The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) "provides immense opportunities for inclusive cooperation," said Head of the Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan Hikmat Hajiyev as he was interviewed by Xinhua News Agency, CGTN (China Global Television Network) TV channel and China Daily newspaper in Beijing, informs Azerbaijan State News Agency.
As a country located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Azerbaijan has maintained mutually beneficial cooperation with China. "Bilateral relations of the two countries, from high-level political dialogue, economic and trade cooperation, to energy, education, culture and humanitarian spheres are developing," Hajiyev said.
"The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013 has touched the hearts of the Azerbaijani people, as the restoration of the ancient Silk Road is for the benefit of the entire world, and the development and prosperity of all countries," Hajiyev said. “We see lots of synergies between the BRI and Azerbaijan's own development agenda.”
"There are growing opportunities between China and Azerbaijan, especially in economy, trade, commerce, agriculture, energy, petrochemical industry and other spheres including tourism," he said, adding that Azerbaijan welcomes more investment from China.
"China and Azerbaijan in our foreign policy are contributing to the establishment of respectful relations at the international level," Hajiyev said, stressing that the two countries both support multilateralism.
The two sides enjoy an active working relationship in regional and international frameworks including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which in Hajiyev's words "supplements bilateral cooperation."
As Azerbaijan has a favorable political and geographic location, the country aims to become a transport hub connecting Europe and Asia under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. "The point of the transportation network is to integrate it with the original countries," Hajiyev said, adding Azerbaijan has built a network of transportation including seaports, airports, railways and land roads.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway became operational on Oct 30, 2017, and aims to complete a transport corridor linking Azerbaijan to Turkey and Central Asia and China to Europe by rail. "It works as a major exporter and middle corridor under the Belt and Road Initiative, and Azerbaijan is also working on the East-West line and North-South Line, linking the railway systems of Iran and Russia."
Thanks to its geographic location, Azerbaijan boasts great wine as well as tea, dried fruit, fruit juice and sweets. The country has had extensive discussions about exporting Azerbaijan agricultural products to China, Hajiyev said, adding Azerbaijani companies are actively taking part in food and agricultural exhibitions in China to promote their products, as the Chinese market is the one of the biggest markets in the world with immense opportunities.
Azerbaijan sent a delegation to the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai last November. "This kind of expo is extremely important, and provides a chance for Azerbaijan to reach out to the Chinese market and establish contact with Chinese companies," Hajiyev said, adding last year's event was extremely helpful to Azerbaijan and helped traders to understand the requirements and demands of the Chinese market.
People-to-people contacts, as a non-ignorable component of the Belt and Road Initiative, are boosted by China and Azerbaijan via linking people of the two countries in cultural exchange, education, humanitarian dialogue and tourism cooperation. China and Azerbaijan signed a memorandum of understanding to stimulate tourism between the two countries. "Data from 2018 shows 15,000 Chinese tourists visited Azerbaijan last year, which is not enough of course, and we aim to do more to attract more visitors in the coming years," Hajiyev said.
Almost 50 percent of China's trade with the Caucasus region are from Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan has invested $1.7 billion in Chinese securities. Current trade volume between China and Azerbaijan is above $1.5 billion, and Hajiyev believes there is still more to do to promote bilateral trade, as the two countries have very good relations.