The main priority areas of Azerbaijan as GUAM chair will be issues of economic cooperation and, first of all, development of the GUAM transport and transit corridor, and much attention will be paid to conflicts in the organization’s space. This was stated in an interview by the Secretary General of the Organization Altai Efendiev on the results of his visit to Azerbaijan.

Goals and objectives of Azerbaijan as GUAM Chair

The Secretary General stressed that in more detail the goals and objectives for 2016 will be presented by the chairman himself after the final clearance and approval of the program, which is expected in the near future. At the same time, he noted that one of the main directions of Azerbaijan’s chairmanship in the Organization will be the development of the GUAM transport and transit corridor.

The priorities of the chairman are defined, they are conditioned and dictated by national interests and the real situation that is developing in the region. It is quite natural that they became transport issues, practical implementation of the GUAM transport corridor concept. In addition to transport, we will also deal with issues of trade development and economic cooperation. We have an agreement on the GUAM free trade area, which we must implement. Tourism is also an important area, as an integral part of the GUAM cultural corridor, which is also given great importance, A. Efendiev said.

He also recalled that in addition to the GUAM chairmanship, Azerbaijan is the coordinating country for the working groups on energy, communications and ICT, Working Subgroups on Combating Drug Trafficking and Terrorism within the Working Group on combating crime, and currently is the chairman in the GUAM Parliamentary Assembly.

Commenting on the role of the Secretariat, the Secretary General noted that the purpose and functions of the Secretariat are to ensure coordination, to promote the goals and the program of the chairman, advance the initiatives of other Member Sates and to implement them.

Speaking about his short term priorities as Secretary General, he pointed out that this, «first of all, increasing the capacity of the Secretariat and its professional level».

Nagorno-Karabakh and the unresolved conflicts of GUAM

Efendiev noted that the issue of unresolved conflicts in the GUAM area is one of the priority issues on the agenda of the Organization and is at the center of its attention. All GUAM countries have «the same problem – violation of territorial integrity and sovereignty as a result of external aggression, occupation, annexation, military actions of separatist forces fueled from outside».

This problem is the most important for all GUAM countries, and we use it in the GUAM format, and we will use all available opportunities, various international platforms and forums to attract world attention to this issue, he said.

According to the Secretary General, today the issue of conflict resolution has become even more urgent against the backdrop of tensions in the GUAM region and around it.

In this situation, the voice of the four countries is more significant. Therefore, we will continue the practice of passing a draft resolution on the protracted conflicts in the GUAM space to the GA (General Assembly – Ed.) of the UN and to expand the range of its co-sponsors, to adopt relevant resolutions at the forums of the GUAM Parliamentary Assembly in conjunction with the parliamentary partners of the Baltic States, the Visegrad Group, and also take new initiatives, A. Efendiev noted.

According to the Secretary General, the issue of holding a joint action of the GUAM countries on the margins of the Global Humanitarian Summit is being considered, which is planned to be held in New York this September on the issue of refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of armed conflicts. He pointed out that this is a very topical issue for all GUAM countries, and such a forum will provide an opportunity to reiterate this issue.

Answering a question about some differences in the positions of GUAM countries regarding conflicts in the territories of the member sates, he noted that in some years there was a certain «inconsistency of some countries due to political conjuncture».

At the same time, A. Efendiev stressed that we are not talking about a departure from the principled position. In all GUAM countries, the position on the issue of territorial integrity and sovereignty within the internationally recognized borders remains firm and unchanged, he added.

According to him, it is necessary to further consolidate efforts and act with a unified position of GUAM. We all unreservedly recognize the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our countries within the internationally recognized borders. It is very important to jointly and consistently hold this position in our contacts with all international partners, A. Efendiev said.

The Secretary General stressed that work is currently underway to draft a new resolution of the GUAM countries at the UN General Assembly (GA). He pointed out that the conflicts in the GUAM countries are a serious destabilizing factor not only in the region, but also beyond. We think that the international community, especially in the light of the latest developments in the region and around it, has increased understanding of the need for an early resolution of this problem, he added.

According to him, the goal of GUAM initiatives in this area is to mobilize the international community through joint actions, to promote its more active involvement and impact on the negotiation process within the OSCE Minsk Group, «which, unfortunately, is stalling».

We need a stronger momentum, we need a firmer commitment to the basic principles of the settlement. There is a legal framework, there are resolutions of the Security Council, and the international community must exert its efforts to resolve conflicts precisely within this legal field, A. Efendiev pointed out.

Transport Corridor — the backbone of GUAM

The Secretary General of the Organization stressed that the main directions of economic cooperation within the GUAM are based on four concepts: the transport corridor, the energy corridor, the cultural corridor, which include tourism, humanitarian affairs, education and others, and the creation of a free trade area.

These are very large layers for cooperation. The transport corridor alone requires close coordination between countries, a well-coordinated interaction of many bodies both within individual countries and across the region. This includes the creation of an appropriate transport infrastructure, the interaction of customs and border services, well-established multimodal transport, where all modes of transport are involved, harmonization of the legislative and regulatory framework, the implementation of a uniform tariff policy, he said.

The Secretary General of the organization noted that within the Organization, the project GUAM-Transit-2 was agreed upon and adopted, but it needs to be filled with real content. He expressed confidence that in the near future there will be new concrete projects.

I do not want to get ahead of now, but I’m more than sure that the transport component of cooperation within the GUAM will be decisive both during the current chairmanship and in the years to come. Figuratively speaking, it can be said that the transport corridor is the backbone of GUAM, which will determine the economic profile of the region, its place in the system of international economic relations, the system of the international division of labor, and its specialization. I think that in the long term the smooth functioning of this corridor will be more important than the production of oil and gas in the region. Since if the transport corridor works, if it is established, it will become a route, then all major international players will be interested in its safety and smooth operation, A. Efendiev stressed.

Speaking about the energy corridor, he noted that in the future, energy supplies from the Central Asian countries, where Azerbaijan can become an important link for deliveries to the GUAM countries and to Europe, are possible.

Role of GUAM in the Great Silk Road Project

The Great Silk Road is a very large project, and it can have many component routes, each of which has the right to life. The important question here is which of the routes will be the most attractive, most competitive, most interesting for economic agents, tourists, and all who may be interested, A. Efendiev said, speaking about the possible participation of GUAM in the project.

The Secretary General believes that the GUAM Transport Corridor can become a key link and one of the components of the Great Silk Road, which will connect economically the most developed part of Europe with the countries of Central Asia and further the Far East and South-East Asia.

The GUAM Secretary General expressed his confidence that there is no contradiction in the transport projects of GUAM and the Great Silk Road. I am sure that the countries involved in the project, its initiators will be interested in close cooperation with GUAM. I think it’s natural that the GUAM segment on this big path can be in demand. Our task is to make it work and competitive. For this we have all the prerequisites, he added.

Prospects for GUAM cooperation with other countries

According to A. Efendiev, GUAM is ready to cooperate with all those who respect the issue of territorial integrity, the sovereignty of the countries of the Organization within the internationally recognized borders, share the goals and tasks of GUAM, and sincerely wish cooperation.

In addition to the GUAM format, there is a GUAM+ cooperation format, where we are actively working with a number of countries, including those geographically remote from the region of the Organization. For example, Japan is very interested in the structure, we also cooperate with the United States. Dialogue with the countries of the Visegrad Group, the Baltic States is developing. There is great interest from the countries of the Black Sea. We also plan to develop relations with the EU. As we develop and assert ourselves as an authoritative organization that plays an important role in the region, I think that interest will grow, stressed Efendiev, adding that GUAM intends to establish cooperation with the World Tourism Organization in the near future.

According to him, GUAM is not directed against anyone, and the political interaction of the Organization is aimed at forming a safe and stable GUAM area, attractive for international economic cooperation and for investment.

Baku. February 24, 2016. REPORT.AZ