Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the nationwide festivities on the occasion of Novruz holiday
18 march 2017, 10:45
Dear friends, I would like to heartily congratulate you and all the Azerbaijani people on the upcoming Novruz holiday, and wish all the people of Azerbaijan prosperity and continued successes. Novruz is our favorite holiday. Our people have been marking it for centuries.
The Azerbaijani state is built on solid national and spiritual foundations. We cherish and preserve our culture, art, native language and holidays. The 25 years of independence show that only states built on national roots can succeed and have a future. Azerbaijani values, our national and spiritual values are above everything for us. I am glad that the younger generation is being educated in this spirit, in the spirit of patriotism, the national spirit, and every citizen of Azerbaijan who loves his homeland is justly proud of it today.
The successes achieved in Azerbaijan strengthen our country, allow us the opportunity to look to the future with optimism and are recognized on a global scale. Our domestic situation is stable. The guarantor of this stability is the Azerbaijani people, the unity of the people and government. Our policies are supported by the people, and this is the main factor of stability.
Everything is relative. The negative developments unfolding in our region and the world today, the bloody clashes and wars are of great concern to us, of course, because we do not live in isolation. If the situation in our region deteriorates and the risks increase, then, of course, this can adversely affect us. Therefore, our main task is to protect the country and people from existing and future risks, and we are achieving that. The stability, calm and civil accord existing in our country today are great assets, of course, and we are cherishing them. I want to note once again that this can only be preserved by the unity of the people and government.
Security is guaranteed in Azerbaijan. Our people live in peace and security. There are all the possibilities to build and create. The situation in our region and on the Eurasian continent has unfortunately worsened. Of course, we should further strengthen the security existing in our country. It is possible to say that there are no internal risks and threats in Azerbaijan. And we are protecting ourselves against external risks. We protect ourselves from both physical and possible ideological risks.
For the past 25 years, the Azerbaijani people could clearly see that our policies are most correct. We are the masters of our destiny. We define our own policies. We can withstand any outside influence, and recent history proved this. At the same time, this history shows that if we had acted at the dictation of outside forces, we could have faced great problems.
I have repeatedly said this and I want to repeat it today: our independent policies are a source of pride. This shows that the Azerbaijani people can determine their future themselves. At the same time, our independent policy protects us from existing risks. Just five to six years ago the situation in the neighboring regions was completely different. No-one could have ever imagined that there would be hotbeds of conflict and wars in these regions, that hundreds of thousands of people would be killed and that millions would become refugees and migrants. But all this is already a reality. Why did this happen? Of course, because of foreign interference! We know this. I have always expressed my position on all these issues. At the same time, these countries were not ready for independence. There was no unity between the people and the government in these countries. There was universal discontent in these countries. This is why there were such bitter events there. All this is happening before our eyes and demonstrates to our people and the whole world once again that Azerbaijan is indeed a country that pursues its own policy on a global scale and has therefore become an example for many countries.
Our international positions are also strengthening. If you look at the geography of my foreign visits from mid-January to the present, we can see that Azerbaijan pursues a multifaceted and successful policy. Over the past two months I have paid seven foreign visits. Azerbaijan was adequately represented at the world’s leading and most authoritative events – the Davos forum and the Munich conference. The respect for us from both business and political elite of the world is obvious. I have paid a successful visit to the European Commission. As a result of this visit, negotiations were started on a new agreement between the European Commission and Azerbaijan. I must also note that this is also a unique event. A draft of negotiations was presented by Azerbaijan and was accepted. I do hope that active negotiations will begin in the near future and this important agreement will be concluded soon.
I have paid official visits to Qatar, Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Our ties with Muslim countries are strengthening. Our people are well aware that Azerbaijan is doing a lot to promote Islamic solidarity and is making a huge contribution to this cause. The Muslim world appreciates that. The leaders of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have repeatedly given the highest assessment to our policy. Azerbaijan took an active part in the summit of the Organization for Economic Cooperation. In the last five years, we successfully presided over this organization. My recent official visit to France was also very successful. France is one of the leading countries of the world, and those who watched my visit saw that there is great respect for and interest in our country there. We successfully cooperate in the political, economic, energy and other sectors. I should also note that Azerbaijan is the only post-Soviet country to have signed documents on strategic partnership with nine member-states of the European Union.
The main issue of our foreign policy and our policies in general is the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Unfortunately, there is no serious progress in resolving this issue. I have repeatedly spoken about the reasons for that. Armenia does not want peace, wants to maintain the status quo and does not want to vacate the occupied lands. Therefore, the international community, the mediators and we must force them. There is no other way. At present, Armenia is trying to boycott the talks and isolate itself. The mediators and co-chair countries of the Minsk Group openly declare that substantive and meaningful negotiations should be resumed shortly. Therefore, I believe that the sooner Armenia realizes that it will not be able to keep the occupied lands under occupation, the better it is for it. We will not accept this situation. We are building up our power. We are building up our military and political power and strengthening our international positions.
The Fifth Global Forum is taking place in Baku these days. More than 40 current and former heads of state and government are taking part in the forum. Azerbaijan has become an important country not only in the region, but also on a global scale. Armenia is a country that has lost all hope and lives in depression. The reason for this is the regime of the criminal junta which has illegally seized Armenia. The biggest threat to the Armenian people is posed by the current leadership of Armenia.
We will continue our efforts. I have repeatedly said this and I want to repeat: the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan has never been and never will be a topic of negotiations. Nagorno-Karabakh is native Azerbaijani land. We must restore our territorial integrity. International law also favors our position. The situation in the region works in our favor. Obviously, the economic and military potential is on our side. The events of April of last year showed this again. Therefore, we must become even stronger. We must increase our strength, and we are doing that.
Armenia cannot live without foreign aid. Whereas before the April fighting they somewhat succeeded in their mythological activities, the April battles inflicted a serious blow to their propaganda and shocked Armenian society. The repercussions of this shock are still felt there. The April events led to a deep military and political crisis in this country. And that was short-term fighting. Therefore, they should draw the right conclusions and understand that we will never accept this situation. We will restore our territorial integrity at any cost. For this, of course, we are pursuing a successful policy, and every day and year brings this day closer. As you know, the Azerbaijani flag flies in Lalatapa and Agdara today, and it will also fly in both Shusha and Khankandi.
The international relations of recent years show that, unfortunately, international organizations no longer have a serious influence. Large states pursue their own interests, distorting international law at their discretion. Therefore, force is the main factor, and we know this.
Our economic situation is improving. Last year – I talked about this from here last year – was a year of economic stabilization and deep economic reform. These reforms have already begun to bear fruit. The current year is a year of development. This is confirmed by the indicators of two months of the year. There is economic growth, albeit small. The gross domestic product has increased by 0.4 per cent. Our non-oil industry has increased by 5 per cent and agriculture by more than 3 per cent. So these are the main indicators of our economic development. Unlike many other oil and gas exporting countries, we managed to maintain and not to spend our foreign exchange reserves last year. We could have done that but we are thinking about the long-term interests of the country. We must increase our currency reserves annually. We are achieving that. Today, our foreign exchange reserves exceed the external debt by more than five times. Perhaps there are very few countries on a global scale with such an indicator.
Our economic development has also received a high assessment from the Davos World Economic Forum. This year, Azerbaijan was awarded the 37th place in terms of economic competitiveness. Last year we were in 40th place. This shows that even despite the sharp fall in oil prices, the World Economic Forum raised our economy to an even higher level.
Of course, the fact that we are among 40 most developed countries in terms of economic competitiveness on a global scale reflects our successful economic policy. It shows that we have achieved this success not only due to oil and gas, but also due to serious diversification and reforms.
Another important rating of the Davos forum is related to the level of development of developing countries. Here also we share the first and second places among all developing countries. This is the best evaluation of our policies and economic course.
I am sure that economic development will be continued this year. We have very ambitious plans. The investment program will serve the development of the real sector. This year, water will be supplied to more than 150,000 hectares of farmland this year. This means the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs. This means growth of agriculture and exports. In two months of the year, we created more than 40,000 jobs in the public sector alone. What for? In order to ensure that unemployment does not increase, because public investment decreased last year, especially in the construction sector. Some people lost their jobs. Problems were experienced in the banking sector. Some banks closed and people lost their jobs. So I urged business entities to hire at least one or two people. They probably do not really need this, but businesses should also realize their social responsibility. A special budget has been allocated for our state companies and local executive bodies. Today, more than 40,000 people are involved in public, repair and construction work. Therefore, I am confident that Azerbaijan will continue its economic development this year.
We also have great plans in the social sphere. This year, five million people will traditionally undergo free medical examination. I believe that this is also a unique initiative on a global scale. All the opportunities for that are available. Every district has modern medical facilities. In recent years, more than 600 medical institutions have been renovated and built.
This year, we will hold Islamic Solidarity Games, which will once again show the potential of our country and serve as yet another contribution to Islamic solidarity. There is a great need for that. These games are not only a sporting event. They will unite the entire Islamic world. Unfortunately, the relations between some Muslim countries are not at the desired level, to put it mildly. Azerbaijan aspires to strengthen the unity in the Muslim world. This is our family. We are a part of it. Therefore, we want that our family to live in calm and development. We want an end to wars and conflicts.
In other words, we are strengthening our country by successful policies. If we look at our history, Azerbaijan has never been as strong as it is now. Our successful policies, regional initiatives, energy and transport projects form international cooperation in a broad sense. We have introduced our own philosophy into international cooperation. International cooperation should be successful for all participants. It can’t be achieved by force. No country can be compelled and forced to join an initiative. It will be absolutely inefficient. Countries may not resist but they will be internally worried that they are being coerced into something. Therefore, our doctrine of international cooperation is built on cooperation and mutual support. That is why we are implementing such a complex – financially, technically and politically – project as the Southern Gas Corridor. A meeting of the Advisory Council has been held in Baku for the third time, and all participating countries will receive their share of the profit. We have implemented numerous projects and spent money. Of course, these funds will pay off both as money and as political dividends. In addition, an atmosphere of cooperation has developed in the region.
Azerbaijan has initiated all of these important transport and energy projects. Time passes, and the world receives even more comprehensive information about our country. The forces trying to slander and tarnish us are gradually leaving. Many of them have already been removed from the political scene. A new dynamic of development is emerging in the world today. Azerbaijan is increasingly known in the world as a modern, independent and developing country.
Dear friends, on the eve of this beautiful holiday I want to wish every Azerbaijani family success and good health. I want our country always to live in peace and development and our people to live in calm and prosperity. Happy holidays! Thank you!