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Russian envoy: 3+3 format to boost regional economic co-op

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By Vugar Khalilov

Russian ambassador to Azerbaijan Mikhail Bocharnikov has stated that the 3+3 format will help expand trade and economic cooperation among its member countries.

He made the remarks at a press conference in Baku on January 26.

"Last year, a promising 3+3 cooperation format was launched at the initiative of the presidents of Turkey and Azerbaijan…The interest of the participating countries lies in achieving the normalization and unblocking of transport communications. The first meeting was held in Moscow, where we saw the interest of the parties," Bocharnikov said.

He added that the meeting in this format will continue and that the format is still open for Georgia, even though it is unwilling to participate.

Bocharnikov stated that Azerbaijan's participation in any organization, including the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), is a matter of sovereign choice.

He stressed that the EAEU member states now have cooperation experience in the field of digital technologies, support for small and medium-sized businesses, and a number of countries are interested in joining this organization.

“We see that the integration of countries into the EAEU has been beneficial from an economic point of view…The total GDP of the EAEU member-states has grown by more than four percent, mutual trade – by 30 percent, export to foreign markets – by 41 percent,” he noted.

Previously, Kazakhstan's first president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, proposed granting Azerbaijan observer status in the EAEU.

Furthermore, Bocharnikov said that Russian investments in Azerbaijan exceed $4.2 billion.

“Some $2.9 billion accounted for the trade and economic cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia for 11 months of 2021…Taking into account December 2021, this figure may reach $3 billion,” he said

The ambassador emphasized that Russia's LUKOIL Company is active and productive in the Azerbaijani market and described it as a serious investor in the development of "green" energy.

"As for the energy sector, LUKOIL acquired 9.99 percent of the shares in the Shah Deniz project and its share today is 19.99 percent. The company also has a 25 percent stake in the Absheron Peninsula shallow-water development project (SWAP),” Bocharnikov highlighted.

He reminded that the presidents of the two countries met four times in 2021.

“Azerbaijani Prime Minister Ali Asadov visited Russia in May 2021, where a plan of interaction until 2024 was drawn up… Azerbaijani Parliament Speaker Sahiba Gafarova also visited Russia several times. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk visited Azerbaijan and met Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev,” he added.

The ambassador said that the Azerbaijani and Russian business delegations are expected to pay reciprocal and productive visits in 2022.

“Russian regions are now drawing up the plans for holding meetings…I have seen a very big list of regions the representatives of which are interested in coming to Azerbaijan and conducting such meetings," he said.

A delegation from Russia's Udmurtia is scheduled to visit Azerbaijan in February, and other Russian regions such as Astrakhan and Dagestan are also interested in cooperating, Bocharnikov said.

He emphasized that 14 Russian companies had applied to participate in the restoration process of Azerbaijan's liberated territories, with these companies primarily focused on agriculture, railway construction, power facility fields, and other works.

"I cannot yet say how many of these applications will be accepted by the Azerbaijani side," Bocharnikov stated.

Representatives of Russian companies organized in 2021 two large business trips to Azerbaijan, where they discussed economic cooperation, including activities in the liberated lands.

The ambassador also noted the growing number of flights between the two countries. He stated that nine Russian airlines fly weekly from several Russian cities to Baku, and the airlines also seek permission to fly to other Azerbaijani cities.

Concerning the two countries' land borders, Bocharnikov stated that they are closed due to decisions made by Azerbaijan's operational headquarters, and he is unsure when the restriction will be lifted.

He added that passenger trips will be conducted via the Caspian Sea as well.

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Turkish FM meets with Finnish, Swedish counterparts

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Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavushoglu on May 14 held a tripartite meeting with his Swedish counterpart, Ann Linde, and his Finnish counterpart, Pekka Haavisto, in Berlin amid discussions that Turkey could block their NATO membership bid, Trend reports citing Hurriyet Daily News.

“I met with my Swedish and Finnish counterparts in Berlin on the fringes of the NATO Foreign Ministers Informal Meeting,” Cavushoglu said on Twitter.

Ahead of the meeting, the minister reiterated that the countries wanting to be NATO members must avoid supporting PKK and YPG and said he would discuss this issue with his Finnish and Swedish counterparts.

Cavushoglu emphasized that Sweden and Finland clearly support the PKK/YPG, saying, “This affects the feelings of our people negatively, despite all our warnings.”

“Therefore, a country that will be an ally should not support the PKK/YPG, the terrorist organization that attacks us every day, kills our soldiers, our police and our civilians,” he added.

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Georgian leadership to be invited to NATO Summit

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The Georgian leadership will be invited to the NATO Summit that will be held in Madrid at the end of June, Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana said in a doorstep statement earlier today, ahead of an informal meeting of NATO ministers of foreign affairs in Berlin, Trend reports citing Agenda.ge.

NATO will always respect the right of nations in Europe, and around the world, to choose their own path. This is not subject to anyone else’s veto. [It] is the discussion about that country and the organisation they want to join,” Geoană said.

Georgia is the enhanced opportunity partner for us. We've been working with them for years and years. And I also know that the leadership of Georgia will be invited at the NATO Summit," the alliance official added.

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Iran reveals COVID-19 data for May 15

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As many as 368 people have been infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the past 24 hours in Iran, reads the statement of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education of Iran, Trend reports.

In addition, 8 people have died from the coronavirus over the past day.

At the same time, the condition of 737 people remains critical.

So far, more than 51.7 million tests have been conducted in Iran for the diagnosis of coronavirus.

In total, over 149 million doses of vaccines have been used in Iran so far. A total of 64.4 million doses have been used in the first stage, 57.7 million doses – in the second stage, and 27.3 million doses – in the third stage.

Iran continues to monitor the coronavirus situation in the country. According to recent reports from Iranian officials, over 7.23 million people have been infected, and 141,224 people have already died.

Meanwhile, over 7.02 million people have reportedly recovered from the disease. The country continues to apply strict measures to contain the further spread of the virus.

Reportedly, the disease was brought to Iran by a businessman from Iran's Qom city, who went on a business trip to China, despite official warnings. The man died later from the disease. The Islamic Republic announced its first infections and deaths from the coronavirus on Feb. 19.

The outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan – which is an international transport hub – began at a fish market in late December 2019.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11 declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Some sources claim the coronavirus outbreak started as early as November 2019.

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