Iran’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayyebnia is due to visit Baku to meet with Azerbaijani high-ranking officials and discuss bilateral ties.
Ahead of his visit, Tayyebnia has talked to Azerbaijan Information Agency about his plans and the main topics he’s going to discuss with Azerbaijani officials.
Here follows the full text to the interview By Report agency
QUESTION: How do you evaluate the current level of Tehran-Baku ties? Is the current level of relations between the two countries satisfactory in your opinion?
TAYYEBNIA: Considering the firm determination of both countries to further boost macro-economic and trade ties and to use the high potentials of the two sides, I don’t think the current level of relations is satisfactory.
The exchange of high-level political and economic delegations between Iran and Azerbaijan underlines the determination of the two neighbouring nations and their interest in further expanding their mutual relations. The value of Tehran-Baku trade ties amounted to 500 million dollars in 2013 but this figure could be further increased thanks to the diversity of economic potentials in both countries.
The Export Guarantee Fund of Iran (EGFI) has provided 200 million dollars worth of insurance coverage for the trade exchanges between the two sides which could be further raised should the economic relations be expanded. We expect the EGFI’s Azerbaijani counterpart to take similar measures so as to pave the way for closer ties between Iran and Azerbaijan.
QUESTION: In which particular areas is Iran more interested to further expand cooperation with Azerbaijan?
TAYYEBNIA: Closer cooperation in banking sector, provision of broader insurance coverage by guarantee and hedge funds, and establishment of joint ventures by the Iranian and Azerbaijani well-known and big private-sector companies make up our top priorities. These steps are prerequisites to further expansion of mutual relations.
Customs cooperation and tourism are also of importance to Iran. We need to enhance Tehran-Baku customs cooperation and take necessary measures to make it possible for joint border customs offices to operate round-the-clock and also facilitate the transportation of goods using the two countries’ transit routes. These steps could significantly pave the way for development of macro-economic and trade ties between the two countries. As for the tourism industry, we would like to see more Azerbaijani tourists and pilgrims as well as health tourists visit Iran.
Promotion of mutual investments is another area where we would like to see more enhanced cooperation between the two sides. This has also been a high-priority topic of discussion at the previous meetings between Iranian and Azerbaijani officials. Effective measures have been adopted by both countries over the past few months in this regard and we hope the Iran-Azerbaijan Joint Investment Committee to hold its first meeting within the next two or three months.
Connecting the two countries rail roads, further expanding the connected inland roads and removing entry visa requirements for Iranian citizens and particularly Iranian businesspeople will also help boost Tehran-Baku economic ties.
QUESTION: Which topics, in particular, would be discussed at your meetings with Azerbaijani officials, and are there any negotiations underway for signing certain agreements and/or MoUs during your visit to Baku?
TAYYEBNIA: During my visit and at the meetings I will have with Azerbaijani officials, several topics will be discussed, particularly, the removal of barriers against closer banking and insurance cooperation between the two countries as well as the ways to enhance mutual investment cooperation.
Given the fact that governmental officials play a significant role in providing the private sector with better conditions and improved business environment, we intend to present the problems expressed and faced by the Iranian and Azerbaijani private sectors and try to find solutions to remove these problems. Moreover, there is the likelihood of signing concluding agreements at the end of our meetings in the form of a protocol and also a memorandum of understanding in regard to stock market cooperation.
QUESTION: What measures do you think should be taken to accelerate the expansion of economic ties between the two countries?
TAYYEBNIA: as I explained in response to the second question, an all-out development of Tehran-Baku economic and trade ties requires infrastructural measures such as enhancement of cooperation in the fields of banking, insurance and customs administration. Furthermore, boosting the cooperation between the two countries’ private sectors particularly in large-scale industrial, construction and energy projects as well as expanding mutual investment cooperation and increasing the level of Azerbaijani businesses’ investments in Iran’s economy which offers lots of diverse and profitable potentials to foreign investors would play a significant role in accelerating the expansion of economic ties between the two sides.
Moreover there are other steps that could be taken to further strengthen the relations between the two neighbours such as improvement of Tehran-Baku transportation cooperation and construction of an 8-km-long rail road by the Azerbaijani part so as to connect the Rasht-Astara railroad to the railroad grid within Azerbaijan’s territories in line with expansion of North-South Corridor, establishment of sisterhood relationship between Iran's Port of Amirabad and Azerbaijan’s Baku Port, effective use of Azerbaijan’s expertise in production and repairmen of ships and construction of port facilities, provision of direct air routes between the two countries’ big cities and the strategic use of the two countries’ membership in different regional institutions such as ECO.