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On an official visit to oil-rich Azerbaijan – the largest economy of the South Caucasus – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was given the red-carpet treatment by his Azeri counterpart, encouraged businesses of the host nation to invest in his country.
Though the spotlight was on expanding and further deepening business relations, the two leaders, whose nations have been suffering from separatism and threats to their territorial integrities, once again highlighted respect for their sovereignty as well as closer cooperation at mutual and international platforms to hedge against threats coming from similar sources.
Volodymyr Zelensky expressed gratitude to Azerbaijan for supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine. “We also support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan,” the Ukrainian president stressed.
Kyiv is keen on expanding cooperation with Baku in the energy sector to ensure the energy security of Ukraine, and Azerbaijani oil major SOCAR’s growing role across Ukraine is an indication of it, pundit Farid Faridli opined in remarks on Zelensky’s first visit to the South Caucasus and his choice of Azerbaijan as the destination.
“Ukraine, in the light of unpredictable and quaky relations with Russia, is realizing that the relations with Moscow will hardly see improvement given the Kremlin ambitions to impede official Kyiv’s departure from its sphere of influence to maintain a rapport with the West. Also the loss of the Crimea and Sevastopol as well as the presence of the separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk push the country to both secure its energy independence from Russia and rally support for own struggle for the restoration of the territorial integrity. At this point, working in close rapport with each other is pivotal and the two nations have been loyal to this level since their early independence. Azerbaijan realizes that the loss of Ukraine’s independence would be a hard blow to other smaller former Soviet satellites’ strife to keep and strengthen their sovereignty, and thus backs Ukraine at all levels despite Moscow’s displeasure with it,” the pundit said.
Commenting on the results of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Baku, the pundit noted that energy is the main component in bilateral ties between Ukraine and Azerbaijan. “Azerbaijan is an oil producing nation and Ukraine has oil refining industry. Both Ukraine and Azerbaijan would benefit if Azerbaijani oil, supplied to Ukraine and refined into oil products, with part of them sold in Ukraine,” he added.
The expert said that the expansion of energy cooperation between Ukraine and Azerbaijan will allow Ukraine to protect own interests in the energy market and the president’s visit amid unfolding developments to Baku is dictated by this desire of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian president in Baku also gave support for the Southern Gas Corridor towards Europe via Turkey and several other EU nations. “Ukraine supports the Southern Gas Transport Corridor and agreed to explore the possibility of expanding this project, which is important in terms of diversifying gas supplies to European consumers. It needs to use the unique transit potential of our countries and develop infrastructure to this end,” the pundit added.
“Relations between Azerbaijan and Ukraine are time-tested. This shows that Azerbaijan has been and remains a reliable friend for Ukraine, and I am sure that it will be a strategic partner. We will continue to work together in this direction both in the bilateral format and within the framework of international organizations. Our countries demonstrate closer positions on many issues – both at the regional and global levels. So I sincerely wish success to Azerbaijan’s presidency in GUAM in 2020,” Volodymyr Zelensky told a meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku.
On Azerbaijan’s economic relations with Ukraine and further developing them, President Aliyev underscored Azerbaijan’s oil major and key investor’s expanding activities in Ukraine.
“Today, President Volodymyr Zelensky and I agreed to expand SOCAR’s activities in Ukraine. Today, 60 SOCAR gas stations and four oil depots operate in this country,” official news agency Azartac reported.
For his part, Ukraine’s Zelensky vowed his government’s readiness to contribute in every way possible to expanding SOCAR’s role in the energy-hungry economy. Zelensky reiterated that his government is interested in closer cooperation with Azerbaijani businesses to conduct “large joint projects”.
“We want to see real investments and we will be glad to see everyone. Our infrastructure minister arrived in Baku in the Ukrainian delegation. We intend to implement a large number of infrastructure projects to build 16,000 km of new roads. We are interested in Azerbaijani companies building roads in Ukraine. We know that they work successfully in other countries. Everyone knows that the Azerbaijani mobile operator Bakcell has entered the Ukrainian market and its investments have reached about 700m dollars. The task of the Ukrainian state is to protect these investments. Of course, all this is being implemented at the level of mutual trust. We really want Azerbaijan to invest in Ukraine,” Zelensky told the Azerbaijani-Ukrainian business forum in Baku.
He added that Kyiv is to host a meeting of the Ukraine-Azerbaijan Intergovernmental Commission in January 2020 and set to further work to this end.
“I think that after this meeting, there will be specific cases, investments with precise deadlines,” the president opined.
In his words, joint projects in the field of space, aviation industry, especially aircraft engineering, received particular attention at their meetings with the host nation. In Zelensky’s view, Ukraine and Azerbaijan intend to intensify mutual aviation, road, and rail transportation, and are also interested in implementing projects in the space industry and aviation. In January 2020, a meeting of the bilateral intergovernmental commission will be held in Kiev, after which specific projects will be prepared.
Encouraging the Azerbaijani investments in the Ukrainian economy, Zelensky added that next month, a large government delegation from Azerbaijan would visit Ukraine to discuss “important issues of bilateral cooperation in the economic sphere” where over 400 enterprises were ready for privatisation.
President Ilham Aliyev saw eye to eye with his official guest, adding that Zelensky’s visit will give a strong impetus to the development of cooperation.
“We discussed a number of issues: increasing mutual trade, energy, and transportation. There is a great interest in mutual investment. I am sure that today, the Azerbaijani-Ukrainian business forum will have a positive impact on the business community,” Aliyev added.
The closer relations between the two former Soviet nations, believed to be self-sufficient as against other former brethren nations, will also contribute to the two governments’ efforts to gain development of regions as documents, signed at the meetings in Baku, revealed.
Azerbaijan and Ukraine also signed a number of documents to deepen ties between cities of the country as well as special bodies, in particular, the “Protocol of intent between the city of Odessa (Ukraine) and the city of Ganca (Azerbaijani Republic)”; an agreement between the city of Truskavets (Ukraine) and the city of Quba (Azerbaijani Republic) on trade, economic, scientific, technical and cultural cooperation; the agreement on cooperation in the field of regulating business conditions between the State Regulatory Service of Ukraine and the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Azerbaijan;