Ukraine has been hitting headlines for several years already. After the dramatic developments that followed Maidan and the coup d’état, chill hit the relations of Baku and Kiev. Once good allies, they no longer trusted each other. Yet, there are signs of thaw in their relations now, as President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko is expected to pay an official visit to Azerbaijan.
Actually, Ukraine’s leadership proved blind to Azerbaijan’s support at international organizations, Azerbaijani Diaspora’s assistance to the Ukrainian army and the forced migrants. Furthermore, the condition of Azerbaijanis living in Ukraine has deteriorated. Many still blame Arsen Avakov, the current interior minister of Ukraine, for the chill in the relations of the two countries.
The infringement of rights of local Azerbaijanis made the leadership of the Azerbaijani Diaspora organizations address an open letter to Minister Avakov and present the reasons of their concerns. Referring to the local community, the Azerbaijani Diaspora leadership complained about alleged discrimination on ethnic grounds blaming the interior minister of Ukraine who is Armenian by origin for doing nothing to investigate the violations taking place.
Deputy Interior Minister Tigran Avagyan met with the delegation of the Azerbaijani Diaspora saying the Azerbaijanis residing in Ukraine cannot be victims of national discrimination. However, what he said next allowed questioning the given statement by the Ukrainian-Armenian official.
Since Avakyan occupies a high post at the Interior Ministry of Ukraine, many readers may be surprised with his comments about Azerbaijanis on Facebook. This Ukrainian official has overstepped the bounds of decency by calling Azerbaijanis as barbarians. However, let it remain on the conscience of Avakyan.
The situation deteriorates, as the “black list” of the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan is regularly replenished with the names of the Ukrainian journalists illegally visiting Nagorno-Karabakh. What will the Ukrainian authorities do if Azerbaijani journalists visited Donetsk, met with Zakharchenko, Plotnitsky, and “Motorola”?
Although Petro Poroshenko is visiting Baku amid these discrepancies, the Ukrainian officials are full with optimism. “Ukraine and Azerbaijan have agreed to boost the economic and investment cooperation as well as promote trade and economic events,” says the Ministry of the Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine referring to the results of the meeting of the intergovernmental committee.
“Ukraine pays special attention to the bilateral trade and economic cooperation with the Azerbaijani Republic – one of Ukraine’s key partners in the region. In 2015, Azerbaijan occupied the 5th place in the CIS by the volume of trade in commodities. Despite the falling commodity turnover, there are good opportunities to boost the bilateral trade,” the press office of the ministry cites Natalia Nikolskaya, Ukraine’s trade representative, as saying.
According to the source, the sides discussed the prospects for bilateral cooperation in the fields of agriculture, processing industry, machine-building, aviation, energy, transport, including the transit opportunities of the two countries, the military and technical cooperation and joint projects in the pharmaceutical fields, tourism development.
According to Yelena Balbekova, Director of the Department for the International Trade and Economic Cooperation and European Integration, Ministry of Economic Development, the sides agreed to weigh mutual supplies of equipment, motor and construction vehicles, trucks, transport engineering products, construction materials, construction and assembly services, equipment for the needs of the oil and gas industry, utility machinery, components for all types of tractors, refrigeration units, hydraulic cylinders and others.
In 2015, the commodity turnover between Ukraine and Azerbaijan fell 45.1% to $349.1 million. Export fell 46.1% to $318.8 million, import – 4.95% to $30.3 million. Trade surplus totaled $288.5 million. Azerbaijan’s investments in Ukraine totaled $189.6 million as of Dec 31 2015.
A few days ago, Deputy Prime Minister Hennadii Zubko said at the meeting of the Azerbaijani-Ukrainian Joint Intergovernmental Commission for Economic Cooperation in Baku that Ukraine would initiate the creation of a large transport corridor “Baltic Sea-Black Sea-Caspian Sea.” "This is a large transport corridor, which synchronizes multiple routes. It will be of great importance for enhancing the economic and trade relations. It is suggested to create a single governing body within the corridor for the formation of an integrated freight transport development strategy in the region," Zubko said.
He said the transport cooperation of Ukraine and Azerbaijan on the “Silk Road” route continues.
Another issue of the Aliyev-Poroshenko talks should be the future of GUAM. During the last two years, there were many reasons for the former GUAM countries to weigh reanimation of the organization in view of the developments in Ukraine. However, they still pursue anti-Russian position and settlement of the national and territorial conflicts, as well as insist on “democracy ideals,” and this when the political systems and the political regimes of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, to put it mildly, differ.
Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavel Klimkin has repeatedly urged reanimation of GUAM and a new impetus for it. It is noteworthy that at the recent meeting in Switzerland, Klimkin, who was born in the Russian Kursk town and graduated from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, called those present to stop talking in Russian and use English.
However, Azerbaijan will stay independent in the given issue not to spoil its relations with Moscow for Kiev. It is needless to speak of alliance, when Kiev violates its commitments. As for Poroshenko’s visit, it will be a visit of courtesy looking to boost the economic cooperation only, because nothing binds Baku and Kiev politically any longer.
Maksud Talibli (Baku) for EADaily