03 june 2016, 10:45
Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the opening of fourth Congress of World Azerbaijanis
- Dear ladies and gentlemen, fellow compatriots!
My warm greetings to all of you! It is a very significant day in the life of our country today. Visiting Azerbaijan, the homeland, are representatives and heads of major Diaspora organizations representing the Azerbaijanis in the world. Today I want to congratulate the Azerbaijanis of the world on the opening of the Fourth Congress. I am confident that the Congress will be a very important event for joining the Azerbaijanis of the world and expanding their activity.
As you know, the first congress was held at the initiative of the great leader, the founder of independent Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev, in 2001. From that time to the present day, a lot has been in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has become stronger and our capacities have increased.
Of course, we are always interested in the life, fate and affairs of the Azerbaijanis living abroad. We try to support them. We want them to live peacefully in their respective countries, to occupy good positions, to have good opportunities and, at the same time, to serve their homeland.
Year 2001 was a very important year in the formation of Azerbaijani Diaspora organizations because after the first Congress, in 2002, by an Order of Heydar Aliyev, the State Committee for Work with the Azerbaijanis Living Abroad was established. At present, it is called the State Committee for Work with the Diaspora. Even more widespread has been the process of formation of Diaspora organizations. Whereas there were only a little more than 200 Diaspora organizations in the world at the time, today their number is 462. Azerbaijani Diaspora organizations come a long way both in qualitative and in quantitative terms. And today, the Azerbaijanis and the organizations they represent play an important role on a global scale.
As you know, within the framework of the Soviet Union at the time, great leader Heydar Aliyev always paid attention to the Azerbaijanis living in other republics. It was on his initiative that, as a matter of exception, the Azerbaijani youth of the Soviet Union was educated at universities in Russia and other Soviet republics without examination. Every year, more than 800 young people from Azerbaijan studied at leading educational institutions. Subsequently, in the years of independence, this issue was always in the focus of the great leader's attention. It was on his initiative that the Day of Solidarity and Unity of World Azerbaijanis, 31 December, was established in 1991. Today, this holiday is celebrated by Azerbaijanis all over the world.
Thus, the work with Diaspora organizations built in Azerbaijan and the relations established over the course of 15 years have led to a completely new situation. Today, we can organize any event in different parts of the world, thoroughly acquaint the world community with the Azerbaijani realities, and we are doing that. Of course, I am sure that the ideas expressed at the Congress and the discussions held will further enhance our capabilities.
The activities of Diaspora organizations are constantly in the spotlight. Today I want to share some thoughts on the future activities of Diaspora organizations. First and foremost, of course, we want the Azerbaijanis living in the world never to interrupt relations with their historical homeland, always to be in touch with it and to be attached to Azerbaijan. Thus they will feel even more comfortable. In this case, the state of Azerbaijan will be able to provide them with even greater support.
Currently, there are millions of Azerbaijanis living abroad. Of course, they are citizens of the countries in which they live. I want them to achieve even higher positions in their countries of residence and to play a more active role in their social, political and economic life.
The growing young generation should also be connected with Azerbaijan. First of all, it must speak the Azerbaijani language. I am glad that there are more than 160 Sunday schools operating in different countries. We probably need to increase the number of these schools, and the state of Azerbaijan will continue its efforts in this direction.
As I have already noted, there are 462 Diaspora organizations abroad. This in itself shows that every country with an Azerbaijani population has several Diaspora organizations. Of course, it is necessary to carry out coordination work among these organizations. There must be unity and solidarity among them. In some cases, our Diaspora organizations compete with each other. If it is a healthy competition, I can only welcome this. This competition should serve our common cause. Both in the country and abroad, we must demonstrate unity. Our strength lies in unity. Today, civil society in Azerbaijan demonstrates unity. We work for the sake of a common goal. There is no disagreement in our society regarding the country's future and strategic direction. There is a consensus is society on issues of state independence, economic independence, solution of social problems, restoration of our territorial integrity and other issues.
Of course, I would like the Diaspora organizations operating abroad to be united and consolidated. In this case, they will become even stronger and respect for them in society will further increase. If the public of foreign countries sees that Azerbaijani Diaspora organizations do not get along with each other and actually work against each other, this, of course, is not good. There are such cases, but they are few. But I would like to touch upon this topic today and note that unity is the main issue, especially when we consider that all the Azerbaijanis, the vast majority of them, are patriots attached to the motherland. They want the state of Azerbaijan to become even stronger and turn into an even more powerful state.
Of course, the contacts of Azerbaijani Diaspora organizations with the government agencies should be permanent and strong. The State Committee for Work with the Diaspora performs coordination functions. At the same time, our embassies operating in foreign countries must also be very active in this matter. I have repeatedly encouraged them and asked to keep in touch with the Diaspora organizations. Once in two years, I hold meetings with the ambassadors working abroad, and in every speech I specifically touch upon what they should do to assist Diaspora organizations. Diaspora organizations and embassies should have strong links, and these links should be strengthened because, I want to repeat, we serve the same goal and all of us want Azerbaijan to become even stronger. We all want the Azerbaijanis abroad to live safely, hold high positions in their respective countries and represent Azerbaijan with dignity.
I want to note once again that there should be representatives of the Azerbaijani Diaspora in state, government and legislative bodies. I believe that there is still a lot to do in this area. Unfortunately, the Azerbaijanis are not represented at the appropriate level in different public and legislative bodies. Such a representation does not correspond to their number. Therefore, it is necessary to work in this direction. Of course, the Azerbaijani state can’t and should not intervene in this matter. This should be dealt with only by Diaspora organizations themselves. How? Again, through unity! For example, if in there is coordination, mutual support and mutual understanding among all Diaspora organizations in a given country, it will be easier to achieve this goal.
In various countries, the Azerbaijanis have great opportunities for doing business. I welcome this. This is a very positive phenomenon. It expands the economic opportunities for our people. At the same time, the business people living abroad help their relatives in Azerbaijan. It is also very important for the people living here. Of course, I would love the Azerbaijani businessmen living abroad to invest in Azerbaijan.
Today, the investment climate in Azerbaijan is very positive. This is acknowledged by all influential international financial institutions. Over the past 20 years, from 1995 to the present, more than $200 billion has been invested in the country's economy. Approximately half of these funds is foreign investment.
There is a good investment climate in Azerbaijan. The business environment is improving by the day. In particular, as a result of the orders and decrees I have signed since the beginning of the year, there has been a serious turnaround in this area. All bureaucratic obstacles are being removed. Full transparency is being ensured. We see the results of all this in everyday life. We see this in the reports and statements of influential international financial institutions. Therefore, Azerbaijan is one of the most attractive countries for investment in the world.
Today, investment problems are also associated with the markets, because the situation in the world, in our region, in the Middle East and in Europe is exacerbating. There are new pockets of confrontation, conflict and instability. Where there is no stability, there will be no investment. In Azerbaijan, there is stability. The guarantor of this stability is the people of Azerbaijan. This creates a perfect environment for business. So I want to say again and address the Azerbaijani businessmen with extensive financial opportunities in particular: invest in Azerbaijan, in various spheres, especially in the real sector of the economy, agriculture, industry, tourism, high technologies. All these sectors are developing fast, and the investments are not lost. We see this in economic indicators. Investments are adequately protected by the Azerbaijani state, including the new laws.
I would like to touch upon another issue. Azerbaijanis have always acted in the world as people attached to the motherland. This is the case today. Of course, we want all the Azerbaijanis living abroad to visit Azerbaijan at least once a year. First, for communication with the homeland not be interrupted. Second, because there are excellent conditions in different parts of Azerbaijan. In Baku and our regions, there are beautiful and modern hotels for rest. There are recreation areas. I believe that Azerbaijan demonstrates its capabilities on a global scale. Of course, this will also benefit the country's economy, as we are now rapidly developing the tourism sector. For an even more dynamic development of this sector, we have carried out serious reforms related to visas, and we see that the number of tourists coming to Azerbaijan is on the increase. Of course, we want to see the Azerbaijanis among them. If every Azerbaijani family living abroad comes to Azerbaijan at least once a year, I believe that it will be very good.
We have no problems in relations with foreign countries. Today we have 92 diplomatic representations and 60 embassies. As I have already noted, these embassies and representative offices must constantly keep in touch with Diaspora organizations. In general, Azerbaijan is known worldwide as a very reliable partner and a worthy country. We have no problems with any other country except for Armenia.
The Azerbaijani realities are brought to the wider world community. I believe that one of our weaknesses, as I have already noted, is the low level of representation in governments and legislative bodies of foreign countries. Secondly, work with foreign media organizations is not very well organized. The main role here, of course, should be played by Diaspora organizations, as the Azerbaijani government can’t interfere in these matters. We do not interfere in the internal affairs of any foreign country. This is unacceptable. However, I believe that Azerbaijani Diaspora organizations have not built work in this direction at the proper level. We have very limited access to foreign media.
It is clear that Armenian Diaspora organizations were formed over decades. They penetrated into various leading media organizations of the world and are represented there. The Armenians are behind the overwhelming majority of materials tarnishing Azerbaijan, distorting the realities of Azerbaijan and slandering on us.
We need to further improve work in this direction. First of all, we should work with the media. We must try to train Azerbaijani journalists who will be presented in various media organs. They will defend our homeland. They will communicate the truth, because the 21st century is a century of information. Today, information warfare already exists as an instrument and as a weapon. There were bloody clashes taking place in various parts of the world today. We can’t, while sitting here in Baku or any other city, know what is going on, who is right and who is wrong, who is attacking who and who is defending. We can learn about it only through the media. If there is a planned dirty campaign against any country, public opinion will inevitably move in the same direction.
So this is our weak spot. This is a priority which, I believe, should be seriously discussed during the congress. We must discuss the necessary measures to communicate the truth about Azerbaijan to various countries. There should be a program. If the state of Azerbaijan can provide its support in this matter in one way or another, we are ready. The main thing is that we should do it systematically. This should probably be the first issue in all countries where there are Azerbaijani Diaspora organizations.
Of course, the world community should be provided with a wide range of information about Azerbaijani realities. We, as a country, are trying to do that. Much depends on Diaspora organizations too. This is particularly obvious when it comes to the information provision of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Armenian Diaspora, taking advantage of our weakness in the first years of independence, has been conducting a very dirty campaign against us in the world for many years. Part of this campaign is to blacken Azerbaijan and to portray it as an anti-democratic state, describe Armenia as a poor country in a "blockade", and circulate false and fictitious information about the history of Nagorno-Karabakh. And they have succeeded in doing that to some extent.
Otherwise, the US Congress would not have adopted the notorious Section 907 in 1992. Just imagine: Armenia occupies Azerbaijani lands, commits the Khojaly genocide, expels people, carries out ethnic cleansing, and the US Congress passes an amendment to the "Freedom Support Act" according to which Azerbaijan is deprived of direct US aid. Why? Because Azerbaijan keeps Armenia in blockade! Perhaps not a single parliament has ever adopted a more absurd and hypocritical resolution.
Why did that happen? Because corrupt and bent congressmen from the Armenian lobby, some of them still continue this dirty mission, invented such a lie! Azerbaijan was just silent. At that time, we did not have the Diaspora, and those who governed Azerbaijan did not have any idea about how to govern. Therefore, they brought the country to the brink of an abyss and began a civil war. Now this amendment is still valid. In order to have it repeated, we need to make great efforts. At the initial stage, we did make great efforts. Then we decided that it was not necessary. The amendment is completely irrelevant. We do not depend on anyone’s help and stand firmly on our feet. We can help others ourselves.
But I want to say that it was an Armenian provocation. Today, they are carrying out the same dirty campaign against Azerbaijan in different countries. We must communicate the truth, the truth that, firstly, Nagorno-Karabakh is historical and native Azerbaijani land. The Azerbaijani people have lived on these lands for centuries. Armenians were resettled o Karabakh from Eastern Anatolia and Iran in the early 19th century. Why were they resettled? We all know that. In 1978, even a monument was erected in Nagorno-Karabakh to mark the 150th anniversary of the resettlement of Armenians to Nagorno-Karabakh. During the war, the Armenians themselves destroyed this monument in order to erase this from history.
That is a reality. This is our historical land. All place names, the names of all towns and villages have Azerbaijani origin. Not only in Nagorno-Karabakh but also in Armenia proper! The Erivan khanate, Zangezur, Goycha – all these are our historical lands. Look at the maps printed in Tsarist Russia in the early 20th century: 80 per cent of all place names are of Azerbaijani origin. Subsequently, the Armenians began to gradually change them, their destroyed our historical monuments and mosques in order to erase this from history. This is the first issue.
The second issue is that we have been subjected to aggression, and it happened right in front of the world. Twenty per cent of our lands, Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts, are under occupation. A policy of ethnic cleansing has been carried out against us. We have more than one million refugees and displaced persons. The Khojaly genocide has been committed against the Azerbaijanis. The UN Security Council has adopted four resolutions demanding a withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from our occupied lands. They are not being fulfilled. So this is a historical and legal side of the matter. Of course, no-one can deny that. Even pro-Armenian forces can’t deny it, although they are trying to do it.
So these realities should be communicated to the world. There are enough materials, maps, books and historical documents on the subject in Azerbaijan. Our scientists are doing a great job. A large treatise called "The Erivan Khanate" has been created. Many people in the world do not know that it is our historical land. We are proving this on the basis of documents and translating this into other languages.
Therefore, this should be the key direction for Diaspora organizations. Diaspora organizations should open Internet sites in the countries of their residence. We do not see it happening now. These web sites should be interesting to the public of these countries. At the same time, they should show the realities of Azerbaijan. This process should be carried out continuously. There should be newspapers in Azerbaijani and foreign languages, so that the Azerbaijanis, their children, could read in their native language and so that the public of these countries could learn about Azerbaijan.
Again, we live in the age of information, and its value will gradually increase. We must be prepared for that. You know that the Armenian Diaspora does it at its own expense. Armenia is a poor country which can’t find the money to fill the budget, not to mention the provision of any assistance abroad. Azerbaijan is a state that resolves and can resolve many problems, can and does provide support to others. This work should be carried out in a focused and effective manner. This will help us circulate accurate information about Azerbaijani realities.
The most recent example was associated with the April fighting. No matter how hard Armenia tried to circulate false information about these battles, it failed to do so. However, some very few corrupt journalists with close business ties with the Armenian Diaspora – we all know them and it would be inappropriate to name them in this audience – tried to blame Azerbaijan and portray the April fighting as a great victory of Armenia.
But it failed. Why? Because, first of all, we already have extensive opportunities! Secondly, we also have a say. Everyone knows what happened. Everyone knows the result of the April fighting.
It is amazing that the leadership of Armenia is trying to deceive its own people and the world community in this situation. This is impossible today. As a result, it has put itself in a ridiculous situation. They first said that no land had been lost. Then they argued that, on the contrary, they seized Azerbaijani territories. Then they said they had won. Then they said they had lost land. Then they declared that these lands were of no value. Then they claimed that these lands were significant and Azerbaijan should return them. If these lands have no value, why should Azerbaijan return them?! In other words, they are at a loss and have completely exposed themselves by such ridiculous expressions.
As the latest example, we can refer to the words of the Armenian president at a recent summit of the Eurasian Economic Union. He suggested that Azerbaijan committed these acts in April, the "Nagorno-Karabakh army" took the situation under control and Azerbaijan had to ask Russia for the fighting to be stopped. This man lied four times in just one sentence. First, the April battles were provoked by Armenia. Why? I have already talked about this and want to note once again briefly: because Armenia does not want peace. Seeing that pressure on them to resolve the issue peacefully is mounting and statements are made about the need to change the status quo, which would mean a withdrawal of occupying from our lands, they resort to provocations.
Prior t o the April fighting, they also attacked our positions. Not on the line of contact, but in another direction. Two of our soldiers were even killed in Gazakh District. They constantly fire at our villages and attack our positions. In 2014, by staging yet another provocation, they attacked our positions with the use of a helicopter gunship. Our army downed it. Armenia used this as a pretext, and negotiations remained frozen for a year. Seeing that the pressure on them mounts, they always resort to provocations. The April fighting was also one of such provocations. The Azerbaijani army gave them a fitting rebuff and the enemy was shown where it belonged. So this is the first lie.
The second lie is that "the army of Nagorno-Karabakh" took the situation under control. First, what kind of control is it if, by their own admission, they lost 800 hectares of land? This is a very strange control. First of all, I should note that the Azerbaijani army freed not 800, but more than 2,000 hectares of land from the occupiers. In Agdara, the administrative territory of the former Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region, Fizuli and Jabrayil districts, an area of more than 2,000 hectares was freed from the invaders. Currently, the Azerbaijani army controls a much larger area. The Armenian army can’t even move in this area.
The third lie is that there is no "Nagorno-Karabakh army". It is a myth intended to mislead the international community. The people serving in the Armenian armed forces in Nagorno-Karabakh are citizens of Armenia. 80 per cent of them are citizens of Armenia born in Armenia. The "Nagorno-Karabakh army" is a myth. This is a third lie.
And the fourth lie is that Azerbaijan allegedly asked Russia for the fighting to be stopped. This is a lie. Azerbaijan did not make such a request. After this provocation, Azerbaijan launched a counter-offensive and immediately took possession of the necessary positions. For two to three days after that, the Armenian army tried to regain these positions. Seeing that they could not achieve this, that their losses were high and that if they did not stop they would lose even more land, they turned to Russia. The Chief of the General Staff of Russia called the Chief of our General Staff, saying that Armenia requests that the ceasefire be restored, and invited our Chief of Staff to Moscow for talks. After that, the Russian President called me with the same suggestion of a ceasefire, and we decided on a ceasefire on 5 April.
This is a reality. I do not know of any other president who would lie four times in just one sentence. This clearly deserves to be included in the "Guinness Book of Records", but as an anti-record. At least this is an area in which Armenia can get the world leadership.
The April fighting demonstrated the power of Azerbaijan and the strength of our army once again. Let me ask, on behalf of the Azerbaijanis all over the world, to salute our brave soldiers.
Glory to the Azerbaijani Army! Long live Azerbaijan!
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