The cordial political ties between Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan have been the prime contributor for growing relations between the two nations in other areas of interest, according to the southeastern European country's top diplomat in the Kingdom.
Shahin Abdullayev, Azerbaijan's ambassador in Riyadh, said Saudi investors could have a role in the project to revive the Great Silk Route that links Europe and Asia.
"Azerbaijan's excellent political ties with Saudi Arabia have been contributing to develop economic, trade, investment and tourism cooperation," he said.
Speaking to Saudi Gazette, Abdullayev also hailed the Kingdom’s support for the Azeri position in its conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.
A career diplomat of the Soviet era with his first overseas posting in Yemen, Abdullayev is fluent of Arabic. He has been playing an active role to cement his country's relations with the Kingdom.
“Our understanding is that we share a common view on many regional and international matters, we support each other at various international venues," Abdullayev said.
He said 35,000 Saudi citizens visited Azerbaijan in 2017, which is one of the highest from GCC countries.
Abdillayev said the Saudi tourist flow was expected to increase further in the current year as more people from the Kingdom started visiting the country.
He said a simplified visa procedure had been introduced to facilitate travel by Saudi citizens to Azerbaijan, where visa upon arrival is available to them.
“The connectivity between Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan has been improving with the availability of direct flights from Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and Qassim," he added.
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The ambassador said Saudis and other GCC tourists were keen to visit different parts of the country besides the capital Baku. The country is full of mountain ranges, natural beauty, rivers and long stretch semi-arid plains.
Shamakhi Dzhuma, built in 744 AD, is the oldest and largest mosque in Azerbaijan, he said, adding that it was considered one of the earliest built mosques in Transcaucasia. The mosque is also one of the major attractions for the GCC visitors.
Abdullayev said Azerbaijan was engaged in efforts to diversify the country's non-oil economy, and the tourism industry was one of the promising sectors to contribute to this ambitious goal.
According to the ambassador, tourism in Azerbaijan was developing rapidly, and to support the flow of foreign visitors, comprehensive activities were being carried out.
He said his country improved its performance in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017 released by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Abdullayev emphasized that fresh products of Azerbaijan were famous in Europe and the country was exploring opportunities to export its agro products to the Kingdom.
The ambassador said Baku was seeking to establish partnerships with Saudi Arabia in various fields. Saudi business houses can look into special industrial zones that offer various incentives, he said.
Explaining the mega projects to revive Great Silk Road and the North-South Corridor, the envoy said it became central to a new axis of power currently forming at the crossroads of southeast Asia and southeastern Europe.
Azerbaijan has developed a railway system, which is integrated with the European Rail system and can help Asian goods to reach Europe in a short time, he told.
Abdullayev said with the Silk Road project Chinese goods can reach Britain in two weeks instead of a month now.
Spanning more than 800 kilometers, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars link is part of a global project to revive the Great Silk Road that will change dimensions between Asia and Europe.
The coast of the Caspian Sea is vital for Azerbaijan. The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank has co-founded Caspian International Investment Company (CIIC) in Azerbaijan.
By Irfan Mohammed
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