The Huffington Post publishes article by Azerbaijani ambassador

Washington, October 19, AZERTAC

The US-based The Huffington Post newspaper has published the Azerbaijani ambassador Elin Suleymanov's article headlined "Azerbaijan: a Quarter of a Century of Independence".

In the article, the ambassador hails Azerbaijan`s accomplishments made over the past 25 years. “Over the two and a half decades since restoring its independence from the Soviet Union, the Republic of Azerbaijan has emerged as a significant regional player aptly described by some as the "keystone" of the Caucasus-Caspian region. However, on October 18, 1991, when Azerbaijan declared its independence, the nation's future looked far from certain and getting to where it stands today was not an easy path for the Azerbaijani people. At the time, the emerging nation was already locked in a bitter and violent conflict with Armenia, while the Soviet troops had been enforcing a strict and repressive military curfew over the civilian population since 1988. In a sense, Azerbaijan's starting position as it restored national independence was less advantageous than that of other former republics.”

The ambassador says: “Still, as much as the last 25 years in Eurasia have been shaped by the challenges common to all post-Soviet states, they have been equally influenced by specific, decisions (or lack of thereof) made by respective leaders in every capital. A combination of Azerbaijan's unique history, including the establishment of the first republic with a predominantly Muslim population in the world in 1918 and granting equal voting right to minorities and women ahead of the United States, with the vision of the late president Heydar Aliyev offers', perhaps, the best explanation for the nation's successful progress. Key pillars of the development strategy have remained broadly constant for the last quarter of a century. They include a profound understanding that the development of the region benefits Azerbaijan, hence Azerbaijan can succeed if the region as a whole is succeeding. In this context, the Caspian energy resources, which produced the first oil boom of the 20th century, provide a strong basis for Azerbaijan's economic growth as well as for regional cooperation and integration into the international community. Further, the leadership strongly reinforced Azerbaijan's commitment to building an inclusive, tolerant and a secular modern nation and also has engaged in its trademark pragmatic foreign policy.”

“Already in 1990s, this resulted in building a strategic relationship with the United States, integrated partnership ties with Georgia and Turkey, as well as successful implementation of major energy projects with international partners and construction of key oil and natural gas pipelines. Importantly, Azerbaijan's regional initiatives received a strong and valuable support from both Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Today, Azerbaijan is leading Europe's most ambitious energy project – the Southern Gas Corridor, designed to deliver gas from Azerbaijan's Caspian mega field Shah Deniz to Italy, Greece and Albania across 6 nations. Simply put, this is not because Azerbaijan owns energy resources but rather because of the choices how to use them.”

Mr Suleymanov says: “Azerbaijan's history with energy is longer than, possibly, any other place in the world – first oil well was drilled here in 1846 launching the rise of Baku with its amazing architecture as the regional center and attracting Rockefellers and Nobels, who made enough money in Baku to fund the Nobel Prize. Later, it was Azerbaijani oil that fueled Soviet tanks as they battled Nazi forces and, most recently, Caspian oil gave the much-needed impetus for opening and changing once all but forgotten region. Perhaps, because of their long history with energy, the Azerbaijanis know better than others than it is a finite resource and cannot last forever. Therefore, over the last decade, much of Azerbaijan's oil revenue has been invested in infrastructure and development projects. As a result, Azerbaijan stands as a crucial juncture along the Modern Silk Road project linking Asia with Europe and Baku has emerged in the last several years as one of the region's most popular tourist destinations. Of course, with oil prices as low as they currently are and new approaches to energy globally, much more needs to be done to fully adapt to new realities.”

“For centuries, history and destiny of the Caucasus, has been determined by its complicated geography. As an independent nation, Azerbaijan has embraced its strategic and intricate neighborhood and has worked hard to turn geography into an advantage. As President Ilham Aliyev stated during the recent visit by Pope Francis to Baku, "Azerbaijan serves as a bridge between East and West. This is both a geographic and a spiritual bridge." Indeed, nothing makes people of Azerbaijan more proud than their society's long tradition of diversity and rejecting both extremism and stereotypes. Azerbaijan is where the simplistic and defeatist notion of the "clash of civilizations" is rejected, and where cultures, religions and confessions come together for a dialogue and building a common home. Proud of its Muslim heritage, with its thriving Jewish and Christian communities, famous medieval women poets and women in key leadership positions today, exemplified by the First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva, Azerbaijan sets an illustration of how to reject radical and extremist views and to aspire to treat all citizens equally. The strong relationship with Israel reflects the same approach in foreign policy. Another example is that Azerbaijan hosted Pope John Paul in 2002 and Pope Francis in 2016, both times facilitating a fruitful dialogue with Orthodox Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities. In our world too often dominated by the news of division and violence, the importance of such ongoing dialogue is hard to overlook.”

“A quarter of a century may seem as an instant in human history, yet, for a million Azerbaijanis displaced from their homes as a result of Armenia's occupation of the internationally-recognized Azerbaijani territories, the two decades of exile feel like a century. The protracted and unresolved Armenia- Azerbaijan conflict remains the main challenge to the future of both Armenia and Azerbaijan and a long-hanging Damocles sword over the entire region. For some 25 years, Azerbaijan, despite its rapidly growing capabilities and the body of international law, including four UN Security Council resolutions, firmly on its side, has chosen to engage in peace talks with Armenia. A lasting, international law-based settlement would allow the Caucasus prosper even more, enable Azerbaijan to address its major humanitarian issue of generations of displaced citizens and help Armenia to finally become a truly independent nation.

As the Republic of Azerbaijan turns 25, the world remains uncertain and turbulent – after all, neither the battlefields of the Middle East, nor of Ukraine are far from the Caucasus. Nevertheless, proud of their history and staunchly independent, the people of Azerbaijan look to their future with confidence and eagerness to realize a unique historic opportunity to build an independent nation,” he concludes.

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