POLITICS


Realities of post-war era: Azerbaijan dictates regional agenda

President Ilham Aliyev’s wise policy and diplomatic moves that have turned Azerbaijan into a key player in the region and changed the energy map of Europe

Baku, April 12, AZERTAC

The world is going through a very turbulent and complicated period. If we take a look at the picture on our planet today, we can see quite unpleasant scenes there: the pandemic, which has been lasting for more than two years now, hotbeds of conflict and war that are inflamed from time to time, the complications of climate change, economic and humanitarian crises replacing one another…

Azerbaijan’s success story over the past four years is more attractive and grandiose against the background of these and other global risk factors that we have recited.

It wouldn’t be correct to look at this success story covering the spheres of both domestic and foreign policy only from the prism of the past four years. Politics is like a wildlife – sometimes you need to wait for its fruits for many years. We will not have enough time to enumerate the historic events, the decisions and the revolutionary reforms of the last four years one by one. Therefore, we have to confine ourselves to making a summary of key milestones during this period:

2018

  • 29 May – the official opening of the Southern Gas Corridor took place.
  • 12 June – the TANAP gas pipeline was put into commissioning.
  • 26 September – the Azerspace-2 satellite was released into the orbit.

2019

  • 30 November – the part of TANAP connecting with Europe was opened.
  • 25-26 October – the 18th Summit of heads of state and government of the Non-Aligned Movement member states was held in Baku.

2020

  • 27 September – the counter-attack operations of the Azerbaijani army, which were later called the Patriotic War, started in response to the wide-scale subversions of the Armenian armed forces along the entire frontline.
  • 8 November – the crown of Karabakh, the town of Shusha, was liberated from occupation.
  • 10 November – the President of Azerbaijan, the Prime Minister of Armenia and the President of Russia signed a trilateral declaration to totally cease fire and all the military operations in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.
  • 31 December – transportation of Azerbaijani gas through the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) to Europe started.

2021

  • 20 March – President Ilham Aliyev set a bonfire to celebrate Novruz Holiday in Jidir Duzu.
  • 15 June – the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Turkey signed the Shusha Declaration on relations of alliance.
  • 12 November – President Ilham Aliyev was awarded the Supreme Order of the Turkic World.

2022

  • 4 February – President Ilham Aliyev, the President of France, the President of the Council of the European Union and the Armenian Prime Minister held a video meeting.
  • 4 April – the National Action Plan “On intensifying the fight against corruption” for 2022-2026 was approved.
  • 7 April – President Ilham Aliyev met with the President of the Council of the European Union and the Armenian Prime Minister in Brussels.

As can be seen from this brief summary, Azerbaijan is moving on a way of dynamic development with confidence and our President is making initiatives for peace in the region, is decisively defending our national interests at all levels and is taking steps to resolve the existing problems.

I would like to share my opinion and thoughts on two urgent topics on the political agenda of Azerbaijan and the world on the fourth anniversary of Ilham Aliyev’s reelection – the transformation of the peace process in the South Caucasus region to the Brussels format and the Southern Gas Corridor, which has changed the energy map of Europe.

Brussels format. EU’s great support for Azerbaijan’s post-war stand

What is the most grandiose and brilliant event of the past four years? Whoever is asked this question, the answer will definitely be the 44-day Patriotic War and liberation of Karabakh from occupation.

Indeed, there hasn’t been a similar triumph in our centuries-old history. This victory alone is enough to write the name of the Victorious Commander in Chief, Ilham Aliyev, in history in golden letters. Our people have been losing lands over hundreds of years, but we have managed to save our lost lands – our ancient homeland Karabakh from the clutch of the enemy.

A lot has been said and written about the patriotic war and one of its most impressive and grandiose moments, the triumph at Shusha. I also shared my opinion and thoughts with readers on this as appropriate.

Now we are living in a post-war period and this stage has its own targets. It is time to think about cementing the victory, which we all celebrated with great excitement and tears of joy in the autumn of 2020, on the political and diplomatic plane and bringing peace to the region. The great victory created new realities and all the players in the region and the entire world needed to accept them. If we have a look at the steps taken after the victory, we can see that our President has subtly coped with this task, which is not easier than the fight in the battlefield.

The center of weight of the settlement in the post-war era was moved to the European Union. This was because the 27-year-long activity of the OSCE Minsk Group with zero productivity had made it clear that there was no use trusting it.

I remember what President Ilham Aliyev told the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs when he was receiving them in Baku after the conflict was over: “I haven’t called you…”. It was a diplomatic gesture after which the OSCE Minsk Group couldn’t be seen on the stage and it was thrown into the archive of history.

A new player in the South Caucasus – the European Union started to be seen following Azerbaijan’s win in the battlefield. The President of the Council of the European Union, Charles Michel, made visits to Baku and Yerevan. At the end of last year, the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia were invited to Brussels and the first trilateral meeting took place with the participation of Charles Michel. Finally, another trilateral meeting was held in Brussels several days ago – on 6 April.

This meeting, which is characterized as another success of Azerbaijan’s diplomacy, is a visual confirmation that President Ilham Aliyev is a leader capable of changing the flow of events. The initiatives of peace are coming from Azerbaijan. In other words, as a victorious side, Azerbaijan is not dictating some conditions, on the contrary, it sincerely supports closing the old page of history and opening a new one. “The conflict has already been resolved. Now it is time to settle relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia” – this message of good will by President Ilham Aliyev to our neighbors and the world is, of course, waiting for its adequate response.

Thus, the main issue on the agenda is the signing of a peace treaty. The five principles in this regard presented by Azerbaijan to Armenia are considered to be acceptable by both the opposite side and the European community. On which basis can peace come to the Caucasus and which countries can benefit from the potentials of cooperation in the region? The President’s response is quite clear and unambiguous: “Mutual recognition of territorial integrity and inviolability of international borders – I believe that on the basis of this peace will come to the Caucasus. We wish it. We see the potential for active cooperation among the three countries of the South Caucasus and I think that it will be important not only for these countries, but also for the wider region”.

Analysts believe that Azerbaijan has achieved what it wanted in Brussels. Here, the personal relations based on mutual trust between the President of Azerbaijan and the President of the Council of the European Union, as well as the progressively deepening ties between the EU and Azerbaijan, played its role.

It is not accidental that the meeting in Brussels was in the spotlight of the world media. The Anadolu news agency of Turkey, the dpa news agency of Germany, the EFE news agency of Spain, the RTL news agency of Belgium, the Tasnim and Mehr news agencies of Iran, as well as leading news portals and publications from Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Egypt and other countries, gave broad coverage to the talks between the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, the President of the EU Council, Charles Michel and the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan. We are very proud to say that most of these stories were released as quoted by AZERTAC.

If we compare the position of the President of Azerbaijan in the post-war period and the statement by Charles Michel on the results of the Brussels meeting, we can see many coinciding points and highlights. Azerbaijan is a party which dictates the agenda of the region and President Ilham Aliyev’s stand based on international law is treated with respect in most international organizations, including one of the centers of power in the world, the EU. The term Nagorno-Karabakh has already been removed from the political lexicon and no one mentions its status. Azerbaijan has demonstrated a decisive position in both issues and closed them.

It was explicitly clear that the Armenian side – Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was in the background at the meeting in Brussels. Support for Armenia decreases in all terms, as Azerbaijan’s position gets stronger. It leaves Armenia nothing but agreeing to a peace treaty with Azerbaijan.

Southern Gas Corridor: immense project that changed Europe’s energy map

Transportation of Azerbaijan’s gas through the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) to Europe started on the last day of 2020, 31 December. The Southern Gas Corridor, which was realized on President Ilham Aliyev’s initiative and with close involvement of Azerbaijan, has gone down in history as one of the biggest projects of the 21st century and has significantly changed the energy map of Europe.

If we look from the prism of today and the near future, the realization of this gas corridor can be considered to be a historic event. It should be especially noted that the construction of the TAP was carried out in a difficult and complex geopolitical condition. It became possible via mobilizing several countries and leading financial institutions literally into one team with the strenuous efforts of the President of Azerbaijan.

The Southern Caucasus Corridor can also be regarded as a vivid example of political farsightedness. The international situation in 2014, when the foundation of the project was laid, was different from what it is now. Probably many didn’t know that a deep energy crisis would be waiting for Europe ahead.

Eight years have passed since then. Today, the war between Russia and Ukraine is accompanied with many global risks. The unprecedented sanctions of the West against Russia have created serious concerns in the EU countries, which are significantly dependent on Russian oil and gas. They are looking for alternative sources of gas supply and think about possible options of diversification. Look, the fantastic prices of natural gas (the price of 1000 cubic meters of gas exceeded 3000 US dollars in Europe some time ago) on the one hand and the energy shortage on the other are shaking Europe. Azerbaijan, which is rich in hydrocarbon reserves and owns strategic oil and gas pipelines, couldn’t but attract attention in such a sensitive period. As our President said, now they in Europe see the significance of the Southern Gas Corridor more clearly than we do.

Such a thesis is often circulated lately that the EU’s initiatives to create peace and stability in the South Caucasus region and support for Azerbaijan’s position and efforts in this context come from this oil and gas factor. On the other hand, Azerbaijan is not the country of 10-15 years ago to see negligence to its interests. The President of the EU Council, Charles Michel, sees and accepts these new realities emerged in the region.

Facing a severe energy crisis, the EU looks at Baku with hope, although the volume of gas exports from Azerbaijan to Europe is not so big now. Instead, there are big prospects – opportunities of transportation of gas from Central Asia over Azerbaijan. Even there are talks about the necessity of increasing the throughput capacity of the existing pipelines and the possibility of building new pipelines. In other words, our European partners see Azerbaijan’s strategic capacities and correct their policies in line with the existing realities.

This approach could be clearly seen at the meeting of the Southern Gas Corridor, which was held in Baku about two months ago. During his speech at the meeting, President Ilham Aliyev provided information on the gas reserves in Azerbaijan to the visiting ministers and high-ranking EU officials: “Shahdaniz – 1 trillion cubic meters, Babak – 400 billion cubic meters and Umid – 200 billion cubic meters”. Azerbaijan’s proven gas reserves make up a total of 2,6 trillion cubic meters, which is not a small volume (in view of the fact that it is planned to export only 19 billion cubic meters of gas this year).

Now, I would like to present an extract from the speech of EU Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson at the meeting without giving any comments: “Reliable and competitive gas with an acceptable price is making its way to South-Eastern Europe. Homes are supplied with gas, apartments are heated and citizens receive the energy they need. With increasing energy prices and harsh gas supplies, the role of this corridor has more strategic significance for Europe than ever. We believe that the Southern Gas Corridor is a continuous success story. Of course, like all success stories, it is also moving to the next stage and we need to look if the corridor can increase its throughput capacity or even expand geographically”.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, Péter Szijjártó, said by generalizing the common opinion of his European counterparts: “Looking at the opportunities of diversification of energy sources in Central Europe, we can see that the most appropriate and most feasible source is Azerbaijan’s gas”.

Azerbaijan’s attractiveness as a reliable partner grows every year amid the challenges and global economic risks of our times, which are becoming even harsher. These are the already visible results of the flexible and pragmatic policy, which President Ilham Aliyev has been pursuing for many years. The West, which once made us suffer with its dual standards, and Europe, which failed to distinguish between the occupying force and the occupied side, are finally turning their faces towards justice and the right side and are starting to see who is who.

Power of information: transition to new stage in media-society relations

I would like to share my thoughts on another urgent topic, which has always occupied an important place in President Ilham Aliyev’s political activities and is always on the agenda.

The 21st century is called the century of information. Our modern times inflamed with conflicts and wars are also characteristic of information wars. Information shows its power at every step and in every place. From this viewpoint, it is of exceptional importance to accurately define its role and place in the new order of the society by taking into account the existing realities.

As a journalist who has been working in the media for about 50 years and has witnessed the contradictions, rises and falls in the media field in different periods, this topic is naturally closer to me. The foundations of the media policy in Azerbaijan were laid by our Great Leader Heydar Aliyev during and before the period of independence. I am a personal witness of the importance that this genius personality attachess to the media and information in the example of AZERTAC. I shared my memories on this on the 100th anniversary of our agency.

Of course, eras are different and the world and its inseparable part of information and communication technologies are dizzily changing. We could better see the power of impact of information in our own experience – during the Patriotic War. The gates of Azerbaijan were opened wide to the world media at the will of President Ilham Aliyev: about 30 interviews to foreign media in 44 days! It is a phenomenal and rare event in the world history. Reputational foreign TV channels, news agencies and newspaper, which have a broad audience, were aspiring to talking to the President of Azerbaijan. Among them were biased and unfriendly media and reporters, as well. However, our President stood in front of the microphone and camera in all cases and used every opportunity to bring the real truth and justice to as many viewers and readers as possible. Thanks to his quick wit, deep knowledge and high intellect, he managed to immediately win the audience and present the truths on the conflict and Karabakh with patience and restraint. In his interviews, Ilham Aliyev was acting not just as head of state and Commander-in-Chief, but also as a historian, a strategist and an expert on conflicts and was conveying messages to the world in the language it can understand.

The result is vivid to the eye. The world started to gradually understand where and on which side the truth and justice lie. The lies and myths that Armenians had fabricated for tens of years and injected into thinking burst as a soap bubble. In any case, the international community and world countries (except some pro-Armenian organizations and countries), which didn’t approve of the war, either acquitted Azerbaijan or took a neutral stance. Azerbaijan’s powerful hand was getting stronger, exposed Armenia was gradually getting lonely. We can say without exaggeration that this advantage in the information war was one of the factors that ensured the triumph in Karabakh and played as a big role in our victory as arms and battles.

A renewed spirit has been reigning the information environment in Azerbaijan in the post-war era. Warming can be felt in the approach to and relations with the media. This is of course directed by the first person – President Ilham Aliyev. Moreover, the appreciation by First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva to the media representatives for successful warlike activities during the war can also be considered here.

We have recently seen effective and consecutive steps taken to determine the place and role of the media in our renewed society and modernize the national media. The Decree of President Ilham Aliyev dated 12 January 2021 “On deepening media reforms in the Republic of Azerbaijan” is an important document directed at these goals. Thus, the process of fundamental reforms started to modernize the Azerbaijani media in line with the principles of activities defined by the global information environment, to extensively use opportunities of innovation including wide use of advanced technologies, tracing of leading trends and other issues, and stimulate activities that serve to objectively and professionally inform the society. The way was cleared in Azerbaijan to form media in accordance with international standards. Our media started integration into the global information space more rapidly by applying new trends in the field of information.

The establishment of the Media Development Agency public legal entity and the adoption of the Law “On media” can be evaluated as a milestone in the history of the national media in this context. Thanks to the adoption of this law, we are making a transition to a period, which is characteristic of regulation of society-media and government-media relations in more civilized manners in line with the requirements of the modern times.

The worlds President Ilham said during his meeting with journalists in January this year are characteristic of expressing his position on the public control function of the media: “I can say that sometimes I learn about unpleasant cases from you. I receive this news from you and action is immediately taken… therefore, civil servants must know that not only the Presidential Administration, but also the public and the media are watching their work”.

At the same time, our President’s attention and care for our first national news agency – AZERTAC, which occupies an important place in the Azerbaijani media, can be considered attention to the national media as a whole.

Our agency moved to the new building constructed under the Decree of the President in the first days of this year. The required working conditions were created for our 225 employees in this beautiful and modern building. The most state-of-the-art technologies were put into use by our staff. Visiting the new building, President Ilham Aliyev highly appreciated the conditions created there.

Ilham Aliyev is a head of state who is open to the media and journalists. There are many examples of this in history (the brightest example, is, of course, many interviews during the Patriotic War). Recently, our President met with reporters of local TV channels and answered their questions and gave two interviews to AZERTAC.

If we add here the constantly expanding boundaries of freedom of expression and freedom of press, the satisfactory contemporary picture of our national media can be partly completed. This free and transparent media environment, which is in accordance with European standards, is the result of the political will of our President and the expression of his wish to see Azerbaijan as a mature information society.

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The wise and pragmatic policy of President Ilham Aliyev, who managed to put an end to the 30-year-long occupation in a military-political way, maximally protects his country and people from the impact of global crisis and risks and has the floor in the region and the world, always takes Azerbaijan forward. The last four years of our history are especially remarkable in this regard. Ilham Aliyev is capable of directing the flow of events into an appropriate way with his timely diplomatic moves. The road to success is actually ensured by this policy, which is calculated for the future, and it gives us ground to look into the future of our country more optimistically.

The people of Azerbaijan continues writing history under the guidance of his leader.

Aslan Aslanov

AZERTAC Chairman of the Board

OANA Vice-President

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