Turkey and Azerbaijan have agreed to establish a simplified customs line and to sign a preferential trade agreement this year to facilitate mutual trade and accelerate customs procedures, Vice President Fuat Oktay said Monday.
Oktay's remarks came on the sidelines of the Turkey-Azerbaijan Eighth Joint Economic Commission (JEC) meeting, which was held in Azerbaijan's capital of Baku and co-chaired by Oktay and Azerbaijan Prime Minister Novruz Mammadov.
In his address, Oktay said that they signed the Eighth Term Joint Economic Commission Protocol with Mammadov. Noting that Turkey and Azerbaijan were two major economic powers in the region, the vice president stressed that the synergy created by the transformation of this power to higher levels of cooperation would contribute to the welfare of the people of the two countries and stability in the region.
He said that the positive progress in Turkish-Azerbaijani relations was observed not only in trade relations but also in mutual investments and that the bilateral trade volume, $296 million in 2002, reached $3.2 billion as of the end of 2018.
Oktay indicated that Turkey's direct investments in Azerbaijan reached $11 billion, including investments made through the third countries, while Azerbaijan's direct investments in Turkey were $9 billion.
"We expect this amount to increase exponentially with joint projects initiated in the energy field in recent years. As two friendly countries, we wish to take our relations further in every field and extend them to new areas of cooperation," he said.
Strategic energy cooperation
The vice president added that they also agreed to cooperate in many fields from trade to energy, from transportation to education, from agriculture to health as a result of commission studies in which economic and commercial relations between the countries were handled in the broadest scope and depth, followed by the preparation of a relevant action plan.
Oktay pointed out that 147 actions were included in the signed plan for the 2019-2022 period.
He listed the agreed actions as the initiation of technical cooperation in the fields of Halal Accreditation and Halal Certification, determination of products with high potential in terms of input supply of both countries in raw material and semi-finished products, contributing to foreign trade volume by conducting studies at the company level, cooperating in the field of e-commerce between their postal authorities, starting efforts to update the Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and efforts to facilitate border crossing procedures under the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway Project.
Stressing that joint tariff and potential cooperation areas would continue to be consulted to increase the capacity of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway Project and make it more attractive and competitive, Oktay said that the agreed issues also included organizing an Energy Forum to increase strategic energy cooperation between Turkey and Azerbaijan.
He indicated that the Joint Economic Commission provided an important opportunity to review and improve agreements constituting the legal infrastructure of relations between countries.
Since the private sector should support all startups in the countries and mobilize all opportunities for a stronger Turkey and a stronger Azerbaijan in the Eurasian region and the world, Oktay stressed that the doors of the countries should be opened to businesspeople and that they should be guided to the end.
Pointing to the contracting and consulting sector as one of the potential areas of cooperation, Oktay said that the 406 projects undertaken by Turkish contracting companies in Azerbaijan were valued at $13 billion, noting that Turkish contracting firms gained great experience in public-private cooperation projects.
"I would like to emphasize that we are ready to share our experience in this field with our Azerbaijani friends. We have been working in close cooperation with them for a quarter of a century to end the occupation that lasts on about one-fifth of the territory of Azerbaijan. Turkey is determined to do its part in cooperation with our Azerbaijani friends in order not to engage in trade and economic activities with the Upper Karabakh and other occupied territories, which are part of Azerbaijan," he said.
Karabakh – a disputed territory between Azerbaijan and Armenia – broke away from Azerbaijan in 1991 with military support from neighboring Armenia, and a peace process has yet to be implemented.
Three U.N. Security Council resolutions and two U.N. General Assembly resolutions refer to Karabakh as being part of Azerbaijan, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe refers to the region as being occupied by Armenian forces.
The Armenian occupation of Karabakh led to the closing of the frontier with Turkey, which sides with Baku in the dispute.
In his address yesterday, Oktay said they have reflected their will in the action plan they signed yesterday. "We will continue our solidarity with Azerbaijan on all platforms to keep the issue on the agenda of international public opinion. The decisions taken by our commission today are indicative of our determination to move our economic relations further in many areas from trade to energy, from transportation to education, from agriculture to health based on concrete actions. I hope that the commercial and economic relations between our countries will reach the levels that will reflect our fellowship as soon as possible," he added.
On the other hand, Azerbaijan Prime Minister Novruz Mammadov said 147 topics were discussed in the meeting, underlining that 100% agreement was achieved on all issues. Mammadov said that all issues were included in the protocol, saying this productive meeting would contribute to the development of close cooperation between the two sister countries. Oktay and Mammadov later signed the Turkey-Azerbaijan 8th Joint Economic Commission Protocol.
Earlier in the day, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met Oktay in the capital Baku. Their meeting at the Azerbaijan Presidency lasted one hour. Oktay arrived in Baku on Sunday to attend the 8th meeting of Turkey-Azerbaijan Joint Economic Commission and Turkey-Azerbaijan Business Forum.
Marking the 101st anniversary of the liberation of the Azerbaijani capital Baku, Oktay expressed hope for a much better Baku and a more developed Azerbaijan. During the meeting, Oktay also highlighted the importance of the Joint Economic Commission for the further development of economic relations between the two countries. The two sides agreed on cooperation in the defense industry, agriculture and pharmaceutical sectors.
Earlier in the day, Oktay visited the Alley of Honors and Alley of Martyrs in Baku to pay tribute to the national leader of the modern Azerbaijani state Heydar Aliyev and to the fallen Turk soldiers.
On Sept. 15, 1918, Baku was liberated by the Islamic Army of the Caucasus, consisting of Azerbaijani and Turkish soldiers. The army protected the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan in 1918 and laid the foundation for Azerbaijan's independence in 1991.