Ambassador Elman Abdullayev has been serving as Ambassador of Azerbaijan in Ethiopia since 2014. Graduate of California State University he has been in foreign services of Azerbaijan since 1999. Prior to his nomination as Ambassador to Ethiopia he was Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2011 till 2014. He talked to Capital about the two nations bilateral relations. Excerpts;
Capital: How would you describe the bilateral relationship as the Embassy of Azerbaijan was opened 6 years ago?
Elman Abdullayev: I believe that our bilateral relationship is growing. This relationship has been growing dynamically since our Embassy started functioning here and as a result this has allowed us to keenly follow on our relations on a daily basis. Interestingly, this relationship goes way back to the 60s and 70s when many Ethiopians visited and studied in Azerbaijan. We have also had interactions in the past at different levels inclusive of mutual visits of our officials, we also have different documents signed by our countries such as the Protocol of Bilateral consultations between our Ministries of Foreign Affairs. Moreover, the business community has also had a keen interest in developing this relationship. In overview, I would describe the relationship as a very warm and friendly one as well as dynamically growing. This of course stems from our mutual interests in the diplomatic, economic and business communities and is further cemented by our historical background and fruitful interactions in the past. This relationship also has a huge potential which we both can capitalize on and strengthen as the future unfolds.
Capital: What perspectives are there in relation to economic cooperation between our countries?
Elman Abdullayev: For an economic relation to exist there must first be a foundational friendly relationship, which we have. For both our countries we enjoy an excellent political relationship this in turn leads to a tangible result, which in this case is a fruitful economic relation. In that regard there have been mutual visits between our countries from the business communities. The Azerbaijan business community and companies have made visits to Addis to different industries. There is also a growing interest and huge potential in the Bio Industries. Similarly, I would like to echo to the business community in Ethiopia to pay close attention to the Petro- Chemical industry in relation to Azerbaijan, as we are an energy producing country. This is because as an energy producing nation we have an advanced Petro-chemical industry which could be of great benefit to Ethiopia.
Other economic perspectives include the import and export sector. A very good example of this is the coffee market where Azerbaijan imports packed, value added coffee from Ethiopia. The Agricultural sector is also a stronghold of our nation not only in advanced production but also in E- Agriculture, that is, in terms of ICT required to face the challenges of the 21st century. Furthermore, the space industry is also an aspect that we can look into as our nation has launched 3 satellites and our advancement in IT can also prove to be of great benefit as information technology is the future. This we will achieve in the loop of the Ethiopian Government.
The energy and mining industry is also an aspect where we have a tremendous experience in. In this ‘extractive industry’ Azerbaijan is recognized also as the first country to embark on off-shore drilling. Similarly, I have been in contacts with the officials from the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining here in Ethiopia where we have had a series of interesting conversations. As the mining industry grows in this country we hope to be a strong partner as well.
Capital: There are many Ethiopians who have lived and studied in Azerbaijan. Does Azerbaijan still continue providing scholarships to Ethiopian students?
Elman Abdullayev: There is a historical background of Ethiopians who have studied and lived in our nation, stretching from the 60s and 70s. Students have studied in many fields. Some of the popular fields include petroleum and gas engineering. We are currently providing the most scholarship opportunities in relation to the former soviet-union republics. This scholarships therefore extend to Ethiopia as well and we hope to continue building this academic relationship.
Capital: Armenia- Azerbaijan Nagorno Karabakh conflict is in the attention of the international media, can you elaborate on this more and give us some background and update?
Elman Abdullayev: This conflict goes way back to the beginning of 90’s. The true essence of this conflict is actually the ongoing military occupation of Azerbaijani territories, that is, 20 percent of Azerbaijan territories occupied by neighboring Armenia. Similarly the international community through the adopted UN Security council resolutions also condemns the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories and demands immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Armenian military forces form the occupied territories.
On the 27th of September, Armenian armed forces launched a large scale military assault on our nation targeting both the military and civilians. And as a result the armed forces of Azerbaijan had to take necessary counter measures to repulse the attack and ensure the safety of its civilians. As a result of this gruesome attacks more than 60 people have lost their lives, more than 290 have been wounded and about 3000 facilities have been destroyed. What is even more depressing is that these casualties, where this events unfolded, are very much far from the frontline. It is devastating that Armenia is choosing to attack cities that are 100, 170 and 300 kilometers far from the frontline. Thereby, this raises the question of what is the military necessity of targeting these innocent civilians. Furthermore, they have also attacked, Ganja, our country’s second largest city with ballistic missiles and cluster bombs that has rendered suffering to innocent civilians. They have also targeted our Hydro-Electric power plant which are a source of electricity to our nation. This impunity violates the humanitarian law as well as the Geneva convention. This is the root cause of the frustration of Azerbaijan as well as the international community.
We all know that impunity only and only encourages further killings which leads to a more vicious cycle of violence and destruction. The Azerbaijan armed forces are thus providing protection for our citizens as well as liberating our internationally recognized territories.
Capital: Apart from taking counter measures is there anything the two countries and the international community is engaged in to maintain peace?
Elman Abdullayev: For the last almost 30 years, The Minsk Group, the activities of which have become known as the Minsk Process, leads the OSCE’s efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Armenia Azerbaijan conflict. It is co-chaired by France, the Russian Federation, and the United States.
What the People of Azerbaijan expects from tis activities, is enforcement of peace upon Armenia to end occupation and with this conflict. But unfortunately, regardless of waiting for so many years and negotiations and especially engagement of OSCE MG, the progress was zero. The major reason of the continuation of the occupation is that Armenia is still not punished by the international community, UN SC resolutions are not implemented and moreover, international community continues to remain silent. This is what you call impunity. And while the international community remains silent our people are being bombed everyday and civilians are being killed.
I would like to bring an example of historical speech of Emperor Haile Selassie, his famous speech in 1936 in the League of Nations when Ethiopia was occupied. He addressed the international community by saying, ‘if you do not react now, today is us and tomorrow will be you.’
This is the exact the same message that we are saying to the world that aggression, crimes against humanity and violation of international law have to be condemned by everyone NOW!
Capital: What is you’re take on the media coverage of this conflict?
Elman Abdullayev: For quite some time international media had been silent on this matter, up until this recent conflict. I believe that media plays a strong role in shedding the light on what is going on in the international arena. Therefore media has a huge responsibility of transmitting the right facts and truths so as not to be misleading. Unfortunately, we witness in many cases bias media coverages too. So this is the reason we invited international media representatives, so that the could eyewitness the atrocities against civilians and massive devastation. We all want our voices to be heard and very much so during such times. We strongly value and believe in media and as nation we encourage unbiased media coverage on this matter so as to make our voices heard.
Capital: We have heard interesting stories about Mujreddin Beylagani, a famous poet whose maternal roots were from Ethiopia. What is your take on the poet?
Elman Abdullayev: He was an incredible poet in my view. His father was Azerbaijani and mother was Habesha (Ethiopian). He was a poet from the 12th century who wrote in a style of multi–culturalism, because his father was Muslim and his mother was Christian. He wrote about the Islam religion of his father and of the Christian faith of his mother. The traditions of multi-culturalism in Azerbaijan have lived with us and reached up until now, to modern days Azerbaijan. This is how we are made, different cultures, confessions, traditions, but One Nation, which coexists in peace, harmony and unity.
Capital: What Ethiopian meal do you enjoy the most ?
Elman Abdullayev: I enjoy spicy foods such as ‘firfir’ and ‘Shiro wot’.