President of Azerbaijan urges Japan to invest in oil infrastructure

Azerbaijan 's president on Thursday urged Japanese companies to invest in his nation's oil infrastructure, saying he hoped the Caucasus country will soon become a major oil exporter.

President Ilham Aliev, in Tokyo on a four-day trip, told Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso that Azerbaijan had implemented a range of social and economic policies and had "high expectations" for increased Japanese investment, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Aliev told Aso he hoped Azerbaijan would soon become a major exporter of oil and natural gas, according to the statement. Aso said Tokyo was interested in maintaining strong bilateral ties because of Azerbaijan 's importance, geopolitically and as an oil-producing nation.

Aliev was slated to meet Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Friday.

Azerbaijan is rich in oil and gas reserves. But development of those reserves has been hindered by conflict with neighboring Armenia over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan .

The 18-year dispute, in which at least 30,000 people have been killed and 1 million made refugees, has affected stability throughout the strategic and oil-rich Caucasus region, reports the AP.

D.M.

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