“I believe that, in life, a person must understand himself. It is inevitable for a person who does not understand himself to make mistakes in his attitude to life. If no fuel is added to a burning stove, it must be extinguished.”
Rashad Ismayilov, Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Qatar, believes that continuous self-learning is inevitable for success in life. In an interview with Community, the ambassador spoke at length regarding his professional life and experiences.
Please share briefly your journey with us so far
I was born in Baku and received my primary and secondary education there before graduating from two universities and studying law and finance. I have worked in different positions at different times, such as a project manager of Development Program on Poverty Reduction of UN Office in Azerbaijan, co-ordinator of National Social Protection System Development Program, and taking active part in the development of national employment strategy under the National Social Protection System Development project signed between Azerbaijan and UNDP. I was also the head of the Latvian-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce. In 2015, I was appointed Consul General of Azerbaijan in Batumi, Georgia. My appointment as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Azerbaijan to Qatar was made in 2018.
How do you view Qatar-Azerbaijan relations? How many expats from your country are living here and what professions they are they in?
Bilateral relations have always been strong and both the brotherly countries make continuous efforts to expand the scope of trusted ties in all spheres. The foundation for deeper co-operation in the future has already been established. Important decisions on further development of bilateral co-operation are taken in the regular meetings of the Intergovernmental Economic Commission. Besides, with a view to encourage mutual investments, a joint Investment Working Group was established. Meanwhile, two countries successfully co-operate within international and regional organisations.
Taking this opportunity, I would also like to note that we highly appreciate the position of Qatar with regard to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan. As for future prospects, we see there is still untapped potential for effective collaboration in various fields attractive to business circles of both sides. Meanwhile, the embassy is always ready to further promote current and future bilateral ties within its competence. We have more than 300 Azerbaijani compatriots in Qatar and they operate mainly in the oil and gas industry, tourism, service sector, health, sports and so on.
What is your take on the current level of bilateral trade? What are the potential areas for investment and in which areas can Qatar benefit from your country and vice versa?
The figures show that bilateral trade has been developing since 2017. One of our main goals here is to achieve the diversification of goods and products currently in import and export operations between our countries. Establishment of reliable and sustainable investment cooperation between Azerbaijan and Qatar is also one of the main priorities.
There are mutual investment opportunities in areas such as agriculture, tourism, transport, renewable energy sources, and information and communication technologies. Here we need to emphasise that in recent years Azerbaijan has initiated comprehensive economic, regulatory and administrative reforms aimed at creating more favourable investment climate in the country. We have significantly simplified and streamlined legal requirements and procedures regulating entrepreneurial activities. These reforms not only create favourable environment aiming to attract prospective foreign investors, but also guarantees their legal rights and interests.
How would you best define diplomacy with all your experience? What are its basic tenets?
There have been interstate relations since states were established. Therefore, diplomacy has historically been important as a means of building ties. In this sense, the history of diplomacy as a profession is ancient. At the same time, modern international relations and their core principles are very different from those of ancient times. In modern times, interstate relations are regulated not through force or threatening by resorting to it, but through dialogue and negotiations. This, of course, highlights the role of diplomacy. Thus, I think that modern diplomacy should not be a mean to cover up aggressive and greedy tendencies — to give it the appearance of legitimacy, or to create tension. On the contrary, it must be committed to peace, respectful of the sovereignty of other nations and friendship among nations.
What has been your most challenging career assignment? What are the other highlights of your career?
François de Callieres, a prominent French diplomat of the 16th and 17th centuries, wrote that it would be safer for a person who is not distinct with his/her intelligence to work within the state, because in this case his/her mistakes can be eliminated; however, mistakes made abroad are often irreparable. From this point of view, I can say that every assignment and every task is important and responsible in diplomatic activity. My main principle is to be loyal to my country and the policy created by the head of state.
What are your views on the way Qatar has been tackling the pandemic?
The spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the world has created many problems and challenges. Qatar proved that it possesses a well-established and advanced health system that provides high-quality health care services. Therefore, during the past period, it managed to deal with the pandemic, and took many precautionary measures and serious steps. The financial support package devoted to supporting and developing private sector activity is commendable. And do not forget that the authorities provided various facilities and assistance to citizens and residents, as well as those who came to Qatar as tourists and were not able to return to their country due to the suspension of international flights, which received positive acceptance and appreciation by all.
Therefore, we appreciate all these tremendous efforts, and we take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude to all competent authorities and health personnel in Qatar. On the other hand, since the early days, the embassy addressed Azerbaijanis living in Qatar with respect to the risk of coronavirus, and issued a statement for them recommending that precautionary measures be followed, and stressed the need for careful monitoring of information and full compliance with the instructions issued by the competent authorities in Qatar, as well as, the World Health Organization (WHO).
What piece of advice you will give a budding diplomat?
A diplomat must have all the qualities of his compatriots — successful businessmen, talented administrators and government officials. But beyond that, diplomacy is a type of activity that requires an understanding of many things — other countries, other cultures and societies, as well as their development mechanisms and life activities. Diplomats should love people and take a sincere interest in them.
What do you do in your leisure? What kind of books do you read, films you watch, and music you listen to?
The hours we work and spend all our lives are more than our leisure time. This is even more evident in the diplomatic profession. At the same time, at least we have weekends or other free time. In addition to resting during these hours, each of us tries to make it effective and useful for us. I can say that I like to play chess in my free time. According to some studies, chess strengthens memory, increases brain productivity and the ability to think analytically. Watching a movie is also one of my leisure activities. I think that tastes differ and everyone prefers to watch movies that suit their interests. I like to watch more real life movies. As for reading, I think we should make reading a natural need, like eating and drinking. The book nourishes our spirituality, which is more important than anything, and enriches our spirit.
How would you describe your experience of living in Qatar? What places do you venture out the most?
First of all, I would like to note that Qatar is experiencing a period of significant changes in the political, economic and cultural spheres. Relations between Azerbaijan and Qatar are developing successfully. The friendly relations between the President of Azerbaijan HE Ilham Aliyev and His Highness the Amir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani create conditions for further development of relations. I feel very comfortable in Qatar and consider Qatar as safe as Azerbaijan, which is proven by recent study carried out by a famous database where Qatar has been marked as the safest country in the world. I think it is a great success to achieve making people feel comfortable and at peace in a country. My family and I love to visit many places in Qatar, including the The Museum of Islamic Art, Souq Waqif, Katara Cultural Village, and others.
What is that one lesson in life that has always held you in good stead?
I believe that, in life, a person must understand himself. It is inevitable for a person who does not understand himself to make mistakes in his attitude to life. If no fuel is added to a burning stove, it must be extinguished, and no ability or enlightenment can be expected from those who are unable to comprehend themselves, who do not understand the causes of their inner feelings and passions, and who cannot control them.
What are your future plans, especially after retirement?
I think it is too early to talk about retirement. The main thing is to devote the God-given life decently to the state, people and family in order to receive a reward from God.
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