Ambassador of Azerbaijan in Ukraine about the beginning of the history of diplomatic relations between Kyiv and Baku


Ukraine is a wonderful land where wonderful people live, to whom we, with all our heart, wish peace, goodness and prosperity

Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Azerbaijan in Ukraine, Azer Khudayar oglu Khudiyev, in an exclusive interview for the FD is telling about the beginning of the history of diplomatic relations between Kyiv and Baku, the common challenges and the common threats facing our states.

Tell us about the start of the bilateral cooperation between Ukraine and Azerbaijan.  Of course, there were relations in the time of the USSR, but it is difficult to call them bilateral…

Relations between our countries began much earlier than in the days of the USSR. Their roots date back to the time of Kievan Rus, when there was the Great Silk Road connecting Europe and Asia. Our country, Azerbaijan, was part of the Silk Road and is still a bridge between Europe and Asia, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Basin. That is why the trade relations existed even in those distant times, though the state formation in our lands had other names. There were Kyivan Rus, Kaganat, the Azerbaijani Khanate, but the peoples knew about the existence of each other – at least geographically. At the official level, relations between our countries began to emerge in the Soviet period, when we were part of one big empire. These were, above all, economic relations. Also, in the Soviet Union there was a peculiar program of multiculturalism, all peoples had to be friends. In the framework of this program there was a lot of useful, intensive cultural exchange and, say, the singer and composer Muslim Magomayev, the son of a great Azerbaijani people, gained popularity and respect in Ukraine. After the collapse of the USSR, our relations with Ukraine brought our nationwide leader Heydar Aliyev to a new level. At that time, we had problems – we faced the loss of the territorial integrity of the state. Neighboring Armenia, as a result of a 2-year war, occupied part of our territory and this part is a very considerable part of almost 20%. Until now, this conflict has not been resolved peacefully. In the OSCE, this conflict is called frozen, but we cannot agree with this definition – because officers and soldiers are killed every day on our side. We faced thisconflict, when we had a difficult economic situation, as a result of this conflict; there are above 1.000.000 refugees in our country. It was during this difficult time that our leader, Heydar Aliyev, led Azerbaijan and, together with President Leonid Kuchma, laid the solid foundation for our bilateral cooperation and gave impetus to the development of our bilateral relations in the economic field. Why did Heydar Aliyev so warmly treat Ukraine and command the next generation of Azerbaijani politicians and government officials to maintain good relations with Ukraine? Because while facing this conflict with Armenia, we almost did not have our own army, and Ukraine helped us to build our own armed forces. Therefore, none of the Azerbaijani leaders will ever have a negative attitude towards Ukraine. I also have to emphasize the fact that many of our government officials were educated in Ukraine. Our current minister graduated from Kyiv Institute of International Relations. I studied at the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine, and therefore, I can note that relations between our countries are very strong and have a long history. Ukraine is not only a name for the Azerbaijanis on a geographic map.

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Ambassador of Azerbaijan in Ukraine about the beginning of the history of diplomatic relations between Kyiv and Baku

Which directions would you prioritize in the relations between our two countries?

For our countries, a very serious political dialogue at the presidentiallevel and strong diplomatic cooperation are the common things. We have reached a full understanding with all branches of government in Ukraine. We do not have and have not had any interstate problems, but we have a level of strategic partnership. If there is a political dialogue, then it will surely be economic. We have always had good indicators of our economic cooperation. By 2013, the trade turnover between our countries had amounted to one billion dollars; there was a certain decline in 2015-2016 to 334 million dollars. In 2016 – 2017 we managed to raise it to 878 million. We increased our export volumes to Ukraine, mainly due to petroleum products. After the visit of Mr. Poroshenko in 2016, important agreements were reached, including the agreements on the supply of Azerbaijani oil brand AzerLight, one of the best in the world. We supply it mainly to the Kremenchuk oil refinery. We also supply other petroleum products that our brotherly country needs. Azerbaijani company “Sokar” is one of the largest investors in Ukraine. This company has already invested more than $ 300 million in the Ukrainian economy and we plan to increase the number ofAzerbaijani investors in Ukraine. I would like to take this opportunity and thank the Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Stepan Kubiv who has always provided and continues to provide all possible assistance to us and who is a great friend of Azerbaijan. Also, I cannot help but say that the top management of Azerbaijan has obliged us to open in Ukraine the Trade House of Azerbaijan. We have already opened a similar facility in Belarus, Latvia and China, and they work very well. The Trade House of Azerbaijan is a very powerful business platform, which deals with the purchase of all that is produced in Azerbaijan, including petroleum products. There is legal support of trade agreements there and the market analysis will be carried out. I can say that the opening of this trading house will give a very good impetus to the development of our trade relations. Our economic priorities are trade, transport, energy and tourism, of course. Azerbaijan is currently developing its tourism potential quite potentially and I think that the flow of tourists from Ukraine to Azerbaijan and from Azerbaijan to Ukraine this year has increased.

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Ambassador of Azerbaijan in Ukraine about the beginning of the history of diplomatic relations between Kyiv and Baku

Your country is very active in the development of the Silk Road. How fast will it start to function?

I hope, in 2019. We have done everything that was needed for our part. In 2017, a jubilee GUAM meeting at the level of heads of government was held in Kyiv in order to revive this intergovernmental organization. This meeting was held for the first time in 20 years. In my opinion, the next meeting should be held at the level of heads of the state.

GUAM was an inter-state association that should balance the geopolitical influence of the Russian Federation on the post-Soviet space. In general, to which extent is it possible to revive this association?

The geopolitical risks that are so common in our region lead us to the creation of an intergovernmental association, and the main goal of such an association should be to identify such risks on time. Such risks should not be detrimental to the regional security system. This is what the situation says – “One man in the field is not a good warrior”. While uniting several countries, it is much easier for them to respond to any challenges. Therefore, 20 years ago, GUAM was created. Then, the only participant who did not have an armed conflict on its territory was Ukraine. But –  and it is a pity for us – Ukraine has a similar disaster as well. We, the whole Azerbaijani people, the political leadership of our state hope that your conflict will not last for 25 years as ours. Finally, the whole world community is helping you. However, I should note that if the international community in a timely manner condemned the aggression against us in Karabakh, then I am sure that there would not be any other conflicts or separatist movements in the post-Soviet space. Separatism must be strongly condemned on time – that is why in 2014, at the UN General Assembly, Azerbaijan supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine. By the way, I must point out that one way or another, all the GUAM member countries are integrated with Europe in different ways, but integrated. And this can be considered our common achievement.


Ambassador of Azerbaijan in Ukraine about the beginning of the history of diplomatic relations between Kyiv and Baku

Is there an interest in Ukraine and Ukrainian culture in your country?

Of course, there is. I will tell you very briefly and specifically. If there were not much interest in Ukrainian culture at the academic level, then about 12 thousand would not be trained in Ukraine. This indicates that we trust your educational system and trust your culture. Also, we study Ukrainian language in Slavic University in Azerbaijan; we have many departments of the Ukrainian language, many translations of Ukrainian art works into Azerbaijani language. Very often the visits of scientific institutions take place in order to deepen and extend our cooperation. This year, the director of the Center for State Translations, Ms. Fah Massoud, a very famous person in Azerbaijan, visited Ukraine. She is very interested in modern Ukrainian literature. Ukrainians and Azerbaijanis are not close geographically, but our peoples share a spiritual similarity.

Do you travel a lot through Ukraine?

Of course. We know that Ukraine has great potential, but only being in the regions one can understand how powerful your country is. Ukraine is moving fast forward. It is no longer a raw material base. Ukraine is developing its high-tech production. Azerbaijan is ready to invest money in this and therefore, the representatives of the Embassy are monitoring the situation – we are observing which region is the most promising and safest (at the same time) for investing.

Which regions of Ukraine do you like most of all? Is there a place in Ukraine where you would like to spend your holidays?

– Without any diplomacy, I have to tell you – each of the Ukrainian regions is a special one. Each of the regions has its own attractive sides, and it is difficult to distinguish one of them. As for a vacation, in the winter I visited the Carpathians with my family. In the summer, we are in Odessa. Ukraine is a wonderful land, where wonderful people live, to whom we, with all our heart, wish peace, goodness and prosperity.

Ambassador of Azerbaijan in Ukraine about the beginning of the history of diplomatic relations between Kyiv and Baku