- Hans Weber
- December 4, 2023
Interview with H.E. Mr. Adish Mammadov
-What have been the main steps of your diplomatic career before coming to Prague?
I started my career as a lecturer at Baku University in 1995. In 2000, I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan as a diplomat. From that time onward, I have worked in different positions both at the Ministry as well as in the diplomatic missions of Azerbaijan. In 2013, I was appointed by the head of state the ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of Sweden (concurrently to the Kingdom of Norway and the Republic of Finland), and at the end of 2018 I returned to Baku after successfully completing my tenure. Since 2020, I have been working as the ambassador of my country to the Czech Republic.
-Which places have you visited in the Czech Republic? And what are your favourite places in Prague?
The Czech Republic is a beautiful country with its nature, climate, cultural monuments and architecture, and these beauties undoubtedly attract many foreign tourists. As an ambassador, I have visited various regions of the Czech Republic and witnessed the mysterious beauty everywhere. I am more interested in castles and fortresses that have survived from the Middle Ages to the present day. Prague, on the other hand, is one of the rare cities in the world with its very unique soft and beautiful soul. Indisputably, Prague has many places to visit, see and spend time but I personally love the banks of the Vltava River and I enjoy taking a walk every weekend.
-What are the main topics in the relationships between Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic?
Azerbaijan and Czechia cherish friendly relations based on mutually beneficial cooperation, and this year we are already celebrating the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Political relations between our countries are at a high level. In 2015, during the official visit of President Miloš Zeman to Baku, relations were brought to a new level with the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership signed between the our countries. Azerbaijan is also the largest trading partner of the Czech Republic in the South Caucasus, as Azerbaijan accounts for approximately 80% of the Czech trade turnover with the Caucasian countries. As support to my argument, it is worth mentioning that one in every four cars in the streets of the Czech Republic is fueled by Azerbaijani oil.
-Please tell us about the history and culture (also role of religion) of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan, as part of Turkic world, is a mysterious country located in the Caucasus while playing a unique bridge between the East and the West. The name of the country and the history of these lands go back to Alexander the Great. In fact, Azerbaijan was much larger than the borders of today’s Republic of Azerbaijan. In 1828, at the end of the Russo-Iranian war, Azerbaijan was divided into two parts between Russia and Iran, and during the Soviet period, part of Azerbaijan’s territory was given to the neighboring nations by the order of the Kremlin.
In 1918, the people of Azerbaijan founded the first republic in the entire Islamic East – the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. At that time, progressive laws were adopted in the country and democratic reforms were implemented. For example, at that time, many European countries with high democratic values today did not have women’s suffrage, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic granted the vote to all adult women. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, our people regained their own state and declared the independent Republic of Azerbaijan. Today, Azerbaijan is a very active member of such international organizations as the UN and Non-Aligned Movement, as well as a number of important European political institutions and regional organizations. Azerbaijan is a country rich in oil and gas deposits, and with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and TANAP-TAP natural gas pipelines, it wants to play a role not only in the energy security of Europe, but the world. In addition to these energy projects, Azerbaijan also contributes to the dynamic development of the world economy by being an important link in the North-South and East-West transit-cargo projects.
Azerbaijan is one of the oldest spots of civilization with rich cultural heritage. In the Middle Ages, especially after the 10th century, several masters of words and intellectuals of the East lived in these lands. Nizami Ganjavi – the great thinker of the East who used to be called the “Sultan of Poets” and whose works are still read all over the world is a child of the Azerbaijani nation. Long before Galileo and Kepler, in the 13th century, Nasreddin Tusi, a son of our nation too, had an observatory that studied celestial bodies. This scientific and literary environment had a great influence on the formation of the culture of the Azerbaijani people.
Since the country is geographically located at the crossroads of different civilizations, elements of these civilizations can be found in the culture and traditions of people. Today, Azerbaijan has a multicultural society where dozens of minority peoples and representatives of different religious confessions live in harmony. Tolerance has become a part of state policy. Today, you can readily witness the participation of a Muslim religious leader in a Jewish Synagogue, or a Christian religious leader in a Muslim Mosque in Azerbaijan. The leaders of all three religions often gather and discuss the issues of religious and moral values in the country. Undoubtedly, this is case that can be hardly found anywhere in the world except Azerbaijan.
–Apart from natural resources, what are the main drivers of Azerbaijan economy?
Since the time of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan has been a country where agricultural products, especially viticulture and cotton growing have developed. Even today, the state provides great support for the development of these areas. Different types of cognacs and wines, fruit juices produced in Azerbaijan are exported not only to the post-Soviet space and Asian countries, but also to European countries. Over the past several years, the Government of Azerbaijan has made substantive investment in the diversification of the economy. Manufacturing, financial and business services, telecommunications, transportation, tourism and other sectors are growing quite rapidly as well.
-Do the plans of Europe to switch more to renewable energies affect the energy exports (oil, gas) of Azerbaijan. Now, in future?
Oil used to occupy an important place in the world economy, including the European economy. However, the environmental problems caused by oil products gave impetus to the beginning of the “gas era”, particularly in the European economy. Today, the annual gas needs of European countries are at least 500 billion cubic meters and Azerbaijan has the capacity to provide about 20 billion cubic meters per annum to European countries through the TANAP and TAP pipelines. I believe that Azerbaijan has the potential to increase this volume in the foreseeable future. Azerbaijan’s crude oil is considered to be pure oil due to the low content of sulfur, as such, Azerbaijan’s oil will be important for the world economy even many years from now.
In addition to oil and gas, Azerbaijan also intends to supply European countries with electricity. Thus, the electric energy obtained from solar and wind energy in Azerbaijan will be delivered to Romania by passing through Georgia and the Black Sea, and then distributed to European countries. In order to realize this giant project, relevant agreements have already been reached at the level of governments.
To put in a nutshell, Azerbaijan has an important role in Europe’s energy security and will remain an indispensable partner of Europe for many years to come.
-Baku has hosted several matches during the last European Football Cup in 2011. Would you say Azerbaijan is a European or semi-European country? And, would, one day, Azerbaijan join the European Union?
In the last 10 years, Baku is a city where international sports competitions are regularly held. For example, Inaugural European Games in 2015 and the Islamic Games in 2016 were organized in Baku. Apart from that, Formula One motor racing event, with the participation of the world’s rally stars is also being held in Azerbaijan since 2017. At the same time, Baku has become a venue for international forums where global political and economic challenges become main topic for discussion with the participation of various well-known figures, including former presidents and prime ministers.
After declaring its independence the Republic of Azerbaijan has become a member of a numerous European political institutions. Over the past years, very important work has been done in the direction of improving the governing system and carrying out serious reforms in the field of legislation. There are strategic partnership agreements of the Republic of Azerbaijan with nine EU countries. The new comprehensive partnership agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Azerbaijan is in the final stage of negotiations. Today we can easily say that Azerbaijan is a part of the big European family.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been a huge problem for Azerbaijan for many years. What can you say about the stages of the conflict and its future trajectory?
As I mentioned earlier, the representatives of dozens of minority peoples live compactly in Azerbaijan, and Armenians are one of them. Armenians are mainly concentrated in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. The conflict began in 1988 as a separatist movement of Armenians living in Karabakh on the eve of the Soviet disintegration. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the independent Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia were established, and the separatist movement of the Karabakh Armenians developed into the aggressive policy of Armenia. First, more than 250 thousand Armenian citizens of ethnic Azerbaijanis were forcibly expelled from Armenia. With this process 256 peaceful Azerbaijanis were killed by Armenians, and then the Republic of Armenia started aggressive policy and occupied 20% of the internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan. More than 750,000 Azerbaijanis who were forcibly removed from the occupied territories lost everything and became displaced persons, up to 30,000 Azerbaijanis were killed, all residential areas in these territories were destroyed, and the cultural heritage of the Azerbaijani people was erased from the earth by the Armenians.
Since then the conflict has always been in the focus of international organizations. 4 UN Security Council resolutions, as well as several other decisions and resolutions were adopted in various European political institutions as well as by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Each of these resolutions reflected the demands of international organizations that Armenia must respect international law, end the aggressive policy and unconditionally liberate the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, Armenia, standing against the international community, rejected all these demands and continued its aggressive policy.
Finally, with the 44-day war in 2020, based on the norms and principles of international law and the UN Charter, Azerbaijan liberated its lands from Armenian occupation and thereby restored historical justice. In accordance with the Statement signed by the heads of states on November 10, Russian peacekeepers have been temporarily deployed in these areas as guarantors of security. Despite the fact that Azerbaijan has ensured its territorial integrity, some problems still remain unresolved. Although the November 10 Statement envisages the disarmament of the Armenian armed detachments in Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, it has not been implemented to the date. According to unofficial information, the number of Armenian militants in Karabakh is more than 10,000, and the vast majority of them are citizens of the Republic of Armenia. The second problem is related to land mines. The territories of Azerbaijan liberated from the occupation are considered to be one of the most polluted areas in the world today. During the last two and half years after the war, hundreds of peaceful citizens of Azerbaijan were either killed or maimed by mine explosions. In violation of international humanitarian law, the Armenian side still refuses to provide complete minefield maps to the Azerbaijani side.
Currently, the negotiations are ongoing for the signing of a peace agreement between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia with the mediation of the European Union. To date, numerous meetings have been held at the level of foreign ministers and the heads of states, and preliminary results have already been achieved. Thus, the parties have declared that they recognize each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within the framework of the 1991 Almaty Declaration. This is the confirmation by Armenia that the Karabakh is the territory of Azerbaijan. We believe that a peace agreement will be signed between the countries in the nearest future, and the stability in the region as well as mutual trust and confidence between peoples will be ensured.
As for the future fate of Armenian residents of Karabakh, I would like to state that they will become citizens of Azerbaijan and will have the same rights as other minority peoples living in our country. Azerbaijani society is a multicultural and tolerant society, and we believe that Azerbaijani citizens of Armenian origin will be able to become a part of this society and coexist peacefully.