By Peter Tase
Immediately after the Declaration of Independence on October 18th, 1991, and a brief period of political turmoil, the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan under the leadership of President Heydar Aliyev, swiftly initiated a series of legislative reforms that generated a robust economic growth, promoted national values and alleviated poverty and unemployment throughout the territory of Azerbaijan.
In the first decade of an independent Azerbaijan (1993-2003), the Government of National Leader Heydar Aliyev modernized the oil industry and signed agreements with some of the largest international oil and gas companies that were persuaded by the Azerbaijani leader to establish their operations and regional offices in Baku.
In 2003, the impressive technological developments in the oil and natural gas sector, dynamic financial policies, followed by the admirable improvements of health care policy and the implementation of a renewed public education system marked the beginning of the presidency of H. E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, whose government has transformed Azerbaijan into a developed nation located in the cross roads of South East Europe and Western Asia.
For more than ten years the Government of President Ilham Aliyev introduced Azerbaijan for the first time to a production economy and achieved remarkable results in the course of attracting international strategic investors to his country. Furthermore, the Government of Azerbaijan has pursued liberalization policies, greater labor market flexibility, and lower tax rates for the international business community; Baku has emerged as a hub of logistics and a regional competitive market.
In this context, global alliances and bilateral agreements with the Latin American country of Brazil have acquired a special attention in the implementation of Azerbaijan’s Foreign Policy. Over twenty years after the Declaration of Independence, in 2013-2017, the Republic of Azerbaijan, under the unwavering guidance and vision of President Ilham Aliyev, opened a brand new chapter on its foreign policy and economic diplomacy. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, for the first time established close cooperation ties with the South American nation of Federative Republic of Brazil. This article will address the bilateral partnership, implementation of Azerbaijan’s Foreign Policy and the diplomatic dialogue that has currently taken place between the Republic of Azerbaijan and Brazil.
Interactive cooperation on many sectors
On January 23, 2013, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Brazil Elnur Sultanov presented his credential letters to the President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff. At the ceremony Ambassador Elnur Sultanov conveyed President Ilham Aliyev’s greetings and best wishes to the Brazilian Head of State. He also noted that in 2013 the two countries marked the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations and underlined Azerbaijan’s interest to expand ties with Brazil.
Furthermore, President Dilma Rousseff asked the Ambassador to pass her greetings and best wishes on to President Ilham Aliyev. She also congratulated the Azerbaijani Ambassador on the opening of Azerbaijani Embassy in Brazil and expressed hope that the bilateral ties will develop successfully in the future. Ambassador Elnur Sultanov stressed the great potential of Azerbaijani-Brazilian relations in various fields, including trade, commerce and humanitarian areas; he stated that the Embassy will work to strengthen bilateral ties. On this occasion, the Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister Antonio Patriota and the President’s foreign policy adviser Marco Aurelio Garcia were also present.
On November 30, 2011, the President of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev received the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Federative Republic of Brazil to Azerbaijan, Paulo Antonio marking the conclusion of his diplomatic mission. It was indicated that bilateral relations between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Federative Republic of Brazil are at a high level. In the meeting was emphasized that there are good prospects for enhancing bilateral relations in various fields, including the application of modern technologies.
On January 10, 2013, Ambassador Elnur Sultanov met with the Leader of Customs and International Relations Department of the Ministry of Finance of Brazil Mr. Ernani Argolo Kekkucci. During this meeting both public servants held discussions about the current state of cooperation in customs services between the two countries, possible ways on how to further develop this partnership, including the need to establish a legal framework and work on the arrangement of bilateral working visits.
Ambassador Elnur Sultanov reported about Azerbaijan’s recent economic development, legislative reforms undertaken in the customs sector and about its international relations.
On January 22 (2013) Ambassador Elnur Sultanov met with the President of Brazilian Trade and Investments Promotion Agency (APEX) Mauricio Borjes. APEX is the government agency responsible for promoting Brazil’s products and services abroad and to attract foreign direct investments into the strategic sectors of Brazil. During this meeting they discussed possible ways on how to promote bilateral commercial ties by establishing business-to-business connections and stressed the need to arrange mutual visits and presentations.
Ambassador Elnur Sultanov spoke about the development of Azerbaijan’s economy, the significant steps taken to ensure economic diversification, a favorable business environment to foreign investors, Azerbaijan’s leading role in undertaking regional energy projects and handed in informative materials to the President of APEX.
On February 1, 2013, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Affairs Minister Elmar Mammadyarov met with the Foreign Affairs Minister of Brazil Antonio Patriota on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. In this bilateral meeting discussions were focused on the prospects of furthering economic cooperation. Both sides underlined their intention to use the huge potential that exists in order to accelerate the ongoing bilateral ties. They also exchanged opinions about expanding this cooperation on various fields.
“Cooperating with Brazil, Azerbaijan can overcome future innovative challenges. Joint efforts should be done to avoid disruptive inequalities that might appear on their mutual path, but with goodwill and joint focus, there are no scilas and haribdas that will stop cooperation. Being innovative, at the same time, Baku and Brasilia must do more to spread the benefits all together,” stated Assoc. Prof. Dr. & Dr. Honoris Causa Sabahudin Hadžalić, the editor in chief of Diogen Pro Culture Magazine of United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Minister Elmar Mammadyarov talked about the dynamic development of Azerbaijani Economy. He also stressed that Azerbaijan is interested to develop bilateral cooperation with Latin American countries. The Diplomacy Chief of Azerbaijan stated that the ongoing excellent sports cooperation between Azerbaijan and Brazil serves as an example to strengthen the overall bilateral relationship. The Foreign Affairs Minister of Brazil said that he is well informed about the historical background of energy resources and the production of Azerbaijan and that his country is interested to further develop the energy cooperation with Azerbaijan.
Both Ministers discussed ways on how to expand the energy cooperation. In regards to the armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Minister Elmar Mammadyarov pointed out that the continuing existence of Armenian armed forces in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan adversely impacts Armenia which lags behind in the regional development. He also underlined that the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan would open up new opportunities for the settlement of the conflict and in the development of the region.
While noting Azerbaijan’s role in the Caucasus region, Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister highlighted Azerbaijan’s well known political and economic stability.
On February 19, 2013, Ambassador Elnur Sultanov met with Brazil’s Minister for Strategic Affairs Moreira Franco. They noted with satisfaction the current bilateral relationship between Azerbaijan and Brazil and underlined the huge potential to further develop bilateral cooperation across a wide range of areas. Azerbaijani Ambassador Elnur Sultanov informed the Brazilian Minister about Azerbaijan’s foreign policy, economic development, and large scale regional projects initiated by Azerbaijan as well as provided an update on regional affairs.
On March 27, 2013, Ambassador Sultanov had a meeting with Brazil’s Minister of Culture Marta Suplisi. During this meeting they discussed the cultural ties between Azerbaijan and Brazil and explored ways on how to enhance bilateral cultural cooperation between the two countries.
Ambassador Sultanov informed the Brazilian Minister about the rich and ancient Azerbaijani culture; traditions of tolerance, its leading role in promoting intercultural dialogue and international events.
On April 10, 2013, the Foreign Affairs Minister Elmar Mammadyarov received the outgoing Brazilian Ambassador Sergio de Sousa Fontes. During their meeting, they noted with satisfaction the recent progress in the bilateral relations and stressed the importance of furthering this cooperation.
On April 10-12, 2013, H. E. Mr. Elnur Sultanov paid a business trip to Rio de Janeiro. During his visit Ambassador Sultanov held meetings with senior officials of Rio de Janeiro as well as the state of Rio de Janeiro; he shared information about the existing bilateral relations and prospects for further enhancing this bilateral relationship. Ambassador Sultanov visited the Brazilian Centre for International Relations and the Getulio Vargas Foundation, in order to explore opportunities for a joint research project and the establishment of bilateral academic ties.
On April 18, the Azerbaijan State News Agency (AZERTAC) reported that the Azerbaijani Ambassador to Brazil Elnur Sultanov met Brazil’s Minister for Women’s Rights Eleonora Menicucci. During his presentation the Ambassador of Azerbaijan spoke about the works implemented in women’s and children policy, state programs, national legislation and the main priorities in the international cooperation in Azerbaijan. He also suggested a greater cooperation between the Azerbaijan State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs and Brazil’s Special Secretariat for Women’s Rights. Ambassador Sultanov also informed the Brazilian Minister about the historic role of women and their current engagement in the society of Azerbaijan.
On November 6, 2013, the Foreign Relations Committee of Rio de Janeiro City Council adopted a draft law on the sister-ship program between Baku and Rio de Janeiro. On December 3rd, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes signed the law on the twinning of Baku and Rio de Janeiro cities which came into force on December 4.
The common features of Baku and Rio de Janeiro are the cultural events, dynamic life style, their respective rich history, grandiose architecture and their emphasis given to sports; all of these items were particularly highlighted in the adopted law. Baku and Rio de Janeiro are known as two of the world’s cultural heritage centers and are visited by thousands of tourists every year.
The close strategic partnership of the Republic of Azerbaijan with the Federative Republic of Brazil is a testimony to Baku’s dynamic foreign policy implemented under the vision of National Leader Heydar Aliyev and the leadership of H. E. President Ilham Aliyev. Such an interactive partnership is also one of the concrete results of the Baku Process, a platform that has increased diplomatic communication and cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and other major global players such as Brasilia.
As Assoc. Prof. Dr. Honoris Causa Sabahudin Hadžalić emphasized, “Azerbaijan should focus on innovative challenges working and coordinating efforts within economic fields closely with Latin America countries. The effects of the future technologies are unknown, but policy challenges related to current technologies illustrate the magnitude of the shifts. Job losses are expected as technology transforms manufacturing and services in the coming years, raising questions about how quickly new jobs will be created and about the future of economic development models based on exporting labor-intensive manufacturing products.”
In continuation to this fruitful partnership, Brasilia is expected to strengthen its versatile cooperation in the following fields: cultural projects, economic, bilateral trade and logistical sector. Moreover, the Republic of Azerbaijan is highly motivated, has a lucrative propensity, to strengthen its bilateral cooperation on economic development and political dialogue with its partners in South America.