Secretary for Relations with States of Holy See hails tolerance and respect to religious communities in Azerbaijan

Baku, February 12, AZERTAC

Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher has hailed the tolerance and respect to other religious communities in Azerbaijan as he met with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov.

Paul Richard Gallagher pointed to his meeting with President Ilham Aliyev, saying the meeting featured very fruitful discussions. The Archbishop thanked the Azerbaijani government for the support and care to the Catholic community in the country, and highly appreciated the tolerance and respect to other religious communities in Azerbaijan.

The sides expressed their satisfaction with the development of relations between Azerbaijan and the Holy See.

They underlined that the official visits of the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev on September 24-27, 1997 and President Ilham Aliyev on March 6, 2017 to Vatican, as well as the historical visits of Pope John Paul II on May 22, 2002 and Pope Francis on October 2, 2016 to Baku ushered in a new page in the Azerbaijan-Holy See relations.

Minister Elmar Mammadyarov noted that Azerbaijan has historically been a place where the representatives of different cultures and religions co-exist peacefully. The Minister reiterated that on the basis of national traditions of tolerance Azerbaijan promotes the ideas of peaceful co-existence, mutual respect and multiculturalism in the world. The importance of International Humanitarian Forum and World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue was underlined in this regard.

Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said that the year 2017 was declared "The year of Islamic Solidarity" in Azerbaijan. He hailed the fact that the representative of the Holy See attended the international conference titled "2017- Year of Islamic Solidarity: Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue" which was jointly organized by the Caucasian Muslims Office, and the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations.

Underlining the close cooperation between the Pontifical Council for Culture of the Holy See and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation the sides underlined the invaluable role of Azerbaijan's First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva in further development of cooperation in this regard. The restoration of several historical monuments especially the catacombs in Vatican with the direct support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation was highly appreciated at the meeting.

Pointing to several precious documents in the Holy See's archives on middle ages history of Azerbaijan, Minister Elmar Mammadyarov thanked the Holy See for the support in finding these documents and underlined the importance of continuation of cooperation in this sphere.

FM Mammadyarov briefed the Archbishop on the negotiation process on the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaian's just and fair position, as well as Armenia's plundering and destruction policy of the cultural and religious heritage of Azerbaijani people in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Touching on the issue of illegal settlement of ethnic Armenian refugees from Syria in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan by Armenia, Minister Mammadyarov noted that Armenia's deliberate efforts to pursue the settlement policy and change the demographic structure of the occupied territories seriously violate the international humanitarian law. The Minister added that as a result of Armenia's aggression more than one million Azerbaijanis were forcefully subjected to ethnic cleansing by Armenia.

They expressed their mutual concern about the raise of racism, xenophobia, ethnic and religious hatred in the world.

The sides also exchanged views on the issues of developing bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and the Holy See and mutual exchange of high level visits.

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