The establishment of diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and the Kingdom of Morocco dates back to the 1990s of the last century. These diplomatic relations were further strengthened with the opening of the Azerbaijani embassy in Morocco in 2006, and the Moroccan embassy in Azerbaijan in 2008. Since then, cooperation between the parties has been developing not only diplomatically but also in the cultural field. The headquarters of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ICESCO) is located in Morocco, a meeting place of civilizations. Azerbaijan has been a member of the ICESCO since 1991. Within the framework of this membership, some examples of Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage were included in the Islamic World Heritage List, and several international events were held in Azerbaijan with the support of ICESCO. Finally, Shusha, the cultural capital of Azerbaijan, was chosen as the cultural capital of the Islamic world for 2024.

Against the background of the current processes, Report had an interview with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Azerbaijan to Morocco, Permanent Representative to ICESCO, Nazim Samadov.

– Mr. Ambassador, you have been acting as Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Morocco for more than a year. First, we would like to know your impressions about the country.

– I have been working as an ambassador of Azerbaijan for 1 year and 4 months now, and during this time, I have formed only positive impressions about Morocco. Morocco, which has a friendly and partner policy towards Azerbaijan, has always supported our country, and this support is mutual. Constructive dialogue with Moroccan partners is conducted per the interests of both countries.

– Morocco has historically been a place where civilizations met. The capital has often changed. How did these factors impact the cultural life of the country? What kind of diversity have you witnessed there?

– Morocco is a country with a very ancient and rich history and culture, an ancient monarchy based on historical traditions and national values. Throughout history, different cities in this country have been the capital: Fez, Morocco, and finally, the city of Rabat. Therefore, the name of the country differs in different languages. For example, we call this country Morocco, and the Turks call it Fez. All three cities are unique. Fez can be called the cultural capital of the country. It is more famous for handicrafts. Fez is home to Al-Qarawiyyin University, the world’s oldest university (founded in 859). The city of Morocco is considered the most touristic city in the country. Millions of tourists come here every year. As far as the city of Rabat is concerned, it is the showcase of the country, a green and well-planned city. I recommend Azerbaijani tourists visit all three cities.

– What is the level of bilateral cooperation between Azerbaijan and Morocco today? In which direction are the parties mainly interested in cooperation? What is the volume of bilateral trade turnover?

– Relations between Azerbaijan and Morocco are developing with a positive political vector. In 1994, Great Leader Heydar Aliyev’s visit to Casablanca and his meeting with the former king of Morocco, Hassan II, laid the foundation for these friendship and partnership relations. Although the trade turnover between the two countries is not high, there is mutual interest in economic cooperation. The role of our embassy is to turn this interest into concrete work. Tourism, energy, renewable energy, the water sector, and mutual investments are interesting topics for both sides. An intergovernmental commission operates between the countries, and its last session was held in Rabat last year. In November 2023, the First Azerbaijan-Morocco Business Forum was held, in February, the delegation of AZPROMO (Export and Investment Promotion Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan) visited Morocco. A number of events and trips are planned this year.

– We would also like to receive information about the Azerbaijani community in Morocco. How many community members are there now, and what is the embassy’s relationship with them? Are meetings held with them? Are special events organized for them? Also, is there a connection with the Azerbaijani diaspora in Morocco?

– The Azerbaijani community in Morocco is small and mainly includes members of mixed families, compatriots working at ICESCO and the embassy and their family members, and Azerbaijanis engaged in business. The total number of Azerbaijanis is not more than 35. Together with the diaspora, the embassy organizes the Novruz holiday, December 31 – World Azerbaijani Solidarity Day, and other events. Moroccans who once studied and worked in Azerbaijan can be included in the Azerbaijani diaspora. Working with them is the priority of our embassy.

– In 2015, the Azerbaijani language, civilization, and culture were taught at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of Mohammed V University in Rabat. Is this teaching process still ongoing? What is the level of interest in the Azerbaijani language?

– There was indeed such a project, but unfortunately, it was active for only two years. We are preparing proposals for a new, more sustainable project and will send to Baku. Interest in the Azerbaijani language is mainly related to the small Azerbaijani community living in Morocco. In the following years, it is planned to carry out certain works related to the teaching of the Azerbaijani language together with the relevant state institutions.

– You are also the permanent representative of Azerbaijan at ICESCO. We would like to know what projects were implemented under the joint organization of Azerbaijan and ICESCO during your activity and what other projects are planned to be implemented. For example, is any forum expected to be held in Baku this year?

– Cooperation with ICESCO is the priority of our activity. Cooperation is developing very dynamically, many projects have been implemented jointly, and others are underway. First, I would like to talk about the political support of this organization to Azerbaijan. The Director General of ICESCO, Salim Al-Malik, visited the liberated lands in 2021, showing his strong support for Azerbaijan after the Second Karabakh War.

In 2024, Shusha was declared the Cultural Capital of the Islamic World. In this framework, it is planned to hold many events throughout the year. A-Hub accelerator project is also supported by ICESCO as an initiative of Azerbaijan. On October 3, 2023, during the 74th International Astronautical Congress, the Youth Dialogues program was held at ADA University in cooperation with ICESCO. This year, the VI World Intercultural Dialogue Forum will be held in Baku. ICESCO is one of the main co-organizers of the forum. Currently, three Azerbaijanis work in ICESCO.

– Cultural monuments in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan were completely destroyed by Armenians during the occupation. Armenians tried to destroy the cultural heritage of Karabakh. What kind of work is ICESCO currently doing to investigate the destroyed monuments?

– In 2022, ICESCO sent a mission consisting of international experts to study the state of the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan in the liberated lands. A report prepared by experts on our cultural heritage located in the liberated districts is currently being studied and referred to by international courts. After the anti-terrorist measures held in September 2023, we applied to ICESCO to send a second mission to the region, and in the coming months, the second mission consisting of international experts will visit this region.

– What other examples of the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan are likely to be included in the Islamic World Heritage List? Is there any research going on for this now?

– 15 examples of Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage have already been included in the Islamic World Heritage List. 10 of them were included in that list in December 2023. Out of 15 examples of cultural heritage, 3 are tangible and 12 are intangible. Currently, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Azerbaijan is working on the next nominations, and information about them will be announced to the public.

– This year, Azerbaijan will host the 29th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In what situation is the energy cooperation between Azerbaijan and Morocco? Which officials from Morocco are expected to attend COP29?

– Considering that an important international event such as COP29 will be held in Azerbaijan, both the Moroccan government and ICESCO are interested in this topic. A meeting of high-level officials between the two countries will be held in a few days. Morocco organized COP22 in 2016, and in this regard, Morocco’s experience may be interesting for us. Prospects of bilateral cooperation will also be discussed at this meeting. The General Director of ICESCO sent a package of proposals related to COP29 to the Azerbaijani side. These proposals are currently being studied, and I hope that certain projects will be implemented in cooperation with ICESCO this year. This year, COP29 in Baku is expected to have the highest level of participation from both countries and international organizations.

– Are state officials expected to visit Azerbaijan or Morocco in the near future?

– Yes, last year was full of visits, and this year, certain mutual visits are planned. In 2023, Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeyhun Bayramov, Speaker of the Milli Majlis Sahiba Gafarova, Ombudsman Sabina Aliyeva, Minister of Culture Adil Karimli, Chairman of the Central Bank Taleh Kazimov, Deputy Chairman of the Milli Majlis Adil Aliyev, 10 central executives, representatives of the authorities, visited Morocco. President (Speaker) of the House of Representatives of Morocco, Rachid Talbi El Alami, Minister of Solidarity, Social Integration, and the Family, Aawatif Hayar, Moroccan Minister of Economic Inclusion, Small Business, Employment, and Skills, Youness Sekkouri, and others visited Azerbaijan. This year, the head of AZERTAC, Vugar Aliyev, the head of the Audiovisual Council, Ismat Sattarov, and the executive director of the Media Development Agency, Ahmad Ismayilov, are scheduled to visit Morocco. Naam Miyara, Chairman of the Chamber of Councilors of the Moroccan Parliament, and Mohamed Mehdi Bensaid, the Minister of Youth, Culture, and Communication, were invited to Azerbaijan.