"As Ambassador of Azerbaijan I try to be a little bit Dutch"
The Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan is located at the Laan van Copes Cattenburgh. The Ambassador, dr. Fuad Iskandarov is the first Ambassador of Azerbaijan in The Netherlands and started April 25, 2007. Before that the Embassy in Belgium was responsible for diplomatic relations with The Netherlands. But since the enormous economical and political development of Azerbaijan the last three years, it was necessary to open embassies in more European countries.
Azerbaijan is located in South-East Europe (Western Asia), bounded by Iran, Russia, Armenia, Georgia and the Caspian Sea. The capital is Baku, a beautiful old city at the Caspian Sea. The country once was part of the ancient silkway and can be seen as a ‘crossroad of civilization’. It is twice as big as The Netherlands and has 8,5 million people. There are 9 climate zones diverging from arctic cold till subtropical heath. The main sources of income are the export of oil and gas to Europe and the US. The main religion is Muslim (90% of the population). The rest is Russian Orthodox, Jewish or Christian.
Isn’t it difficult for Azerbaijan to be surrounded by other countries with different ideas about society, political and cultural developments?
Ambassador: ‘Yes, it is difficult to be a balanced and strong country in such an environment. We became independent from Soviet Union (Russia) in 1991 and before that we have been invaded many times by other nations. So, in a way we are a very young Republic with an ancient culture that never faded. We have lots of cultural, medieval monuments and sites on the World Heritage list of Unesco and because of this history the inhabitants of Azerbaijan are very tolerant and open-minded. Though 90% is Muslim, Azerbaijan is a secular state. In essence it is a European country. The general direction of the government is heading for Europe and our mentality is definitely European’.
The most important revenues in Azerbaijan are oil and gas. Are there other important economic sources?
‘Agriculture is becoming a booming business. Azerbaijan has very fertile grounds and grows many different crops. The other booming business is tourism. It is still in its infancy but the excellent location of Baku at the Caspian Sea, the fast development of infrastructure (roads, railroads, airports), the mountains nearby and the beautiful nature of Azerbaijan must attract more tourists in future’.
What do you think of living in The Netherlands? Are there big differences between your country and this country ?
‘ I really like living in The Netherlands. I have been travelling a lot during my life and visited 45 countries, but I really feel comfortable here. I try to be a little Dutch! The Dutch society is very open and tolerant and the people in general are very friendly. They are direct and strict in business-deals, a bit pragmatic, compromising but also very amicable. There are some similarities between the Dutch and Azerbaijani, especially the open and tolerant character’.
Can you tell us a bit about your personal life?
‘I am 47 years old, happily married and my wife and I have two wonderful children (boy and girl, both 7 years old). They are attending the International School of The Hague and really enjoy going to school. A whole new world was opening for them. I have a lot of Dutch and international friends here and I really enjoy being here except for one thing: the sun! I really miss the sun!’
If you could describe Azerbaijan in one sentence what would you say?
‘Azerbaijan is a very reliable partner, a tolerant, secular and very secure country at the crossroad of civilization with a beautiful nature and a lot of sun!’
2008-10-08 - Interview of the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to the Local EXPAT newspaper (The Hague), October 2008.