Date: 19 March 2019, 11:56,
The visit of Azerbaijan’s First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva to Paris showed the high level of trust between France and Azerbaijan, Ambassador of France to Azerbaijan Aurelia Bouchez said in an interview with Trend in "PREZİDENT. Müstəqillik. Təhlükəsizlik. Rifah" video project.
"I am delighted to be back in Baku after such an important visit, which took place in Paris. Her Excellency First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva paid a meaningful and successful high-level visit to Paris, which showed the high level of trust and mutual understanding between France and Azerbaijan, as well as the comprehensive and diversified nature of our bilateral cooperation,” she said.
The diplomat noted that the First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva was invited by the Prime Minister of France Édouard Philippe to Paris.
"Her meeting with the Prime Minister of France, as well as various other high level meetings and contacts – with the French First Lady, with the Presidents of the National Assembly and Senate, with the ministers of Culture and Economy - offered opportunities to touch upon issues of the region, including the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh. It allowed us to assess the state of play of our economic cooperation: what has been done, what is about to be done and what more could be done. Both sides stressed the dynamism of this cooperation, but also the untapped potential of our economic cooperation,” she said.
Bouchez noted that the two sides also congratulated each other on the big success achieved in the field of education and cultural cooperation.
"They praised the success of the French Lyceum of Baku and French-Azerbaijani University (UFAZ) and the promotion of French language in schools. Indeed, this visit was an opportunity for exchanges, for discussing future projects and future action.
Four agreements were signed in order to give a concrete substance to the development of our economic cooperation. Of course, a lot of other projects have been discussed. A number of common points between Azerbaijan and France were stressed, such as the tradition of secularism and the role of women. Thus this visit illustrated the vibrant nature of our relations, what we do and what we could do to further develop our cooperation in various areas,” noted the ambassador.
She further talked about economic cooperation between Azerbaijan and France.
"Regarding business perspectives, I am happy to say that in 2018, we registered a 15 percent increase in commercial exchanges in volume. We are quite optimistic because French companies cover rather well the spectrum of Azerbaijan’s economy: they are particularly well placed to contribute to its diversification and to tap its great potential. Of course, the oil and gas sector remains of crucial importance and I would like to mention Total’s successful cooperation with Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR for more than 20 years. We view Azerbaijan and SOCAR as very reliable partners. Total is contemplating doing more in Azerbaijan than its current activities. We hope that its projects will be fulfilled,” noted Bouchez.
She went on to add that there is also the non-oil sector and its growing share in the economy thanks to the diversification policy launched by His Excellency President Aliyev.
"French companies are well positioned in priority sectors, such as transport: rail (Alstom), metro (Thales), buses (Iveco) and airports (Thales). Azerbaijan has a big potential as a regional transportation hub and French companies are ready to step up their activities to contribute to this goal. The French Agency for Development is already supporting rail-related projects. Then there are promising fields of cooperation such as agriculture. And we are very happy to see that Azerbaijan’s minister of agriculture has already been to France several times and we very much look forward to further developing our cooperation in the field of agriculture and agro-business,” said Bouchez.
Regarding the environment, the ambassador said Baku is a beautiful and modern city but it also has to address concerns related to water systems and the environment.
"The French company Suez is already active here. It is eager to do even more through, for instance, pollution remediation programs and improved water management. Tourism is booming in Azerbaijan. It is normal, because its towns are beautiful and its regions have a very high potential for touristic development. There are also other fields which can be further developed, in particular space activities. We see the success of the programs developed by Azercosmos and of course, in particular the observation satellite it developed in cooperation with Airbus,” noted the diplomat.
She said these are just a few examples of the existing cooperation.
"But each of them is to be further developed. Each of the companies has projects. Each of them would like to develop them and to expand their presence here, because French companies are very much interested in the Azerbaijani market. There is a fantastic potential in your beautiful country. This potential is enhanced by the conductive policy currently developed by the Azerbaijani authorities, including the latest fiscal reforms and the support measures to the SMEs. Economic cooperation is a topic which was discussed by the First Vice-President with each of her interlocutors, among other topics. Each time there was an exchange on what we can do to ensure deeper and broader connection between France and Azerbaijan,” Ambassador Bouchez concluded.