Serbia strengthens ties with Azerbaijan

By Elshan Rustamov

The interview with the  Serbian ambassador to Azerbaijan Zoran Vayovich.


How can you characterize the current state of Azerbaijani-Serbian relations?


The Azerbaijani-Serbian ties are developing quickly and dynamically and have reached a high level over the past few years.


Last year President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev paid a visit to Serbia, while in 2010 the Serbian president visited Baku.


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The Azerbaijani embassy in Belgrade opened in May 2010 and the Serbian embassy in Baku which located in the most wonderful part of the city-Icheri Sheher started functioning in March 2011.


I am happy to be working and serving my country in Azerbaijan and contributing to development of bilateral ties.


Economic relations between our countries are also expanding. Last year we created an intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation. Its first session was held in Belgrade.


The commission was co-chaired by Minister of Economic Development Shahin Mustafayev and deputy Prime Minister, Minister of External and Internal Trade and Telecommunications of Serbia Rasim Liaich.


The regular business forums promote development of economic ties.


I would like the economic ties to develop and strengthen against the backdrop of stable political ties.


Is the Serbian community well informed about the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno Karabakh?


Serbia receives sufficient information about Nagorno Karabakh conflict, which, unfortunately, lasts for already 20 years. Its settlement is desirable in the nearest future. There are four resolutions of the UN Security Council related to the resolution of this conflict. 20% of Azerbaijani lands are occupied. Serbian Community and state structures are quite aware of this hard conflict which must be settled in line with the international law.


What do people in Serbia know about Azerbaijan, in general?


There has recently been much information in Serbia about the bilateral ties, development of economic relations, cooperation in spheres of sport, culture and so on.


Volleyballers and footballers from Serbia play successfully in Azerbaijan.


During the Eurovision international song contest, the image of Azerbaijan and bright Baku in the night has traveled around the world.


I am sometimes asked in Serbia: Is it so wonderful in Baku?! I think that such a major international music contest presented the picture of new Azerbaijan, which is why people in Serbia are quite informed about your country.


Are there Azerbaijanis in Serbia?


Yes. Today we are developing economic ties, have signed a contract on road construction. Representative offices of several Azerbaijani companies interested in the further development of ties, investment in Serbian economy open in Belgrade.


The Azerbaijani cultural center has opened, the Serbian-Azerbaijani trade and industrial chamber involving businessmen, representatives of various industrial spheres work actively in Belgrade. Azerbaijanis also work in oil sector. But, unfortunately, today the countries maintain a visa regime which is undesirable.’


Is the opening of direct air flights possible between Baku and Belgrade?


Serbian state aviation company JAT Airways and Azerbaijan’s AZAL have been negotiating since the last year about the opening of a joint flight via Belgrade to the United States. The subject of negotiations is also the joint operation of airplanes and joint flights. 


In what spheres do you see prospects for development of cooperation?


Serbia and Azerbaijan are working closely over the project of construction of infrastructural facilities. The biggest is the project of highway section construction in Serbia in which Azerbaijani companies are general contractors.


Two or three more Azerbaijani companies we have been negotiating with have expressed their intention to open a representative office and invest in Serbia. We would also like to see more Serbia constructors in Azerbaijan.


There are a number of projects in agriculture were Serbian and Azerbaijani specialists are involved. Serbian specialists were dealing with hothouse arrangement in Azerbaijan. There is an interest in mutual supplies of agricultural production. Serbia mainly supplies foodstuffs, confectionaries to Azerbaijan.


Which mutual visits are expected this year?


We are planning to hold the second session of the intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation this year.


The date of the visit will be specified with respect to bilateral schedules. I have to remind that this year we have already held a business forum in Baku. A large delegation of Serbian enterprises took part in the World Food exhibition in Baku.


Talks are held about organization of the visits of a number of ministers this year for the purpose of signing cooperation agreements.


The opening of monument to outstanding Serbian scientist Nicola Tesla and the groundbreaking ceremony of the same-name park are expected in Baku. This will be a ground for organization of the exhibition. Arrangement of a number of scientific and cultural events would also be desirable.


What else can you add?


I am satisfied with the way the bilateral ties between Serbia and Azerbaijan develop. We will spare no effort for their further development in all directions-this is our goal and we are working at it every day.