Thursday, 04 July 2019 11:51

Azerbaijan and Russia have their trade turnover being based on the non-oil sector

Caspian Energy (CE): Your Excellency, one year has elapsed since you were appointed an Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation. How do you find this year and is RF satisfied with the present level of bilateral relations?

Mikhail Bocharnikov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Azerbaijan: The Russian-Azerbaijani relations are developing progressively, there is no doubt about it. The relationship is based on friendly atmosphere which is being translated into concrete actions.

Political ties continue developing in a spirit of understanding. As has always been the case, the tone is set by the Presidents. A high level meeting already took place this year in Peking on April 26, there will be others as well. Presidents’ messages dip into all levels of interstate relations and impact them positively. As is known, our countries are bringing about numerous contacts on the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, ministers of other areas, and experts.

As far as the economy is concerned, noteworthy is the level of the bilateral trade. The trade turnover totaled $2.4 billion in 2018, increasing by over 13%. According to the Azerbaijani statistical data, the goods turnover increased by 22% during January-April and totaled over $800 million.

In the meantime, I would like to note that unlike other countries, our trade with Azerbaijan is based on the non-oil sector. Basically, food products and agricultural raw materials are flowing from both sides. There are also machines and equipment supplied from our side.


CE: Which prospects do you see for the improvement of cooperation? When is the meeting of the intergovernmental commission planned to be held?

Mikhail Bocharnikov: As is known, last year signed were 5 road maps which provide a plan of actions in key areas of cooperation till 2024. Underway is the work on termination of obstacles in trade, development of cooperation in the transport field, creation of joint production in the Azerbaijan Republic, on cooperation aimed at digitization of fiscal area, increase of mutual tourist flow and expansion of humanitarian ties.

The work runs in all areas. Certain results have been gained in some areas while preparation is carried out in others.

The following meeting of the intergovernmental commission for economic cooperation is expected to be held in Azerbaijan in 2019.


CE: The convention of the legal status of the Caspian Sea was signed in August of the last year. In which fronts do the sides carry out work today? Is it planned to implement joint projects in the Caspian?

Mikhail Bocharnikov: The Convention provides clear legal frameworks for cooperation in the very different areas – security, energy sector, transport, nature management and fishing, conduction of science researches and many other works. Such universal legal framework provides Caspian states excellent prospects to deepen cooperation in all areas.

We are pleased to note that these prospects are already coming true: more than 10 five-sided agreements have been signed so far. A huge amount of documents is being discussed by experts.

One of the major tasks facing the 5 states is to develop and agree the draft agreement concerning the method of setting straight initial lines from which the sovereignty and fishing zone of each littoral state in the Caspian water area will begin. The beginning of this work was launched at the first session of the high level working group for Caspian Sea issues, which took place in February of this year in Baku.


CE: Which measures are taken to explore the global warming’s impact on the flora and fauna of the sea, as well as to determine the pollution rate of the sea?

Mikhail Bocharnikov: In 2003 all Caspian states signed a Framework Convention on the protection of the marine environment of the Caspian Sea (Tehran Convention). The purpose of the Convention is to protect the marine environment of the Caspian Sea from pollution, including protection, preservation, restoration, sustainable and rational use of its biological resources.

According to the Convention, the governments of the countries assume an obligation to prevent, lower and control contamination of the Caspian Sea caused by land-based sources; to pay particular attention to protection, preservation, restoration, as well as to rational use of biological resources of the Caspian Sea.

The Protocol on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (EIA Protocol) to the Tehran Convention was signed in Moscow on July 20, 2018. The Protocol is the existing mechanism of the international environmental action aimed at preventing and lowering contamination, preserving and recovering marine environment of the Caspian Sea.


CE: How sanctions imposed on Russia and Iran impact the investment climate of the Caspian region?

Mikhail Bocharnikov: For Russia, one sided restrictive measures are not the criterion of economic cooperation in the Caspian region.


CE: Do the parties consider a possibility of creation free economic zones for 5 Caspian states with equal favourable investment and trade regime both for domestic and foreign investors?

Mikhail Bocharnikov: The agreement ontrade-economic cooperation signed at the 5th Caspian forum last year, implies exchange of experience in issues concerning creation and development of special, free economic zones. I do not rule out that this issue will be one of those to be discussed at the Caspian economic forum which is going to be hosted in August of this year in Turkmenistan.


CE: Are there plans on the shutdown of the Metsamor nuclear plant from where waste waters are flowing into the Caspian Sea via the feeder of the Araz river?

Mikhail Bocharnikov: Energy issues of sovereign states are addressed by the states on their own. This issue does not relate to the agenda of the Caspian cooperation.


CE: What are the plans on development of trans-boundary energy resources?

Mikhail Bocharnikov: Russia already has an experience of development of energy resources in the North Caspian together with the Kazakh side (Khvalinskoye field). We positively assess this cooperation and do not rule out a possibility of consideration of new projects in future.

There is all the more reason for this as the basis concerning implementation of large infrastructure and energy projects, and adopted by all five sides as guidance will now enable to coordinate actions and avoid possible disputes, as well as will rule out the possibility of causing damage to the environment of the Caspian water body. In particular, it involves the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea and Framework Convention on protection of the marine environment of the Caspian Sea (Tehran convention) adopted in 2003, and also protocols to it. First of all I mean the Protocol on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (EIA Protocol) to the Tehran Convention, signed on 20 July 2018.


CE: What is Russia’s stance on the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline project?

Mikhail Bocharnikov: Russia’s stance on this issue remains unchanged. First of all, we must comply with the requirements of our obligations under international agreements in the field of environmental protection and preservation, as well as with the understanding that the hypothetical and largely unapparent profits of certain budget operators should not prevail over the long-term interests of the population of the Caspian littoral states and prospects of preservation of the water area’s ecosystem. The signing of legal documents in this area shows that this is a common opinion of the Caspian region states.


CE: What do you think of the possibility of building transport communications for land transport between the east and west coasts of the Caspian Sea? In particular, bridges and subwater tunnel systems for modern railway transportation?

Mikhail Bocharnikov: It is hard to dip into the future. Though, some ideas of fantasy writers of the past, which their contemporaries could hardly imagine, were realized years later and became a common reality for us. At present, we have focused our efforts on more cutting-edge issues in the field of transport. In particular, the matter concerns projects on development of ferry, land and maritime communication, which can be realized in near future.


Thank you for the interview!

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