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Oklahoma-Azerbaijan Agricultural Forum held

The United States hosted an Oklahoma-Azerbaijan Agricultural Forum on 6-8 November.

A large delegation led by Azerbaijani Agriculture Minister Inam Karimov, which included agricultural companies and agrarian research organisations, and representatives of the US Agency for International Development, leading US agricultural companies, international financial institutions and relevant academic circles attended the forum, AZERTAC has reported.

The purpose of the forum was to establish cooperation between agrarian entrepreneurs from Oklahoma, a large agricultural US state, and Azerbaijani entrepreneurs and farmers, to familiarise the participants with new methods used in the agricultural sector to develop cattle-breeding, manage medium-sized and large farms and increase productivity, and to discuss modern methods of growing cereals and legumes.

During the forum, Agriculture Minister Inam Karimov met Oklahoma state governor Kevin Stitt. During the meeting, the two had a detailed discussion of cooperation opportunities in the field of agriculture.

The minister stressed that there was a great potential for the expansion of mutual relations in the field of agriculture. He said that the agrarian reform being conducted in Azerbaijan, the exemption of agricultural activities from taxes, and the liberalisation of the agricultural machinery and breeding cattle sale market created wide investment opportunities for foreign companies, including Oklahoma companies that specialised in the agrarian field.

For his part, Oklahoma state governor Kevin Stitt said that the relationship between Azerbaijan and Oklahoma entered a new phase. The governor said he hoped that companies and academic institutions operating in the two countries in the field of agriculture would cooperate successfully.

Natig Bakhishov, the executive director of the US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce, thanked the partners of the forum for the support they had provided toward the organisation of the event.

Reza Vaziri, the co-chairman of the Board of Directors of the US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce; Alex Sokolowski, deputy assistant administrator for the Bureau for Europe and Eurasia at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Azerbaijani Agriculture Minister Inam Karimov; Azerbaijani ambassador to the USA Elin Suleymanov; Oklahoma state governor Kevin Stitt; Oklahoma National Guard chief Lt-Gen Michael Thompson; and Oklahoma Congressman Markwayne Mullin delivered speeches at the forum. In their speeches, they spoke about opportunities available in Azerbaijan's non-oil sector, especially in the field of agriculture. The speakers said that the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Azerbaijani State Agrarian University (ADAU) and Oklahoma State University would have a special role to play toward a further expansion of bilateral agrarian cooperation. They said that the Oklahoma-Azerbaijan Agricultural Forum was a favourable platform to investigate cooperation opportunities in the agrarian field.

Azerbaijani Agriculture Minister Inam Karimov spoke about reform under way to diversify the economy in our country. He said that agriculture had an important role to play toward the development of the non-oil sector and that the development of the agrarian field was a priority in our country. The minister spoke about state support for the development of agriculture and reform conducted to this end. He stressed that President of the Azerbaijani Republic Ilham Aliyev showed special attention to all fields within the agrarian sector and took special care of them.

The forum coincided with Azerbaijani State Flag Day and for this reason a solemn ceremony was held. First, a guard of honour of the Oklahoma National Guard brought the Azerbaijani and US state flags into the room in a solemn manner, and the state anthems of the United States of America and of the Azerbaijani Republic were played. Then, Oklahoma state governor Kevin Stitt presented to Azerbaijani Agriculture Minister Inam Karimov and our country's ambassador to the USA Elin Suleymanov a special Declaration that depicts that 9 November is marked in Oklahoma as Azerbaijani State Flag Day.

Prospects for promotion of mutual trade and investment in the agricultural field between the USA and Azerbaijan were discussed at the Oklahoma-Azerbaijan Agricultural Forum.

At four sessions held during the forum, detailed discussions were held about improvement of agricultural education and skills, the importance of vocational training in this field, tax reform being conducted, tax concessions provided by the Azerbaijani government in the field of agriculture, and also use of innovative technology and methods in the field of agrobusiness, problems related to sustainable development in agriculture, and new irrigation and artificial insemination methods and existing technology in this field.

Representatives of Oklahoma companies delivered presentations about their progressive expertise and technology and said they planned to continue to cooperate with Azerbaijan.

Then, an official reception was organised for event participants. Participants who delivered speeches at the event said they were confident that the Oklahoma-Azerbaijan Agricultural Forum would strengthen the existing relationship and cooperation between Azerbaijan and Oklahoma state even further.

Afterward, a memorandum toward cooperation between the town of Gadabay and the city of Stillwater in Oklahoma and to make them sister cities was signed. On the Azerbaijani side, the document was signed by Ibrahim Mustafayev, the chief of the Gadabay District executive authorities, and on the US side, it was signed by Amy Dzialowski, a member of the Stillwater City Council.

The first Oklahoma-Azerbaijan Agricultural Forum was organised jointly by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the Azerbaijani Agriculture Ministry, the US embassy in Azerbaijan, the US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce within the partnership between the Azerbaijani embassy in the United States and the US Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, and the Azerbaijan mission of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Azerbaijani State News Agency (AZERTAC) was the main information provider for the forum.