Baku, November 26, AZERTAC
The 12th session of the General Conference of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) has today started in Baku.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and his wife, ISESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva attended the opening of the session.
The event kicked off with the recitation of verses from the Quran.
The head of state addressed the opening of the session.
Speech by President Ilham Aliyev:
- Dear Mr. Director General,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen!
First of all, I cordially welcome all of you to Azerbaijan. Welcome to Azerbaijan! The 12th session of the ISESCO General Conference being held in Baku is a significant event for our country. I am very pleased that this event is being held in Baku, Azerbaijan. I am sure that guests will get a good opportunity to become acquainted with the past and present realities of our country.
In recent years, ISESCO has become a very important international organization. The main objective of ISESCO is to develop science and education in the Muslim world and preserve its rich cultural heritage. ISESCO has made huge strides in this area. At the same time, ISESCO today holds a special place among international organizations on a global scale. As I have noted, ISESCO under the leadership of Director General Mr. Altwaijri has become a very important organization enjoying great respect in the world in recent years.
We in Azerbaijan always strive to further increase the credibility of ISESCO. Azerbaijan is one of the active members of ISESCO. ISESCO is represented in many events we organize in Baku, while Mr. Altwaijri often comes to Azerbaijan. In 2009, with the support of ISESCO, Baku was declared the capital of Islamic culture. In 2018, this honorary title was awarded to another ancient Azerbaijani city – Nakhchivan. This is a high assessment ISESCO is giving to Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani culture and the role Azerbaijan plays in the Muslim world today.
I would also like to note that a regional center of ISESCO will be created in Baku in the near future. The Azerbaijani state is taking all necessary measures to establish the center. I am sure that the center’s activities will play an active role in deepening the humanitarian cooperation and strengthening Islamic solidarity not only in the region but also throughout the Islamic world.
ISESCO has always supported Azerbaijan. In particular, ISESCO has always openly supported Azerbaijan's position of justice in the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In his numerous speeches, Mr. Altwaijri expressed an unequivocal position on this issue. We are grateful to ISESCO and the whole Muslim world for this.
As you know, the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has remained unresolved for many years. Azerbaijan has suffered from Armenian occupation for many years. Twenty per cent of our internationally recognized territory is under Armenian occupation. As a result of this occupation, over a million Azerbaijanis have become refugees and IDPs in their native land. The Armenians have conducted a policy of ethnic cleansing against our people. The Armenians have committed the Khojaly genocide. Today, more than 10 countries have recognized the Khojaly tragedy as an act of genocide. Armenia flagrantly violates all norms of international law. There are four UN Security Council resolutions on the conflict, which require an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from Azerbaijani lands. For over 20 years, Armenia has ignored these resolutions. Similar decisions and resolutions have also been adopted by other international organizations, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement, the OSCE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In other words, international law fully supports the position of Azerbaijan. At the same time, historical justice is also on our side, because Nagorno-Karabakh is native Azerbaijani land. The Azerbaijani people have lived on these lands for centuries. The word "Karabakh" is of Azerbaijani origin. Therefore, both history and international law support the position of our country, and this conflict can only be resolved on the basis of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders.
I should also mention that the OSCE has sent two missions to the occupied territories. Mission reports state that everything on the occupied lands has been destroyed – our cities, villages, historical and religious monuments. The Armenians have destroyed 10 mosques on our occupied lands. This is barbarism. It is an act of terror against Islamic culture. I want to note again that ISESCO has always supported the just cause of Azerbaijan in this issue.
I should also note that in the early 1990s, Armenian terrorist organizations committed more than 30 acts of terror in Azerbaijan, killing more than 2,000 innocent people. We have repeatedly stated that terrorism has neither nationality nor religion. Unfortunately, some Western circles and media representatives have been trying in recent years to link Islam to terror. We strongly condemn these dirty deeds. Islam is a religion of peace, mercy and friendship. We in Azerbaijan work hard to introduce Islamic values to the world. Azerbaijan is one of the countries to have played an active role in the organization of an Islamic section in the most famous museum of the world – the Louvre. We have made a financial contribution to that.
Azerbaijan is the first Muslim country to have demonstrated an exhibition at the Vatican.
We openly fight against Islamophobia. Statements have been made at the highest level – at the level of the President. Islamophobia is a huge threat and a great injustice. It could lead to conflicts between civilizations in the future. Therefore, we promote Islamic culture both at home and abroad. Azerbaijan regularly organizes exhibitions, presentations and cultural programs in developed countries of the world. Azerbaijan also plays an active role in developing inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations. On our initiative, Baku has repeatedly hosted the International Humanitarian Forum. We have hosted three Forums on Intercultural Dialogue. A summit of leaders of world religions has been held in Baku. Next year we will host a Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations. I should note that ISESCO is actively involved in all these activities. That is our contribution to interreligious and intercultural relations.
The International Centre for Multiculturalism has recently been established in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is already known worldwide as a center of multiculturalism. Azerbaijan has never has and, I am sure, never will have any confrontations on ethnic or religious grounds.
We strongly believe that multiculturalism has a great future. Some politicians and public figures should be more careful in their statements, because there is no alternative to multiculturalism. The alternative is discrimination, Islamophobia and xenophobia. This path can’t lead to the future. Therefore, our policies and initiatives seek to strengthen inter-religious relations in the region.
Azerbaijan is a country with a rich history. I am sure that our guests will get acquainted with the ancient historical monuments of Baku. Azerbaijan works hard in the international plane to strengthen Islamic solidarity and protect Islamic values.
I should also note that Azerbaijan is a newly-independent state. We have lived as an independent country for only 24 years. Whereas in the Soviet period there were only 17 mosques in Azerbaijan, today their number exceeds 2,000. We are proud that one of the oldest mosques in the world, the Shamakhi mosque built in 743, is located in Azerbaijan. The mosque has been recently renovated. Today it is both a religious monument and a monument of architecture. Therefore, the role of international organizations and leading politicians in these matters, of course, is quite big, especially in the present circumstances and at this very sensitive moment. Unfortunately, conflicts in the world are getting further inflamed. There are more and more confrontations. Azerbaijan, for its part, is trying for humanitarian cooperation to reduce risks.
Azerbaijan successfully develops the spheres UNESCO is directly involved with. As I mentioned, we have a rich historical heritage and an ancient culture. All our cultural monuments are protected by the state. A lot of attention is being paid to education. Literacy in Azerbaijan has reached nearly 100 per cent. A lot of attention is being paid to the development of science. Substantial work is under way to develop science. Funds are allocated. A Science Development Fund has been established. Azerbaijan develops new technologies. A few years ago, Azerbaijan became a member of a limited club of space-faring nations. Azerbaijan is rapidly developing its space industry because the future of any country depends on the level of science and education. In the future, it will depend on this even more, because the development of countries is mainly due to new technologies, innovation, and the development of science and education. We are paying great attention to this area. I believe that Azerbaijan’s experience may prove interesting for some countries.
This year Baku hosted the first European Games in history. It should also be noted that European Games were held in Azerbaijan at the level of Summer Olympics. More than 6,000 athletes and thousands of visitors came to our country. All preparations were made in a short period of time – just two and a half years. The Games went down in history as the most beautiful, magnificent and well-organized Games. I believe that the holding of the First European Games in a Muslim country is not just a sports issue. At the same time, as I said earlier, it was our valuable contribution to multiculturalism, inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations. Two years later, in 2017, Baku will host Islamic Solidarity Games. Over the course of two years, Azerbaijan will hold European and Islamic Solidarity Games. These two events clearly show what positions Azerbaijan currently holds.
In 2008, we initiated the "Baku process". At that time, we invited the ministers of culture of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation member-states to a meeting of culture ministers of Council of Europe member countries held in Baku on Azerbaijan’s initiative. Azerbaijan is a member of both the Council of Europe and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. It was the first such meeting. After that, we invited ministers from Council of Europe member-countries to the meeting of culture ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. This process was called the "Baku process". The "Baku process" is already playing a special role in the world. We try to address all of these issues, bolster understanding in the world, prevent confrontation and give people the chance to live in peace.
As I said, the holding of the 12th session of the ISESCO General Conference in Baku is a major event for our country. I am sure that guests will work effectively here. The issues discussed here will strengthen Islamic solidarity in the future, give an even greater impetus to work in the humanitarian sphere and serve mutual understanding on a global scale.
In conclusion, I want to emphasize the activities of the great friend of the Azerbaijani people, Mr. Altwaijri, again. Mr. Altwaijri plays a huge role in the world as the head of ISESCO and as a public figure. He supports Azerbaijan. He owns outstanding achievements in elevating ISESCO to its current level. I would like to perform a pleasant mission at today's forum with the participation of our guests. By my order, Mr. Altwaijri is being awarded the State Order of Azerbaijan – the Order of "Friendship". Today I want to present this award to him.
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Addressing the event, Director General of ISESCO Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri thanked the head of state for awarding him with the high state order of Azerbaijan.
Then a Nigerian delegate was presented with the ISESCO Literacy Prize for 2015.
The session continued with plenary meetings.