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President Ilham Aliyev joined nationwide festivities on the occasion of Novruz holiday VIDEO

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Baku, March 19 AZERTAC

Nationwide festivities on the occasion of the national holiday of the people of Azerbaijan – Novruz have been held in Baku.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, his wife Mehriban Aliyeva and family members, state and government officials joined the Novruz festivities.

The head of state, his wife and family members arrived at the square in front of the Maiden Tower.

Children dressed in national costumes congratulated the President and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva on the occasion of Novruz holiday.

Fighters carrying swords and shields reminiscent of Azerbaijan`s ancient history stood on the walls of the Old City and in the square.

Dada Gorgud gave his blessing and expressed hope for the spring holiday to bring abundance to the Azerbaijani people.

President Ilham Aliyev lit the Novruz bonfire.

The head of state made a speech.

Speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev

- Dear friends, I want to sincerely congratulate you and the people of Azerbaijan on the upcoming Novruz holidays. I wish all citizens of Azerbaijan further success and happiness.

Novruz is our dear and favorite holiday. It is our national heritage. For centuries our people have been celebrating Novruz as a dear holiday. But in the years of independence we have been celebrating it as a public holiday, and starting from tomorrow there will be nine days-off. Our independence is also based on national values and traditions. We have done a great deal to strengthen the independence. For nearly 24 years Azerbaijan has lived and developed as an independent state.

The early years of independence were very difficult for our country and people. Civil strife, civil war, the occupation of our lands, economic and political crises, of course, dealt a very serious blow to our independence. Only after the return of great leader Heydar Aliyev to political power did the situation get back to normal. Azerbaijan embarked on political and economic reforms and the country set on the path of development. From that time, since the mid-1990s, to the present day – for 20 years – Azerbaijan has been experiencing a period of dynamic development, our independence is strengthening and reinforcing. Today Azerbaijan is recognized as a very important country and partner in the world.

We are pursuing an independent policy. Independence is the greatest treasure and asset for us. Our people have been part of other states and empires for centuries, but we have managed to preserve their identity. First of all, we have managed to preserve our national values, holidays, literature, art, the native language and ourselves as a people. Today we are free. The Azerbaijani people are masters of their own destiny. The present-day realities show that our people can reach the highest peaks only being independent. If we look at our history, we can see that the current period is a period of the most rapid development. We will continue to protect our independence. We will provide a good life for our people. However, it is also natural that the stronger Azerbaijan gets, the more pressure it comes under.

Our independent policy is not to everyone’s liking though. Therefore, the pressure on us increases and various mechanisms are engaged. As a result, some foreign circles are waging an overt campaign against Azerbaijan. We are ready for it. This campaign, in fact, has never been stopped, but in the run-up to important international events this campaign becomes even uglier. We were faced with it three years ago in 2012, on the eve of the "Eurovision" contest. We are seeing it today, on the eve of the first European Games. This is a well-concerted anti-Azerbaijani campaign managed from one or several centers. It aims to tarnish and belittle our country, cast a shadow over our achievements and portray Azerbaijan as a backward, undemocratic and oppressed country.All this, of course, is built on lies. Therefore, neither the people of Azerbaijan nor the world community believes in this. The Azerbaijani people see everything with their own eyes. The development of recent years, the improvement of our cities, the economic and social development of the country and our growing international authority are obvious. At the same time, our progress is no longer a secret to the world community. Numerous events, exhibitions and conferences, the presentation of Azerbaijani culture in foreign countries provide fairly extensive information about Azerbaijan to the international community.

Despite this, we still see that so-called experts, politicians, former government officials and certain media organizations have almost declared a cold war on Azerbaijan. I want to say again that all these attempts are futile and will lead nowhere. There is no power in the world that could influence the will of the Azerbaijani people.

All freedoms are provided in Azerbaijan. A free society has shaped in Azerbaijan. Everyone is free. There is a free press. There are no restrictions on the internet – there is free internet. There is a freedom of assembly. Unlike some countries, the freedom of conscience and religion is fully guaranteed. But look at the situation in the countries that are trying to accuse us.

Hundreds of protesters right in the center of Europe were beaten, insulted and arrested just yesterday. In other places people are strangled, shot and killed. And no-one is brought to book for that. Where are the non-governmental organizations that are accusing us? Why are they silent? Why don’t they speak up? Why don’t they accuse these countries? Don’t they have the guts? Or is it a policy of double standards?! Probably both! Why don’t international organizations circulate statements? Why aren’t resolutions adopted? It is very difficult to get these questions answered. In my numerous meetings with foreign colleagues and with the heads of international organizations I openly ask them these questions. Maybe this is why the pressure on Azerbaijan gets even stronger. Unfortunately, global politics today is governed not by international law, but by hypocrisy, double standards, discrimination, racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia. These are today's realities. Therefore, we must be prepared for it and we are prepared. We are strengthening our country, we are developing it. I want to say again that there are all the freedoms in Azerbaijan – political freedoms, the freedom of conscience, the economic freedom. Today Azerbaijan is a model country in terms of both economic development and inter-religious dialogue.

Today everything around us is ablaze – the Middle East, Europe and the CIS. There are bloody clashes, confrontations on ethnic and sectarian grounds, and recriminations. Look at Azerbaijan – representatives of all nationalities and religions live here like one family. This is our policy ordered by the people. Today, Azerbaijan has become an important country for the world. The number of countries supporting us in the international arena is growing steadily. We were elected to the UN Security Council, the most influential organization of the world, with the support of 155 countries. Let the countries accusing us try to be elected with the support of 155 countries – we will see if they can ever succeed. This is a reality. This is why, of course, the Azerbaijani people are disappointed with such injustices, double standards, hypocrisy and a lack of political culture. However, this can never affect our will.

The European Games are just a pretext. There are some external forces that believe that we do not deserve to host them even though we have taken on tremendous responsibility. It is a very difficult task to prepare the games in a matter of two and a half years. These Games will be conducted at the level of Olympic Games. Seven years are usually allowed to prepare for Olympic Games. We are doing it in just two and a half years and with the minimum budget. The protest demonstration in the center of Europe was caused by the construction of a building. The entire budget we have spent on preparations for the European Games was spent on the construction of a single building there. But where is “Transparency International”? Why are they tight-lipped over this? There is one infrastructure project associated with transport in Europe. It has been built for 10 years. Its budget is twice as large as we have spent on preparations for the European Games, but the construction is still not over.

Why aren’t they talking about it? Why don’t they write about it? These are all rhetorical questions. But we have to ask these questions, and we do – because we are in favor of justice. Justice must be everywhere – in society, in the family and in international relations. If justice is violated, everything is undermined and confidence is lost. A new system of values seems to be emerging in the world. Justice is replaced with an unfair approach, equality gives way to inequality and truth succumbs to hypocrisy and lies. This is what we are fighting with. Of course, Azerbaijan is a small country, but we have enough power to have our say and influence the developments unfolding in the region and on the continent.

Unfortunately, our main problem, the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, is not being resolved. Last year the mediators made great efforts. As you know, in August, September and October the heads of state and senior officials from the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries made efforts and three meetings were held. The last meeting in Paris, in the opinion of both parties, was successful. But less than a week after the meeting Armenia resorted to yet another provocation. It launched large-scale military exercises in Agdam, on occupied territories, in order to provoke us. We did not want to be provoked, as we are committed to our international obligations. Let me reiterate that at the meeting held in Paris in late October we agreed that we should reduce tensions on the contact line and pay more attention to the essence of peace talks. Therefore, we decided to exercise some restraint. But the enemy interpreted our behavior in a different way and attacked our positions. Under such circumstances, of course, the Azerbaijani soldier showed valor and destroyed an enemy helicopter. After that they began to try to take revenge. Even the most high-ranking officials of Armenia stated that they would take revenge. As a result of this fascist ideology, dozens of Armenian soldiers were killed on the line of contact. I have said this before and I want to say it again: if you do not want to die, do not go to Agdam and Fizuli, stay at home. As for revenge, it is us who must take revenge, and we will. We are avenging the victims of Khojaly. The blood of our martyrs must be avenged.

Today our army is in full control of the situation on the contact line. Our soldiers adequately protect the homeland. We have full advantage. I am absolutely confident that we will achieve what we want and restore historical justice and our territorial integrity. The Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh must be resolved only within the framework of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territorial integrity. After that, we Azerbaijanis will, of course, go back to our ancient lands – to Erivan, Geycha and Zangezur. All these are our ancient lands. The younger generation should also know that our lands are not only the territory of the present-day independent Azerbaijan. We must and we will go back to these lands. We have to work hard every day to bring that day closer.

Therefore, we must grow even stronger. We must have an even stronger army. Army building is our main task now. Therefore, we allocate as much as necessary for this purpose. Today the Azerbaijani army is among the most advanced armies in the world in terms of combat-readiness, equipment and weaponry. We have done it, as there is no other option.

In today's world, international law does not work, while international treaties are only a piece of paper that aren’t worth anything. Those who have power ignore these treaties. So the world has entered a new period, and we should be aware of that. We weren’t the ones who started this period. We have always relied on international law and have built our entire policy on this basis. We have raised our voice: why aren’t the UN Security Council resolutions being fulfilled? They explicitly say that Azerbaijani lands should be unconditionally and immediately freed from occupation. So international law is merely a tool in the hands of powerful states which they use to tell weaker states what to do. But for them themselves, international law is nothing. We see it and everyone else can see it too. We see this throughout the world – might is right. What does this mean? It means that we have to be strong. We have long started this process: a strong army, a strong economy, civil accord and, of course, sound policies and social justice.

The public and political situation in Azerbaijan is very positive. The unity between the people and the government is firm. Our reforms, political steps and the work undertaken at the international level are supported by the people, and the current realities of Azerbaijan show it. In recent years there has been no other country that would develop as rapidly as Azerbaijan.

Recently, two days ago, we launched the TANAP project on ancient Turkic land, in the city of Kars. This is a historic project. The TANAP project is a part, an important part of the "Southern Gas Corridor". But the "Southern Gas Corridor" consists of four parts: the "Shah Deniz" field, the South Caucasus Pipeline, TANAP and TAP. Azerbaijan is an active participant in all of these projects, and today we are creating a new reality because energy security today is just as important as national security. No country can defend its national security without providing for energy security. Azerbaijan has ensured its energy security. Look how important Azerbaijani gas is for Europe, Eurasia and for the region today. A new energy map is being drawn. We are drawing it together with our partners. Therefore, the ongoing work will certainly enhance the geopolitical importance of Azerbaijan and increase our strength and influence. They are already fairly strong.

Today not a single political, economic and other project can be realized in the region without our consent. This is confirmed by the recent history.

Today, Azerbaijan is one of the leading countries in the region and our policy is fair. We stand for equal relations with all countries and for good relations with neighbors. We are advocates of equality. We believe that there should not be concepts such as a "big country" and a "small country" in the world.

All countries have equal rights. Therefore, we are building our policy with all countries on these principles. We did not assume any obligations before any country – this is impossible. We have obligations in the international organizations we are members of, we respect them, and that is all. We have no other obligations. If someone believes that they can push or force Azerbaijan to do anything, they are mistaken and must abandon this misguided policy. This is confirmed by the history of the last few years. We are going down our own path. It is a path of progress, a path development. It is a path of freedom and independence, and we have achieved these successes along the way.

Our cities are improving, and so is the well-being of our people. Today Azerbaijan is known worldwide as a model country. Our Baku is becoming ever prettier. Baku is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

The ancient history of Baku, our national heritage – the Maiden Tower, the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, the Old City – these are assets of global proportions. At the same time, we are creating new symbols of Baku – the Flag Square, the Heydar Aliyev Center, the Flame Towers, the White City, the Carpet Museum, the recently opened boulevard. Its length is already 16 kilometers. Such is our country today. All visitors to Azerbaijan, of course, if they are unbiased, see and recognize that. Our friends are delighted and our enemies are frustrated.

We will go down our own path, ensure a happy future for the Azerbaijani people and further strengthen our country.

Happy Novruz!

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Then the President and his family members had a walkabout in the National Seaside Park.

President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva met key characters of Novruz – Kosa and Kechal.

Kosa and Kechal congratulated President Ilham Aliyev and his family members on the occasion of Novruz holiday.

The head of state and his family members then viewed an exhibition of Azerbaijan-made products.

The head of state and his family members viewed the samples of Azerbaijani carpets.

President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva viewed the performance of sportsmen in front of the stands highlighting the Baku 2015 First European Games.

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