In his exclusive interview to AzerTAc`s correspondent, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Italy to Azerbaijan Mr. Giampaolo Cutillo has spoken of Azerbaijani-Italian relations across the last years, and highlighted prospects for the future cooperation, SIA reports quoting the AzerTac.
-Mr. Ambassador, the Azerbaijani-Italian relations have been successfully developing in recent years. How would you assess the current state of the relations between the two countries?
- Bilateral relations are excellent from all points of view. I had the pleasure of accompanying President Ilham Aliyev to Rome in July for a very successful visit and his meeting with President Napolitano and Prime Minister Renzi. This clearly shows how close the relations between the two countries have become, how many interests we share. Our very friendly relations are based on solid grounds both in terms of economic relations, cultural affinities and political dialogue. We call it a strategic partnership.
We will have a ground-breaking ceremony for the Southern Gas Corridor a few days from now and the Italian Government will be represented to mark once again its strong commitment to the project. This is in fact the starting point of a very wide cooperation, which is strategic both to Italy and Azerbaijan in terms of our energy security and the development of Azerbaijan. At the same time, we have many other sectors where we can develop our relations. Of course, being here as an ambassador of Italy I am more and more focused on the promotion of Italian companies, Italian business in this country. I am sure that there is a lot of potential and a lot of space for them. At the same time I see there is a genuine sympathy and attention here for my country from the Azerbaijani population at large. So there is a growing space for Italian culture in Baku as in the rest of the country, and, at the same time, I am sure that also in Italy there is a growing interest for Azerbaijan as an emerging country. And this is also thanks to the efforts of the Azerbaijani Embassy in Rome and Government’s commitment to promote a better knowledge of the country in Italy and Europe.
During his visit, President Ilham Aliyev met the Mayor of Rome. During the meeting, the Azerbaijani Minister of Culture and Tourism and the Mayor of Rome signed a Protocol, based on which the Government of Azerbaijan will contribute to the restoration of a very important part of our archaeological sites of Rome. One more contribution was given by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation to one of the important museums of Rome, Hall of Philosophers of Rome`s Capitoline Museum. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation is really doing a lot of work in Italy. We are thankful to the Government and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation for this activity, which acknowledges Italy’s culture as a world heritage.
A few days ago, there was a big concert in the Verona Arena amphitheatre in the Italian city of Verona with the big Italian orchestra conducted by an Azerbaijani director and there was a very big public. And it is another good example of how Azerbaijan is promoting itself in Italy. The same can be said for Azerbaijan’s pavilion at Milan EXPO 2015: over 140 countries will be represented and we expect 20 million visitors, I hope many of them also from Azerbaijan.
- What are the future prospects of the Trans Adriatic pipeline? How important is this project to Europe?
- TAP is a strategic project not only for Italy, but for the European Union as well. We will have, for the first time, a new East to West source of energy, crossing several Countries from the south, that’s why it is named the Southern Corridor. It will contribute to increasing our supplies, diversifying them and making them more secure, and this will certainly affect not only Italy, which will become a kind of regional hub for gas. Azerbaijan will add one more source to the existing ones. From there Italy will distribute this gas to all over Europe. This explains why this is a very important project not only for Italy, but also for the rest of Europe.
How do you assess Azerbaijan`s role in European energy security? What is your vision of Azerbaijan’s European integration?
- This is a very good question because I sincerely believe that the future of Azerbaijan has to do with a closer relationship with Europe, with the European Union. Of course, here is a matter of advancing very gradually. Taking into account the peculiarity of this country, its needs, its strategic position, its geographical position at the center of a very important region of the world. We already have a very successful cooperation in the fields of energy and security. And I am sure that if you look at it in an historical perspective for the young generations of Azerbaijan, I am sure that they feel a very sincere attraction and interest for the rest of Europe. And I really think that the place of Azerbaijan in future will be closer to Europe.
- Azerbaijani people have suffered from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for more than 20 years. What is Italy`s position on the settlement of the conflict?
- Well, this is a very painful issue. I fully sympathize and I fully understand the pain and the sufferings of the Azerbaijani people. This is a very crucial issue in their history, in their identity as a nation. I also believe that there is only one way to solve this issue. I don’t think there can be any war or any solution which is not based on a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. We have the Minsk Group. There have been meetings. The last ones were convened by the President of Russia in Sochi and then on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Wales with US Secretary of State Kerry. And also France is committed, and President Hollande has been trying to give his contribution. So this trio of countries - France, the USA and Russia - they are part of the Minsk Group. We, of course, as Italy, and within the European Union support their efforts. I really think that there is a need for the two countries to sit together, discuss in a very open manner the issues and get to a solution. And, at the same time, I believe that the status-quo is definitely not a solution. Something must be done to address the grievances of the people, who have been affected by this conflict. And from that point of view, I fully understand the reasons of Azerbaijan not to be happy with the status-quo.
- How do you think what issues are on the agenda of Azerbaijani Italian relations?
- Well, we just signed in July a number of bilateral agreements and among them there was a declaration on strategic partnership which has been adopted by President Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. This is now a kind of cornerstone of our future relations. It contemplates and covers most of the aspects of our bilateral cooperation. And the way ahead of us is very clear. We have to do more in order to intensify our bilateral, our economic relations. We have to do more also to promote our respective cultures in Italy, and in Azerbaijan. I don’t think there is the need for more formal agreements, which, of course, is important from the technical point of view. What really matters is the spirit of our cooperation and the common will to further develop it in all fields.