Diplo­matic Pouch: In­ter­view with Am­bas­sador of Switzer­land to Azer­bai­jan Philip Stalder

“Switzer­land is among the top three coun­tries when it comes to for­eign di­rect in­vest­ments in the non-oil sec­tor of Azer­bai­jan"

Azer News - - Nation - By Amina Nazarli

The Am­bas­sador of Switzer­land to Azer­bai­jan, Philip Stalder , tells Az­erNews about Switzer­land-Azer­bai­jan co­op­er­a­tion, mak­ing a par­tic­u­lar ac­cent on the ways to de­velop bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion and econ­omy ties.

This year Azer­bai­jan and Switzer­land cel­e­brate the 25th an­niver­sary of diplo­matic re­la­tions, which are char­ac­ter­ized by open di­a­logue and are based on sev­eral key ar­eas in­clud­ing en­ergy pol­icy, co­op­er­a­tion in the in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion.

Ques­tion: How do you as­sess the re­la­tions be­tween our two coun­tries? Which mem­o­rable mile­stones can you high­light in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions?

An­swer: Switzer­land and Azer­bai­jan over the past 25 years have es­tab­lished a close part­ner­ship which is char­ac­ter­ized by open­ness, friend­ship and com­mon in­ter­ests.

My goal as Swiss Am­bas­sador to the Repub­lic of Azer­bai­jan is to broaden the re­la­tions be­tween our two coun­tries in as many fields as pos­si­ble - be it on the po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, so­cial, cul­tural or sci­en­tific level - and to make our links and Switzer­land's pres­ence in Azer­bai­jan even stronger. A num­ber of in­di­ca­tors show us that we are well un­der­way but there is al­ways room for fur­ther im­prove­ment.

There is a pro­duc­tive po­lit­i­cal frame­work for boost­ing bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. Pres­i­dent Il­ham Aliyev, for ex­am­ple, reg­u­larly vis­its the Swiss moun­tain re­sort Davos for par­tic­i­pa­tion at the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum where he also of­ten meets the ro­tat­ing Pres­i­dent of the Swiss Con­fed­er­a­tion. On the other hand, we wit­nessed three of­fi­cial vis­its from the Swiss Head of State to Azer­bai­jan over the last years. In ad­di­tion, reg­u­lar bi­lat­eral vis­its take place on a min­is­te­rial level, be­tween the two par­lia­ments and the Cen­tral Bank Gov­er­nors. Just a few weeks ago in July, the Chair­man of the Swiss Na­tional Bank, Thomas Jor­dan, vis­ited Baku and had pro­duc­tive meet­ings with his coun­ter­part and the main ac­tors within the government deal­ing with fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity is­sues.

Since my ar­rival in Oc­to­ber 2015, I con­tin­u­ously meet with min­is­ters, mem­bers of par­lia­ment and high of­fi­cials be it in Baku or in the prov­inces. From all my con­tacts, I sense a clear po­lit­i­cal will on both sides to strengthen bi­lat­eral re­la­tions and to con­tinue among other is­sues - with our long stand­ing part­ner­ship on tech­ni­cal co­op­er­a­tion. In this part­ner­ship with the government, we fo­cus on macro-eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion in­clud­ing sup­port for im­prov­ing the frame­work con­di­tions of the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in Azer­bai­jan. All in all, Switzer­land plays an im­por­tant role as a bi­lat­eral donor coun­try.

Q.: Azer­bai­jan is Switzer­land's main trad­ing part­ner in the South Cau­ca­sus. Which di­rec­tions, in your opin­ion, are pri­or­i­ties for both coun­tries?

A.: Since many years, a large num­ber of multinational com­pa­nies from Switzer­land have close busi­ness links with Azer­bai­jan and a phys­i­cal pres­ence in the coun­try. A Swiss-French com­pany in the ce­ment pro­duc­tion, for ex­am­ple, rep­re­sents the big­gest for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment in the non-oil sec­tor. An­other Swiss com­pany has plans to strengthen its pres­ence in Azer­bai­jan through the con­struc­tion of a new fac­tory at Sum­gait Chem­i­cal In­dus­trial Park. It comes there­fore not as a big sur­prise that - ac­cord­ing to the State Sta­tis­tics Com­mit­tee of Azer­bai­jan Switzer­land is among the top three coun­tries when it comes to for­eign di­rect in­vest­ments in the non-oil sec­tor. Our com­pa­nies, so far, have in­vested more than $370 mil­lion in Azer­bai­jan, ac­cord­ing to this source.

Q.: As a neu­tral coun­try, Switzer­land played an im­por­tant role in re­solv­ing many con­flicts. How could Switzer­land con­trib­ute to the set­tle­ment of the Ar­me­nian-Azer­bai­jani Nagorno-Karabakh con­flict?

A.: Switzer­land in­deed has a long tra­di­tion in play­ing an ac­tive role in peace pro­cesses - this in cases where both par­ties in a con­flict ask us to do so. Many ne­go­ti­a­tions and meet­ings took place in Switzer­land. Fur­ther­more, Switzer­land of­fers its good ser­vices to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and cur­rently rep­re­sents the in­ter­est of Rus­sia in Ge­or­gia and vice-versa as well as the in­ter­ests of USA in Iran. Swiss diplo­macy has vast ex­pe­ri­ence in the field of me­di­a­tion. In the past, pres­i­den­tial meet­ings be­tween lead­ers of Azer­bai­jan and Ar­me­nia took also place in Switzer­land, the last in De­cem­ber 2015 in Bern.

As far as Nagorno-Karabakh con­flict is con­cerned, the man­date of the peace process is clearly given to the OSCE Minsk Group. Although we are not a mem­ber of this for­mat, we fully sup­port the Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group and fa­vor a struc­tured ne­go­ti­a­tion process in or­der to find a sus­tain­able so­lu­tion to the con­flict based on the prin­ci­ple of in­ter­na­tional law. Switzer­land con­demns vi­o­lent in­ci­dents and mil­i­tary at­tacks on civil­ians.

Let me also men­tion here, that the new Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Se­cu­rity and Co-Op­er­a­tion in Europe (OSCE), Am­bas­sador Thomas Greminger, is a former Swiss diplo­mat.

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