Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, who is on a visit in Azerbaijan, said in an exclusive interview with Trend that the main purpose of his visit to the country is the desire to continue a fruitful political and economic dialogue with it.
“To some extent, this is a preparation for the visit of the Latvian president, who will arrive in Azerbaijan for the Baku International Humanitarian Forum next month,” the minister said. “We have already discussed the issues of bilateral relations of our countries with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.”
It was noted that Azerbaijan and Latvia have great political ties, he said.
“We are also looking forward to Azerbaijani president’s official visit to Latvia,” he added. “This visit is aimed to outline a program of further cooperation.”
The Latvian minister also said that the sides intend to strengthen cultural and educational ties.
In addition, the Latvian minister noted that he and Azerbaijani president touched upon the issues of cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan.
“We fully support the new agreement on strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and the EU,” Rinkevics said.
He added that the sides discussed a draft agreement with the EU, which was handed over by Azerbaijan two years ago during the Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga.
“This document will serve not only to strengthening political cooperation between Azerbaijan and Latvia, but also give impetus to the intensification of economic relations, particularly regarding energy cooperation,” he said. “The future agreement will contribute to the improvement of trade between Azerbaijan and the EU, particularly with Latvia.”
At the same time, a decline of economic relations is observed between Azerbaijan and Latvia for objective reasons, the minister said.
“We need to intensify the work in this direction within the intergovernmental commission and business community,” said Rinkevics.
The Latvian minister went on to add that a lot of Azerbaijani products don’t reach the EU market because of tariffs, duties and quotas.
“Latvia could work more with Azerbaijan on joint economic projects, if not for local taxation,” he said. “If there had been an agreement which at least partially solved these problems, it would have contributed to the development of trade between our countries. Latvia may offer its services in the wood industry, agriculture. We can offer our milk products, and in turn, Latvia is interested in Azerbaijani wines, pomegranate juice, vegetables and fruits.”
Regarding cooperation in the energy sector, the minister noted that Latvia is interested in Azerbaijani energy projects.
“We are interested in the diversification of oil and gas supplies,” he said. “We are currently working on the liberalization of the gas market. This is an opportunity to develop relations with both Azerbaijan and the Central Asian countries, as well as Norway, Saudi Arabia, Qatar.”
Rinkevics added that Latvia will be working on the possibility of initiating direct flights from Baku to Riga, and this will contribute to the development of tourism between Azerbaijan and Latvia.
He welcomed the introduction of the ASAN Visa system, which makes it possible for foreigners and stateless persons to get an e-visa to Azerbaijan through a single online portal within three days without applying to state organizations.
“The EU also tries to simplify the visa system for citizens of Azerbaijan, and there is already a more flexible regime of visa issuance,” Rinkevics added.