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Avramopoulos Seeks to Boost Energy, Tourism Ties in Baku

New Europe

May 04, 2013

Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos paid a two-day official visit to Azerbaijan on 29-30 April where he discussed bilateral relations with the Caspian country’s leadership. Avramopoulos’ talks with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev focused on politics, economy, energy, trade and tourism. They also exchanged views on the Azerbaijan-Greece co-operation within the European Union and NATO.

In a meeting with Azerbaijan’s Prime Minister Artur Rasizade, Avramopoulos stressed Azerbaijan’s role in ensuring Europe’s energy security, highlighting the large potential for partnership in energy sector between the two countries.

Azerbaijan is already exporting gas to Greece through Turkey. Avramopoulos has said Greece wants to expand energy co-operation with Azerbaijan, specifically through the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), a project for a dedicated pipeline that would carry Azerbaijan’s natural gas to European markets via Greece, Albania and Italy – also supplying Southeast Europe and the Balkans through interconnectors.

The consortium developing the Shah Deniz 2 field in Azerbaijan aims to choose between TAP and rival Nabucco West by June.

Touching on the sale of Greek Public Gas Corporation DEPA, Avramopoulos said Athens welcomes SOCAR’s desire to take part in the privatisation. He told a briefing on 30 April that Greece is open for investments and invites Azerbaijani investors to the country. SOCAR is one of the participants in the DEPA privatisation tender, which is expected to be held in May, but has been repeatedly postponed.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said energy co-operation between Baku and Athens has great potential for expansion. There are no political problems for developing co-operation between the two countries, Mammadyarov said. 

He also said Azerbaijan and Greece intend to increase their trade turnover to $1 billion. “The talks were constructive,” Mammadyarov said. “We discussed the possibility of increasing the trade turnover volume up to $1 billion.”

He also said the sides had discussed future co-operation in light of the Greek presidency of the EU on 1 January 2014.

Avramopoulos said the history of co-operation between the two countries after Azerbaijan gained independence is over 20 years old and this visit is special. He said Greece was determined to build bilateral relations in political, economic and cultural fields with Azerbaijan. “We held effective negotiations. We discussed international relations and the priorities of Greece during the next presidency of the EU,” Avramopoulos said.

According to the State Statistics Committee of Azerbaijan, in 2012, the trade turnover between the two countries amounted to over $849 million.

Noting the Azerbaijani government’s plans to boost tourism in the former Soviet republic, Avramopoulos said Athens had great experience in this field. He added this opens new prospects for the bilateral co-operation between the countries. A Baku-Athens direct flight will be opened soon. This will bring the two countries even closer, the Greek Foreign Minister said.

Meanwhile, Azeri premier Rasizade stressed the importance of the mutual visits in developing the relations, and briefed the Greek foreign minister on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Rasizade said the dispute had to be settled on the basis of Azerbaijan`s territorial integrity.

Avramopoulos said Greece supports OSCE Minsk Group’s efforts to find a solution to the frozen conflict. “I offered my counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov to hold a meeting between the government members of the two countries in Baku and Athens in the near future,” Avramopoulos said. “The peaceful solution of conflicts basing on the international law and principles of international sovereignty is the fundamental principle of Greece’s foreign policy. Greece is the member of OSCE and of course, we support Minsk Group’s efforts to find a solution of Nagorno Karabakh conflict satisfying both parties. The most important is the will, the political will of the parties to the conflict. If there is a political will, dialogue and negotiations will produce results,” he said.

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