By Amina Nazarli
Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Angelino Alfano has described his country`s relations with Azerbaijan as strategic, as he met his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov on April 21.
Alfano characterized Azerbaijan as a critical and reliable partner and called relations with Azerbaijan strategic, the foreign ministry reported.
He hailed high level political dialogue between the two countries, further elaborating the importance of relations in the field of energy and significance of TAP project.
The Italian minister added that there is a wide range of opportunities in deepening economic relations along other sectors.
Mammadyarov, in turn, said that Azerbaijan and Italy enjoy strategic partnership relations, as it was enshrined in the Joint Statement adopted during the visit of the Azerbaijani President to Italy in 2014.
He underlined that Italy is the biggest trade partner of Azerbaijan in the European Union. He also stressed the significance of relations in humanitarian area, and highlighted the activities of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.
Mammadyarov put special stress on the Southern Gas Corridor and TANAP and TAP projects as its crucial components.
The SGC project – that has already began to take shape as a series of pipelines which will carry Azerbaijani supplies to Europe – is a unique project opening up route for Caspian energy sources.
Mammadyarov also gave information on North-South and East-West transport corridors and praised the promising cooperation in this direction as mutually beneficial.
The FM also spoke of Azerbaijan-European Union cooperation and negotiation process on strategic partnership agreement.
Touching upon the negotiations on the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the minister stated the importance of EU's expressing commitment to the principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty, independence and inviolability of borders of states in a common and unambiguous manner in respect of all conflicts.
Previously, Mammadyaromet with Italy’s Minister of Economic Development Carlo Calenda, who said that Italy intends to take serious steps for development of cooperation with Azerbaijan in non-oil sector.
Azerbaijan is an important economic partner of Italy, Italian companies operate successfully in Azerbaijan, particularly, in the energy sector, and it is necessary to take serious steps in order to continue this cooperation, said Calenda.
The two ministers expressed satisfaction with the level of bilateral relations both in political and economic spheres, and noted the importance of continuing the efforts to further strengthen the ties.
In 2016, the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Italy amounted to $1.89 billion decreasing by 33.5 percent as compared to 2015. Italy, which has been ranking first among major trade partners of Azerbaijan during eight years, was the third in late 2016.
However, in early 2017, Italy again became the leader among Azerbaijan’s trade partners. According to Azerbaijan’s State Customs Committee, the two countries’ trade turnover amounted to $461.5 million in January-March 2017, increasing by 41.4 percent as compared to the 1Q2016.