The relationship between Hungary and Azerbaijan is a very special one, and we thought that by getting to know the Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Hungary H.E. Mr. Tahir Taghizade we could gain a better insight into the life of the Ambassador of Azerbaijan. Exclusive interview:
Daily News Hungary (DNH): Let’s go back a little earlier. What was your first thought when you learned that you would be delegated as ambassador to the Hungarian capital?
Ambassador H.E. Mr. Tahir Taghizade: Hungary is a brotherly country to Azerbaijan. We share common historical roots, values, and traditions. Three of the ten tribes that formed the Hungarian nation are of Turkic origin. Even the country’s name possibly derives from “On-ogur” (“Ten arrows”). In the letters addressed by the Byzantine emperor to Árpád, the first head of the confederation of Hungarian tribes, he was called “the prince of the Turkic tribes”.
It is interesting that having spent 12 years of my diplomatic career in neighbouring Czech Republic I have never visited Budapest before. Now, I can see what I missed.
We are strategic partners cooperating in diverse areas. It is an honor and privilege to represent my country in one of the most beautiful capitals of the world.
DNH: You have met many locals since your appointment. What is your impression of Hungarian people?
Ambassador Taghizade: It is impossible not to notice similarities between our nations. The hospitality of your people reminds me of my compatriots. It is especially pleasant that even if you meet a Hungarian person for the first time, they say that you can call them at any time and they mean it sincerely not just out of politeness.
I highly appreciate the locals’ friendly attitude towards Azerbaijani students and members of our diaspora.
DNH: In diplomatic terms, the Hungarian and Azeri governments nurture a good relationship. What concrete results has this amicable connection produced in the last year?
Ambassador Taghizade: As mentioned earlier we are strategic partners. The friendly working relations between our leaders play an important role in the cooperation. I also wanted to underscore that the current chairmanship of the Azerbaijan-Hungary Inter-parliamentary Working Group is on the level of the First Deputy Chair of the Milli Majlis. This already reaffirms our commitment and appreciation for bilateral relations.
I have been serving as the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Hungary since September of last year and with great satisfaction, I can state that fortunately, life is getting back to normal after the pandemic which allows us to organise a number of events.
In early February, the 8th meeting of the Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation between Azerbaijan and Hungary was held in Baku.
Also, representatives of 24 Hungarian firms, accompanying H. E. Mr. Péter Szijjártó, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, attended the Hungarian-Azerbaijani business forum.
We are firmly engaged in involving Hungarian companies in the reconstruction and rebuilding of Karabakh.
We have recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Hungary. A tree-planting ceremony was held in the botanical garden of Sopron University and a photo exhibition was opened in one of the central parts of Budapest, Hunyadi Square.
Most recently, on 27 May, the National Day of the Republic of Azerbaijan was celebrated in Budapest.
I had the personal privilege and honor to welcome the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Sándor Lezsák to our event, and his words have further re-encouraged me in terms of the importance that Hungary attaches to our bilateral relations.
We look forward to further deepening our mutually beneficial cooperation.
DNH: Budapest gives home to an outstanding cultural meeting point, namely the Azerbaijan House in Hungary. What programmes do the organisers offer to the visitors?
Ambassador Taghizade: Azerbaijan House in Budapest was opened with the support of the State Committee on Work with Diaspora of the Republic of Azerbaijan and plays an important role in bringing together members of Azerbaijani Diaspora living in Hungary, as well as in the region of Central Europe.
Diverse cultural events, language courses, and gatherings dedicated to the special days of Azerbaijan are regularly held in Azerbaijan House. On 30 April 2022, a photo exhibition titled “Armenian vandalism: before and after occupation” was organised there.
Moreover, Azerbaijan House in Budapest opened its doors to Azerbaijani refugees fleeing from Ukraine when they were in need of accommodation.
We closely cooperated in providing safe travel to our compatriots and their family members to Azerbaijan.
DNH: Azerbaijan emerged victoriously from the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020. However, in the last one and a half years, there have been minor military clashes and the diplomatic scene has been quite tense in Armenia. How can you currently describe the recaptured territories? What kind of developments has Nagorno-Karabakh seen since it was reconnected to Azerbaijan?
Ambassador Taghizade: As I usually said in my interviews during the 44-day Patriotic War, for us it was not about winning a war, it was about winning a lasting peace. So let me tell you what has been done in this respect.
First of all, I should mention that according to the relevant decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Karabakh and East Zangazur economic regions have been established in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan.
Demining process is still going on. However, the reconstruction and rebuilding of the regions continue successfully.
A fully functional airport was built in Fizuli within only 8 months. Two more airports are in the development process or under construction in Zangilan and Lachin. The “Victory” road to Shusha has been completed. “Smart villages” are to be created in the liberated territories. Moreover, Azerbaijan focuses on the renewable energy potential of these regions and aims to apply the green energy concept.
The activities carried out in the liberated territories serve as a litmus test, which will be implemented in the whole territory of the country.
In addition, some events are already being organised in Shusha, the city with the centuries-long status of the cultural capital of Azerbaijan. This year the city has hosted the Khari Bulbul Music Festival for the second time after its liberation. Representatives of diverse ethnic groups living in Azerbaijan presented their national dances and songs during the festival. Once again, we have demonstrated the multicultural nature of our society and our deep respect towards the rights and values of all citizens of Azerbaijan regardless of their ethnic background or religious affiliation.
It is noteworthy to mention that
in 2023, Shusha will be the cultural capital of the Turkic world, while the Hungarian city Veszprém will serve as the cultural capital of Europe.
In this regard, there are plans for extended cooperation between the two cities next year.
DNH: When do you think the current Azerbaijani-Armenian border dispute will be finally resolved? Is there even such a scenario?
Ambassador Taghizade: No, there is no such thing. There was a case of unprovoked aggression by one state against the other which resulted in the military occupation of 20% of the internationally recognised territory of my country as enshrined in four UNSC resolutions. That has already been resolved by Azerbaijan. Armenia has agreed to sign a peace treaty based on the 5 principles put forward by Azerbaijan. These principles include mutual recognition of sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of international borders, and political independence of each other; mutual confirmation of the absence of territorial claims of states to each other, and the adoption of a legal obligation that such a claim will not be brought in the future; inadmissibility of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of each other, in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the UN Charter; delimitation and demarcation of the state border, the establishment of diplomatic relations; opening transport and communications, building other relevant communications and establishing cooperation in other areas of mutual interest.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have agreed on the structure of a commission on the delimitation of the border.
We support regional integration and peaceful development. Hopefully, Armenia will also decide to join regional infrastructure and energy projects which will contribute to the further socio-economic development of all South Caucasian states.
Unfortunately, recently in Armenia, some opposition forces have been jeopardizing the safety of the whole region by pursuing their narrow-minded domestic policy goals.
However, it is promising that after the trilateral meeting with the participation of Charles Michel, the first meeting of the Border Delimitation Commission took place on the border of the two states on 24 May.
DNH: On various grounds, the Russian army has attacked neighbouring Ukraine. Azerbaijan is also situated next to Russia. Could Azerbaijan’s sovereignty be at risk? What is Baku’s position on the war in Ukraine?
Ambassador Taghizade: Azerbaijan fully and unequivocally supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, Azerbaijan has provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine on numerous occasions, including hydrocarbons.
On 22 February 2022, a Declaration on “Allied Interaction between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation” was signed by the leaders of both countries. According to the Declaration “The Russian Federation and the Republic of Azerbaijan build their relations on the basis of allied interaction, mutual respect for independence, state sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the state borders of the two countries”.
As it is always the case in the bilateral relations of Azerbaijan, this document is not aimed against any third party and only concerns our relations with Russia.
There is also a huge humanitarian dimension to the war in Ukraine. As a result of hostilities, many people fled Ukraine into the neighboring countries; Hungary received around 500,000 – 700,000 refugees.
Out of those nearly 1,500 were safely sent through the Embassy channels to Baku. Those included Azerbaijani citizens living in Ukraine, their family members, as well as Ukrainians of Azerbaijani origin.
For this, we are grateful to Wizz Air, Hungarian NGOs, state agencies, and everybody else who provided valuable assistance.
DNH: What do you think of Hungary’s almost complete dependence on Russian gas? Your country is rich in oil and gas. What would you suggest to the Hungarian government? What should be done in the near future?
During the latest meeting of the Joint Commission, Minister Péter Szijjártó talked about the ongoing negotiations to import natural gas from Azerbaijan starting from the end of 2023, through Southern Europe.
The war has increased the necessity of alternative energy sources and routes for the European Union.
It should be mentioned that
Azerbaijan does not consider the export of its oil and gas resources as a political tool; it is rather a commercial issue.
Another important point is that European countries are not only looking for new sources of oil and gas but also investing in renewable energy. Hungary is considering decreasing its dependence on natural gas by investing in nuclear energy. In this regard, the renewable energy potential of the liberated territories can become a new area of cooperation within EU – Azerbaijan “energy dialogue”, as well as between Hungary and Azerbaijan.
At the same time, Caspian Basin can play an important role in the implementation of REPowerEU and the future diversification of its natural gas supplies.
DNH: To avoid ending the interview with depressing politics, could you tell us about how you and your family have adapted to everyday life in Hungary? Do you already speak a little Hungarian? Budapest has presumably appealed to you. Which cities in the countryside are your favourites?
Ambassador Taghizade: As our nations share a lot of common values and attitudes, usually it is not that difficult for Azerbaijani people to get used to daily life in Hungary. Our languages sound quite different, but one can find similar words and sentence structures.
Hungarian is not an easy language to learn. As Pope Francis humorously remarked during his recent visit to Hungary: “Why will we speak Hungarian in heaven? Because it takes an eternity to learn it!”
Budapest is one of the most beautiful capitals of Europe. It is beyond discussion. I was also amazed by the Royal Palace of Gödöllő, the endless vineyards of Villány and Siklós, and the beautiful winding streets of Szentendre.
As far as my kids are concerned (they continue their studies in London, in the place of my previous posting), during their brief visit here, they were enjoying the baths of Budapest. I hope to show them around the country when they come in mid-summer.