Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Azerbaijan Junichi Wada was interviewed by APA
– Mr. Ambassador, last year, the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Japan-Azerbaijan diplomatic relations was marked. Please share your views on the development dynamics of relations between our countries during this period.
– On September 7 of last year, we marked the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Azerbaijan. During this period, high-level friendly relations between our countries further deepened.
In 1998, Azerbaijan’s late President Heydar Aliyev paid an official visit to Japan. Within the framework of that visit, a joint declaration on friendship and partnership between the two countries was signed, and an agreement on establishing a State Commission on economic cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and Japan was reached and this laid a solid foundation that encouraged the further development of friendly relations between our countries.
Moreover, I must note that President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Japan in 2006 was a great opportunity to further the development of relationships of friendship, and partnerships between our countries. When it comes to the recent visits from Japan, in 2018, Japanese Foreign Minister Kono Taro visited Azerbaijan and within the framework of the visit, Japan’s intention on supporting Azerbaijan regarding the training of human resources, as well as the establishment of infrastructure was expressed.
Interparliamentary cooperation also plays a significant role in strengthening relations between the two countries. In 1998 working group on Japanese-Azerbaijani interparliamentary relations, and in 2005, working group on Azerbaijani-Japanese interparliamentary relations was established. Activity for the development of friendly relations between our countries is also carried out at the level of legislative bodies.
In 2003, Motooka Shoji, the deputy chairman of the Chamber of Counselors of the Japanese Parliament, visited Azerbaijan, and Ogtay Asadov, the chairman of the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan, visited Japan in 2015.
Supporting political relations between our countries is one of the important duties of the embassy. In 2000, the Japanese embassy to the Republic of Azerbaijan, and in 2005 the embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Japan started to operate and diplomatic relations between our countries significantly increased.
We intend to continue and strengthen inter-governmental and inter-parliamentary dialogues at various levels for the further development of friendly and partnership relations between our countries.
– What steps are made for further development of mutual relations between Japan and Azerbaijan? What can you say about the dynamic of the future development of bilateral relations?
– Azerbaijan is a key country for international energy security, stability in the region, and development, at the same time, a valuable partner for Japan. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Japan until now, relations between the two countries have deepened, especially in the political and economic fields through the exchange of human resources. Japan has supported Azerbaijan in the development of human resources for government institutions, infrastructure installations, and improvement of public service.
Currently, the geological importance of Azerbaijan getting to increase internationally after Russia’s attack on Ukraine. In this regard, in March of 2023, "Connectivity with Central Asia and Caucasus" symposium was organized in Tokyo to improve regional connectivity, Fariz Aliyev, Head of the Transport Policy Department of the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport of Azerbaijan gave a magnificent presentation "On the Perspectives and Development Project of the Middle Corridor ".
We hope to work more closely with Azerbaijan to strengthen regional ties.
– Azerbaijan and Japan have not been on high-level visits for some time. Is such a trip expected in the near future?
– Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan YOSHIKAWA Yuumi visited Azerbaijan on May 5 and exchanged views with high-level representatives of the Azerbaijani government.
Under the Infectious Diseases Control Law of Japan, the COVID-19 disease was downgraded from Category II, which requires travel restrictions and hospitalization, to Category V, which is the same as seasonal flu and was previously elevated as all restrictions were lifted on April 28. I hope there will be a revival in the visits of high-level people.
– How do you appreciate the cooperation between Azerbaijan and Japan in cultural, humanitarian, and educational fields? What new steps are being taken to develop cooperation in these fields&
– Regarding the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, many measures have been taken to strengthen the friendship between the two countries in 2022. A total of 25 initiatives have been undertaken in various regions of Azerbaijan, especially in the framework of the "Year of Friendship" projects, including cultural and educational fields.
In more detail, talented persons with disabilities, representatives of traditional art, pianists, singers, players of Japanese musical instruments, actors, and other persons from Japan visited Azerbaijan for the implementation of events.
One of the important pillars of cooperation in the field of education is the teaching of the Japanese language in Azerbaijan: 340 people continue to study Japanese in 2 higher educational institutions, 2 schools, and many private courses. Besides, many Azerbaijanis study or conduct research in various fields in Japan with scholarships from the Japanese government.
I hope that such cooperation in the fields of culture and education will be an opportunity for further improvement of friendly relations between our countries.
– In the period between 2020-2022, the export from Azerbaijan to Japan increased approximately 3 times, and the import from Japan to our country increased approximately 2 times. What additional measures are taken to increase the volume of trade turnover?
– I think it is important to further increase exchanges between the two countries in order to increase the trade turnover. Due to the fact that the government of Azerbaijan continues to take measures to reduce dependence on oil and natural gas resources and diversify the industry, I hope that the Japanese government and Japanese companies will have the opportunity to cooperate with Azerbaijani companies, and the number of Japanese companies entering the Azerbaijani market will increase.
In particular, "green energy" and tourism areas are at the center of attention. In addition, the role of Azerbaijan, the regional center of seaports, in the market covering 130 million people with a radius of 1000 km and being the intersection of the logistics route along the East-West and North-South routes continues to grow and as far as I know, the government of Azerbaijan continues the work related to international logistics at a high pace.
I hope that Japanese companies will also take advantage of these geographical features to develop their business.
– How does Japan support the development of industry in Azerbaijan? What are the future plans in this direction? What works are Japanese companies doing to further strengthen cooperation with Azerbaijan in the production of automobiles, medicines, technological equipment, and other fields? For example, the assembly of Chinese and Iranian cars has started in Azerbaijan in recent years...
– In September last year, an agreement was reached between the Japanese government and the Republic of Azerbaijan on the Joint Credit Mechanism (JCM), and a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation was signed.
Through the JCM, it is hoped that not only the expansion of measures aimed at reducing gas emissions in Azerbaijan but also the implementation of projects in the green field by Japanese companies will lead to a further revival of economic activity between the countries.
Until now, the Japanese government has contributed to the development of Azerbaijan's industry through concessional loans in the energy sector, and improvement of reclamation and irrigation equipment through grants. In addition, 285 projects have been implemented since 2000, with assistance such as agriculture, medical equipment supply, medical centers, and school renovation within the framework of the "Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Program (GGP) ".
It is very gratifying that such activities contribute not only to the economy of Azerbaijan but also to the improvement of people's living conditions. Our embassy cooperates with the Japanese company "Hitachi High-Tech" and carries out natural science training for Azerbaijani schoolchildren. I hope that such activity of companies ensures the recognition of Japanese companies in Azerbaijan, increases opportunities for cooperation with Azerbaijani companies, and, most importantly, create conditions for training talented engineers.
– What is the level of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Japan in the field of mutual investment and financial investment? In which areas is Japan interested in investing in Azerbaijan?
– Initiatives for green development, the policy of creation of logistic regional intersections, etc. are very attractive to Japanese companies. In addition, it is hoped to develop relations in the field of agriculture and tourism. The Convention on the Elimination of Double Taxation has been signed between our countries, and work is being continued towards reaching an agreement on the investment agreement. Such steps taken to improve the investment conditions between our countries and I hope that they will lead to the growth of investments between the two countries.
– After the liberation of Karabakh, large-scale construction and reconstruction works are being carried out there. Do Japanese companies operate in Karabakh?
– As far as I know, the government of Azerbaijan is doing everything in its power to build roads and electric substations for the reconstruction and development of those areas, as well as for the return of residents. As I know, Japan's TEPSCO is preparing a master plan for electricity in areas where renewable energy, smart city concept is applied. Such trust in Japanese companies is very gratifying.