Afghanistan's government is ready to provide privileges and create the necessary conditions for Azerbaijani investors in various sectors, including mining, oil and gas, etc., Afghan Mines and Petroleum Minister Wahidullah Shahrani said in his recent interview.
Shahrani said Afghanistan and Azerbaijan have historical and cultural similarities. Currently Azerbaijan is a developed country in all fields, in particular, in the oil and gas sector, he said.
The minister said that Afghanistan and Azerbaijan have ancient and close ties and stressed that Azerbaijan is a developed country. "So, Afghanistan intends to use the potential of Azerbaijan," he said.
He pointed out that Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited Azerbaijan earlier.
"Very useful discussions were held with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during this visit. Afterwards, the president ordered for significant actions to be taken to invest in order to assist the Afghan people. Currently, Azerbaijani investors are building a refinery in the north of the country. Azerbaijani company AzMeCo is building the plant jointly with other investors," Shahrani said.
He went on to say that earlier meetings and negotiations were held with Azerbaijani investors.
"Azerbaijan intends to expand this plant. The talks on joint expansion of the refinery, the construction of a power station that will operate on gas, a cement plant and a fertilizer plant were held with Azerbaijani investors during the meetings," the minister said.
According to him, the issue of Azerbaijan's rendering technical support to Afghanistan to train employees of various companies operating in the country was discussed at the meeting held with Azerbaijani Minister of Industry and Energy and the Minister of Economic Development.
"The talks on the possibility of Azerbaijani investors' making investments in the market of Afghanistan, (a country) with 30 million population, were also held at the meetings. The goods to be produced in Afghanistan using Azerbaijan's investments can be imported by neighboring countries along with providing the Afghan market with the necessary goods," Shahrani said.
He also said the military is engaged in ensuring the security of foreign investments in Afghanistan. Currently, national forces are carrying out this process by 80 percent.
"Ensuring the security will fully be handed over from international to national forces by late 2014," the minister said. "We thank all NATO member states. They have been rendering technical and financial assistance to the Afghan National Army to improve combat capabilities for a long time."
As for the issue of guarantees for protecting foreign investment, Shahrani said that so far, a number of countries have made huge investments in Afghanistan.
"For example, China and India are among these countries," he said. "The amount of Indian investments in Afghanistan amounts to about $11 billion. Moreover, companies from Canada, Britain, the UAE and Turkey operate in the country. The Afghan government has committed to protect and ensure the safety of these investments. So far, there has been no case that would disturb our partners," Shahrani said.
He also noted that Afghanistan is very rich in various natural resources. A significiant part of this wealth is not used, including iron, copper, gold, as well as such rare elements as lithium, construction materials, marble and other mineral resources.
"Six oil and gas deposits have been discovered in Afghanistan to date. The work is still underway at some of these deposits. As an example, one can cite the Amu Darya oil field. China's CNPC is operating at this field and it has already begun exploiting it. Turkish Corporation TPAO and Dragon Oil company from the UAE will begin drilling exploratory wells in the Afghan-Tajik oil field located in the north of Afghanistan soon. An international tender for drilling operations at North Amu Darya, the largest gas field, will be announced in two weeks," Shahrani added.
According to the minister, the issue was discussed with Azerbaijani representatives at the September 4 talks and Afghanistan invited Azerbaijani companies to participate in the tender. This mainly concerns Azerbaijan's state energy company SOCAR, which has extensive experience.
"SOCAR has broad financial and technical opportunities and we are interested in using them," he added.
According to him, companies from China, the UAE and Turkey have mainly invested in Afghanistan's oil and gas sector.
As for staff training, Shahrani said many Afghan students received education in Azerbaijan in the 1980s. Currently, most specialists at the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum are graduates of the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy.
"Today we discussed this issue during the talks with the Azerbaijani counterparts," he added. "The Azerbaijani side assured us that it is ready to accept students and specialists from Afghanistan and educate them. The number of students will increase year-on-year. We believe that our students will learn Azerbaijan's experience in the oil and gas sector."
The Afghan delegation headed by Shahrani was received by Azerbaijan's Industry and Energy Minister Natig Aliyev, Economic Development Minister Shahin Mustafayev and President of the Azerbaijani state energy firm SOCAR Rovnag Abdullayev on September 4.
The trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Afghanistan amounted to nearly $120 million in 2012.
The share of Afghanistan in Azerbaijan's foreign trade turnover was 0.36 percent, including 0.5 percent made up by Azerbaijan's export, in 2012. The trade turnover with Afghanistan increased by 19.66 percent compared to 2011.