Maria Zakharova: Russia and Azerbaijan are strategic partners now
Today, Russia and Azerbaijan are strategic partners, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in an interview with the Azerbaijani ONA portal, posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website.
She recalled that April traditionally marks the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and Azerbaijan, since the Protocol on the establishment of diplomatic relations was signed on April 4, 1992.
"Over the past 27 years - a short period by historical standards - our countries have managed to do a lot to strengthen the foundation of cooperation and fill bilateral relations with mutually beneficial practical content. Today, Russia and Azerbaijan are strategic partners, holding an active dialogue in political, trade and economic and other spheres. The relations between Moscow and Baku are based on the principles of sovereign equality, non-interference in internal affairs, genuine respect for the interests of each other, preserving and enhancing the traditions of friendship and good neighborliness," the diplomat stressed.
According to her, an open, confidential dialogue between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who met six times last year, give a powerful impetus to strengthening the interaction of the countries.
Maria Zakharova clarified that Russia is one of Azerbaijan's key trade partners. "The development of bilateral trade and economic relations is dynamic. The trade turnover in January-November 2018 amounted to $2.2 billion, which is 14% more than in the corresponding period of 2017. A good rate of practical implementation of the five road maps approved following the official negotiations between the leaders of the two states in Sochi on September 1, 2018. Currently, more than 700 joint ventures operate in Azerbaijan, we expect their number will increase. In February 2018, the construction of the production of GAZ Group machinery factory was launched in the republic. The Russian Export Center and Gazprom recently opened their offices in Baku," she said.
The official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry noted that Russia and Azerbaijan have established close cooperation in the cultural, humanitarian and educational fields. "About 11,000 Azerbaijani students study in Russia, of which about 1,000 are financed through budget allocations. Every year, over 200 scholarships are granted to citizens of Azerbaijan. A branch of the Moscow State University has been successfully operating in Baku for 10 years, since 2015 - a branch of Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University. The issue of opening branches of MGIMO and Moscow State University of Humanities and Economics is being worked out. Days of Russian culture will be held in Azerbaijan this year," Maria Zakharova specified.
"Our cooperation with Baku is successful not only in bilateral terms, but also in international and regional affairs. A good example is the signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea in August 2018. The document adopted by the heads of the Caspian Five opens up broad prospects for cooperation between coastal countries in various fields. I have no doubt that Russia and Azerbaijan will be able to effectively take advantage of these new opportunities," the diplomat said.
"In the context of the tasks set by the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan, Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev, we intend to continue to actively develop strategic cooperation between our countries," the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Responding to a question about Russia's foreign policy concept, which is the main document regulating the country's foreign policy, Maria Zakharova clarified that it clearly defines the Foreign Ministry's goals, objectives and priorities, including in relation to the South Caucasus.
This region is "a sphere of Russia’s major interests. First of all because of its geographic proximity. The importance of the South Caucasus in a broader geopolitical context is obvious. An unceremonious bid by well-known non-regional forces to redraw the CIS map to their own design can be perfectly seen in the region. We consider the activity of the U.S. and NATO towards the ‘military absorption’ of Transcaucasia as a most serious military and political challenge for Russia. And of course, we can’t help but mention the unsettled conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, where two of our closest friends and partners are engaged in unfortunately - Azerbaijan and Armenia," she said.
"Maintaining stability in the South Caucasus, ensuring the development of the region with a friendly attitude of its countries towards Russia will remain one of the main goals of Russia’s foreign policy," Maria Zakharova stressed.
Commenting on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry explained that Moscow is aware of how painful this topic is for Azerbaijan. "We are vitally interested in peace and stability to come to our neighboring region. Therefore, Russia has always played the most active role in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," she recalled.
Answering the question about the change of political leadership in Yerevan, the diplomat pointed out that this is Armenia's internal affair. "The parties demonstrate their intention to continue work aimed at achieving a peaceful settlement. This was evidenced in a statement made following the recent meeting of the Azerbaijani President and Armenian Prime Minister in Vienna. We welcome the constructive approach that prevailed in the negotiations. We will provide the parties with the necessary assistance in order to realize the ideas on which understanding was achieved in the Austrian capital. However, as the presidents of the co-chair countries have repeatedly stressed, the responsibility for putting an end to the conflict lies with the parties involved in it. They have a basis. The main thing is to show political will," Maria Zakharova concluded.