- Dear ladies and gentlemen:
I congratulate you and the entire Azerbaijani people sincerely on the occasion of the forthcoming Day of Republic and wish happiness and new achievements to the whole Azerbaijani people.
The creation of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic was the historic event. It had a tremendous historic importance both for our people and at global level. Its importance for our people was explained by the fact that throughout the centuries, the Azerbaijani people aspiring for independence has rejoiced its independence and built its independent state. At international level, this event was important by the fact that it was the first ever democratic republic founded in the Muslim East in world history. The Azerbaijani state and the Azerbaijani people recall the founders of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic with deep respect. Several years ago, the monument was erected in the center of Baku dedicated to the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic. The current independent Azerbaijan is the inheritor of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic. The Azerbaijani Democratic Republic ceased to exist following two years since its establishment. Afterwards, the Soviet period has started in Azerbaijan. In spite of all difficulties and ideological framework, that period was also successful for Azerbaijan. During the Soviet period, Azerbaijan continued to develop. Social and economic issues found its resolution in Azerbaijan. Illiteracy was ended in the country. I think that this was an historic achievement. A big impetus was given to the development of Azerbaijani science, and particularly in 70-ies, the industrial potential of Azerbaijan has started to be formed. That potential had a very big significance also in the development of current independent Azerbaijan. Agriculture has developed.
To put it briefly, I say once again in spite of ideological framework, that period was also successful for Azerbaijan. However, of course, we were not independent and lived through with our aspirations for independence. As a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Azerbaijan restored its independence. The first years of our independence were very dramatic. Many of us have expressed their views about this issue on several occasions. Our people remember well that the processes unfolding in Azerbaijan in early 90-ies have become a big threat to our independence. Our independence was undermined and various opinions and rumors were known about our life as independent nation. During the first years of our independence, the anarchy, lawlessness, chaos and lack of power which ruled Azerbaijan have practically paralyzed our country.
As a result of the occupational policy of Armenia against Azerbaijan, the occupation of our lands as well as the power struggle inside the country, the start of civil war – all these unpleasant events - have impacted on very negatively our independent life. In 1993, the Azerbaijani people has demonstrated its wisdom as usual and addressed Heydar Aliyev by inviting him to rule the country. Heydar Aliyev elected to the post of President with the support of people paid titanic efforts to improve the situation and end these unpleasant cases. We can say that all unpleasant events and all illegal armed groups were stopped in the short period of time. They have been disarmed. The civil war was ended. Ceasefire regime was obtained in front line. And, it allowed Azerbaijan to embark on the way of swift development.
In a word, starting from the year of 1993, the period of stability and development has started in Azerbaijan. I can say that the foundations of our state have started indeed to be laid down after the year of 1993. The process of building the state ruled by law was conducted swiftly in Azerbaijan. The Constitution of independent Azerbaijan was adopted in the country while political and economic reforms implemented in the country gave its positive results. Azerbaijan has managed to sort out from international isolation and break the information blockade. The false impression formed in international public opinion about Azerbaijan in early 90-ues was changed. Azerbaijan managed to take its place at international level. Our country became the member to international organizations. To say it shortly, starting from 1993, the building and development trends have started and strengthened in all fields. The oil contracts of decisive important were signed for the national economy and independent development. Large scale foreign investments were brought to Azerbaijan. When we started to solve these issues in 1994, Azerbaijan was known as a very risky country in the world, and there were a very limited number of people wishing to make investments here. In spite of this approach, the oil contracts with favorable terms for our country were signed. The oil strategy of Heydar Aliyev has started by paving the way for successful development of Azerbaijan.
In general, the years of 1993-2003 were decisive ones for Azerbaijan and our statehood. Successes obtained in those years have allowed us also today to advance firmly our country, continue this policy and solve properly all tasks in front of us.
The period starting from 2003 was very successful for our country. It is seen in all statistical data. After the year of 2003, political and economic reforms were continued in our country. Azerbaijan managed to get even stronger position in international arena, and our influence capabilities have increased very significantly at regional level. Today, initiatives presented by Azerbaijan define strongly regional development trends. Besides the political reforms, tremendous successes were obtained in economic field. During last 7-8 years, our country’s GDP has increased by three times. It is an indicator which has no analogical example in the world. The industrial production has almost tripled also. The number of people living at the level of poverty has decreased by 5 times, and today, this indicated forms 9.1% in Azerbaijan. I am confident that as a result of additional measures undertaken and to be undertaken, we will manage to decrease further the level of poverty by the end of year. Almost one million jobs were created in our country, and the absolute majority of these jobs are the permanent ones. Very serious steps were taken for the diversification of national economy and thus, our country’s economy has become already a sustainable economy. High assessment given by international financial institutions to the economic reforms implemented in the country at international level proves my word once again.
During last years, successful energy policy was conducted in Azerbaijan. We managed to ensure fully our energy security. Today, we ensured not only our own issue and bring our contribution to energy security issues in other countries.
Public and political situation is very positive in the country. All our initiatives are supported by the people. Truly, our policy is the policy for people because during recent years, we have obtained all these achievements as a result of improving the prosperity level of the Azerbaijani people. Today, Azerbaijan is the fast growing, dynamic and modern country. It is the country where all issues find its fair resolution. Representatives of all peoples in Azerbaijan live as one family. This is a rare experience. I am proud to say that this experience is studied in the world. Various fora dedicated to the dialogue between religions and cultures which have the traditional character and are held in Azerbaijan several times show that Azerbaijan is a very rightly chosen country to organize such events.
Concrete programs are being implemented in all directions in our country. Regional development program is being implemented successfully either in the resolution of social issues, or in the implementation of economic reforms. We implement already the second program. As a result of the program implementation, we can say that all our regions become more attractive and our cities become more beautiful. As far as the city of Baku is concerned, today Baku is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The beauty of Baku is already a reality. All guests coming to our country and the capital city see and note it.
To put it briefly, main tasks in front of the country find its resolution. The national economy demonstrated its sustainability also while financial and economic crisis rule the world. Even in the years of crisis, our economy continued its growth, and all investment projects were implemented. Last year, 16 billion USD were invested in the national economy. I think that this indicator will be even higher this year. As a result of the additions to our current budget, e.g. the adjustment, Azerbaijani budget will be more than 20 billion USD for the first time in the history. This is a big achievement and indicator. If we shall into account that the state budget of 2003 was just at the level of 1.2 billion USD, we can see openly that during last 7-8 years, large amount of work was done in this field. Our budget growth allows us to implement both infrastructure projects and solve social issues in Azerbaijan. In the course of recent years, wages and pensions were increased by several times. Today, the average volume of pensions constitutes 40 percent of the average monthly salary. It shows that Azerbaijan presents itself as a socially biased state in the world. Our policy is indeed composed of all these assets.
Our commitment to the market economy generates no doubts. Over 80 percent of the national economy is formed by the private sector. Besides it, a very strong social policy is pursued in the country. The implementation of overall economic reforms complete the strong social policy and indeed, thanks to this policy, we have not let these radical economic reforms impact on negatively the living conditions of people. On the contrary, tangible prosperity improves annually in Azerbaijan. The lifestyle of people improves further. All social issues find its resolution.
The main problem faced by the country and the most painful problem for us is the non-resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani, Nagorno Karabakh conflict. In spite of all our efforts, this conflict did not find its resolution till the present time. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan recognized by international community is violated. As you know, four resolutions of the Security Council of UN are not implemented. These resolutions demand unconditional withdrawal of occupying forces for our lands. Decisions and resolutions of OSCE, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and other international organizations are fulfilled by Armenia. In such case, we applaud more active position taken by international community and global forces in this respect.
Armenian-Azerbaijani, Nagorno Karabakh conflict should find its soonest resolution. Our territorial integrity is violated. Ethnic cleansing policy was conducted against us. Over one million of Azerbaijanis have become refugees and IDPs in their native lands, and this injustice continues still. Nagorno Karabakh is the ancient land of Azerbaijan. I would like to say once again that the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan including Nagorno Karabakh is recognized by the entire world and the United Nations. Territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be restored fully.
We hope that the talks will yield its results. The factors that strengthen the hope are observed in sufficient numbers in last months. I can say that during recent months, for the first time, the statements by co-chairing countries related to the change the status quo have started to be released. Till the present day, - in spite that Minsk Group was established in 1992 and the cease-fire regime is in force since 1994 – we did not hear such exact and serious statements in this respect. The change of status quo means that occupying forces should be withdrawn and the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be restored.
Leaders of countries co-chairing the Minsk Group issued the joint statement. This statement says practically similar thoughts that the issue should be resolved shortly. We stand for the same and Azerbaijan is the most interested side in the soonest resolution of the issue. In our public statements and in the ongoing negotiations we have numerously expressed our views and concern that the Armenian side should not be allowed to artificially delay the negotiations, making this negotiating process eternal. This means that there are such matters of concern and we have openly stated our opinion about it. The last statement supports the position that the issue should be resolved in short time, and it should find its resolution on the basis of the Helsinki Final Act. This is also a very important statement and it is not for the first time that it was made. However, I can also say that in recent years the Helsinki Final Act is being referred to in all documents. In the Helsinki Final Act, the principle of territorial integrity has no contradiction with national self-determination principle. On the contrary, it lists priorities of the principles; the right of any people to self-determination should not violate the territorial integrity of countries, and this is the only formula for the resolution of the conflict.
Territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored. Azerbaijan's citizens must return to the native lands of their forefathers. After that, peace and co-operation can prevail in the region and all parties can reap only benefit from such development of events. This forms our resolute position. Once again, I would like to say that the Azerbaijani state will never tolerate the independence of Nagorno Karabakh and will never give consent to this. I repeat that this issue is a priority and the most important for us. We make and will make all necessary steps to solve the issue by mobilizing all our efforts.
On each festive day, an assessment is given to the work done. The work done in previous years is re-examined. We note in particular all shortcomings in order to do more effective work in our future. Along with this, we express our views about the future on each festive day and inform the public about the future plans. This is a continuous process. This process is always in force and necessary for dynamic development of our country. Also today, availing of this opportunity, I would like to say a few words about our future plans and tasks.
I am absolutely convinced that a successful and sustainable development of Azerbaijan will be ensured also in the coming years. Political reforms will be continued in following years. There is a great need for it. The work done so far is commendable. However a lot of things lie ahead. Important steps aimed at promoting democracy have been taken and further steps should be taken in this direction. Democratic principles should be adopted in all spheres of life in Azerbaijan. The building of the state ruled by law continues successfully in Azerbaijan, and further steps are expected to be made in this respect. It is a demand of both the people and time. We are building a modern state. The state where all democratic freedoms exist. We must reinforce these positive trends.
A very serious struggle is taking place in our country against unpleasant cases. It is yielding excellent results. The fight against corruption and bribery is bearing fruits. Our steps are supported by the people. I would like to reiterate from this podium that we will not deviate from this path. We will continue to seriously fight corruption, bribery and negative cases. It gives us more strength, more inspiration when we see that this fight produces results.
Additional measures will be undertaken to diversify economy of our country. As I noted, our state budget resources are on a sufficient level. Besides that, the volume of investments in country's economy by foreign and local entrepreneurs is growing. Azerbaijan has taken tremendous steps aimed at drawing in investments. By the volume of foreign investments per capita, as it was always in the past, we are in the first place in CIS territory. It is very gratifying that over the past few years domestic investments have exceeded foreign investments. This shows that investments made by the state are effective and the private sector have grown stronger and invests in the country's economy.
In its turn, the strengthening of private sector became possible thanks to the support extended by the state. State loans, credits given on preferential terms, the support by the state and the President to the entrepreneurship serve to fostering and broadening of private sector. We have achieved a situation in which Azerbaijani companies invest billions of USD in economy and infrastructure of other countries. Thus, our investment portfolio has also become diversified. This will bring us additional political and economic dividends.
Along with diversification in the economic sphere, the state will take further steps to manufacture products that will replace imports. We managed to achieve a lot of successes in this direction. We should work harder. Currently, one of the important issues in the economic field is to ensure food security. Great strides are being made also in this field. Majority of food consumed in our country is produced in Azerbaijan. While several years ago, we were completely dependent on imports. Today, we not only supply our domestic market, but at the same time export our food products to foreign markets. In the coming years, as a result of additional measures aimed at our food security, I am sure that Azerbaijan will fully supply itself with main food products and we will get strong export capabilities in this field.
I would like to say once again that the principles of social justice have always been fundamental to us. Salaries and pensions are raised regularly. Large funds are allocated for social infrastructure. In recent years, over 2 thousand schools, hundreds of medical centers, 31 Olympic Sport Compounds, cultural centers have been built in Azerbaijan. In short, the social sphere is constantly in the spotlight. During next years, much more investments will be made in this sector. There is a need for this because we want the number of people living in poverty to reduce to zero in Azerbaijan. I know that nobody has achieved this result even in developed countries. But, we have to set a goal. This should be a big goal. In some cases, it seems unattainable, but at the same time, it depends on us to turn these ideas and dreams into reality and then, we will attain what we wish.
Azerbaijan pursues the well thought and balanced policy in the field of international relations. This policy is supported by the people. This policy enables to build equal ties based on mutual interests and strengthen them. We stand for such an approach. First and foremost, our ties with neighboring countries should be even stronger. There relations are at a high level. We assess these relations as the relations of partnership. In the years to come, more attention will be given to this area of our foreign policy. We live in this region and development of our relations with our neighbors is our priority.
As far as Armenia is concerned, we will continue to make efforts to isolate Armenia from all regional projects. We do not hide it. This is our policy. Armenia has occupied our lands. This policy will continue until the occupation ends. If a peace agreement is signed, then Armenia can also be involved in regional projects. This will depend on what steps they take.
Along with neighboring countries, we aim to establish bilateral friendly and equal relations with all other countries and have managed to achieve this. The number of our friends and partners is increasing, and Azerbaijan has already been recognized worldwide as a reliable partner. We are developing links with international organizations. We are ready to co-operate with all international organizations. Of course, we have more active ties with organizations in which we have membership. We fulfill timely obligations assumed by us in front of these organizations. We do not and cannot have any obligations to international organizations which we are not a member of. Because we are not their members. We build our policies with the organizations in which we have no membership on partnership and non-interference in each other’s affairs, and we expect the similar approach from the opposite side.
In short, our foreign policy is a continuation of domestic policy. It is its logical result. This policy has a single goal, that is, to fully protect the interests of the Azerbaijani people and the state, to promote our role and capabilities in the world so that Azerbaijan becomes even more powerful state.
At the same time, today, I want to say a few words about energy security issues. Tremendous steps have been taken in this direction. I would like to reiterate that today we were able to solve all issues related to our energy security successfully and with high efficiency. Today, a diversified energy transportation infrastructure is created.
Azerbaijan has 7 oil and gas pipelines which deliver our natural resources to world market in 7 directions. This means a true diversification. Some countries are working now actively on issues of diversity. They conduct talks also with Azerbaijan. We have successfully completed our policy of diversification. In subsequent years, we will be able to expand our export capabilities only on the basis of these routes, since there are no other directions except these 7. Our energy resources are transported to neighboring countries. Depending on negotiations, which will be conducted in the future, we will be able to increase the energy exports in any direction. I repeat that this will depend on upcoming negotiations.
I would like to state once again that Azerbaijan is optimistic about the future. This year, we are celebrating the twentieth anniversary of our independence. 20 years is a long historical period. I think that the first two years notwithstanding, Azerbaijan developed very successfully and firmly in the last 20 years. All tasks faced by the country were fulfilled and our country became stronger and managed to take its proper place on the world arena.
On the eve of this splendid national holiday, I once again congratulate wholeheartedly all the Azerbaijani people on Independence Day – Republic Day, wish successes and happiness to all the people of Azerbaijan. Thank you.