Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the opening ceremony of Mid-Term Ministerial Conference of Non-Aligned Movement05 april 2018, 10:00
Thank you Mr Chairman.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear guests,
I welcome the participants of the Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement and express my gratitude to the Movement for allowing us to host this important conference.
For more than half a century, the Non-Aligned Movement promotes the values of humanity. Being one of the biggest organizations of the world, the Non-Aligned Movement plays an important role in stability, security and peace in the world. The Non-Aligned Movement is strongly committed to international law norms, principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of all its members.
Azerbaijan is a relatively new member of the Non-Aligned Movement. We were adopted to our family in 2011 and immediately started to feel support from our organization, from member states. The reflection of that support was demonstrated during the procedure of the election of Azerbaijan as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It was also in 2011, right after the adoption we felt a strong support of our partners. It was not easy because we had strong rivals, the rivals were not members of our organization. It took us 16 rounds to be elected finally as a non-permanent member with the support of 155 countries. The support of the Non-Aligned Movement and also the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was crucial for us in being elected to the leading international body.
It once again demonstrates our strength. It demonstrates that when we are united, we can achieve a lot. It demonstrates high level of solidarity between member states. It also demonstrates the capability of our organization. And being elected to the Security Council of the United Nations Azerbaijan for two years represented all the member states. We declared that we will defend justice and international law, which is violated in many cases for so many years.
Azerbaijan witnessed and experienced violation of international law and justice. For more than 25 years, our country’s territories are under Armenian occupation. Nagorno-Karabakh, which is a historical part of Azerbaijan, and other historical regions of Azerbaijan, seven regions, are under Armenian occupation. Twenty percent of internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan was occupied by Armenia. As a result of the occupation, more than one million Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons. Our people were subject of the ethnic cleansing policy held by Armenia. Armenia committed Khojaly Genocide against Azerbaijanis, which is now recognized by more than 10 countries of the world, and we also count on support of the member states to address this issue and to express their position on this crime against humanity. As a result of Khojaly Genocide, 613 innocent people, among them 106 women, 63 children were brutally killed, and tortured. Thousands went missing, were injured, and this is a crime against humanity.
Unfortunately, occupation continues until now. I once again would like to express gratitude to the Non-Aligned Movement, to our family – the organization adopted a resolution on the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan supporting resolution of the conflict based on the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. We are very grateful for this support. Other international organizations adopted similar resolutions.
United Nations Security Council adopted four resolutions demanding immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from the territories of Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, they are not implemented. There is no mechanism of implementation of these resolutions. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, European Parliament, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, OSCE, and other leading international organizations, all of them, adopted resolutions and decisions demanding restoration of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. But they are not implemented.
Unfortunately, despite the brutal violation of international law, despite the genocide Armenia committed against Azerbaijanis, this country was not sanctioned. If Armenia was sanctioned in the beginning of the conflict, I think today the conflict would have been resolved long time ago. So, we are strongly committed to resolution of the conflict based on international law, and sovereignty and inviolability of the borders of Azerbaijan.
On the occupied territories everything is destroyed. OSCE sent twice a mission to collect facts and the report demonstrated that all our historical monuments, our mosques, cemeteries, our historical monuments, museums have been destroyed by Armenian vandals. This is a genocide against our culture. Occupation of Azerbaijani territories must be stopped, and only after that peace will come to the region.
Armenia cultivates xenophobia. It is a mono-ethnic country. No other nation lives there. 99.9 percent of the population of Armenia are Armenians. All the Azerbaijanis and representatives of other ethnic groups have been ethnically-cleansed from this country.
Unlike Armenia, Azerbaijan today is one of the recognized world centers of intercultural dialogue, dialogue of civilizations, interreligious dialogue, one of the centers of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is a state policy in Azerbaijan. 2016 was announced the year of multiculturalism in our country. We organize numerous international events promoting the values of multiculturalism, interreligious peace and cooperation. Among them are the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Forum, World Religious Leaders’ Forum, Intercultural Dialogue Forum regularly held in Baku and other international events, which contribute to the cause of multiculturalism.
Ten years ago we initiated the beginning of Baku Process. That was our initiative to invite government officials from member-states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Council of Europe. Azerbaijan is one of the few countries, which is a member of both organizations. We invited them to Baku, both organizations – their members are more than hundred countries – to get together to address the issues of intercultural dialogue, to reduce tensions based on ethnic and religious grounds, to establish a platform for dialogue, for mutual understanding, to address seriously the issues of xenophobia in the world.
So, that was our initiative, which is supported by United Nations. And Baku Process this year will celebrate its 10th anniversary. It is a unique international platform, which unites countries of the Muslim world and Europe, and which is open to all the countries, and the goal is to create a better understanding between different countries, representatives of different religions and ethnic groups.
Azerbaijan is proud of its history. For centuries, representatives of different religions have been living in Azerbaijan in peace and dignity. And today our historical monuments reflect that cultural diversity. Our strength is in cultural diversity. There is no alternative to multiculturalism. Alternative is discrimination, xenophobia, Islamophobia. Therefore, I think we need to address these issues and Azerbaijan will continue to play its important role in promotion of these values.
Our country is a relatively new independent country. Only for 26 years we have been independent. We restored our independence in 1991.
This year we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, which was the first democratic republic in the Muslim world, which was a reflection of the will of Azerbaijani people to freedom, to democracy. And I can tell you that back 100 years ago the republic announced a decree providing the women with the right to vote. So, that was a very important step demonstrating the level of freedom hundred years ago. And now we are committed to the values of democracy, human rights and freedoms. But as an independent country we exist for 26 years and these years were not easy. Especially in the beginning we had difficult problems, of course, Armenian occupation, internal difficulties, political crisis, civil war, economic decline. But we managed to overcome all the difficulties and now demonstrate very rapid economic development. Economic development is the foundation for our independence. We clearly understand that we must be economically strong, not dependent on other countries or financial centers. Only in this case we can conduct an independent policy, which Azerbaijan is proud of. Therefore, we concentrated on our economic agenda and created a strong economy. Today Azerbaijan is a self-sufficient country. We provide assistance to many countries and I’d like to inform you that also we decided to provide the educational grants for students from the member states to study in our universities.
Our economic performance in the last 15 years was very rapid. GDP in the last 15 years grew 3.2 times. I think this is the world record. At the same time, we invested a lot in human capital. Level of literacy in Azerbaijan is close to 100 percent. During the last 15 years we built and reconstructed more than 3,100 schools, more than 600 hospitals. More than 5 million of our population, which is half of population, every year gets a free medical checkup in our hospitals, and the life expectancy grows. Therefore, social protection of our people is one of the main directions of our policy. For many times I said that in the center of our policy are the citizens of Azerbaijan, their wellbeing, their health, their security. We do everything in order to provide better conditions for our people. But for that, we need a strong economy, a diversified economy.
One of the achievements of Azerbaijan during the last 15 years was rapid reduction of poverty and unemployment. The level of poverty dropped from 49 to 5.4 percent and unemployment is at the level of five percent. And we also have to take into account that during the last 15 years population of Azerbaijan grew 1.5 million people. Therefore, creation of new jobs for us is a permanent process and, of course, we need to have financial resources for that, we need to have good investment climate for that. We managed to attract more than 230 billion dollars in direct investments to our country during the last 15 years. Our economic results are reflected in the reports of leading financial institutions, economic institutions. Davos World Economic Forum ranks Azerbaijan number 35 with respect to competitiveness. Among the developing countries Azerbaijan is number three with respect to inclusive development index.
So, all what has been achieved was achieved by the people of Azerbaijan, was achieved by our policy. We didn’t get any support from anyone, we concentrated on issues, which are of national interest, of strategic importance. We demonstrated in 26 years that if you are committed to the development, if you are truly independent, and if the life of the people is in their hands, you can achieve a lot.
Azerbaijan plays an important role in regional development, not only from humanitarian and cultural points of view, but from the point of view of connectivity. It plays an important role in bringing together the continents, creating a platform for mutually beneficial cooperation. I’d like to mention our efforts with respect to creation of the railroad transportation between the continents. Today East-West railroad corridor already is functioning due to the efforts of our country and our neighbors. We do these projects together with our neighbors because in connectivity you need to have good relations, first of all, with your neighbors and then with the countries of the region. Therefore, East-West transportation corridor is already a reality. It was inaugurated in Baku last October. It is a transportation corridor, which saves at least two weeks of time in order to transport goods from Asia to Europe, and from Europe to Asia. But that was only a part of our efforts. Another important project is South-North corridor, which as a result of the efforts of the regional countries, also becomes a reality. Azerbaijan invests largely in the creation of these corridors and is an active participant of East-West and South-North corridors. So, having no access to international markets, being a landlocked country, we managed to transform Azerbaijan into a Eurasian transportation hub. Now we are working on another project, which is South-West corridor, which will allow countries of Asia to bring goods to Southern and Central Europe.
Azerbaijan organized many important international events. Among them were political, economic forums, different conferences. But two events I’d like to mention especially because they have a very big meaning for the reasons, which I was talking about, for intercultural dialogue, for cooperation and mutual understanding between representatives of different nationalities, countries and religions. In 2015, Azerbaijan held the first inaugural European Games, which were held at the level of summer Olympic Games. In 2017, we organized the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games. So, in a two years’ time, in one city we organized the games of European nations and Islamic nations. So, that was also contribution to the intercultural dialogue and to mutual understanding between all the people in the world.
Azerbaijan is the only member of the Non-Aligned Movement, which is bidding for Expo 2025. The bid itself demonstrates that we are seeing that we are capable of organizing such an important global event. For a country, which is only 26 years old, I think it will be a good opportunity to demonstrate what we achieved and what can be achieved if you are truly independent. If you are not dependent on anyone, you can achieve a lot. Therefore, I count on the member states to support our candidacy. That will be another demonstration of our solidarity. We need to support each other. We have more or less similar challenges in front of us, similar problems, more or less similar past. We all want to live independent life, we all want to live our own life. We all do not want someone to tell us what to do, to interfere into our affairs, to dictate us. In order to do it we must be strong. And we can be strong only together.
I’d like to express gratitude to all our guests for being with us, and wish the conference success. Thank you.