Azerbaijan regards Malaysia as ‘Tiger of Southeast Asia’

KUALA LUMPUR: Azerbaijan sees Malaysia as an advanced Muslim country and regards it as the ‘Tiger of Southeast Asia,’ backed by good economic reforms and rapid development, Azerbaijan Ambassador-Designate to Malaysia, Prof Dr Qaley Allahverdiyev, said.

He said Malaysia’s 25th ranking in the 2012-2013 Global Competitive Index of the World Economic Forum (WEF) had attracted Azerbaijan, which was ranked 46th, to expand ties with Malaysia.

“We want to be like Malaysia and at the same level as Malaysia.

“Malaysia and Azerbaijan are two Muslim countries that practise democracy extensively and we see Malaysia as the ‘Tiger of Southeast Asia’ and we want to be the ‘Tiger of Caucasus’,” he said.

He said this to Bernama in an inverview in conjunction with the 90th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s national leader Heydar Aliyev on May 10.

Aliyev was Azerbaijan’s president from 1993 to 2003 after leading the Soviet Azerbaijan from 1969 to 1982, the first ever Muslim being represented in the top Soviet establishment.

Azerbaijan’s current president is Aliyev’s son, Ilham, who won the presidential election on Oct 15, 2003 after his father stood down from the presidency in early October the same year.

Allahverdiyev said Azerbaijan had recently decided to expand ties with Asean countries and regarded Malaysia as one of the leaders in the region, noting that the two countries already had good political relations.

“Now, we want to pursue more good business relations in the various sectors, including petrochemical apart from tourism and culture,” he said.

He said total trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Malaysia last year stood at almost US$400 million (RM1.19 billion), with Malaysia’s imports from Azerbaijan valued at US$370 million (RM1.10 billion), with the bulk of the imports being crude oil at 442,000 tonnes.

Total exports from Malaysia to Azerbaijan stood at US$14.15 million (RM42.13 million), with fuel and chemical components being the largest contributor at US$4.1 million (RM12.21 million) and palm oil at US$3.3 million (RM9.83 million).

In 2012, about 290 Malaysians travelled to Azerbaijan for business and work, especially in the petrochemical sector, he said, adding that currently there were some 50 Azerbaijan citizens in Malaysia who were mostly students and also in the business sector.

As for tourism, First Secretary at the Azerbaijan’s Embassy, Vasif Abutalibov, said Azerbaijan had started building new infrastructures for its tourism sector on the shores of Caspian Sea and hoped that more Malaysians would visit Azerbaijan.

He said tourism in both countries could be enhanced if Malaysia Airlines (MAS) commenced a direct flight to Baku, the country’s capital once a week which would also enable businessmen from both countries to look for business opportunities, adding that currently there were no direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Baku.

Vasif said that having the direct flight was appropriate as Azerbaijan’s Silk Way Airlines and MAS’ air cargo unit, MASkargo, signed a deal in February this year to cooperate on mutual freight network development, which would turn Baku into MASkargo’s freight hub in east Europe.

The Azerbaijan Embassy will celebrate the anniversary of the late national leader with a reception tonight.

Allahverdiyev said Aliyev had always been a staunch proponent of a progressive society and developed country and that his policies had always been in favour of the people, adding that the poverty line in Azerbaijan dwindled to six per cent from 50 per cent during his dynamic leadership. — Bernama

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