Interview with Richard Kiessler
, Member of the Board of the German Azerbaijani Forum (Berlin) - Mr. Kiessler, first of all, we would like to know your thoughts on prospects of Azerbaijan’s development
Azerbaijan in my view has a bright future. Because of the rich natural and human resources and a huge cultural heritage this country meets all necessary conditions for an accelerating development. After several trips in different parts of the country I am convinced that there are already done decisive and impressive steps for development after independence seven decades under the communist rule of the former Soviet union. Azerbaijan as a transformation society is on the right track. But a lot has to be done in building the civil society, in human rights and in the fight against corruption.- Azerbaijan is often called a bridge between Europe and Asia. Is our country accepted as a part of Europe in the West?
Azerbaijan is a part of Europe - not only geographically. There is the culture which it's traditional ties, there is the experience over centuries which people from very different regions and countries and there is the tradition of religious tolerance in this country. But I see some present needs to strengthen the ties with Europe: Azerbaijan should join the WTO and deepen the strategic partnership with the EU in signing a trade agreement for the mutual benefit. The EU on the other hand should offer the perspective of membership for Azerbaijan. An association can be the first step.- How would you estimate the European policy in the region, what position is Azerbaijan holding?
The South Caucasus Region should come in the focus of the western interest even more indeed. This neighboring region western countries should no longer neglect. From a German point of view I see some positive signals of the coming government in Berlin to take steps forward. On the other hand Azerbaijan has become a hot spot of growing interest in Europe because of the economic, political and cultural activities of the country abroad.- When talking about the region, it is impossible not to note the serious conflict caused by Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijani lands…
The Karabakh problem is much more than a frozen conflict. There is always the danger of an escalation on the conflict line through provocations or snipers. The international law is without any doubt on the Azerbaijan side. I am really disappointed about the poor results of the Minsk process. A new international initiative will be necessary for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The EU has a lot of experience in mediating conflicts peacefully by negotiations. But you need the will of the concerning conflict parties to come to solution for their mutual benefit. For Azerbaijan economic interests a stabile political surrounding is essential.
- Armenian leaders are notorious for their statements about impossibility of the coexistence of Armenians and Azerbaijanis. What do you think, will your tradition of multiculturalism be helpful to restore the trust between the two nations after achieving political regulation for the conflict?
Azerbaijan and Armenia have to find a peaceful solution for their conflict. This is a hard way to go, but a new war or a military solution are no alternatives. I have been in both countries. May be both parties need a mediatory through the international community. A peaceful solution would be in the interest of both peoples. First steps can be confidence building measures, for example in the economic field. Germany and France after brutal wars and decades of bloodshed have become partners and friends after starting a new relationship in the mutual interesting economic field. After my talks with responsible persons and common people in both countries I am not very optimistic. But first little steps should be taken, perhaps by meetings of young people to know each other better than from the official propaganda. Azeris should always realize that they have to live with difficult neighbors. Therefore all possible has to be done to minimize political tensions.