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"
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.