Ambassador: Egypt supports Azerbaijan’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh at UN

Baku: Interview with Suzan Jamil, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to Azerbaijan

– You have been newly appointed ambassador to Azerbaijan. What was your view of Azerbaijan before coming here? And did you find what you actually saw here similar to your conjecture?

– My view of Azerbaijan, before starting to act as an ambassador [here], was limited to the information I had obtained from my work. At the time, I was working at the consular department of the Egyptian Fund for Technical Cooperation with CIS countries. I’m talking about the period from 1996 to 2001. All I knew about Azerbaijan was from the embassy’s reports. As you know, Egypt is of the first countries to recognize Azerbaijan’s sovereignty. We’ve had good historical ties before the CIS. I think there’s strong potential for the development of relations between the two countries. I saw a big difference when I came here because your country achieved tremendous economic development over a few years. What I saw outdid my expectations. I’m most pleased to have started acting as Egypt’s ambassador to Azerbaijan. It was amazing to see luminous buildings, the boulevard, and trade centers on the way from the airport to the city center. And your greatest resource is your kind people. They treat me quite softly. I felt how much people herein love my country when I only said I’m from Egypt. Such a pleasing attitude of people makes my work very easy.

– What are areas do you think will be the priorities during your activity in Azerbaijan?

– We have to continue our cooperation in all spheres. But when it comes to the political sphere, we support Azerbaijan’s position in regard to Nagorno-Karabakh at the UN and its specialized institutions. Azerbaijan too shows its support to Egypt. There’s no issue which we have not agreed on with Azerbaijan in the political sphere. We have agreed on all issues. As for the level of bilateral trade relations, however, we need to deepen our cooperation in this area. As you know, Egypt buys oil and gas from Azerbaijan. But that’s not enough. We should strengthen bilateral ties in the areas of trade, economy, and culture. I’ve seen shortage of information between the two countries. Your people know Egypt mostly from historical point of view, but should be informed that Egypt has cities and region outstanding with tourism. Likewise, people in Egypt should know about Azerbaijan far more than what they already know. People as well as the mainstream media must know the stance of Azerbaijan regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In this regard, my efforts as well as director of the Egyptian Cultural Center Dr. Ahmed Sami’s efforts are important. Through such similar activities, we should increase people’s information of Egypt and – as they say – try to bring the civilizations closer to each other.

– You stressed the importance of developing trade relations. What do you think has to be done for this area to develop?

– The efforts made by the embassy are not sufficient in this regard. It is important to hold a forum for businessmen from both countries to discuss mutually beneficial issues. They should determine the potential for the Azerbaijani and Egyptian sides. As the embassy don’t have information on all small details, the two sides should discuss these details. There is an intergovernmental commission comprising representatives from both sides. Though the meeting of Azerbaijan-Egypt intergovernmental commission was planned to be held on January 26-27 next year, but Egypt has appealed to postpone it due to recent developments. It is a governmental initiative. We support meeting of representatives and discussion over issues of mutual interests for the development of relations in the private sector. We have high level governmental relations.

– Would Egypt organize high-level visits to Azerbaijan?

– We hope that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will pay a visit to Azerbaijan. As I know, an official invitation hasn’t been sent to him yet. I heard that SOCAR president met with the prime minister during his visit to Egypt. At the meeting, he invited the president to visit Azerbaijan. But, this invitation should be sent by the president.

– What is Egypt’s position regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

– The UN resolutions and decisions of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation support Azerbaijan’s sovereignty in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The parties should hold discussions with the Minsk Group to reach a final solution. A large number of Azerbaijanis were forced to leave their lands. The conflict’s remaining unresolved for over 20 years is unpleasant for those people. Egypt supports the activity of the Minsk Group.

– Egypt was recently on the agenda of the world’s media for the Russian plane crashed over its territory. What is the current situation over the incident?

– Russia said that there was a bomb on the board of the plane. Investigation is underway in this regard. It doesn’t mean that we are hiding something. We can’t say whether there was a bomb or not till the final result. We should wait for final results of investigation and official statement. An investigation committee includes several countries. Germany, France, Russia, as well as Egypt are conducting investigation within this committee. It doesn’t mean that we are hiding information. We should wait for final results.

– Have the suspended flights from foreign countries to Egypt restored?

– The only country that cancelled the flights is Russia. We still accept flights from various world countries.

– Regarding the incident, statements were made on failure in complying with safety regulations at Sharm el-Sheikh airport.

– I am sure that all safety measures have been taken. The International Civil Aviation Organization has never revealed any deficiencies at Sharm el-Sheikh airport in terms of security. I should also mention that we have strengthened security measures.

– Sinai province branch of ISIL claimed responsibility for the incident. Earlier, ISIL was named in a series of bombings in Egypt. How do you think? Can these lead to Egypt’s involvement in the Syrian conflict?

– Of course, the situation in Syria has affected the entire Middle East region. As you know, Egypt has participated in the negotiations on Syria in Vienna. Egypt condemns the terror acts committed by ISIL, Al-Nusra Front and other terrorist organizations. However, there is no final decision on who committed the incident in Sinai. In all cases, as stated in the Vienna talks, we first need to fight terrorism, and then determine the future of Bashar al-Assad.

– In what direction will the processes further go on in the region in the background of the recent tension in the Russian-Turkish relations?

– I hope that they will reach a compromise together. I know that President Putin was disappointed with the downing of the Russian warplane. According to media reports, the flights through Syria were coordinated with the US beforehand. That is what Russia wants to say. Earlier, they sent and coordinated this information with the US. This means that NATO was aware of it and also means that Turkey was informed about the flight. Still, we hope the tension will ease. Because we don’t need any critical situation in the Middle East. We have suffered enough.

– There is tension in Egypt’s relations with Turkey. The diplomatic relations were reduced to lower levels. How can it effect the situation in the region?

– We still have diplomatic relations with Turkey. We sent not an ambassador but a charge d’affaires to Turkey. This doesn’t mean that the relations have been cut off. We still have good relations with Turkey and the Turkish people. There is no restriction in citizens’ traveling to Turkey. People make visits for their daily affairs and business. There is no problem.

– Is there any issue that you want to highlight at the end?

– I hope that we will develop relations in all fields as long as I stay here. Azerbaijan is a country promising prospects. I hope for increase of mutual visits.