Azerbaijan`s new cooperation initiatives: Three historic features of President`s Belarus visit

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Baku, 26 November 2018 –

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev`s fifth visit to Belarus has grabbed experts` attention. The Belarus President said they were looking forward to the Azerbaijani leader`s visit. The two presidents discussed a range of very important issues and signed a number of agreements covering different areas. Ilham Aliyev and Alexander Lukashenko signed a joint statement. Experts are considering Azerbaijan-Belarus relations in regional and global contexts. They say Baku and Minsk have reiterated that they are frank strategic partners. This tendency is believed to strengthen. This side of the issue relates to several geopolitical factors. The analysis of these interconnected factors reveals three historic features of the Azerbaijani President`s visit to Belarus.

Historic friendship and modernity: main principles of Baku-Minsk cooperation

Minsk was looking forward to the Azerbaijani President`s visit. This was openly expressed by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. He also said that Azerbaijan-Belarus cooperation is not directed against any other state, and that strategic partnership between the two countries is eternal. Of course, these words are not normally said about all countries. Against a background of the Armenian leadership`s accusations against the Belarus government, Alexander Lukashenko proved himself to be a true friend and partner of Azerbaijan. This also reveals three historic features of President Ilham Aliyev `s Belarus visit.

First of all, we should emphasize the geostrategic aspect of the issue because both Armenia and Belarus are part of the same political-military organization. But unlike Yerevan, Minsk demonstrated courage, justice and objectivity to support the fair side.

One of the reasons is mutual respect between the Azerbaijani and Belarus heads of state. On the other hand, Azerbaijan is the only rapidly developing state in the South Caucasus, which makes it an attractive partner for any country.

It is evidenced by President Ilham Aliyev`s talks in Minsk and the essence of the bilateral documents signed by the two countries. Azerbaijan and Belarus made important steps towards elevating their cooperation to a new level in almost all areas, including economy, trade, transport, energy, military and defense sector, emergencies, environment and joint production. Experts single out several vital points here.

Most importantly, official Minsk supports Azerbaijan`s territorial integrity and stands for just settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in accordance with international legal norms. President Ilham Aliyev commented on this during his joint press conference with the Belarus leader. The President of Azerbaijan said: "I am particularly grateful, and I would like to express gratitude both on my own behalf and on behalf of all the people of Azerbaijan, for the position of Belarus on the issue related to the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Joint Statement explicitly states that this conflict must be resolved in accordance with the norms of international law, within the framework of territorial integrity and the inviolability of the borders of Azerbaijan and in accordance with relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council. We are grateful to Belarus for such an objective position on an issue that is extremely important both for us and for the entire region." (see: Azerbaijani, Belarus presidents made press statements / AZERTAC, 19 November, 2018).

This is the first feature of the Azerbaijani President`s visit because it was very important what Minsk`s position would be after the Astana Summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

Belarus` fair stance on this issue seems to be the main reason behind the Armenian leadership`s anger. By this move the Belarus President sent a clear message to the world.

Other allegations made by Armenia against Belarus are illusive. The Belarus leader has repeatedly stated the he supports the fair side in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is Azerbaijan. Alexander Lukashenko also pointed out historical ties between Azerbaijan and Belarus.

Some Russian experts rushed to accuse the Belarus leader of being pro-Turkic. But, of course, this has nothing to do with reality. Alexander Lukashenko meant Azerbaijan-Belarus ties during the Ottoman Empire. He also was talking about relations between the two countries in the Soviet period. And national leader Heydar Aliyev`s crucial role should also be emphasized here.

New stage: joint development in line with requirements of time

Azerbaijan-Belarus relations have now reached a new level globally. The proposal that the Azerbaijani leader made in Minsk testifies to this. During his expanded meeting with the Belarus President, Ilham Aliyev said: "I think that one of the main directions of our future cooperation will be cooperation in the transport sector. You noted the North-South transport corridor in your remarks. Azerbaijan has completed all work related to the operation of this corridor on its territory. We are now working on further modernization of our transport infrastructure, which is already capable of transporting significant volumes of cargo. Azerbaijan is also an active participant in the East-West transport corridor.” (see: Azerbaijani, Belarus presidents held expanded meeting / AZERTAC, 19 November, 2018). This is the second feature that proves the historic importance of President Ilham Aliyev`s visit to Belarus.

The Azerbaijani leader highlighted a principally vital geopolitical point. As an active participant of international projects, Azerbaijan has already become an initiator. Ilham Aliyev particularly invited Belarus to be more actively involved in "Silk Road Economic Belt” initiative, and put forward concrete mechanisms of doing this. These mechanisms can work through creating connection between North-South and East-West transport corridors. Giving preference to one of these projects and disregarding the second may disrupt the geopolitical balance and undermine mutually beneficial cooperation principle. By effectively using both transport corridors, Azerbaijan, in fact, has proved itself to be a hub of regional geopolitical routes.

With this in mind, the President of Azerbaijan said: "I think that the coordination of countries' actions on these two major transport routes will create completely a new environment for cooperation, lead to the creation of thousands, tens of thousands of jobs, and significantly increase the traffic between our countries.” (see: previous source).

Against this background, the military-technical cooperation is of particular significance. Minsk openly said that cooperation with Azerbaijan in this area will continue developing and that those who oppose do not have any influence on this process. Azerbaijan and Belarus signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the bilateral cooperation in the field of supply of air defense weapons and equipment.

This means full protection of Azerbaijan`s airspace, which, of course, is highly undesirable for Armenia. But the aggressor should know that Azerbaijan will continue increasing the power of its army and doing its utmost to liberate its occupied lands. No one can stop it!

The aforementioned factors undoubtedly played a key role in ensuring success of President Ilham Aliyev`s visit to Minsk. Another highlight of the visit was the signing of an agreement aimed at elevating the bilateral cooperation in the field of production of agricultural machinery to a new level. The two countries are also set to embark on joint production of tractors in Turkey.

Baku and Minsk also signed an agreement to cooperate in the field of communications and information technologies. The Belarus leader attaches special importance to this. Indeed, joint production of machinery proves Azerbaijan`s achievements in technology and engineering. And this process is taking place in a format of international cooperation. This factor can be considered the third historic feature of the Azerbaijani President`s visit to Belarus.

Azerbaijan has embarked on the implementation of large cooperation models, and President Ilham Aliyev`s visit to Belarus confirmed this.

So the head of state paid another visit, which was of critical importance to Azerbaijan`s statehood. This visit marked a serious achievement for Azerbaijan as the country developed both its bilateral relations with Belarus and international cooperation formats. The whole world witnessed that this process fully complies with Azerbaijan`s foreign policy priorities and international law.

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