organization (AGAT) and many other organizations. The Romanian diplomatic mission paid constant attention to promotion of North Atlantic Alliance values and principles in Azerbaijan. High level Azerbaijani authorities and local non-governmental organizations expressed appreciation for the way Romanian Embassy is fulfilling its mandate as NATO Contact Point Embassy. The relationship between NATO and Azerbaijan has a strategic value, especially with regard to regional stability and security. The members of North-Atlantic Alliance remain committed in their support to the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Azerbaijan.

Cultural links between Romania and Azerbaijan are flourishing and they serve as a strong fundament for closer interaction. Each year on 15 January Romanian National Culture Day is celebrated in Azerbaijan. In 2016 "Day of Romanian Poetry” has been organized jointly by Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan, National Library of Azerbaijan and Embassy of Romania in Baku. In 2015 Ministry of Communications and High Technologies of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Embassy of Romania and Azermarka organized in Baku a festive ceremony to celebrate the issuing of a joint stamp edition Romania- Azerbaijan on the topic of traditional folk art, dedicated to the valuable crafts of pottery and tapestry characteristic to both countries (Horezu ceramic bowl together with a traditional rug from the region of Oltenia, respectively an Azeri copper vessel from Lahic and a rug with local patterns). Every year, starting with 2012, our Embassy has organized a flower-laying ceremony at the monument of beloved Romanian composer George Enescu in Baku. A Romanian movie is broadcasted annualy at the European Film Festival, organized in Azerbaijan by diplomatic missions of European Union member states, enjoying a very warm welcome on the side of the Azerbaijani public. Romanian folk traditions are already well-known and prized in Azerbaijan, since Embassy of Romania presented every year a national pavilion at the Eurovillage Festival (organized in Baku by diplomatic missions of European Union member states in cooperation with the Administration of State-Historical Reserve "Icheri Sheher”), as well as at the International Cultural Festival, organized by ADA University. The concert organized in Baku by the Embassy of Romania on December 1, 2013 (on the occasion of National Day of Romania) with the participation of a Romanian folk group performing winter festive songs (included in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of humanity) has been very successful. The book of Romanian fairy tales translated into Azerbaijani language and published a couple of years ago with the support of Embassy of Romania was very well received by parents and children in Azerbaijan.

I would like to thank the Azerbaijani authorities for the permanent support given to Romania. In December 2013 I had the privilege to hand over to several Azerbaijani personalities such as Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Energy H.E. Natig Aliyev, Deputy Head of Presidential Administration H.E. Novruz Mammadov, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign and Inter-Parliamentary Relations H.E. Samad Seyidov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Hafiz Pashayev, Head of Azerbaijan- Romania Inter-parliamentary Friendship Group H.E. Azay Guliyev and director of Centre for Strategic Studies under the President of Azerbaijan Farhad Mammadov the Honorary Diplomas "150 Years of Romanian Diplomacy” for outstanding merits in promoting Romanian and universal values in international relations, conferred by the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

I am fully convinced that with concerted efforts by both sides, our cooperation will achieve further development, so as to make significant contribution to the building of a bright future. I want to reiterate my greetings of prosperity to all the people of Azerbaijan on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the restoration of state independence.

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