Baku, May 27, AZERTAC
An official reception on the occasion of the national holiday of Azerbaijan – the Republic Day has been held at the Buta Palace.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva attended the official reception.
The national anthem of Azerbaijan was played.
President Ilham Aliyev made a speech at the reception.
Speech by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
- Dear ladies and gentlemen!
I would like to sincerely congratulate you and the people of Azerbaijan on the upcoming Republic Day.
The establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was a historic event of global scale, because the first democratic republic was created in the Muslim world. We are proud of the fact that this history is written by the Azerbaijani people. The creation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic shows again that the Azerbaijani people are a very talented, patriotic and progressive people. The Azerbaijani people has gained independence.
The memory of those who founded the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic is dear to us. The Azerbaijani state and Azerbaijani people deeply honor their memory. Several years ago, a memorial of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was erected in the center of Baku on my decree. This morning I visited the monument.
The process of nation-building began. Democratic institutions were established. The implementation of political reforms started. Our state attributes, the national anthem and the national flag, were adopted. Women were granted the right to vote. I should also note that the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic did that before some European countries. In short, the activity of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was very positive and successful even though the Democratic Republic existed in extremely difficult geopolitical conditions.
At the same time, unfortunately, we suffered losses too. Among them, our biggest loss was the transfer of Erivan to Armenia. This is an open wound. Of course, we need to know the historical truth. Unfortunately, history was presented to the older generation in a distorted manner. We could not find out historical truth from the history books we read. This is why there were some dark moments. Today, Azerbaijan is open to the world as an independent state. Today, every citizen of Azerbaijan knows the entire historical truth. It is no longer a secret. The transfer of Erivan to Armenia was, of course, a huge mistake. Unfortunately, that step did not stop the Armenian occupation policy against Azerbaijan in the future.
The Republic did not survive for a long time. If the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic had not collapsed after two years, Azerbaijan could be the most developed country in the world today. That was followed by a Soviet period. The Soviet time had both positive and negative sides to it. I think that our scientists should analyze the Soviet period and the role of Azerbaijan more widely and come up with substantial scientific works – just as they have produced, on my advice, a very valuable research on the Erivan khanate on the basis of historical realities.
The Soviet period was also difficult, as Azerbaijan was not independent and free. At the same time, our people developed. In those years, science and education developed fast in Azerbaijan. Today we are proud to say that literacy in Azerbaijan is at the level of 100 per cent. The basis of this, of course, was laid during the Soviet period.
The country’s industrial potential, especially the oil industry, was developing. Recently, during the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the victory over fascism, the world was further convinced of the great contribution the people of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani oilmen in particular, made to the overall victory. Without the Azerbaijan oil, the outcome of the war could be different.
The rapid development of Azerbaijan in the Soviet period was associated with great leader Heydar Aliyev. Just look at the statistics: starting from the 1970s, a lot of creative work was carried out in Azerbaijan. Whereas before the 1970s Azerbaijan was one of the backward republics of the Soviet Union, in the early 1980s we were able to reach the most advanced places. Apart from the Russian Federation, only two republics acted as donors, and Azerbaijan was one of them.
As a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan restored its state independence. We all remember that time too well. It was also a very difficult period. Azerbaijan suffered heavy losses then. The early years of independence were very difficult for our country. Chaos, anarchy, economic and political crises, civil war and the occupation of our lands… After the occupation of Kalbajar, Lachin and Shusha Districts, a geographic connection appeared between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, which, of course, had a negative impact on the results of the first phase of war.
After great leader Heydar Aliyev returned to power at the request of the people in 1993, the situation stabilized. Of course, the key condition for the development of Azerbaijan was stability. Political and then economic stability was established. In 1995, the Constitution of the independent Azerbaijan was adopted. Political and economic reforms were launched. In short, that time, 1993, was the start of a new period for the independent Azerbaijan. In fact, our independence began then. From that time to the present day, Azerbaijan has been developing fast.
On 10 May, the birthday of the great leader, I extensively analyzed that period and beyond. The Azerbaijani state today is built on a solid foundation and national interests. Our national ideology, the philosophy of Azerbaijanism, unites the whole of society. The independent state of Azerbaijan rests on strong national values. We have strong economic foundations. The economic potential preconditions both economic and political independence. The international community appreciates the role of Azerbaijan in the world and gives us great support.
Everything in our country develops in a positive direction. The economic and financial crisis that gripped the world a few years ago had little impact on Azerbaijan. The ongoing global political, military and economic recession does not affect Azerbaijan, because we are conducting sound policies. Our policy is based on national interests. National interests, the interests of the Azerbaijani people are above everything else for us. We see our future in this. Our independent policy further stabilizes the situation in the country. At the same time, Azerbaijan is recognized as a reliable partner in the world. We are reckoned with, our role in the region, on the continent and in the world is growing.
We have achieved all of this ourselves – thanks to the hard work and talent of the Azerbaijani people and as a result of prudent policies. No-one helped us. The reality shows that one can hardly find another country in the world that would grow as rapidly as Azerbaijan.
At the same time, public processes in our country are also moving in a positive direction. Azerbaijan has a fully formed civil society. Azerbaijan has a free society. All freedoms are guaranteed, including those in the economic and political spheres. This ensures our successful development. Look at the bloody clashes, wars and crises in different parts of the world. Long-standing conflicts are not being resolved. In addition, new areas of conflict are emerging. All this is happening right before our eyes. But Azerbaijan is noted for its stability and a thought-out policy. In such a tight space Azerbaijan is not only an island of stability, but also a stabilizing factor. We have a very positive impact on the whole region. Political, economic, energy and transport initiatives provide a framework for regional cooperation, and the role of Azerbaijan is increasing. This, of course, makes us happy. But the main thing is that our growing international authority has a very positive impact on the development of the country.
The drop in the oil prices did not create any major problems for us either. In any case, all social programs and infrastructure projects are being implemented. Of course, we had to revise our expenses. However, I believe that there are many positive aspects here. In the future, we will use our financial resources even more economically, pay more attention to the development of our country and the real sector, and channel our main assets into this area. Of course, the focus will also be on social programs and social issues, including the creation of the social infrastructure.
Today, on the eve of the holiday, I want to express my thoughts on the upcoming objectives. I regularly speak on these issues, report to the people and voice my views on future directions.
We have very specific programs related to domestic policies. Domestic stability is maintained in Azerbaijan and all freedoms are guaranteed. In the future, the development of democracy in Azerbaijan will go even faster. The process of building a law-governed state is well under way. All freedoms will continue to be guaranteed in the future. The freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of political activity, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion are fully provided, and we will continue to follow this path. We are building a solid democratic foundation, so that the development of the country is sustainable and long-term.
Inter-religious relations in Azerbaijan are regulated in the most positive manner. The people of Azerbaijan see and note that. All foreign visitors coming to Baku and Azerbaijan also note that interreligious and intercultural relations in Azerbaijan are provided at the highest level. This is our great asset. It forms the main prerequisite for a further successful and secure development of our country. Representatives of all peoples and religions will continue to live in Azerbaijan like one family. This is our state policy. National, ethnic and religious diversity is our greatest asset and a source of strength for us.
We are taking specific concrete steps on issues of concern in our society. Very serious struggle is being waged against corruption and bribery. Both administrative measures and, if necessary, measures of punishment are being taken. The main thing is that an important role in this area is played by systemic reforms, institutional transformation. In this area, we have to note the activities of “ASAN xidmət”. Recently, the United Nations decorated “ASAN xidmət” with a high award. In a short time, within just two years, this service provided was used by more than 4 million people. We need to apply the principles of transparency to our entire system – the system of nation-building, the financial system, and disseminate this positive experience. Specific instructions have been given, and now we are working on further action.
Positive reforms are carried out in the field of governance. I want to emphasize the importance of public oversight here. I have repeatedly expressed my opinion about this. I want to say again that this is my very honest opinion: without public oversight, our country can’t develop successfully. One man, be it the President or senior officials, can’t keep all spheres in the spotlight. Sometimes violations of the law, crimes and social injustices do occur. This makes us very sad. We can’t allow this to happen. To prevent this, we need very strong public oversight. This will help things go faster and a new mechanism will emerge to prevent negative phenomena. Of course, it is necessary to carry out serious reforms of the principles of public administration. At the same time, the public should be more active. We have been seeing that in recent times. If violations of law and injustices occur somewhere, our public immediately reacts to that. I welcome this. It helps us a lot. This connection should be permanent and should be strengthened.
Other issues related to domestic policies are also being resolved positively in Azerbaijan. The unity between the people and the government is the main condition for our success. The successful development of Azerbaijan is being ensured.
Security issues are on the agenda of all countries today. We are seriously dealing with that, so the crime situation in Azerbaijan is very positive. We are in one of the best places in the world for a small number of crimes per capita. As a result of political and economic reforms, the improving well-being, as well as the security measures in Azerbaijan, I can say that there are no internal sources of threat in Azerbaijan now. Of course, threats may come from outside, in particular those related to terrorism. However, our law-enforcement agencies carry out serious work in relation to these issues. I am sure that the Azerbaijani people will continue to live in security.
Our country hosts numerous international events. I welcome that. I can say that in many cases I am the initiator of these activities. I think this is very important for the development of our country. At the same time, the world gets to know Azerbaijan. Our country will be respected even more. I can say that the people coming to Baku say in their conversations with me that they did not expect Azerbaijan and Baku to be such a developed country and city.
Azerbaijan holds political events, discussions, forums, inter-cultural forums with the participation of heads of state and government. We have recently hosted the Third World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue and the Baku global forum. Azerbaijan hosts the International Humanitarian Forum. These, as well as major sporting events such as the European Games, Islamic Solidarity Games and other international sporting events, present Azerbaijan as a developing, modern and strong state. This is also evident in the volume of investments in Azerbaijan and the a growing number of tourists. These are important events both in terms of image and representation, and from the point of view of the real economy. We will continue to conduct various global events in Azerbaijan. Today, Baku and Azerbaijan are the economic, political and cultural centers of the region.
Our judicious steps related to foreign policy enhance the country's image. This is obvious. We will continue to ensure the development of equitable relations with all countries. This is one of the fundamental principles of our foreign policy. We are in favor of the bilateral format. We see that it is possible to achieve tremendous success in the bilateral format, both in terms of political relations and in terms of economic investment. Bilaterally, Azerbaijan has no problems with any country. On the contrary, we have managed to establish very sound relations with all countries. These relations, of course, should be and are built on these principles. Our policy has always been based on the fact that there should be equal and horizontal relations of mutual respect and non-interference in each other's affairs. We are achieving that. We have always advocated these principles and they prevail in our relations with other countries today.
Our relations with international organizations are also at the highest level. We actively participate and will continue to actively participate in international organizations – first of all, the the UN and the Non-Aligned Movement. It is the second largest organization for the number of countries after the United Nations. A few years ago Azerbaijan joined the Non-Aligned Movement, and this organization immediately adopted a resolution relating to the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within the territorial integrity of our country.
Azerbaijan is a part of the Muslim world and an active participant in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. While in our country recently, the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation spoke about the role of Azerbaijan. At the same time, we are a member of the Council of Europe and have recently presided over it. This cooperation is also very important for us and for the Council of Europe. Recently, within the framework of the Third International Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, it was noted that Azerbaijan is the author of the Baku process. The Baku process forms the basis for a dialogue between the Council of Europe and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in the field of culture and other areas.
This unique role of ours is highly regarded in the Muslim world and Europe today. I can tell you that no other country can take on this role at present. Even if they do, they will not be able to achieve such success because Azerbaijan has a very strong historical foundation for the development of this positive process. For centuries, Azerbaijan has cherished trends of multiculturalism. It is simply a new word which we did not know before. In fact, it is not so easy even to pronounce it. But this concept has always existed in Azerbaijan. In addition, our state policy today is also built on these foundations. It is a real policy. These are not just words for the sake of a slogan. As you know, in the international community everyone can tell a slogan from reality. Therefore, Azerbaijan has assumed this unique role. We did not have to assume it. If we hadn’t taken on this role, there would be no problem for our economic and political development. But we have taken on this role because we want the world to be dominated by positive trends. We want interreligious relations to be normal and sound. Otherwise, the trends of dismemberment in the world will strengthen further. We see that. At the present time, confrontation and bloody clashes on religious and ethnic grounds, on the grounds of religion are leading the world to a disaster. Of course, the geographical place of our country on the world map is not that great. But our work is very significant. We will continue to make effort in this direction.
The main problem of our foreign policy is the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We have an unequivocal policy and position. First, Nagorno-Karabakh is native and historical Azerbaijani land. Despite the heinous attempts of the Armenian lobby, I think that our policy of recent years has proved that it is native Azerbaijani land. Second, Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized by the international community as an integral part of Azerbaijan. When we joined the United Nations, Nagorno-Karabakh was also perceived by the whole world as an integral part of Azerbaijan, as Azerbaijani land. Today, the political weight of Azerbaijan in the political arena is, of course, incommensurate with the weight of Armenia. Third, the economic factor. The economy of Azerbaijan is at least 10 times bigger and stronger than the Armenian economy. Of course, there are four UN Security Council resolutions on the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The UN Security Council did not adopt resolutions related to similar conflicts in the post-Soviet space. The resolutions adopted in connection with this issue openly state that Armenian armed forces must unconditionally withdraw from our occupied lands. Hard as Armenia may try to distort them, it is impossible, because everything is written and published. So there is political, historical and legal basis, which is favor of our position.
At the same time, a very positive demographic trend is observed in Azerbaijan. Our population is growing. It is already 9.6 million people. In Armenia, the population is declining. There is a natural reduction and the mass exodus of people from the country. According to their own official statistics, about 70,000-80,000 people leave Armenia forever every year. I believe that the real statistics is even higher. Therefore, the balance of power is obvious. The conflict can be resolved only within the territorial integrity of countries.
The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is no less important than the territorial integrity of any other country. This must be clear to everyone. The issue will be resolved within the territorial integrity. Nagorno-Karabakh will never be granted independence. Azerbaijan will never accept and the world will never recognize it. There false and illegal "election" recently conducted by the separatist regime and Armenia there showed once again that no-one recognizes it, while many countries have condemned this "election".
The process of army building will continue to go fast. This is a great support for our efforts in the diplomatic sphere. Recently, starting from the summer of last year, the Azerbaijani army has secured full advantage on the contact line and dealt the enemy some crushing blows. Today, the Armenian government already recognizes that it is impossible to resist Azerbaijan without outside assistance. We always say to them: if you do not want to die, then leave Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied lands. After that peace can set in and the Azerbaijani and Armenian peoples can be reconciled. In any case, this is how we see the future. We believe that this hatred and enmity can’t be eternal. But to do this and to achieve peace, the Armenian armed forces must first withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied lands. The most acceptable option here is a phased settlement. We have repeatedly spoken about that. Only a gradual settlement can bring about a solution to the issue. Otherwise, Armenia will continue to live in constant fear, anxiety, hysteria and panic, and the day will come when the Azerbaijani army will have to say its word.
This positive development, of course, is underpinned by our economic reforms, economic success. I have spoken a lot about that. All our economic indicators create the most positive picture. Even though the oil prices have fallen in half this year, our economy grew by more than 5 per cent over the past four months, while the non-oil sector by nearly 7 per cent. The non-oil sector accounts for about 70 per cent of our gross domestic product. Our foreign exchange reserves account for about 70-75 per cent of the gross domestic product, perhaps even more. External debt is around 10 per cent. Poverty and unemployment are at the level of 5 per cent. There is nothing more to say, and it is not even necessary.
Our policies related to the future consist in further development of the non-oil sector and private enterprise. Azerbaijan applies a model of sustainable development. Of course, in the future the focus will always be on the development of industry, agricultural production and export capacity.
At present, Azerbaijan is in the process of industrialization. Agriculture is developing fast. This year has been declared a "Year of Agriculture". Our main goal is to provide ourselves with basic food products by 100 per cent. We also need to create a powerful and competitive export potential, because our agriculture can develop rapidly only through exports in the future. In the next few years, we will fully meet the domestic demand through local production.
Our plans relating to transport are based on the work already done. I do hope that the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway will be put into operation soon. It is also a very important project for the world. Currently, there are seven airports in Azerbaijan, five of which have international status. The largest seaport in the Caspian Sea is being established. At the same time, a shipyard has been commissioned. A railcar plant is under construction. So Azerbaijan is asserting itself on the world map as a logistical and transportation hub. The investment that will be made in this area in the future will, of course, contribute to the creation of a diversified transport infrastructure. The territory of Azerbaijan is crossed by the North-South and East-West corridors. Very active work is under way in both directions.
Look how many important events have taken place in the energy sector in recent times, after the last holidays. On 20 September of last year, we laid the foundation of the Southern Gas Corridor. This date also has a very symbolic meaning. After that, Baku hosted the first meeting of the Advisory Council of the Southern Gas Corridor. In March, we laid the foundation for the TANAP project in Turkey. Currently, all our efforts are aimed at ensuring timely and perhaps even early expansion of the South Caucasus Pipeline which links us with Georgia, and the construction of TANAP, the Trans-Anadolu project. I am sure that we will achieve these goals in a timely manner, perhaps even earlier. I also hope that there are no artificial obstacles to TAP, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline project, because if there are such obstacles, no-one will benefit from that, of course.
I should also note that Azerbaijan’s ample gas resources will provide us and our partners for at least 100 years. Of course, concrete steps are being taken to access the markets. If the TAP project encounters problems, we will export our gas more to the Turkish market. I should note that we have no concern about the markets. All TAP participants should act responsibly and not create artificial problems. In the future, of course, our strategic goal is the full commissioning of the Southern Gas Corridor together with the development of the Shah Deniz field.
In fact, there are many more goals on our agenda and it is impossible to cover them all in a single speech. I have simply expressed my thoughts on some of them. My words, analysis, as well as the outlook for the future convince us that the development of Azerbaijan will be sustainable. We will continue to follow the path of development. The basis of this development is our independence. Independence is our greatest treasure, the greatest asset. We are defending and will continue to defend our independence.