Wednesday, 14 March 2018 11:30

It is important to maintain the peace and stability in the Caspian region- Dato Roslan Tan Sri Abdul Rahman

 Caspian Energy (CE): Your Excellency, Malaysia and Azerbaijan are geographically distant from each other. Which factors bring the two countries closer to each other?

Dato Roslan Tan Sri Abdul Rahman, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Malaysia to the Republic of Azerbaijan: Malaysia and the Republic of Azerbaijan have always and continue to enjoy a close and friendly relationship since the establishment of the diplomatic relations on 5 April 1993. Azerbaijan established its diplomatic mission in Malaysia in June 2007, while Malaysia established its Embassy in Baku on 1 April 2014.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia had an Official Visit to Azerbaijan on 11-12 September 2014. In conjunction with the Official Visit, the Prime Minister also officiated the establishment of the Embassy of Malaysia in Baku on 12 September 2014.

Despite the distance, Malaysia and Azerbaijan share similarities in many aspects. Both Malaysia and Azerbaijan are Muslim majority countries, therefore, we share many common characteristics and practices in our culture and religion. Both countries are members of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), as well as, the United Nations (UN). Malaysia and Azerbaijan have shared and continue to share common position on many international issues of mutual interest at the multilateral fora.

CE: Which global developments and trends boost, and which one hamper the development of the bilateral relations?

Dato Roslan Tan Sri Abdul Rahman: Since the day we initiated our formal ties on 5 April 1993, Malaysia regards Azerbaijan as an important partner in the Caucasus region and the Islamic world. Malaysia stands ready to work closely with Azerbaijan to further strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation in all aspects. Malaysia’s relations with Azerbaijan over the years reflect an ever increasingly close cooperation, be it in bilateral or multilateral front. Similar global views and concerns shared by both countries help to create a friendly and conducive atmosphere towards closer bilateral cooperation between the two countries. I believe that there is nothing that could hamper the growing bilateral ties between Malaysia and Azerbaijan. During these three years we have witnessed many high level meetings and exchange of visits between Malaysia and the Republic of Azerbaijan. These visits have enhanced the diplomatic relations between the two countries. We expect more visits to happen this year. We also look forward to welcome President Ilham Aliyev in Malaysia. Hopefully there will be mutually agreeable time for this inaugural and historic visit. The Government of Malaysia and the Republic of Azerbaijan have signed MoUs and agreements on economic, scientific and technical cooperation. Both Malaysia and the Republic of Azerbaijan had also successfully established the Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group and hold mutual visits of the group members.


CE: Malaysian PETRONAS, as well as Bumi Armada Berhad Service Company are actively working in the Caspian, particularly in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Russia. Is Malaysia interested in sooner settlement of the Caspian Sea status problem?

Dato Roslan Tan Sri Abdul Rahman: We believe that matters relating to the Caspian Sea are multi-faceted, complex and highly sensitive, and must be handled constructively by the littoral states.

We encourage issues concerning the overlapping claims in the Caspian Sea to be addressed through peaceful means, including dialogue and discussions amongst the countries concerned, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law. It is important to maintain the peace and stability in the Caspian region, however, it is up to the littoral states to resolve the matter amicably and peacefully.

CE: Is it planned to purchase new oil and gas assets in the Caspian?

Dato Roslan Tan Sri Abdul Rahman: Yes, if conditions are conducive, we have and continue to encourage our national oil and gas company, PETRONAS to be involved in the dynamics oil and gas sector in Azerbaijan.

PETRONAS is actively involved in Azerbaijan’s oil and gas industry. The company had acquired 15.5% stake in the Shah Deniz II production sharing agreement operated by a consortium of companies, 15.5% share in the South Caucasus Pipeline Company (SCPC), 15.5% share in the SCPC holding company, and 12.4% share in the Azerbaijan Gas Supply Company (AGSC). To date, the investment is the highest PETRONAS has made abroad.

Total expenditure by PETRONAS in the Republic of Azerbaijan thus far, is estimated around USD 4 billion.

CE: The Malaysian Chinese Association has established the Belt and Road Centre. How do you see a joint participation of Malaysia and Azerbaijan in this global project?  

Dato Roslan Tan Sri Abdul Rahman: We encouraged this endeavour as it will strengthen the economic connections between Malaysia and Azerbaijan. It will also improve the connectivity among our regions and contributes to the development of economic zones in Asia and beyond.

At the same time, this initiative would also be beneficial for our growing economies as it will provide the linkages and platforms at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. The joint participation will enhance business, cultural and people-to-people connectivity between Malaysia and Azerbaijan which will further integrate the growing regional community by developing infrastructures in the region and improve trades.

CE: How do you assess the investment climate created in Azerbaijan for Malaysian investors?

Dato Roslan Tan Sri Abdul Rahman: The establishment of the Embassy of Malaysia has paved the way for closer cooperation between Malaysia and the Republic of Azerbaijan in the areas of mutual interest, namely trade and investment.  PETRONAS’ presence showed that Malaysia sees Azerbaijan as a fast developing country in the region and recognised the importance and its engagement within the region. Malaysia has created a positive investment climate for foreign investors in Malaysia. We will encourage Azerbaijani investors to come and see the developing business in Malaysia, invest and explore the many opportunities our economy has to offer. We would encourage Chambers of Commerce, as well as, Azerbaijani businessmen to visit Malaysia and we would be more than willing to arrange the meetings in Malaysia.


CE: Does the sovereign wealth fund of Malaysia, Khazanah Nasional Berhad plan to take part in the development of new economic projects in Azerbaijan and in the on-going reforms under the leadership of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev?

Dato Roslan Tan Sri Abdul Rahman: As mentioned previously, yes, if conditions are conducive, we would encourage more Malaysian businesses to be involved in the dynamic economic sector in Azerbaijan. With the diversification of Azerbaijan’s economy, we could explore the potential trade and investment collaboration between Malaysia and Azerbaijan business sectors. A good point to start would be the highly anticipated inaugural visit by President Ilham Aliyev to Malaysia.

CE: Does Malaysia plan to support the development of small and medium-sized businesses in Azerbaijan?

Dato Roslan Tan Sri Abdul Rahman: Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have been at the core of Malaysia’s economic transformation since the 1990s to an upper-middle income nation and are an important driver of employment and growth. Malaysia’s SMEs contributed to the nation’s GDP, employment and exports. The numbers of SMEs in Malaysia are significant and they form the backbone of Malaysia’s economy. By 2020, Malaysia aims to push SMEs’ contribution to GDP to 41% and the share of the country’s exports from SME to 23%. One of the objectives of Malaysia’s SMEs is to create employment providers, not employment seekers.

At the same time, with our experience and knowledge, SME Corp. Malaysia could partner with the relevant agency in Azerbaijan and share the best practice approaches and explore potential collaboration to advance the SMEs’ development in our respective regions. These partnerships would provide the platforms to link the businesses together and further enhance the trade and investments between Malaysia and Azerbaijan.

SME Corp. Malaysia is Malaysia’s premier organisation for the development of progressive SMEs to enhance the wealth creation and social-wellbeing of the nation. It was established on 2 May 1996 as a specialised agency under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) to spur the developments of SMEs by providing infrastructures facilities, financial assistance, advisory services and other support programmes.

CE: What role do you think the transport sector will play in diversifying the economy?

Dato Roslan Tan Sri Abdul Rahman: Connectivity is very important in a nation’s or region’s economic development, as it provides overall accessibility for the movement of goods and people in a timely manner. The transport sector plays a major role in ensuring the economic connectivity within the country, as well as, regionally and internationally. The ongoing reforms to diversify the nation’s economy under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev will be further enhanced, especially through the opening of the Baku-Tiblisi-Kars railway and other important infrastructureprojects. The President had envisioned a great development plan for Azerbaijan to become an international transport hub in the region linking the East-West trade route.

CE: How do you see the potential of developing the bilateral relations within the framework of strategic regional projects?

Dato Roslan Tan Sri Abdul Rahman: A strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and Malaysia is pivotal to enhance the bilateral relations in all aspects between the two countries. It is always beneficial for the two countries to work closely together in strategic regional projects, as it can enhance trade and investment, create job opportunities for the locals, develop infrastructures, knowledge and information transfer, as well as, promote people-to-people connectivity through social and cultural exchange.

With further exchanges of visits and signing of Agreements and MoUs, we are confident that the bilateral ties and cooperation between Malaysia and Azerbaijan will be further strengthened. Both countries have worked very hard to ensure that bilateral political and economic relations improve even further for mutual benefit.

Again, I cannot overemphasize that Malaysia is looking forward to receive President Ilham Aliyev to Malaysia and also the ASEAN Region, for his inaugural visit. This very important visit would provide the impetus to further enhance bilateral relations.


 Thank you for the interview

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