- Dear ladies and gentlemen!
I heartily congratulate you and all the people of Azerbaijan on the upcoming Day of the Republic. On the eve of this wonderful holiday, I wish all the Azerbaijani people happiness and continued success.
The Azerbaijani people are rightfully proud that the first democratic republic in the Muslim world was created in Azerbaijan. This republic was established by progressive representatives of Azerbaijan. It was a historic event. The establishment 96 years ago of the first democratic republic in the Muslim world was a great event. After that, the republican system was created in other Muslim countries. But the first experience was made possible thanks to the talent, hard work and foresight of the Azerbaijani people. Unfortunately, the republic was short-lived, and Azerbaijan lived as an independent country for only two years. Despite this, a lot was done over those years. The Azerbaijani people always commemorate the founders of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic with great respect. Their fond memories always live in our hearts. Democratic institutions were established in those years, a lot of work was done in the field of army building and women were granted the right to vote. In short, a solid foundation was laid for the future successful development of Azerbaijan. If independence hadn’t been taken away from us in 1920, I am absolutely sure that Azerbaijan would be one of the richest countries in the world today.
Unfortunately, we were robbed of our independence. In 1920, the republic fell, and thus an end was put to the successful development of Azerbaijan. Given our natural resources, geographical location, the talent of our people and the activities of progressive people, I can say with full confidence that if we had continued to live independently, we would be far ahead today. But what can we do? The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic did not have sufficient resources to defend its independence. It was natural, and for the next 71 years we were part of the Soviet Union. Of course, in those years our people also developed, Azerbaijan developed, and I can say that the brightest page of the Soviet period was associated with the activities of nationwide leader Heydar Aliyev. It was after the 1970s that Azerbaijan embarked on a period of rapid development. I can say that before that we were in the last place among Soviet republics. But in the late 1970s we were already in leading places. If there were two donor republics, Azerbaijan was one of them. It was in those years that our industrial capacity was created. In particular, the oil industry was developing. That potential is still a great support for us today. The upsurge of agriculture, the implementation of infrastructure projects, of course, facilitated the development of Azerbaijan. But we were not independent and free, and our destiny was not in our own hands.
The second opportunity emerged in 1991. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, we, along with other Soviet republics, gained independence. We all remember those years. Those were very difficult and dangerous years for Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, in the early years of our independence, the then leadership failed to take advantage of this historic opportunity. The country was dominated by chaos and crisis – both economic and political. This situation resulted in a military crisis, the civil war began. In other words, two years later our independence was practically called into question again. It looked at through history was going to repeat itself, as if the experience of the first democratic republic, i.e. the negative experience, could be repeated. We know that very well. The economy had completely collapsed, industrial production had ceased, the country was in a state of paralysis, and we were about to lose our independence as a result of Armenian aggression, infighting, inaction and betrayal on the part of the then leaders of the republic. In particular, our country was headed for the abyss due to the incompetent, treacherous and tragic PFPA-Musavat administration. We were losing our lands, Shusha, Lachin and Kalbajar were under occupation, the domestic situation was very difficult, and civil war had begun as a result. We remember those years too well, and while following the events occurring in the neighborhood today, I am sure that every citizen of Azerbaijan mentally goes back to those years, remembers that time and becomes further convinced that the greatest happiness of the Azerbaijani people was in the fact that at the crucial moment our people made the right choice, showed wisdom, turned to the great leader and urged him to take power. If Heydar Aliyev had not returned to the government of Azerbaijan in those years, the country could have fallen apart completely.
Therefore, 1993 was actually the first year of our real independence. It is thanks to the determination, courage, experience, outlook and thought-out policies of Heydar Aliyev that Azerbaijan managed to get out of that difficult situation and embark on a path of sustainable development. The illegal armed formations were disarmed, a major blow was dealt to separatist forces and Azerbaijan embarked on a path of development.
It was on the initiative of Heydar Aliyev that democratic institutions were established and strengthened in Azerbaijan. The Constitution of the independent Azerbaijan is also a creation of Heydar Aliyev. The Constitution was adopted in 1995. A political system was put in place. The contribution of the great leader to the formation of the political system is undeniable. It was the “New Azerbaijan Party”, established as an opposition party in 1992, that played a crucial role in the creation of a modern political system. Political reforms were launched in Azerbaijan. A period of integration into the world community began. Azerbaijan began to be recognized in the world. The war waged against us was not limited only to the Armenian aggression. Azerbaijan was also subjected to information warfare. We lived in an information blockade, and the great leader made great efforts to break this blockade, introduce Azerbaijan to the world and demonstrate the potential of Azerbaijan, and these efforts produced excellent results.
The economic reform was carried out in parallel with the political transformation. It was in those years that our national ideology was created. Today it forms the basis for our development. The foundations of our statehood were laid and, of course, the oil contracts representing exceptional importance for our country were signed. Now the development of Azerbaijan is impossible to imagine without the oil industry. But we all know, the experts will also know very well, that when the Soviet Union collapsed our oil industry was already in ruins. Oil production was at a level of about 10 million tons. This was not enough even to address our daily needs. There was darkness across the country, there was a lack of power, there were no basic infrastructure projects – this was our situation then. Therefore, the signing of the oil contracts, especially the "Contract of the Century" which will soon mark its 20th anniversary, created a watershed both in the economic and political spheres.
The 1993-2003 period will be remembered as one of stability and development. It will go down in history as a period that facilitated the existence of Azerbaijan as an independent country. Today we build our work and develop Azerbaijan within the framework of the policy defined in those years. The political course remains unchanged. There is no alternative to this course. The ongoing and deepening political and economic reforms in the country reaffirm Azerbaijan in the world as a very strong country and regional state.
I do not want to talk too much about the progress made over the last 10 years. This is known to everyone. This is history. The experience of the last 10 years is a history of rapid development. It also will remain in history. In the last 10 years there was no other country in the world that would develop in the economic sphere as fast as Azerbaijan did.
This is confirmed by all the statistical data. Our daily life is also a clear demonstration of this. Over the last 10 years we deepened the reforms, mobilized our society, strengthened the solidarity in Azerbaijani society and covered a long and successful road. The foundation of this road was laid in 1993. It was laid in the first year of our independence, real independence. Today we speak our word in the international arena. We are reckoned with and our position matters a great deal. Our position is based on justice and international law. I am sure that our principled stance earns us further respect both in the region and the world.
On each issue – both in domestic and foreign policy – we have a specific position. We do not conceal and state it openly. We openly declare our intentions and policies, and the steps we are taking represent a continuation of our policies. There is no discrepancy between what we say and do. Therefore, our word is as valuable and important as our signature. If we give a word, we fulfill it. Of course, we expect the same approach from opposite sides.
Over the past 10 years we have made historic achievements in the economic sphere, in the development of our regions and the implementation of infrastructure projects. In the international arena, Azerbaijan was elected a member of the UN Security Council – the world’s top structure. This was achieved thanks to the great support and confidence. We completed this honorable mission with dignity. Respect for us has further increased, and today we speak our word not only in regional issues but also on matters of global importance.
Over the years we have created a powerful energy potential. Today it is no secret that the energy security of a country provides for its national security. Energy security is perhaps second only to the military potential. Countries that have ensured their energy security can feel safe. We have done that – thanks to hard work and as a result of our policies. It is not a gift from heaven. We have achieved that ourselves. This has been achieved by the people of Azerbaijan. Our policy has proved effective in this area too.
Today, Azerbaijan, while contributing to the energy security of other countries, fully meets both its economic and political interests. Our financial situation can be an example for all countries. I am not saying these words out of self-glorification. I say this simply because it is a reality. We have great material resources and financial capacity. We do not depend on the support of an international financial institution. This also strengthens our independence. What are the main factors of our independence? The independent policy, the independent foreign policy, the strong army – this is our foundation, the foundation of our independence. Economic independence, energy security, transport security, the possibilities to effectively use the geographical location of the country – these are the factors that determine independence in today's world. We are proud to be independent in the true sense of the word. Independence for us is the biggest asset and the greatest achievement.
Of course, on the eve of this wonderful holiday, we express our thoughts about the work to be done. In fact, all the programs related to our future activities are open to the public. We declared them in connection with the foreign policy, in connection with the domestic policies and in connection with the economic sphere. On this wonderful date I want to express my thoughts on a number of fronts.
With regard to the domestic policy I musty say that we will continue to protect stability in Azerbaijan. The main precondition for stability is the unity between the people and the government. And it is available. Azerbaijan is one of a handful of countries in which there is no discord in society over the key issues.
Of course, there may be different opinions in relation to the speed of reforms, the expeditious elimination of drawbacks, the ways of doing that, reforms in the economic sphere, domestic and foreign policies. This is natural. But there are no differences related to the overall development of our country, including our domestic policies. Therefore, the protection of stability is a natural process in Azerbaijan. It is the people of Azerbaijan who are the guarantors of stability. The Azerbaijani state and government implement reforms, create better conditions and reinforce this stability. When stability is disrupted in various places around the world, an analysis is carried out. Why did it happen? What are the contributors to that? We can see that a lack of trust, serious mistakes in governance, economic and social problems – these are the factors that can affect stability anywhere.
We approach all issues thoughtfully. Our main goal is to turn Azerbaijan into an even more powerful state and improve the well-being of the Azerbaijani people. We will continue to pursue a principled course associated with domestic policies and the deepening of reforms. We will continue the reforms aimed at promoting democracy, human rights and formation of a free society. We will continue these reforms not to please anyone but for our own future.
Today, Azerbaijan is a modern state with very strong foundations. These foundations are our national values, Azerbaijani values. And this is very important. This factor is always the focus of attention in domestic policies. We will continue to take all the measures necessary for the development of our country. We will further strengthen this solid foundation.
I am glad that the younger generation is also growing up in the national spirit. It is brought up in the spirit of patriotism. There are all the possibilities for education in a patriotic spirit. Every patriotic person today can feel proud to be a citizen of such a modern and strong state as Azerbaijan, a country that never leaves its citizens in a difficult situation, a country that always stands by its citizens, a country that does everything possible to improve the well-being of its citizens. The establishment of a modern state on the basis of national values is our distinctive feature.
The reforms related to domestic policies will be continued. The fight against problems disturbing society and the negative phenomena creating discontent will be waged even harder. In particular, the fight against corruption and bribery should be waged even more rigorously. Of course, there have been great achievements and successes in this area in recent years. It makes us happy and inspires us even more. It also inspires our society. There is a lot of support and faith in this work in our society. We will go down this path because there should not be any negative phenomena in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani society should be exemplary. It should be a free and independent society with a strong foothold. We are going and will continue to go down this path.
Our initiatives related to foreign policy are producing excellent results. In foreign policy, we give preference to a bilateral format. In foreign policy, we give preference to bilateral format. I think this is the most appropriate format. Of course, there are other formats too. They are also used. But the bilateral format is a format that gives the greatest effect. We have good relations with all countries. We are committed to and will strive to develop bilateral relations with countries of the region and beyond. There are broad opportunities to do that, including our growing economic capacity and the new investment policy. We already invest in foreign countries. Thus, Azerbaijan is attractive to foreign partners not only as a political center but also as a source of investment.
Of course, we should first of all further strengthen our relations with neighboring countries. Here our opinions coincide with those of all the neighboring countries, except for Armenia, of course. The relations with all our neighbors are based on the principles of equality, mutual respect and noninterference in each other's affairs. In the future, cooperation with neighboring countries will remain our foreign policy priority. There are extensive opportunities both in the economic sphere and in the area of regional cooperation. We should receive the maximum benefit from the bilateral format. At the same time, Azerbaijan has initiated the establishment of several trilateral formats. Baku hosted the first trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Turkmenistan yesterday. We attach great importance to this. In the previous period there were trilateral formats of Azerbaijan-Turkey-Georgia and Azerbaijan-Turkey-Iran. These formats are already in place and Azerbaijan holds a place in all three formats. Thus, these formats mean a lot for regional security, cooperation and for our political and economic interests. In the future, we will certainly continue these trilateral meetings. They have already become regular.
We take part and will continue to actively participate in international organizations. I want to emphasize the UN. I note that the United Nations is the world’s top organization, it covers the whole world. Our positions in the United Nations are quite strong, which is confirmed by our election to the Security Council with the support of 155 countries. We will continue to pursue these activities. We are actively involved in international organizations. For the number of members the Non-Aligned Movement is second only to the United Nations. There too, our positions are quite strong. Immediately after our entry into the organization it adopted a resolution supporting Azerbaijan's position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We play a very active role in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Baku has hosted numerous events and activities at the ministerial level. Of course, our activities in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will be successfully continued because we are part of the Muslim world. At the heart of our national values are Muslim values. At the same time, there are good opportunities and prospects for cooperation with the Council of Europe. We already chair the Council of Europe. Of course, this presidency is rotational, so I don’t think we should feel particularly proud about it, so to speak. It is just our turn. But in any case we will use these opportunities effectively. The development of democracy in Europe, the stepped up fight against corruption and our struggle against Islamophobia will become even more effective.
Of course, membership in various international organizations serves our political interests. We will continue our successful work in all these organizations and will always express a principled position.
Of course, the main issue of our foreign policy is the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Unfortunately, despite the existence of the Minsk Group for more than 20 years, there is no progress in this area because the Armenian side doesn’t want it. It is no secret that the issue remains unresolved due to Armenia's unconstructive position. Armenia is trying to preserve the status quo. Despite the fact that the presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries have repeatedly talked about the unacceptability of the status quo, Armenia ignores it. Therefore, the issue remains unresolved. But I believe that all the diplomatic and legal grounds for the settlement of the conflict have already been laid. And these grounds have been laid by us. The conflict can be resolved only on the basis of norms and principles of international law. And international law supports and defends our position. The territorial integrity of countries is not the subject of disputes. Therefore, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is not a subject of negotiation either. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan has never been and never will be the subject of negotiations. The conflict must be resolved on the basis of four UN Security Council resolutions. There are no other options. We will not tolerate a second self-styled Armenian state on our territory. The first Armenian state was also established on our territory, on ancient Azerbaijani lands of Erivan, Goycha and Zangazur. There will never be a second Armenian state. The self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh regime will never be given a legal status. Therefore, there is legal and diplomatic framework for resolving the issue. Is this framework sufficient for resolving the issue? No! If it were sufficient, the issue would be resolved. What else needs to be done to resolve the issue? We know that very well, too. The economy should become even stronger. We should continue to keep Armenia in isolation as far as possible. It is not completely isolated now and its doors are open to other countries. But we have isolated Armenia from all regional projects, which has resulted in a mass exodus from Armenia. According to their own statistics, 80,000-90,000 people leave the country for good every year. As long as Armenia has a criminal, corrupt and dictatorial regime, Armenia's position will continue to deteriorate. Therefore, if the Armenian people want to live in peace with their neighbors, they should first reject the criminal, blood-thirsty and illegal regime and consign it to the archives of history. Armenia must withdraw from the occupied lands to be able to breathe. Otherwise, the future of this country will be very bleak.
We will continue our efforts. We will never come to terms with the current situation. The army will be provided with even more support. Even more funds will be allocated. The developments taking place in the region and the world today show once again that the attention paid to army construction is the foundation of our independence.
In the coming years we will allocate as much money as necessary for the strengthening of our military capabilities. We are purchasing and will continue to purchase the most modern equipment. From the standpoint of technical equipment, the Azerbaijani army is one of most powerful armies in the world. The reforms taking place in army building increase our combat capability. The army discipline has strengthened, structural reforms are and will be carried out, and further work will be done on the frontline.
We repeatedly hear about confidence building measures from co-chair countries. But the best confidence building measure is the withdrawal of Armenian occupying forces from Azerbaijani lands. There can’t be an alternative confidence building measure. As long as our lands are under occupation, the war cannot be considered to be finished. I have repeatedly said that the war continues. Only the first stage of the war has finished. If Armenia does not want a second stage of the war to start, it should make the right conclusion and voluntarily withdraw from the occupied lands. Maybe then the independent Armenian state may stay on the map. Today the Armenian state cannot be called independent. In other words, we will not give up our position of principle on resolving the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and will use all the opportunities available to expose Armenia as an occupier and criminal country.
The programs related to our economic policy have been published. The development concept "Azerbaijan 2020: outlook for the future" has been published. I would not like to talk too much about it. I just want to say that up to 2020, if not earlier, all of the major infrastructure projects must be completed. The programs are available, there is money in the budget, and we will do it.
The development of the non-oil sector attracts growing attention. All our instructions in this direction are also being fulfilled. There is annual growth of almost 10 per cent in our non-oil sector. If it continues in the coming years – and I have no doubt that it will – then the diversification of our economy will be fully provided.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about energy security. Azerbaijan has long resolved its energy security issues and is now contributing to the energy security of other countries. Today, the main project before us is TANAP. This project was also initiated by us. In 2012, an agreement was signed between Azerbaijan and Turkey. It was a turning point in the creation of the Southern Gas Corridor. Prior to that, there were only talks for almost seven to eight years. There were no sufficient international efforts to establish the Southern Gas Corridor. We analyzed the situation and saw that if this continued, the talks would last for another 10 years and without much avail. Therefore, we assumed the responsibility and initiative and took a very prudent move. TANAP is a project that changes the energy map of the region. Azerbaijan is the main investor, the main initiator and the main contractor of the project. I am confident that this global project will be implemented in a timely manner – by 2018. To do this, we have all the opportunities – both financial and technical. We have qualified professionals. Our policy on this project should be continued.
Azerbaijan should and will go down this path. Our path is the path of freedom, development and independence. In the years of independence, we have proven that we can live as an independent country, we can live well and we can develop. We must and we will continue to protect our greatest asset – our independence.