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19 May 2024, 23:09

Army appointments, agreements with Azerbaijan, Karabakh visit, messages abroad in President’s Week

 The work schedule of the Belarus president is always full of events. Aleksandr Lukashenko holds conferences and working meetings on the most topical matters concerning the country’s development, regularly visits the regions, goes on foreign trips and welcomes foreign guests, talks to reporters, signs decrees and laws. And even if there are no public events, it does not mean that the head of state does not work. It must be said that even when he relaxes, for instance, by playing ice hockey or chopping firewood, Aleksandr Lukashenko happens to find the time to give yet another instruction. All the decisions must be prompted by life, he likes to say.

The President’s Week project is intended for those, who want to keep up with the head of state, be up-to-date on the latest statements and decisions of the Belarusian leader.
Last week ended a series of May holidays but despite the large number of public holidays the president’s schedule was rather packed and productive. Aleksandr Lukashenko went to Azerbaijan on a state visit where the parties reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations. Extensive delegations from both countries joined in this work.

In Azerbaijan the head of state not only held negotiations with his counterpart Ilham Aliyev. The two heads of state went to the Karabakh area together. Before the visit the president managed to make a number of important personnel decisions. All the details are covered by the latest episode of BelTA’s special project President’s Week.

PERSONNEL APPOINTMENTS IN THE ARMED FORCES. Who occupied the vacant positons?

On 15 May Aleksandr Lukashenko signed two decrees to appoint personnel. Colonel Mikhail Matrosov became a new deputy commander of the Air Force and Air Defense Command.

Major-General Dmitry Mikholap had occupied this position previously. He was appointed Head of the Faculty of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Deputy Chief of the Military Academy of Belarus.

AHEAD OF NEGOTIATIONS. How was Aleksandr Lukashenko’s visit to Azerbaijan prepared?

The president went to Azerbaijan on a state visit in the evening on 15 May. A representative Belarusian delegation had arrived in Baku the day before. Before negotiations of the two leaders ministers, heads of government agencies, and directors of enterprises held meetings with their Azerbaijani colleagues in order to compare notes across the board and lay some groundwork.

Future belongs to manufacturing cooperation projects

At a meeting with Azerbaijan Prime Minister Ali Asadov Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Igor Petrishenko remarked that the countries have the resources to advance the economic partnership to a new level. He was convinced that the future belongs to joint manufacturing cooperation projects. “If we talk about the already existing accomplishments, then efforts should be focused first of all on expanding the range of vehicles jointly produced at Ganja Automobile Plant and on launching the joint production of veterinary drugs and pharmaceutical products,” Igor Petrishenko noted.

A working meeting of the heads of the transport ministries also took place in Baku. Belarusian Transport and Communications Minister Aleksei Lyakhnovich noted that all the necessary conditions for the development of transportation of freight and passengers by rail, by air, and by road between Belarus and Azerbaijan had been enabled. He suggested establishing cooperation in designing motorways and railways to Azerbaijani colleagues.

Belarus and Azerbaijan also agreed on the equivalency of food security systems concerning meat and dairy products, Belarusian Agriculture and Food Minister Sergei Bartosh told reporters.

Thanks to this Belarusian enterprises will be able to increase food supplies to the Azerbaijani market. “It will increase reciprocal deliveries of food as well as trade,” Sergei Bartosh added.

A new impulse for stronger relations

Another remarkable event was taking place in Azerbaijan these days – the largest agricultural forum in Caucasus. Belarus’ also opened its national pavilion as part of the international expos Caspian Agro and Interfood.

This time Caspian Agro and Interfood have brought together about 500 companies from 38 countries. Belarus presented its products for the fifth consecutive year. Representatives of over 40 Belarusian companies came to Baku. They presented meat products, dairy products, confectionery, fish, alcoholic beverages and other types of food as well as fertilizers, chemicals for plant treatment, animal drugs.

According to Chairman of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BelCCI) Mikhail Myatlikov, Belarus’ pavilion was the largest one among the national stands this year. “It occupies almost 300 square meters,” he said.

During the expos Belarusian enterprises signed about 20 contracts, memorandums, and agreements with Azerbaijani partners. In line with the agreements Belarus will ship $43 million worth of merchandise to Azerbaijan in addition to importing $11 million worth of raw materials and other goods.

In 2023 Belarus-Azerbaijan trade exceeded $400 million, with Belarus’ export past $370 million, 77% up from 2022.

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Azerbaijan Andrei Ravkov noted: “We exchange woodworking industry products. We sell the entire lineup of products to Azerbaijan starting with longitudinally sawn wood and ending with wallpaper and toilet paper. We maintain manufacturing cooperation ties in mechanical engineering. We work together in oil processing industry (mutual trade in oil refining products). We cooperate in pharmaceutics and food industry. One can also mention tourism, sport, and other humanitarian areas. I mean we have the entire spectrum of mutual relations.”

The ambassador was convinced that the Belarus president’s state visit to Azerbaijan and negotiations of the two leaders would deliver a good impulse towards strengthening the bilateral relations across the board.

AIMING FOR LONG-TERM GOALS. What did Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ilham Aliyev agree on in Baku?

At the end of the day on 15 May the aircraft with the Belarusian head of state on board landed at Heydar Aliyev International Airport. State flags of Belarus and Azerbaijan were hoisted on flagpoles in front of the government terminal. Military personnel of the honor guard company lined up along a cyan runner carpet in anticipation of the Belarusian head of state.

Talks till midnight

At the airstair Aleksandr Lukashenko was greeted by First Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan Yagub Eyyubov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Elnur Mammadov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Azerbaijan to Belarus Maharram Aliyev as well as members of the Belarusian delegation: Deputy Prime Minister Igor Petrishenko, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Aleinik, and the head of the Belarusian diplomatic mission Andrei Ravkov.

“You live in paradise!” the head of state remarked right away. He was certainly referring to the weather.

After exchanging a couple of phrases with the welcoming party, Aleksandr Lukashenko headed to the motorcade. It was already past ten in the evening but the president’s work day was not over yet. The head of state got into the car together with the ambassador for a traditional conversation before a day full of negotiations.

An intensive conversation continued upon the arrival as well. “The president’s work day has just ended. It is 23:32 in Baku,” the Telegram channel Pul Pervogo reported.

Two solid friends and an offer one cannot refuse

Official negotiations between Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev took place in the presidential palace Zagulba on the shore of the Caspian Sea on 16 May. Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ilham Aliyev held a one-on-one meeting initially. After that their delegations joined them to discuss the entire range of bilateral relations.
In line with the protocol the negotiations were preceded by ceremonial events involving an honor guard company and the performance of the national anthems. Members of the delegations also participated in the ceremony. After all the niceties were observed, the presidents went behind closed doors for negotiations without saying a word for the cameras. During expanded negotiations later on Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ilham Aliyev shed some light on what had been discussed behind closed doors. Truth be told, the presidents were quite brief this time, too.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted: “We have no closed topics. Everything is open in our relations. If someone heard what matters we were discussing, they would wonder what kind of relations we have. The kindest and the closest. We communicate like brothers. We understand the world the same way and understand where it is moving.”
The president emphasized that post-war restoration of the territories is the most important thing for Azerbaijan right now: “Now is the heavy time when you have to revive these lands, bring people back, which can be a problem since some may have been born in a city already.”

The president noted that this work will require a lot of time and effort. Aleksandr Lukashenko stated that Belarus is ready to pitch in.

“Equipment, agricultural towns, jobs, certain technologies. Your specialists, ministers know these technologies well. If they are acceptable, if our equipment can be useful here... During one-on-one negotiations I asked Ilham Heydarovich [Aliyev] to let Belarus be part of this effort. And Ilham Heydarovich [Aliyev] supported such an approach,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

In turn, Ilham Aliyev said that during the one-on-one meeting the two leaders had had an in-depth discussion about many items on the bilateral agenda as well as about regional and international affairs. The parties confirmed the strategic nature of bilateral relations.

“We treasure the trust-based and creative partnership between our countries, which is based on mutual respect, friendship and cooperation,” Ilham Aliyev emphasized. “This relationship has been tested by time. I think that no one doubts that Belarus and Azerbaijan are reliable friends.”

Speaking about prospects of further interaction between Belarus and Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev stressed he sees a huge potential for advancing cooperation, including for increasing the trade turnover, potential for continuing and expanding manufacturing cooperation. He noted Azerbaijan would be glad if Belarusian companies and enterprises participate in the post-war rehabilitation of the territories.

Signed agreements and new twinned cities

In anticipation of Aleksandr Lukashenko’s visit government agencies of both countries had done a lot of work to update the legal base. The international agreements that had been drafted were signed as a result of negotiations of the two leaders. It was another mandatory attribute of the official meeting.
The signed agreements include an intergovernmental protocol on the mutual application of electronic systems for certifying the origin of goods. It is aimed at simplifying trade, increasing efficiency and reducing the customs clearance time. The document was signed by the heads of the customs authorities.

Two more protocols were signed to amend and supplement the intergovernmental agreements on cooperation in veterinary medicine and in the quarantine and plant protection.

An action plan to promote cooperation in tourism in 2024-2025 was signed while the Ministry of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade of Belarus and the Ministry of Economy of Azerbaijan signed a memorandum of understanding and cooperation in the competition policy, public procurement, consumer protection and advertising.

Another memorandum of understanding was signed between the National Agency of Investment and Privatization of Belarus and the Small and Medium Business Development Agency of Azerbaijan. The document creates the legal framework for sharing the best practices and improving the business climate with a view to enhancing the investment appeal of both countries.

The Belarusian cities of Minsk, Gomel, and Grodno establish twinning ties with Azerbaijan’s Baku, Ganja and Gabala respectively. The memorandums between the parties were signed after the presidents’ talks.

How will Belarus help out Azerbaijan?

In conclusion of the official negotiations Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ilham Aliyev made a statement for mass media. It is worth noting that neither of them summed up results of the meeting by relying on canned phrases.

“I’ve invited Belarusian companies to take an active part in the restoration of the Karabakh and East Zangezur zone. The scale of the work we are doing and will do is enormous,” the Azerbaijan president stressed.

In his words, it is necessary to rebuild a significant territory from the ground up. It is necessary to create infrastructure and build houses, public buildings, and so on. “This is why we invite Belarusian companies to take an active part in this work,” Ilham Aliyev said. “Belarus has very good experience of urban development, modern technologies, and the experience of building agrotowns.”

In turn, Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that Azerbaijan had accomplished a lot in the last few years. First of all, the key problem has been resolved by recovering the lands that had been converted virtually into a desert for a long time. “It is difficult history. But the lands have been recovered. It is necessary to revive them. It may be a rather lengthier task that will be just as difficult but Azerbaijan has to do it,” he stressed.

Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that putting people back into these lands will not be enough. It is necessary to create jobs and provide citizens with a decent life over there. It will take many years.

“The fact that you have reclaimed the lands and are reviving them will have an effect that will last for centuries. If in this immense effort to revive these lands you find a place where we can lend you a hand and it is advantageous for you, we will be happy to do it. And we will do it in a way that no one else in the world will do because of the respect and friendly relations between the brotherly nations of Belarus and Azerbaijan,” the president said.

Ambitious steps of Belarus and Azerbaijan

Aleksandr Lukashenko recalled that Belarus and Azerbaijan are implementing a roadmap on advancing bilateral cooperation. A session of the intergovernmental commission will take place in Minsk soon. Taking into account the new agreements, the parties have decided to update this document. 

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, some things are outdated and there are projects that need to be implemented. One of them is the joint production of complex fertilizers.

“We have agreed on the joint production of complex mineral fertilizers. Why should we delay it? It is necessary to make complex mixed fertilizers and start with the domestic market so that Azerbaijan would not have to look for some fertilizers elsewhere, but make them locally. We have the technology. We are ready to do it and provide for the entire region, which is colossal: Iran, Pakistan, and India consume a huge amount of mineral fertilizers. We will offer complex ones. We need to get things off the ground by November. The relevant tasks have been set,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The president said: “We’ve discussed all the matters. There were no closed topics. I am talking not only about MTZ tractors, about joint production but also about the joint production of MAZ vehicles and fire trucks. Production of elevator equipment. It is necessary to replace old elevators in Soviet-era houses. We’ve preserved elevator production and are ready to make these machines here together with our Azerbaijani friends.”

Azerbaijan is also interested in the production of rolling stock for railroads such as flatbed cars and tank cars. Belarus is ready to share its experience in this field as well.

Cooperation in agriculture is as important. Belarus can sell elite varieties of cattle to Azerbaijan. The construction of agrotowns and infrastructure, the establishment of dairy farms, and the development of private farms are some of the options. It is particularly topical for territories in need of revival, the head of state noted.

Trade in sawn timber is a traditional avenue of Belarus-Azerbaijan cooperation. Belarus is ready to go the extra mile now and build wooden houses in the areas Azerbaijan is busy reviving.

“As for pharmaceutics, we are ready to start supplying the medicines that you need right away, and to create joint enterprises here to make medicines and veterinary drugs that we know how to produce in Belarus,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko. “This would be a very ambitious program. And this program will not undercut anyone in Azerbaijan. We will not come into conflict with anyone here and we will not compete with anyone. Although there should be competition.”

According to the head of state, Belarus and Azerbaijan can tap into significant cooperation potential in the humanitarian sphere, including in sport (training for major events), healthcare, and education. “We are ready to revive and build new vocational education facilities. We have such experience. Today blue-collar workers are in great demand. Ilham Heydarovich [Aliyev] asked us to take up this work. We will carry it out together with your specialists,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

The heads of state are expected to analyze the realization of the roadmap in November. An international UN conference on climate change is scheduled to take place in Baku then. The Belarus president intends to take part in it.

Apart from that, according to Ilham Aliyev, the negotiations also touched upon the advancement of relations in defense industry, agriculture, and transport – all the matters that will be of practical significance for the development of the two economies.

It has already been noted that in 2023 Belarus-Azerbaijan trade exceeded $400 million. But the parties believe they can raise the figure to $1 billion albeit not right away.

“It will be a very big step. We may have to do it in two steps. We will raise trade turnover to $500 million within 1-1.5 years first. We will raise it to $1 billion after a certain period of time. We will do our best to reach the goal. For instance, if we buy some product that Azerbaijan makes from unfriendly countries, then we should stop doing that and buy the product from Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan will do the same to meet us halfway,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Belarus’ stance on Ukraine and a powerful leader in Caucasus

Security in the space of the Commonwealth of Independent States was one of the topics covered during negotiations of the presidents. Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ilham Aliyev exchanged opinions about topical matters of international politics. “The situation in the world is changing rather fast and as a rule for the worse. New conflicts, new instability areas are emerging. Unfortunately, the existing conflicts are not getting resolved as a rule,” Ilham Aliyev noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “I informed him about what is going on in our region due to the conflict in Ukraine. In great detail. Our evaluations and points of view are close or the same. You know our position. Things are not simple for us now. But we will do everything to ensure peace in Ukraine. And we will advance in this direction. The experience of Azerbaijan’s post-war recovery, peaceful development is very important for our region as well.”

The head of state remarked that things are not calm in the Caucasian region either. “Thank god a very powerful, normal leader embodied in Azerbaijan has emerged here. You are capable of controlling the Caucasian region. You are responsible not only for Azerbaijan. You are already responsible for the situation in Caucasus. We, the nations that live outside Caucasus strongly hope for it. It is an additional burden for you although you have plenty of your own problems. Nevertheless, it is unavoidable. Time has chosen you as Belarusians like to say. You are responsible for the Caucasian region as a leader,” the president stressed.

A swift gift for the president

After the talks Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ilham Aliyev went on a tour of the international agricultural expo Caspian Agro in Baku. The heads of state were made familiar with Belarus’ and Azerbaijan’s expositions. They examined the potential of the enterprises and promising avenues of cooperation in agribusiness.
“I take a close interest in Belarusians when I visit the expo every year,” Ilham Aliyev remarked.

Gifts were part of the tour. The Azerbaijan president received a chocolate book as a souvenir in addition to a chocolate bouquet for his wife.

“The president will take it right away. Otherwise…” Aleksandr Lukashenko started saying.

“They will eat it!” Ilham Aliyev continued.

Outside the exhibition center the presidents were made familiar with Belarusian machines, equipment, and vehicles as well as tractors that are jointly made.

“Are these vehicles in demand? Or are these future products?” Aleksandr Lukashenko clarified.

“All the machines and vehicles are in demand. We don’t make them to inflate the stock in storage. Honestly speaking, we had problems with quality two years ago. The share [of Belarusian tractors on the Azerbaijani market] dropped to 62%. But we’ve raised it to 82% of the entire market. The quality is good today,” the presidents were told.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also laid a wreath at the tomb of the national leader Heydar Aliyev in the Alley of Honors in Baku and a wreath at the Eternal Flame monument in the Alley of Martyrs (“fallen heroes”).

In the evening the heads of state and both delegations reconvened in the Gulustan Palace, which offers an enchanting view of Baku Boulevard. The Azerbaijani leader hosted a state banquet in honor of the Belarus president in the palace.

A NEW LEASE ON LIFE. Details of Aleksandr Lukashenko’s and Ilham Aliyev’s trip to Karabakh

As part of the state visit to Azerbaijan Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ilham Aliyev went to Karabakh territories earmarked for revival.

How Ilham Aliyev acted as a driver and a tour guide for Aleksandr Lukashenko

The Belarusian head of state landed in Fuzuli in the morning on 17 May. At the airport he was welcomed by the Azerbaijan president. Ilham Aliyev told Aleksandr Lukashenko about the ongoing work to rebuild and develop these territories, about the construction of new infrastructure facilities. Aleksandr Lukashenko was made familiar with the new airport. The heads of state went to the town accompanied by an impressive motorcade.
Fuzuli International Airport is one of the country’s seven international airports. More will be opened soon. The airport connects Azerbaijan’s capital city with the Karabakh area. The airport’s construction began in January 2021 and the first plane landed there in September. The airport’s opening ceremony was held a month later with the participation of the presidents of Azerbaijan and Türkiye.

Fuzuli was reclaimed by Azerbaijan on 17 October 2020. The town has great transport and logistics potential as it is located at the intersection of the main transportation arteries of the Karabakh and East Zangezur economic regions of Azerbaijan. According to the general layout, the population of Fuzuli will increase to 50,000 people by 2040. For comparison, about 17,000 people lived here in the late 1980s and only a few thousand live here now.

During the trip Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ilham Aliyev examined various territories of the town, destroyed facilities, and prospective areas for real estate development. The presidents traveled along the route in one car, with the Azerbaijani leader behind the wheel. He talked about the history of the region, the events that had happened there, and the revival of the population centers along the way.
In Fuzuli Aleksandr Lukashenko got familiar with the expositions depicting the pace of the reconstruction of the destroyed facilities. After that, both leaders headed for Shusha.

A presidential gift for Shusha and an unexpected meeting

In the days of the Soviet Union the town of Shusha was part of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the territory was controlled by the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Azerbaijan reasserted control over the town in November 2020. The move was stipulated by a trilateral statement by Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia. Restoration work is in progress in Shusha now. Housing is being built for the return of Azerbaijani refugees.
“A blessing in disguise. It will be a totally new life. Of course, the cost of this misfortune was high,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

The heads of state visited the residential area of the city, examined housing conditions, memorial sites and a museum and exhibition exposition dedicated to Heydar Aliyev’s activity. Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ilham Aliyev also inspected the tractor equipment presented to the city by the president of Belarus.

“Use them. If you like them, we will add more,” the Belarusian head of state said.

Certainly, a lot of things in Shusha remind of the tragic past: some houses are beyond restoration while places of interest and temples have been destroyed.

“These are telling ruins,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked. “But it is necessary to restore the buildings that can be saved.”

By the way, since days of old Shusha has been renowned for its rich cultural life, literature, music, and architecture. Various literary societies and musical societies operated in the town. The international folklore festival Kharibulbul was revived in Shusha in 2021. The town became a cultural capital of the Islamic world in 2024. This is why some of the itinerary was dedicated to familiarization with Shusha’s historical and cultural traditions.

In the city the presidents met the famous Soviet and Azerbaijani singer, who is now the ambassador of Azerbaijan to Russia Polad Bülbüloğlu, which came as a big surprise for Aleksandr Lukashenko.

“Polad, is this you? I hear you are in Moscow most of the time,” the president said.

“This is a surprise for you!” Ilham Aliyev said.

“A gorgeous place. This is why you still sing beautifully. The air here is amazing! The other day I watched a TV show starring you!” Aleksandr Lukashenko said in admiration.

The house where Polad Bulbul oglu’s father, the famous Soviet and Azerbaijani opera singer, the founder of the national music theater Murtuza Rza oghlu Mammadov used to live has been restored. The singer’s nickname was Bulbul or nightingale in Azerbaijani.

A museum dedicated to the performer operates at the site. Bulbul’s portrait sculpture can be found nearby. It was put up back in the days of the Soviet Union only to be shot at and demolished later on. The sculpture was kept in the courtyard of the Azerbaijan National Museum of Art until 2021 when it was returned to Shusha.

“Those who shoot at icons and monuments are barbarians,” the Belarusian leader stated.

What contribution does Belarus want to make to Karabakh’s restoration?

Belarusian Architecture and Construction Minister Ruslan Parkhamovich said that Belarus intends to build a town for 420 families in Karabakh.

Belarus and Azerbaijan have been cooperating in civil engineering for years. Up till now most of the efforts have been focused on the development of urban planning documents and design documents, on sharing legislative practices and technologies.

“We have now agreed on a new serious step. We have plans to build a specific population center. Something along the lines of an agrotown. We are going to work together with our colleagues from the Agriculture Ministry because it is very important to provide locals not only with comfortable housing but also with decent jobs,” Ruslan Parkhamovich said.

The town will be built in Agdam District in Azerbaijan’s central part. The populated locality will be designed to accommodate 420 families. Belarusian color schemes will be used in its architectural designs.

“We intend to take care of building both housing and infrastructure: transport infrastructure, engineering infrastructure, and social facilities. These will be test facilities. Within the next few months we will work out and present a concept to our colleagues. Once they approve it, we will continue actively working. If things work out well for us, we will scale up our work onto several other facilities,” the minister noted.

A NEW CHAPTER IN THE HISTORY OF RELATIONS. Results of Lukashenko’s visit to Azerbaijan

After the trip to Karabakh Aleksandr Lukashenko went to Minsk. But before taking off at the airport the head of state managed to have another conversation with the ambassador and the Belarusian and Azerbaijani ministers, who accompanied him. After all, they will have to realize everything the two national leaders had agreed on.

A decent past and a very dynamic present

“The head of state’s visit to Azerbaijan has become a new and very important chapter in the history of bilateral relations. These relations have a very decent past and a very dynamic present,” Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Aleinik stressed as he summarized results of Aleksandr Lukashenko’s visit to Azerbaijan.

In his words, it is confirmed by the dynamics of contacts with the Azerbaijani side both at the level of leadership of both states, the governments, and at the level of industry-specific ministries and government agencies, public organizations, and in the humanitarian dimension. “There are practically no spheres where we haven’t interacted, where we haven’t cooperated, and where we haven’t advanced our relations,” Sergei Aleinik said. “This dynamics allows us to look into the future with optimism.”

The minister of foreign affairs pointed out that during the visit Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ilham Aliyev spent a total of about 14 hours together and discussed the entire complex of matters on the bilateral agenda as well as the global and regional ones.

Sergei Aleinik pointed out that important bilateral events will take place soon. They are supposed to help implement the arrangements made by the leaders of Belarus and Azerbaijan. A regular session of the Belarus-Azerbaijan intergovernmental commission is scheduled to take place in Minsk in early June. Participants of the session will discuss all the projects mentioned during the visit in detail.

“It is necessary to make more specific the roadmap of our bilateral cooperation for 2024-2025 and fill it with additional concrete projects, which have been discussed at the level of the heads of state. This work will be completed soon,” the minister noted.

Apart from that, the speaker of the Azerbaijani parliament is expected to visit Minsk in June. A visit of the Azerbaijani prime minister to Belarus is on the agenda.

“We are intent on doing serious joint work,” the Belarusian minister of foreign affairs concluded.

OUT OF THE LIMELIGHT. What messages did the president send to Kazakhstan and Norway?

On Friday, 17 May Aleksandr Lukashenko sent Happy Birthday wishes to Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The Belarusian head of state expressed confidence that the traditionally open and friendly communication with Kazakhstan’s leader will be filled with new constructive content and will contribute to further persistent development of bilateral relations in the spirit of strategic partnership for the benefit of Belarus and Kazakhstan.

On the same day the Belarus president congratulated the people of Norway on the national holiday - Constitution Day. Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that Belarus and Norway have been efficiently developing humanitarian, trade and economic cooperation for a long time, including in mechanical engineering, food industry, science, and sport.

“We are united by the care for our citizens, the commitment to peace and creation, and coexistence in accord with neighbors,” the president noted. “I am convinced that the resumption of the bilateral dialogue on such a foundation meets the interests of the population of both states. Primarily the interest in reinforcing stability in the region. Our doors will always be open to Norwegian friends.”

On 18 May the Belarusian leader extended greetings to President of Ethiopia Sahle-Work Zewde as the two countries marked 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations.

The strong friendship between the peoples of Belarus and Ethiopia can be considered the main achievement in the bilateral relations over this period, the Belarusian leader noted. “For all the three decades Minsk and Addis Ababa have been adhering to traditions of benevolence and trust,” the message of greetings reads. “Both countries are persistent supporters of strengthening the principles of multilateralism in world affairs, the collective search for answers to global challenges and threats while relying on international law, a respectful attitude to the originality of nations and their ability to determine their future on their own. This has made it possible to lay a solid foundation for the progressive development of Belarusian-Ethiopian cooperation.”

The head of state emphasized that Ethiopia is a very significant and reliable partner for Belarus in the African region now. “I believe that time has come to advance bilateral interaction to brand new heights, to fill it with substantial practical content in order to get tangible results in the economic and humanitarian sectors,” the president noted.
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