Interview of Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, the First Lady, to Baku Magazine

Editorial: Baku magazine turns 5. The anniversary celebration brings about some recollections. It were you whom we had our very first interview with. Therefore, it would be really interesting to hear you again five years later. What do you think about our magazine?

The President: What is truly notable is that within a very short time period since its inception, Baku succeeded in gaining a broad audience indeed. Important topics, signature style, cutting-edge design and an eye-catching way of presenting the material are instrumental in the magazine`s overall success. Articles on Azerbaijan`s rich and ancient history of culture and art, the nation`s deeply-rooted traditions, as well as other materials make the magazine ever more readable and obviously add value to the edition. What is no less important is that Baku is nowadays not only circulated in Russia but also beyond.

The First Lady: Baku magazine appeared relatively recently and managed to win the hearts of readers really fast. It is wonderful to have such a source of positive and unbiased information about our country abroad. The magazine presents Azerbaijan, its capital city of Baku, our outstanding fellow-countrymen, recognized figures among the Azerbaijani Diaspora, important events in the country`s cultural life and national cuisine in a very picturesque and masterful manner. I wish your magazine an ever increasing popularity with broader and more diverse readership.

Editorial: Rapid development in all spheres of the country`s life within the recent five years is something that goes without saying. The high growth rate dynamics featuring your country today is truly amazing. Azerbaijan has obviously grown into the regional leader. So what is the secret of your success?

The President: I do strongly believe that continuity of the policy laid by the national leader of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev is at the very earnest of this success. This is what the secret is about. Time has shown that this was the only true political course capable of rescuing Azerbaijan from a set of chaotic events and the threat of disintegration. Just recall the first years of Azerbaijan`s independence. The country was overtaken by a deep military, political and spiritual crisis, and facing a complete economic decline. In fact, Azerbaijan was in danger of losing its independence. The turning point in the country`s development started with Heydar Aliyev`s accession to power back in 1993. Political and democratic institutions were established and reinforced together with market economy mechanisms and modern development processes. Ultimately, this turned Azerbaijan into one of the world`s most dynamically developing countries. Political reforms conducted in the country to this day were instrumental in the foundation of the free society. Nowadays, all sorts of freedom are guaranteed to our citizens, such as freedom of speech, conscience, media, etc. Stable political system and effective economic policy augmented by rich natural resources, up-to-date infrastructure, favorable geographic location and educated young generation are among the important components of the country`s impressive success.

Tremendous success was recently accomplished in economics. Our economy grew thrice within the last eight-nine years. Poverty dropped from 49 to 6 per cent. Unemployment was addressed in the most radical manner with only 5.2 percent at the moment. We succeeded in the implementation of the major infrastructural projects. All social programs have been accomplished.

Despite the stabilizing role of the oil sector in the national economy, the recent years presented us with sustainable development of the non-oil sector. This year, growth in this field was 10 per cent.

We also succeeded in economic diversification and implementation of substantial economic reforms within a short period of time. A number of global energy and transportation projects initiated by our country are currently underway.

At the moment, Azerbaijan enjoys a very sustainable international rating. Our accomplishments were graded very highly by the leading international rating agencies. Development of cutting-edge technologies and ICT is among the major national priorities of the day.

The Program of Regional Development is something I`d like to emphasize in particular speaking of the decisions that had a tangible impact of Azerbaijan`s strategic development. All the countryside areas are now overtaken by large-scale infrastructural projects, as well as the creation of new jobs. Since the start of the program implementation of the socio-economic delevopment of the regions, one million new jobs were created, with 800,000 of them being permanent.

Historically, Azerbaijan has been bringing various civilizations together. Today we can speak of a truly tolerant society in the country where various cultures and congregations live peacefully side by side. The Baku International Humanitarian Forum has grown into another good tradition. Azerbaijan truly has a unique experience in interethnic and intercultural dialogue. I strongly believe that this spirit of tolerance featuring our country now and in the years to come is capable of providing a model for the rest of the world.

Azerbaijan is getting ever more recognized in the field of international sports as well. Our athletes were very successful during the Olympic games and high-level international tournaments. Azerbaijan efficiently hosts a number of pan-European and world-class contests in various sports. The Olympic infrastructure is created all over the country. The decision to hold the first European Olympic Games in 2015 in Baku taken by the General Assembly of the European Olympic Committees is really notable. This is a very important historic milestone indeed.

Azerbaijan`s international recognition is ever-increasing. The country has a number of serious accomplishments in foreign policy, and its image worldwide is getting more and more entrenched. Not a single foreign-policy project in the region can be implemented today with no due consideration of Azerbaijan`s interest. In the framework of international organizations, we enjoy a successful cooperation with a number of countries all over the world. Election of Azerbaijan to the UN Security Council in 2011 supported by 155 states is another indication of the country`s increasing international authority.

That being said Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict still far from being solved. Armenia`s aggression resulted in the occupation of 20 per cent of our lands. More than a million of our fellow-citizens became refugees and IDP-s as a result of ethnic cleansing policy conducted by Armenia. The UN Security Council passed four Resolutions demanding an immediate withdrawal of Armenian occupants from our territories. Besides these instruments, a number of decisions by the OCSE, resolutions by the Council of Europe, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other international bodies support the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Our clear stance on this issue is that the only way to settle the conflict shall be based on the respect of Azerbaijan`s territorial integrity.

Editorial: Mrs. Aliyeva, from your point of view, what is the secret behind the accomplishments mentioned by Mr. President?

The First Lady: No doubt, consistent political and economic reforms, a well-balanced oil strategy and reinvestment of hydrocarbon revenues augmented by clear social policy play a crucial role in the dynamic development of Azerbaijan. What is of paramount importance is the human factor. Whatever is done is done for an individual. Free, safe and secure environment for an individual is the foremost important objective of the state.

Our country`s independence is only 21 years old. Due to certain objective historic circumstances, the very independence of our nation is a long-awaited and absolute value. Our goal and desire is to live in a free, developed and self-sufficient state. No doubt, this is a very strong motivation. Meanwhile, what is no less important is to create a realistic and unbiased image of modern Azerbaijan. We do very much value our history, our roots and traditions. That being said, we are open to the world. For us the concepts like tolerance, tolerability and multiculturalism are not merely catchy words of the day. This is a centuries-old philosophy and lifestyle of the Azerbaijani people. Today our country is hosting numerous high-level international conferences, forums and meetings providing preconditions for political, economic and cultural discourse. And this is what modern trends in historic traditions are about. Along with tremendous development, an enormously open-hearted and hospitable nature of the Azerbaijanis is truly fascinating for each and every visitor. Eurovision Song Contest 2012, the international contest hosted by our country last year, is a striking example of this. The arrangement and conduct of this huge cultural event got the most positive comments indeed. In the meantime, it was an opportune chance for thousands of visitors to reveal our country, to enjoy the magnificence of Baku and to sense the outspoken cordiality and friendliness of our people.

Our generation is really lucky to live at the time of huge developments and accomplishments in Azerbaijan, and to be a part and parcel of these constructive processes. All we have to do is to love our homeland.

Editorial: Baku has grown into one of the world hubs of culture and civilization, which amazes visitors with its beauty. The city is undergoing an unprecedented construction boom. What do you think of Baku`s modern image?

The President: Each Azerbaijani today may take pride in Baku`s being one of the world`s most beautiful cities. This is what we see, and that`s what our visitors admit. It is far not by chance that Baku was declared the Islamic Cultural Capital by ISESCO in 2009. In fact, this was a very high assessment of our capital city. Today Baku is undergoing a large-scale improvement and reconstruction with sizeable infrastructural projects underway. Meanwhile I`m very glad that modernizing day by day, Baku still managed to retain its historic image. The number of visitors attending the city is ever-increasing, and the capital city provides an excellent synthesis of the European and Oriental architectural traditions. Baku has already become home to a number of highly esteemed international events. We will also continue our efforts for Baku`s further development.

The First Lady: For me Baku has always been the most beautiful city with a very specific aura second to none. The Old City, the Seaside Boulevard, Torgovaya Street, Neftchilyar Avenue, the Baku Venice, the Funicular are all signature landmark places for each Bakuvian. It is a true blessing to see your beloved city gaining the luster and magnificence it deserves, getting clean and neat, with the historic and heritage architecture thoroughly cherished and preserved. In the meantime a brand new modern image is created with improvement and reconstruction gradually moving from downtown to the outskirts. Comfortable parks in European style are replacing ramshackle constructions. Some extraordinary architectural designs are implemented, and complexes with a very specific cultural aesthetics of their own are laid out. For instance the Baku Art City design is to be completed soon to extend the Seaside Boulevard along the Caspian coast with a very specific art center featuring galleries, show-rooms, museums and exhibitions. The 20th century industrial facilities will be adaptively reused to create the whole area with a very peculiar artistic and creative atmosphere of its own.

Editorial: What kind of changes occurred in your life within the five recent years?

The First Lady: The birth of our grandchildren is what we consider the happiest and most memorable events of the last five years. Birth of a child is a blessing bestowed by the heavens. It is this miracle that changes the whole human life, so that we start perceiving the world in a totally different way.

Editorial: Your New Year wishes to our readers?

The President: Sincere compliments to the readers and staff of Baku magazine in the forthcoming year of 2013, and congratulations on the 31st of December, the World Azerbaijanis Solidarity Day, together with the wishes of the best success and prosperity to the whole personnel.

The First Lady: I wish many happy and wonderful days to everyone! Let all your hopes and dreams come true! Good health, joy and love to all!


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