The cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan covers wide range of political, people-to-people relations, economic and commercial issues

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Baku, 1 June 2017 –

Vladimir Dorokhin

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the

Russian Federation to the Republic of Azerbaijan

25 years of diplomatic relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Azerbaijan as independent states is quiet a short historical period, but still it is marked by rich and fruitful experience.

To get a clear idea of this experience should we start from the beginning. For almost 200 years the two countries formed one state. First, it bore the name of the Russian Empire and afterwards it was called the Soviet Union. During all that period our countries literally merged in one economic, political, social and cultural space. Plants and factories worked in compliance with the production plans, emanating from one center. Young men were soldiers of one and same army. Universities were opened to the graduates from all republics. People created mixed families, gave life to children, and made plans for future, paying absolutely no attention to their proper nationalities and locations on the immense map of the common country.

And in a moment all this crumbled. Each and every had to reconsider it’s life and learn to leave separately. The resumption of the relations became one of the most vital questions on the political agenda of the newborn states.

Today as we mark a quarter century since those events, we can express our satisfaction over the answer Azerbaijan and Russia found to that question. Both countries managed to build a special and privileged partnership based on respect for and recognition of each other’s new national interests, a partnership, contributing to the regional and international security. And we also succeeded in minimization of the negative consequences of Soviet state demolition and in preservation of our historical legacy that we share since cohabitation period. The past doesn’t divide Russia and Azerbaijan (as it is unfortunately the case for some other post-soviet states). It unites us. The time passing gives us more evidences of the importance of this achievement.

The route to understanding it was not straight. During the first years of independence while "The Popular Front'' was in power, relations with Moscow were not in priority, to put it mildly. That fact influenced Moscow’s attitude in a predictable way. Wise and strategically thinking national leader Heydar Aliyev, who returned to power in 1993, didn’t lack understanding of the evident fact that Azerbaijani statehood could by no means be established on the flimsy ground of confrontation with the northern neighbor and of complete renunciation from the common past. But his good will didn’t always find a positive response in Moscow, which faced its own serious difficulties in the Caucasian region.

New framework of bilateral cooperation had not been forged until 2001, when Heydar Aliyev and Vladimir Putin became heads of states.

This framework is based on the following principles: 1. Unconditional mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and independence; 2. Deep understanding of each other’s interests and commitment to maintain balance between them; 3. Mutual willingness to act in a realistic, pragmatic way, denying all sorts of illusions, concerning capabilities and facilities of each state, willingness to take each other as it is, still keeping friendly and motivational atmosphere.

These principles have always been and remain valid and effective. After this fruitful quarter of century Azerbaijan became Russian strategic partner. Its geographical position near the Russian North Caucasus, on the board of the Caspian Sea, economic potential, active and important role in energetic affairs as well as the sincere desire to solidify mutual understanding with the Russian Federation, are the main factors determining the exceptional significance of Azerbaijan to Russia.

The cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan covers wide range of political, people-to-people relations, economic and commercial issues. The volume of trade turnover places of Russia is among five most important Azerbaijani foreign partners, while in non-oil industry Russia is Azerbaijani number one partner. The high level of partnership corresponds to the drive for the economical diversification declared by the Government of Azerbaijan, contributes to the creation of new working places, has positive impact on the financial conditions of dozens may be even hundreds of thousands of people.

The Russian Federation and the Republic of Azerbaijan are also involved in active military technical cooperation. We are united in our aspiration to make the Caspian Sea a zone of peace and friendly interactions. Azerbaijan evokes great interest in different regions of the Russian Federation, and Baku is inclined favorably to that interest. And he, who is to describe Russian- Azerbaijani humanitarian and cultural relations, must be ready to write a big and solid book.

Some of the former Soviet States resumed the new historical period, defiantly refusing the resort to the Russian language, which used to be a reliable tool of communication for a long time. Thus, newly emerged politicians had hoped to establish new identities, but the consequences of their actions turned out to be a disaster. But Azerbaijan wasn’t a subject to the unfounded fears. Here the question has been formulated correctly: for more than 200 years Russian language remained a window on world, so why should we slam it now? The given answer was also correct. As a result, Azerbaijan, unalienable part of the Muslim and the Turc cultures, preserved close relations with the Russian language and the Russian language speakers, guaranteed to all the concerned free and easy access to the information, education and different cultural facilities in Russian. The examples of all above-mentioned facts are well known and there is now need to list them here. Due to the wise political course of Azerbaijani Government, Russian language contributes to the prosperity of the State and its citizens, also nourishing the atmosphere of friendship and respect between our two countries and fostering us, Russians, to promote Azerbaijani language and culture in Russia. And we do it with great pleasure.

25 years ago the Russian Federation and the Republic of Azerbaijan took the brunt of responsibility for the preservation of people-to-people and humanitarian contacts between two countries. Being clairvoyant and completely aware of the fact that our relations are not confined to agreements, treaties and some official events on the occasion of holidays, both states understand that our relations effect millions of people. Probably there is no such family in Azerbaijan, who has none of its members or relatives somewhere on the vast territory of our country. The countless army of Azerbaijanis who work in Russia plays a significant role in enhancement of financial prosperity of many households in Azerbaijan. On the other hand, Azerbaijan is hosting the largest Russian-speaking community in the Caucasian region. The elaboration of the legal framework, which allows those people to fill safe and comfortable and to prosper despite the new geopolitical conditions, is equally important as the successes in mutual trade and achievements in cultural cooperation.

The unconditional respect for the each other’s sovereignty and readiness to conduct its own policy allow each country to play its own role in the international arena. We do not control deeds and intentions of each other. However, we rely on a deep mutual understanding, which we believe to be a robust base of our relations. We cooperate when our interests appear to be coinciding and when it is not the case, we are satisfied with an opportunity to conduct a respectful dialogue. A similar approach is fully applied to the wide range of political questions such as the relations between CIS countries, Caspian issues and the settlement of Nagorny Karabakh conflict that Russia being a mediator between the parties to the conflict, always consider to be of a high priority.

The detailed understanding of the independent Azerbaijani politics and the respect for it are very important for the Russian Federation. Working in Baku for several years as an Ambassador of the Russian Federation I can confirm that Azerbaijan highly valuates the importance of friendly and respectful relations with Moscow. In today’s rapidly changing world a reliable and close partner is not something to be easily found.

It is just the beginning of history that 25th anniversary of the diplomatic relations’ establishment marks. New opportunities are lying ahead of Azerbaijan but they are accompanied by the new challenges. Russia is interested in further development of stable, independent and strong Azerbaijan. Nothing could be more important than having such a neighbor on our southern border.

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