Athens, February 6, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
Auspiciously with respect to the strategic energy alliance between Greece and Azerbaijan departed from Baku the Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, after a two-day official visit.
According to Sofia Aravopoulou (AMNA), both sides admit that the visit, which was held at the invitation of Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, was especially constructive for the relations between the two countries. The particularly friendly atmosphere was marked by the fact that all the meetings lasted twice as long as that of the usual diplomatic contacts, and especially by the cordiality of President Ilham Aliyev, who is in his third 5-year term, giving an indication of a broadening of bilateral relations.
The interest of the Azeri for TAP pipeline is known but, today, it appears to gain an added value under the prism of the economic crisis brought about by the reduction in oil prices, which forced the government to devalue twice in 2015 the national currency, the manat, the first at the beginning of the year by 30% and the second in December last year, by 50%.
Azerbaijan has invested heavily in the TAP pipeline, both financially, and as a matter of prestige with Europe, with which it aspires to form a strategic relationship. Mr Kotzias offered to act as a “bridge” towards that end and offered the greek support, stressing that Greece may be a “true friend” and supporter.
As such, the common denominator in the interest of both parties is, as noted, for the implementation of the project to proceed as soon as possible, so that in two years time Europe to be powered with Azeri gas.
The details of the implementation of the TAP, although they had the lead in the meetings of Mr. Kotzias both with President Ilham Aliyev and his counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov, as well as with the Energy Minister and Chairman of the Joint Interministerial Greece-Azerbaijan Commission Natig Aliyev, the House Speaker Ogtay Asagov and the parliamentary Group of Greek-Azeri friendship, did not monopolise discussions between the two sides. Bilateral and regional issues such as the burden of refugee crisis Greece is facing, but mainly the solution of the Syrian issue, possibilities of cooperation in the commercial and cultural area, were also the focus of the meetings.
Two other “hot” issues on both sides could certainly not be left out of the discussions, namely the Nagorno Karabakh issue of utmost national importance for Azerbaijan, at a time when there is an alarming increase of frontier episodes between Azeris and Armenians and of course the Cyprus issue, which it is undergoing a period of intense search for its solution with the primary issue being the abolition of guarantees that will put an end to the Turkish occupation. The peaceful settlement of disputes and international law were commonplace on both sides.
There are known historical ties of Azerbaijan, a Turkish-speaking country, with Turkey, which clearly affect its position on international or regional issues, but the development of the country’s relations, particularly in recent years, with Russia adds more parameters in the equation. This can be seen in the concern expressed by Mr Mammadyarov on the Russo-Turkish conflict and the efforts, as he said, he is making to defuse the situation between the two sides.
With Iran emerging from isolation and Russia attempting to attract Azerbaijan to the Eurasian Economic Union and with Baku engaged in an effort to conclude a new politico-economic agreement with the EU, things are changing and the response to the call of Mr Mammadyarov by the Greek Foreign Minister with his presence in Baku at this time, and under the current circumstances, appearing to give a new dimension and perspective to the two countries relations.