19 october 2013, 12:15
Speech by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev at the inauguration ceremony
- Dear ladies and gentlemen.
Unfortunately, the early years of our independence were very difficult and Azerbaijan experienced major tragedies. We can say that our newly independent nation was on the brink of a precipice. The policy of Heydar Aliyev and the people’s confidence in him managed to take our people and nation out of that predicament, and Azerbaijan has been developing ever since.
Over these 10 years, the public and political processes in Azerbaijan went in a positive direction. Azerbaijan has successfully moved along the path of democracy, and the results of the election and the fact the election was conducted at a high level are a celebration of democracy. All freedoms are provided for in Azerbaijan. There are political freedoms, the freedom of speech, the freedom of the media, the freedom of assembly, the freedom of conscience. All the democratic processes went in a positive direction in Azerbaijan. Along with the economic success, political reforms carried out in the last 10 years have also facilitated the successful development of our country.
Over the past 10 years, our international relations have greatly enhanced and expanded. Over the past 10 years, Azerbaijan has opened embassies in 39 countries, and now the number of our embassies has reached 57. In 10 years, 28 countries have opened their embassies in Azerbaijan, thus brining the number of foreign embassies in Azerbaijan to 53. In relations with international organizations, Azerbaijan constantly upholds and maintains its position of principle. In 10 years, we have become a member of several influential international organizations and defended our interests in them.
However, our politics, our actions, our good intentions and the construction of our foreign policy on the basis of cooperation have earned us a large camp of friends. It is no coincidence that Azerbaijan, with the support of 155 countries, was elected a member of the UN Security Council. It is our great political and diplomatic victory, a great success of the independent Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan currently chairs the UN Security Council, and over the past two years we have managed to gain even more credibility in this organization due to our principled stance, fair steps and respect for international law.
Nagorno-Karabakh is native Azerbaijani land, an integral part of Azerbaijan. The whole world recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan's position is unambiguous, based on justice and historical truth. Our historical land of Nagorno-Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan from both political and legal points of view. Any concessions on the issue of territorial integrity are out of the question. Azerbaijan will never allow or sanction the establishment of a second self-styled Armenian state on its territory. Our unequivocal position, I want to say again, is based on historical justice and international law. At the same time, the steps taken to resolve the conflict over the last 10 years, the decisions adopted by international organizations, of course, have further reinforced our position. Over the past 10 years, several influential organizations have adopted fair resolutions relating to the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Among them are the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the Non-Aligned Movement and other organizations. I believe that our efforts in this direction should be continued because if these resolutions do not lead directly to the settlement of the conflict, we must further strengthen our legal framework. The countries belonging to the organizations I listed constitute the vast majority of the world community. Thus, the position of the vast majority of the international community is clear. Azerbaijan's territorial integrity is not in any doubt and the conflict must be resolved only within the framework of territorial integrity. We will continue to expand our political and diplomatic efforts and to hold Armenia in isolation. By our political and regional initiatives, by our economic initiatives we must put even more pressure on it. At the same time, our diplomacy on this issue will continue to be offensive because the truth, justice and international law are on our side. I have no doubt that Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity. In addition, the stronger Azerbaijan is, the sooner the issue will be resolved. With this aim Azerbaijan’s economic reforms and army building have been very rapid in the last 10 years.
To have an even stronger army in Azerbaijan we will continue to pursue economic reforms, of course. In terms of the pace of economic growth over the past 10 years, there was no other country in the world that would develop as fast as Azerbaijan. I am confident that the progress we have achieved in the last 10 years will be seriously analyzed by international experts. In 10 years the Azerbaijani economy grew 3.4 times. Whereas in the early years this growth was largely due to the oil factor, it is currently possible and will be provided in the future due to the development of the non-oil sector.
Over the past 10 years investment in the amount of $150 billion was made in the country's economy. Almost half of it is made up of foreign investment. On the one hand, this shows that Azerbaijan is an attractive country for foreign investors. At the same time, domestic investment is also rising. Of course, the structure of local investments is dominated by domestic investment. The local private sector is also actively involved in this work. There is a favorable investment climate in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is registering a very successful economic development.
Azerbaijan has become a very attractive country for investment, and investment will continue to be made in the coming years too. Over the past 10 years, we have managed to increase our foreign exchange reserves several times. Even though we take the funds for large infrastructure projects from the State Oil Fund, Azerbaijan’s foreign currency reserves are currently close to $50 billion. This suggests that the economic and social policies are complementary. At the same time, our economic policy is built on a solid foundation. We are not dependent on the foreign debt. Despite the fact that organizations are lining up to give a loan to Azerbaijan today, there is no need for that. We do everything in a judicious manner. We conduct our economic policy so that it could serve sustainable development. Our foreign exchange reserves growing with each year, the jobs being created and the solution of social security issues show how strong our independence is.
The key to our success is a thought-out policy. A role is played by the independent foreign policy. Our bold policy has predetermined our success. All leading international organizations view Azerbaijan as a model country in terms of economic development and honor us with high places in their rankings. The leading economic structure of the world, the Davos Economic Forum, puts Azerbaijan in 39th place in terms of competitiveness. This is a result of serious reforms carried out in the economic sphere in Azerbaijan. These reforms will be continued. Azerbaijan is a part of the global economy. At the same time, we protect and will continue to protect our domestic market. We create and we will continue to create more favorable conditions for domestic producers.
Issues of industrialization have been resolved. So I think that in 10 years we have taken major steps to diversify the country's economy, and this policy will be continued. Over the past 10 years Azerbaijan has started to invest in new areas. Azerbaijan has joined the ranks of space-faring nations. Perhaps no-one even thought about that 10 years ago, but today it is a reality. It shows that where there is political will, qualified professionals and a sound economic policy, any issue can be resolved.
Today, our satellite Azerspace-1 asserts Azerbaijan in the world as a space-faring nation. The development of the space industry will progress fast. The state of Azerbaijan will certainly speak its word because the bulk of investment in this sphere is made up of public funds.
Therefore, the initiatives related to our energy policy and the ongoing projects have long gone beyond regional frames. Today Azerbaijan is known in the global energy market as a very reliable and serious partner. Our decisions, the decisions made in Baku play a crucial role in energy security. We know that. We have created this reality by our course, bold moves and an independent policy. The construction of two pipelines – oil and gas – has practically created a new energy map of the region. Today, issues of drawing and modifying the energy map are also solved in Azerbaijan.
Last year and this year, there have been two important developments for the implementation of our oil and gas strategy. The TANAP project was started last year and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline project this year. These are world-scale projects of strategic importance. These projects have been initiated by Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has the key say in the implementation of these projects. Our initiatives, as well as a consistent and independent policy, have created these realities. These realities will serve the Azerbaijani state and people and ensure our economic independence for decades to come. There can be no talk of political independence without economic independence. We are watching the events taking place around us and do not remain indifferent to what is happening in the world. We see the countries that are not independent economically becoming the object of blackmail and pressure. We see what this leads to. Such countries are among those asking for help. Azerbaijan is not asking, has not asked and will not ask anything from anyone. We conduct an independent policy. Our independent policy is underpinned by economic independence. The creation of economic independence has been one of the most important issues for me as President. Ten years ago I knew perfectly well that if we did not succeed in doing that, Azerbaijan may face great challenges in the future. The existence of double standards in the world is no secret. It is not even worth talking about. It is an axiom.
The past 10 years have seen important events related to industrial development. We have already implemented major projects on the development of heavy industry. In the coming years, I am sure, this will be a priority direction. The successful development of Azerbaijan can also be traced in the demographic situation. I am very pleased to note that over the last 10 years the population of Azerbaijan has increased. Ten years ago, our population was 8.3 million and now it is 9.4 million people. In 10 years our population has increased by 1.1 million people. Demographics will play a major role in the future. Demographic development should be complemented by a strong economy because demographic development is a positive factor only if the economy can handle it. We are aware of the problems faced in some countries. Some countries are experiencing a demographic decline and have to use special programs. In others, the demographic development is so rapid that the economy can’t catch up with it. Therefore, our economy and, in particular, our initiatives associated with agriculture and heavy industry in the coming years must also be based on the demographic factor. Our economic opportunities must always exceed population growth.
Today Azerbaijan exports electricity to foreign markets. Ten years ago we imported it. Today we export natural gas, but 10 years ago we imported it and had major problems. In other words, the last 10 years have seen great achievements in the energy sector as a whole, and I am confident that these positive trends will be continued in the coming years because we have specific programs and plans.
I am sure that programs on the development of every sector of the economy will be implemented. I have repeatedly expressed my thoughts on the country’s goals over the next five years. I want to reiterate that in the next five years we must preserve and enhance the successful development of our country.
The top priority, of course, is the restoration of our territorial integrity. This is the main task and the most painful problem for us. All of us must strive for resolving this issue on the basis of fair rules and principles of international law in the coming years.
Economic power is on our side. Justice and historical truth protect our position. Azerbaijan's state budget exceeds Armenia’s 10 times, our military spending is 10 times higher and the population is five times bigger. In the next five years, we will continue our policy on the settlement of the conflict. In the first place, we will conduct a state policy. Public organizations are also very active in these matters. There are already excellent opportunities for achieving the recognition of the Khojaly genocide as an act of genocide in the world. A number of countries have already recognized Khojaly as an act of genocide. This process should be continued.
We should and will isolate Armenia from all regional projects. We need to strive for Armenia's economy to be in an even worse situation and for depopulation to go even faster there. Thus, we must create all the conditions for the settlement of the conflict. The experience of recent years shows that we are on the right track. Armenia is forced to openly admit that it is unable to provide for its own security. Essentially, it already admits that it fears Azerbaijan and a strong Azerbaijani state. It is impotent before Azerbaijan. The myth created by the Armenians in the last 20 years that the Armenian army is strong and the Armenian economy is strong has been completely dispelled. This myth has been completely bashed. Today the strong Azerbaijani state is sending a serious message to the leadership of Armenia: if you care about the future of your people and the existence of Armenia as an independent state, then do the right thing and vacate the lands of others. We must restore justice. I want to say that the settlement of the conflict is a matter of priority. This issue must be resolved in full. Any incomplete option may be adopted only as a temporary measure. The complete resolution of the conflict, I am sure, will take place. Above all, of course, the Armenian occupying forces must withdraw from the occupied lands. At subsequent stages the Azerbaijani people should return to Nagorno-Karabakh. The flag of Azerbaijan must be raised in Shusha and Khankandi, and I am sure it will be. I want to note that Azerbaijanis must go back to all our lands as a strategic objective. I am sure we will achieve that. Of course, this strategic goal will take time. However, our society, the younger generation, all patriotic people have to live with the idea of restoring historical justice.
In the economic sphere, the policy of diversification is and will be conducted. We must strive to ensure that our non-oil economy doubles over the next 10 years. This goal was set a year ago. I think there are enough opportunities for that. This year’s performance gives grounds to say so. This year our non-oil sector grew by more than 10 per cent. If we can increase our annual non-oil sector by more than 10 per cent, we will achieve this goal.
I believe that our position on the social policy is well known. The experience of the last decade gives grounds to say that there are no and will not be any doubts on this issue in society. Programs to reduce poverty, improve the livelihoods of those living in poverty and other social initiatives will be implemented. The creation of the social infrastructure should be continued.There is still a great need for that.
I am sure that our policy on industrialization will lead to even greater results in the coming years. There are excellent opportunities for the development of heavy industry. Technology parks and industrial estates are already being established.
Of course, the state should and will play the leading role at the initial stage. The private sector is also joining this work. All the goods that can be produced in Azerbaijan must be produced in Azerbaijan.
Food security must be provided in full. Over the past 10 years we have made great strides in this direction. Today many basic foodstuffs are produced in Azerbaijan. Over the next five years we have to make sure that basic food commodities are made in Azerbaijan by 100 per cent. There are opportunities and specific proposals to do this, and funds will be provided.
We will continue our policy in the field of information and communication technologies. These technologies develop the country's economy. At the same time, they should govern the relations between civil servants and citizens at a normal level. These issues should also be given special attention. The relations between civil servants and citizens should have a sound basis. Officials are expected to behave modestly and care about the people. They should not forget that they work in their posts in order to serve the people. Of course, all of the people’s problems and concerns must be resolved.
In the coming years we will wage even more serious fight against corruption and bribery. This fight is yielding excellent results. Our public policy in this area is unequivocal. There is a strong political will to eradicate these negative phenomena in Azerbaijan. The administrative measures, penalties and system reforms, I am sure, will lead to even greater achievements in this area in the next five years. Of course, I have high hopes for electronic services. The "e-government" project and the number of e-services should increase. This confidence is further enhanced by the fact that “ASAN xidmət” has earned widespread approval in a short period of time. The fight against corruption and bribery should be a nationwide cause. The state will pursue its policy, but the public should also be actively involved in this work. Citizens should not remain indifferent and notify the government about all the negative things on time.
At present we are a country to reckon with. Our word has a great deal of sense. The decisions made in Baku in many cases determine the directions of energy policy. If we implement these two projects, and I am sure we will, then our clout will increase further. As our clout grows, of course, so do our opportunities, and no-one would ever think of solving their own problems without taking Azerbaijan into account. In the future, no-one would think of isolating Azerbaijan from a project. Today, Azerbaijan’s unequivocal policy – a bold policy, a policy based on the will of the people, a policy based on national interests – allows us to speak about the future of our country with greater optimism.
The experience of recent years explicitly shows the benefits of our independence. Only the independent Azerbaijan has been able to achieve this success. Only when our destiny is in our own hands have we made these achievements. This is the advantage of independence. The Azerbaijani people are the masters of their own destiny. Never before in its history has Azerbaijan been so strong! Our independence has never been so strong! All of us must and will strive to develop our country, make our independence eternal and irreversible.
Glory to the people of Azerbaijan!
Long live Azerbaijan!
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