Baku, January 29, AZERTAC
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has met with a group of the country`s youth on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the First Forum of Azerbaijani Youth.
The head of state addressed the event.
Speech of President Ilham Aliyev
- After a few days, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Youth Forum. We are meeting on the eve of this significant date. On 2 February 1996, the first Youth Forum was held on the initiative of President of Heydar Aliyev. It was a very significant event indeed. This was when the main directions of the youth policy in Azerbaijan were determined.
In general, 1996 was special in the history of our independence because. A period of development began in the country after 1996. The stabilization period set in after the ascent of Heydar Aliyev to power at the request of the people in 1993. However, the processes taking place in our country until 1996 prevented the country from entering the stage of development. If we look at the statistics, we can see that economic growth began after 1996, the economic downturn was overcome and inflation began to decline. In general, the early years of Azerbaijan's independence history were very difficult for our country and people. In 1991, after the restoration of independence, Azerbaijan was faced with a very difficult situation. To be more exact, this situation emerged earlier too. The Armenian claims against Azerbaijan, territorial claims and the support of the Armenians by the Soviet government, of course, created major problems for our country. Back in the late 1980s, a special committee was set up in Nagorno-Karabakh, ancient Azerbaijani land, and Nagorno-Karabakh was actually withdrawn from the authority of Azerbaijan. This, of course, was an integral part and a start of the insidious plan against our people.
After that, the Soviet government and the Soviet army committed a bloody massacre against our people. On direct instructions of the Soviet leadership, a bloody January tragedy was unleashed and innocent people became martyrs. As you know, after the tragedy, Heydar Aliyev came to the permanent representative office of Azerbaijan in Moscow and expressed his vehement protest. He denounced the Soviet government and Soviet leadership, as well as their actions and crimes. I can say that it was a rare event in the Soviet period, because the collapse of the Soviet Union was still two years away. The Soviet government was quite strong. No-one could have ever imagined that the Soviet Union and the Communist Party would collapse. Therefore, this step of Heydar Aliyev was very courageous. It was a step of a true patriot, a man for whom his people are above all else. Of course, as a prominent politician he understood that he would come under pressure and persecution. And so it happened. The decision was made to arrest him and he was compelled to move from Moscow to Baku. In fact, even that was fraught with huge difficulties. Provocations were planned against him in Baku too. So he moved to Nakhchivan, and you know about the subsequent period of his life. Nakhchivan and the people of Nakhchivan defended him. And then he defended Nakhchivan. He did not allow Armenia to carry out what it had done in Nagorno-Karabakh there.
So those years were really difficult and crucial for our further development. In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed. All republics were somewhat granted a historic chance to build their own state. If we look at the current state of former Soviet republics today, we see that certain countries never managed to get rid of foreign influence. Azerbaijan is an independent and strong state that has covered the path of successful development.
The early years of our independence were very difficult for the country. Of course, the Armenian occupation, the loss of our lands, the deportation of Azerbaijanis from Nagorno-Karabakh and the occupation of Shusha and Lachin in May 1992 were a huge tragedy. As a result of Armenian occupation of Kalbajar in April 1993, we actually lost a region separating Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia. Thus, a geographic connection appeared between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. And this, of course, played a very negative role in the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Nagorno-Karabakh is ancient Azerbaijani land. It is the land of our ancestors. The Azerbaijani people and state will never put up with this situation. I am absolutely convinced that we will restore our territorial integrity and the Azerbaijanis will return to their native lands in Nagorno-Karabakh and other historically Azerbaijani lands. The present-day Armenia is located on historically Azerbaijani lands. If we look at the maps published at the beginning of the last century, we can see that the vast majority of city names on them are of Azerbaijani origin. The Armenian-Azerbaijani war, of course, is a heinous crime committed against our statehood, our state and our people. Of course, Armenia had major patrons, and they are still there today. You are well aware of this, and the reason this issue remains unresolved is that Armenia is not alone. It has great patrons and supporters. Global forces – and I am talking not only about Armenians of the world – large states essentially precondition Armenia’s policy of occupation for various reasons. But I want to say again, and you as young people need to know this: our primary goal is to restore the territorial integrity of our country, return to our historical lands. This includes the fact that the Azerbaijani population should and will return to the territory of present-day Armenia. Of course, it will take time. But it is our goal, a sacred goal. All we have to live with this goal. Azerbaijan's successful development and our population growth today will, I am sure, lead to this. So we have to bring that closer with our hard work.
One of our problems at the time was the lack of experience and in some cases betrayal on the part of those in power. You are too young to remember those years. Of course, our generation, the people who lived those years will remember that time too well. The government of the Popular Front-Musavat was a great misfortune and disgrace for our people. First, they illegally seized power in 1992. Although there were bloody battles in Nagorno-Karabakh at the time, their main goal was to come to power at any cost. Some even rejoiced at the occupation of Shusha and Lachin, anticipating that this would soon lead to the fall of the previous government. That history is very deplorable and difficult. Those were dark pages of our history. Having seized power, they actually brought Azerbaijan to the brink of an abyss. First, if we look at the personalities of the then leaders of Azerbaijan, we can see without any comment that they were not capable of running a farm, not to mention a country. Of course, young people won’t know that history. But look at the people who governed Azerbaijan. The chairman of parliament was a junior researcher who was unable to defend a small thesis in 11 years. The prime minister, to put it mildly, was engaged in trade, petty trade, and this trade is seasonal. The secretary of state was a Komsomol member who subsequently, like a weather vane, changed his beliefs and joined the popular movement. He changed his beliefs several times afterwards too. In the mid-1990s, being in close contact with the authorities, he was even represented in parliament, but his comrades know him too well. Someone who betrayed his leader in a difficult time, of course, can’t have good qualities. The minister of defense was directly involved in the handover of Shusha to the Armenians. He is guilty of this. The minister of internal affairs beat up a representative of the opposition in a live TV program. Just imagine: a senior official of a law enforcement agency didn’t like something in a TV program, went to the studio and beat him up in front of everyone. And he got off unpunished. The minister of foreign affairs was a junior researcher of the Institute of Physics who was nominated to such an important post. He could not speak a foreign language. In fact, he could not even speak Russian properly. So, to put it mildly, he was completely unfit for this status.
So here they are – the leaders of the Popular Front-Musavat government. How could these people ever govern the country?! Once in power, they immediately started to fight each other. As a result of this infighting, and also due to people’s mistrust and negative attitude towards them, they stayed in power only one year. After that, in the spring and summer of 1993 when the situation deteriorated for them, they abandoned their posts, some left the country and fled. There was no trace of their "courage".
In such a difficult situation, in 1993, Heydar Aliyev came to power at the request of the people. Thanks to popular support, the situation began to stabilize. But the situation was still quite tense until 1996. On 20 September 1994, the "Contract of the Century", which plays a very important role in our successful development even today, was signed. It was a very serious political and economic step. It caused a great deal of anxiety in some countries, and less than two weeks later there was a coup attempt in Azerbaijan. Of course, the people of Azerbaijan did not allow it to happen, but it was a very serious military operation against our people and state. In 1995, another group of foreign orientation staged another coup attempt. That attempt was also foiled. Our people took to the streets again and defended the government and Heydar Aliyev. Year 1996 has gone down in history as a year of stabilization. It is no coincidence that the Youth Forum was held in early 1996.
Why am I going back to this history? First of all, because it is true! The words and assessments I have used are the most diplomatic and soft. Young people should know what we have been through and what we have come to. On the other hand, if we forget this history, we can’t plan our future properly.
Today we are building a strong state, a state that is highly respected in the world. We have to try and are trying to make our development sustainable. In order to achieve this, it is not enough to have a strong economy. In order to achieve sustainable development, the people who will be leading our country in the future must always contribute to our statehood and overall development. You as young people will be leading our country in the future. The fate of our country will be in your hands. Therefore, your activities, your views and thoughts will be decisive for our country in the future.
Azerbaijan has been deprived of independence for centuries. Our people have lived with the dream of independence. We were given a historic opportunity. No-one could have imagined that the Soviet Union would disintegrate. Such a scenario was not considered even by the think tanks of major states. We got this opportunity, and responsibility lies with us. We are building a strong, self-sufficient and independent state in Azerbaijan. This state must live well and forever.
Therefore, the last 20 years have been a period of development and stability. Let me repeat that in this time Azerbaijan has become a very strong state on a global scale. It is no coincidence that 155 countries supported our candidacy during elections to the UN Security Council. We have developed a strong economy, pursued a strong social policy and built a powerful army. Even in international reports the Azerbaijani army is ranked among 40 strongest armies of the world. I have repeatedly stated that our army is among the world’s strongest armies. My analysis is confirmed by international organizations.
Over these years, we have implemented historic projects in the energy policy and linked the Caspian and Mediterranean seas. Currently, we are implementing the Southern Gas Corridor. This is also our initiative. In fact, in 1994, when the Contract of the Century was signed, our economic and political situation was not the same as now, of course. We were under pressure from all sides. Our economy was in a dilapidated state, if I may say so. Only the strong will and courage of Heydar Aliyev, as well as his views on the future, made this possible. In those years, we were engaged in economic diversification. But we must continue to deal with this area. However, we managed to resolve many problems. Today, Azerbaijan has become a space-faring nation. The development of science and education, the implementation of infrastructure projects – all this strengthens our country.
I believe that a new period begins for our country today. I am sure it will also be successful. It is a post-oil period. The post-oil period, according to our calculations, was supposed to begin after 2040, but as a result of the sharp drop in the oil price, we are already living in a post-oil period.
Of course, there is a huge need for serious reforms in the economic sphere. These reforms have begun and will be deepened. We have to try and, I am sure, will succeed in putting the Azerbaijani economy on a par with developed economies. All the mechanisms and criteria must cover these requirements.
We have strong intellectual potential. We have a favorable geographical location. Azerbaijan as a transit country is highly respected in the world today. You are probably aware that transit routes already lie through Azerbaijan. We have other advantages as well. Literacy in Azerbaijan is 100 per cent. This, too, is a great asset. Therefore, I not only believe in the successful development of our country, I am also quite confident that it will be the case.
In the coming two to three years, for example, a new economic model will already be introduced. On the first stage, in the early 1990s, we had to prevent a recession, and we did. After that, as a result of the implementation of Heydar Aliyev’s oil strategy, we managed to implement major projects. Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipelines ushered ample opportunities for us. The State Oil Fund was established. Azerbaijan started to export large amounts of oil and began to receive revenues. We channeled the proceeds into the development of our country. In the regions and in Baku, we implemented new infrastructure projects, built schools and hospitals, i.e. the whole infrastructure was completely revamped. We still have a lot to do, but a lion’s share of infrastructure projects has already been implemented. We spent money on this in order to further reduce our dependence on oil in the future.
The current period in developed countries will be more of a period of innovation and intellectual development. What drives their development? The vast majority of developed countries have neither oil nor gas. They have large companies. They produce oil and gas in foreign countries and pay tax into their budgets. How do they develop? Only by means of technology, knowledge and literacy!
Of course, there are countries in today's world producing and exporting more oil than we do. But even they acquire technologies in the West. These are today's realities. Of course, I would love Azerbaijani scientists to make inventions and contribute to world science. I am sure it will be the case.
But at the current stage, we need to import advanced technologies to Azerbaijan. It is necessary to train human resources, so that not to be sidelined by technological progress in the future. At the subsequent stage, technology, knowledge and literacy will be crucial in the political arena, economic and military spheres. New technologies are already changing everything in the military sphere today. Countries with not particularly large armies become perhaps the most powerful states in military terms. So we must always keep this area in the spotlight. Therefore, Azerbaijan attaches great importance to the development of science, technologies, the ICT and the space industry. We are doing that not only to boast of it, but because it gives an impetus to intellectual development.
This particularly concerns young people. This is when education and knowledge are in the foreground. All of us, children and students probably hear all too often that we must study and be educated. Some people get used to that, but it really is the cornerstone. Without that, no country can develop. Countries rich in oil and gas will continue to buy technologies. Foreign companies will create the infrastructure for them and so on. But one day oil and gas will be depleted. What's next?!
We have to approach the future through this prism. We are determining and will determine our long-term strategy. The dependence on oil must be completely removed. We are achieving that and will continue to do so through economic reforms, the development of entrepreneurship and transparency. Young people as active members of our society should, of course, play an active role in all these issues. I am sure this will be the case, and I expect young people to be active. Young people also play a major role in identifying the issues of concern to society. We should try to eliminate all the errors, so that there is justice in every sphere. There can be no development without justice. Justice must be everywhere – in the family, in domestic life, in politics.
In this case, our country will achieve long-term development. I have said that our independence is eternal, but we must strengthen this independence. There are so many independent countries that can’t pursue an independent policy. Their independence is conditional. We are pursuing an independent policy. This is why we are often targeted. The main reason for the campaigns of pressure and libel against us is that we always behave with dignity. We express our position in all audiences, in public and closed-door meetings. We defend the interests of our people and state. Some people are not impressed with that. So they begin to put pressure on us in different ways. And these pressure mechanisms are very primitive indeed. I think that even those exerting pressure on us should also be more creative and think of new ways of doing that, because no-one believes the same formulaic charges.
But this, of course, can’t affect our determination. I have always adhered to the view that, if you think you are on the right track, you must stick to it. When in doubt, ask. If you don’t know something, don’t do it. That is my approach, and I know that we are on the right track. This is evidenced by the Azerbaijani realities. In many issues Azerbaijan is an example for other countries, and this is our contribution.
This year Azerbaijan will host the Global Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations. This is a very prestigious international event of global proportions. It is an event held under the auspices of the UN. Why? Because we have been hosting similar activities here a few years! Because Azerbaijan is a good example in this sphere, and this is a reality. It is the current status of our society. It is both the state policy and the order of society. Therefore, we will work hard in all directions. We will deepen the reform.
With regard to foreign policy issues, of course, the main priority for us is the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Unfortunately, this conflict remains unresolved. I have always said that if Heydar Aliyev had been in power in the early years of independence, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would have never arisen, because I personally remember how he was received by the local population – the Azerbaijanis and the Armenians – when he traveled to Nagorno-Karabakh, Shusha and Khankandi in the 1980s. He was treated with great respect, with great love, with a storm of applause, and it was natural. Since I was with my father during those trips, I saw that there was no reason for confrontation there. I remember it snowing during the opening of the mausoleum of Vagif in Shusha. Armenian and Azerbaijani poets made speeches. Armenian poets recited poems in Azerbaijani. They also read their own poems. In other words, no-one could have imagined that this artificial conflict would ever arise. But I want to repeat that it was a major provocation against our people. It was committed by Armenian nationalists and the Soviet government.
You know that we are trying very hard to resolve this issue. But unfortunately, the Armenian side is trying to gain time. I regret to say that the OSCE Minsk Group, which should be directly involved in the matter, seeks not to resolve but freeze the conflict. Their current activities are completely meaningless. Not only do they fail to put pressure on Armenia, they also protect it from possible problems. Look what their provocative activities led to in the latest hearings in the Council of Europe. The question is: who do they think they are? Will they exert pressure on all international organizations? Will they give instructions to all international organizations? The Council of Europe put the issue on the agenda and a rapporteur is appointed. The Council of Europe is an international organization. It is true that Azerbaijan established a relationship with the organization 15 years ago and this relationship has not always been trouble-free. However, the Council of Europe adopted a resolution condemning Armenian occupation for the first time in 2005. This document states that Armenia occupies Azerbaijani lands. Of course, there are different people there. There are people holding an anti-Azerbaijani position. There are many Islamophobic people. There are those who are in agreement with Armenia and linked to the Armenian lobby. I was a member of this organization and I know that. This organization has now tabled this issue. The co-chairs of the Minsk Group put pressure on it not to consider the issue. It is because of this provocative activity that we were four votes short of this resolution being adopted.
So what assessment can we give to the OSCE Minsk Group? Only negative. I have always said this to them in person. Today, I talk about this openly for the public to know. They are the biggest contributors to the issue staying unresolved. Why? Because they have double standards! What is the reason? We ask them but there is no answer. This is also a tactic. When a question is unpleasant, it is usually not answered. We know the answer – it is double standards. Of course, you need to know this, and the people of Azerbaijan need to know this. To be more exact, they already know, but I will say it nonetheless. The religious factor plays a role. We are Muslims, so we are treated with double standards, especially in the current period when Islamophobia in Europe has reached its peak.
The people suffering from war are seeking refuge in Europe now. What are they treated like there? They are put in cages. Food is thrown into these cages, as if they were in a zoo. Are these their values? Where is mercy, human rights, tolerance? They are just slogans. These are real processes taking place in the world. The more migrants turn to Europe, the stronger the radical forces become there. If we look at the results of elections held in leading countries of Europe, we can see how the percentage of radical Islamophobic parties has increased over 10 years. It has probably doubled, and this is a trend. Of course, they do not dictate politics today, but it is a trend. What will this trend lead to? It will lead to these parties coming to power in 10 or 15 years. What will happen then? What will be the official position towards Muslims? In this case, is there a place for us there?
We are a secular and tolerant country and people. We want all nationalities to live together. This is why we conduct these forums. This year has been declared a "Year of multiculturalism", so that we could bring civilizations and religions together. I want to repeat that Azerbaijan is an example. But we can say that we are alone in this world. Therefore, when discussing the issue of integration, we must constantly take this reality into account.
We did not sign the Association Agreement with the European Union. There are several reasons for that. The first reason is that despite our insistence, the document does not reflect a fair position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I said that if this is not the case, we will not sign the Association Agreement. They considered that we are somewhat blackmailing them. But this is our position. And so it happened. There were other reasons too, but the main reason was that. It is double standards, which is intolerable.
If double standards are the main criteria on a global scale and in world politics today, let them say so. Let an end be put to hypocrisy then. Let no-one say that they supposedly support democracy and equality, that all people are equal and that they are in favor of human rights. Do they think about the human rights of one million Azerbaijani citizens? No, it does not interest them! This is the real situation. Of course, we live in a real world and we must take this into account. We consider this in our policies, but at the same time, we have always said and will say our word. And this is one of the reasons behind the pressure on us. What does this suggest? First, it suggests that there is no justice in the world. Second, norms of international law are flagrantly violated in the world, as if these norms are prescribed for smaller countries. Large countries ignore and interpret these rules as they see fit. One day they view it as territorial integrity, another as the principle of self-determination. They interpret these and other issues as they want. There is no pressure mechanism for countries that violate international law. Such steps are taken only in relation to smaller countries. Therefore, what should a small country do in such a situation? First and foremost, it should rely on its own resources. It should become stronger, its people should live better and their security should be provided. We provide for our security ourselves. The people in Azerbaijan live in safety and peace. Today, the Azerbaijani people are the guarantor of stability in Azerbaijan.
Your people as active members of our society play a key role in strengthening our country. I appreciate the activities of the youth – both in the international plane and within the country. I see that the young generation is attached and the state. This is very important. Young people must be educated in the national spirit. National values should be paramount for us. We have preserved our language, customs, traditions and holidays even in the Soviet period. During my university years in Moscow, I remember bringing shekerbura, baklava and samani [sprouted wheat] to the cafeteria on Novruz, but I was criticized and blamed for celebrating a religious holiday. So this was also the case. However, we have preserved and maintained this. Although Novruz is not a religious holiday, we must preserve it in the current circumstances, because there are other risks and challenges now – globalization and other outside influences. Some foreign circles are active among young people, and it is clear what their goals are. The goal is to create support for themselves, the support that may be activated one day. But when young people grow in the national spirit, external influence will be pointless, of course. Therefore, we must protect and cherish patriotism, national values and traditions. This is the main thing. The current Azerbaijani authorities are paying great attention to this sphere. We should make sure that this is always the case. We should make sure that the generation that will succeed us in power also lives with this idea – statehood, national interests, Azerbaijanism, dignity and a strong state.
I want to sincerely congratulate you on the upcoming occasion again. I am sure that you, as selected representatives of the youth, will continue to serve and contribute to the development of our country.
X X X
A group of youth received honorary diplomas of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan for their contribution to the execution of the youth policy in the country.
Chairman of the Public Council for Work with Youth under the Ministry of Youth and Sport Nuraddin Mehdiyev said youth and youth foundations in Azerbaijan had always felt attention and care of the head of state, and thanked President Ilham Aliyev for this.
Chairman of “ASAN Volunteers” Youth Organization Farid Sadıkhlı said there were more than 3,000 youth organizations in Azerbaijan. He put forward some proposals related to Youth Houses, vocational education, and foreign education programs.
President Ilham Aliyev said the volunteers` movement had a bright future in Azerbaijan, stressed the importance of the fact that vocational education became popular in the country, and said the world`s leading high schools open their branches in Azerbaijan.
Minister of Youth and Sport Azad Rahimov said several Youth Houses opened in capital Baku, adding this process will continue.
Chairperson of the Economic and Management Sciences Student Association Maryam Majidova put forward proposals concerning the development of informal education and organization of quizzes.
President Ilham Aliyev welcomed the idea to organize a number of international quizzes in Azerbaijan.
Coordinator of Model UN Azerbaijan project Elmira Mammadova highlighted the issue of representation of Azerbaijan in international organizations.
The head of state said Azerbaijan maintained excellent relations with all international organizations, including the United Nations, and praised the youth`s representation in international organizations. President Ilham Aliyev also denied foreign media reports alleging that Azerbaijan appealed to foreign financial institutions for assistance.
Young entrepreneur, member of Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum Mushfiq Hasanov spoke of the creation of wider opportunities for young entrepreneurs.
President Ilham Aliyev said wide privatization program will stimulate the development of entrepreneurship.
Foreign relations secretary at “Ganja 2016 – European Youth Capital” organization Aysun Zeynalova highlighted what had been since Ganja was proclaimed the European Youth Capital.
The head of state expressed his confidence that Ganja would excellently host the event.
Executive Director of the Youth Fund under the President, Farhad Hajiyev, spoke of the projects implemented by the fund.
President Ilham Aliyev said the fund will further receive support and financial assistance.
Chief Specialist at the Heydar Aliyev Center Zafiq Khalilov raised the issue of involving youth in scientific researches.
The head of state stressed the importance of the issue.
Then a picture was taken.