Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the solemn ceremony to mark 96th anniversary of national leader Heydar Aliyev and 15th anniversary of Heydar Aliyev Foundation

10 may 2019, 20:00

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends!

It is the 96th birthday of great leader Heydar Aliyev today, as the Azerbaijani people once again express their respect and reverence for the blessed memory of the great leader.

The people of Azerbaijan loved Heydar Aliyev, believed in him and always supported him. And he devoted all his life to the Azerbaijani people. Heydar Aliyev always served his people with dignity. Both in Soviet times and in the years of independence, he showed great dedication in the name of the development of Azerbaijan. Suffice it to say that in the Soviet period, in the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, Azerbaijan turned from one of the most backward into one of the most advanced republics under the leadership of Heydar Aliyev. It was in those years that a powerful industrial potential was created and major infrastructure projects were implemented – projects that still serve independent Azerbaijan. Given the high personal qualities of Heydar Aliyev and the results achieved in Azerbaijan, he was invited to Moscow in 1982 and appointed to a high post – to the post of First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers. He successfully worked in this post too, including the fact that his instructions and decisions related to the development of Azerbaijan served the development of our country. So he was constantly interested in Azerbaijan, showed great interest in the work carried out in Azerbaijan and supported it. In 1987, when he left his post, our people and our republic began facing problems. Less than two weeks later, Armenian nationalists demanded a secession of Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan and its transfer to Armenia. The powerful factor of Heydar Aliyev did not allow them to raise this issue earlier. Although there were such attempts and trends, the Heydar Aliyev factor did not allow this to happen.

I can say that if Heydar Aliyev had been in the leadership of Azerbaijan at that time, there is no doubt that the Nagorno-Karabakh problem would have never arisen. It was at that time that major problems began for our people. A special leadership committee was set up in Nagorno-Karabakh and separatist tendencies gained large proportions. Heydar Aliyev, who had already retired, lived in Moscow and always thought about Azerbaijan. He saw that the situation in the republic was fairly complicated, that there were negative phenomena and the republic is experiencing a recession. It is possible to say that further developments showed that his analysis was absolutely accurate and correct.

Hot on the heels of the bloody tragedy of January, Heydar Aliyev raised his voice, said that he was with his people and, speaking at a press conference at the Permanent Representative Office of Azerbaijan in Moscow on 21 January, strongly condemned this cruel act of the Soviet leadership. I am a living witness to that. I remember that there were many people at the permanent mission’s office when we came there, people had gathered and were very worried. Seeing Heydar Aliyev, they created a living corridor and made room for Heydar Aliyev to enter the building. At that time, Heydar Aliyev was a pensioner and aspersion campaigns were conducted against him at various times. But in the soul of his people he was a leader, an outstanding personality and a great son of the Azerbaijani people. Of course, the respect shown for him on that day will remain in our memory forever.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was still two years away. Perhaps it could not have occurred to anyone that the Soviet Union could collapse. Therefore, this step, this statement of Heydar Aliyev at that very moment, at the most difficult time for our people certainly required great courage. It once again showed that he was always with the Azerbaijani people. Then, in protest against this bloody crime, he left the ranks of the Communist Party he had been a member of for many years. That also required great courage. Naturally, after this, pressure and persecution began against him and his family members. This pressure had different forms. In a word, practical steps were taken to put pressure on him and punish him. We even had information that the question of his arrest was being discussed.

He came to Baku. The then leadership did not allow him to live in Baku and he left for the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic where he was born. This, too, was the dictates of history because Nakhchivan was in a very difficult situation at the time. The occupation of Nakhchivan was also part of the insidious anti-Azerbaijani plans of Armenian separatists and their benefactors. It was the Heydar Aliyev factor, his will and popular faith in him that saved Nakhchivan from great misfortunes. At that time, mobilization work was carried out in Nakhchivan under his leadership. There were fierce battles on the border and Nakhchivan was able to protect its land.

Another memorable event in Nakhchivan is inscribed in the history of Azerbaijan in gold letters. It was on the initiative and under the chairmanship of Heydar Aliyev that a session of the Supreme Majlis, the then Supreme Council of Nakhchivan, declared the tricolor flag of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic as the state flag. A request was submitted to the Supreme Council of Azerbaijan for the adoption of a similar decision throughout the country. So this is history. It shows again that Heydar Aliyev has always been close to the Azerbaijani people. The people gave him great support and he derived strength from people’s trust and love.

We all remember the situation in Azerbaijan at the time. At that time, in 1992, the PFFA-Musavat tandem had illegally seized power and was taking our country, the young and independent state to the abyss. There was pervasive chaos, anarchy, arbitrariness and total crisis, looting and bribery flourished, and the country was in an uncontrollable state. The political, economic and military crisis were undermining the foundations of the young state. The Azerbaijani people were able to endure this treacherous government for one year. A year later, they were consigned to the archives of history. At that time, our lands were under occupation. The occupation of the Shusha, Lachin and Kalbajar districts created a geographical link between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan saw a path of development in the person of Heydar Aliyev, turned to him and invited him. At that time, Heydar Aliyev was 70 years old and most of his life was already behind. However, people's love, his love for the people and a sense of great responsibility prompted him to accept this invitation. Thus, the independent life of independent Azerbaijan began. I can say with full confidence that our state independence was only conditional in nature before 1993. There were state attributes, but the country could not pursue an independent policy. Year 1993 became a turning point. It was the people's faith and confidence in Heydar Aliyev that allowed the country the opportunity to overcome this difficult situation and eliminate the consequences of the civil war with dignity. And it so happened. Stability was established, the path to development was opened, reforms were launched in all areas, primarily in the political sphere because the political system was not yet formed in Azerbaijan at the time. I should point to the role of the “Yeni Azerbaijan Party”, which was set up in Nakhchivan in 1992, in the formation of the political system. I should also emphasize that those calling themselves democrats did not sanction a constituent assembly of the “Yeni Azerbaijan Party” to be held in Baku at that time. A group of patriotic intellectuals arrived in Nakhchivan and held the constituent assembly of the “Yeni Azerbaijan Party” with the participation of Heydar Aliyev.

Censorship was abolished on Heydar Aliyev’s initiative. There was no freedom of the press in Azerbaijan at the time. The abolition of censorship fully reflected the views of the great leader for the future.

The process of army building began because there was no regular army until that time. Very serious reforms were carried out in the economic sphere, including the field of agriculture. Those were the reforms that created an excellent foundation for the reforms we are implementing today. Important steps were taken to develop industrial potential. Investment in Azerbaijan already existed as a factor. The signing of the “Contract of the Century” is a historic event, of course. The signing of this contract in September 1994 largely ensured the present-day development of independent Azerbaijan. The revenues from this contract are manifested in all areas of our country – improved well-being of our people, enhanced military potential, solved problems of internally displaced persons and implemented infrastructure projects. How could we have done this work if we hadn’t had financial opportunities? These financial opportunities were created by the “Contract of the Century”. I remember that period well. As Vice President of the State Oil Company at the time, along with other colleagues, I was seriously dealing with this issue. The contract was signed on the most viable conditions for Azerbaijan, which is manifested in today's reality. The contract was recently extended until 2050. Azerbaijan will benefit from this contract.

So this was a historic event, one of the historic contributions of Heydar Aliyev to the people, to the current and future generations. It required great courage because there was a very difficult geopolitical situation in the region at the time and it was not so easy to sign this contract. This was confirmed by the events that occurred after the signing of the contract. But Heydar Aliyev’s iron will and determination, as well as his steps aimed at the future, largely preconditioned the realities of the present-day Azerbaijan.

In 2003, in the run-up to the presidential election, I said that if the people put trust in me, I would continue the policy of Heydar Aliyev, and the people voted for this policy. Since that time to the present day, Azerbaijan has covered a long and successful road and its independence has been further strengthened. There is stability in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani people are the guarantor of this stability. Our international positions have significantly strengthened. Today, Azerbaijan is a country with a very positive image on a global scale. The absolute majority of the world community supports Azerbaijan, and this support was manifested in the election to the UN Security Council, when 155 countries supported us. So this is also a historic achievement for us. Many international organizations, including the UN General Assembly, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement and others, have adopted justice-based decisions and resolutions defending our position in relation to the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in this period. This is our great diplomatic and political success.

Our principled position in connection with the conflict remains unchanged. Nagorno-Karabakh is the primordial and historical Azerbaijani land. Our people have lived and worked on this land for centuries. Today, the whole world recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan. No country recognizes and I am sure never will recognize the self-styled regime. Our position is that this conflict must be resolved in accordance with the norms and principles of international law, within the framework of the territorial integrity of our country, and on the basis of resolutions of the UN Security Council and the Helsinki Final Act. This is the only option. We are going and will continue to go along this path.

At the same time, we are building up the capacity of the army. According to international ratings, Azerbaijan today is among top 50 countries in terms of its army potential on a global scale. Necessary steps will continue to be taken to develop our army, strengthen its material and technical infrastructure and provide it with modern equipment.

Heydar Aliyev was always interested in the problems of internally displaced persons, showed great attention and care for them. At that time, we were largely dependent on donor organizations because we did not have financial resources. A lot of work was carried out to enable international organizations to provide assistance to Azerbaijan, and it was in a certain sense thanks to this assistance that conditions were created for the IDPs. Heydar Aliyev instructed to spend the revenues of the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan from the first oil on resolving the problems of internally displaced persons. And so it happened. I remember that it was a rainy day and we were in a picturesque place. Heydar Aliyev personally attended the opening of that IDP settlement. This policy continues today. To date, more than a hundred settlements have been built. Hundreds of thousands of IDPs have been provided with new houses and apartments.

Over these years, we have successfully implemented other social projects. The increase of salaries and pensions by almost 10 times over the past 15 years is evidence of our social policy. We have done a lot of work in the field of economic diversification. Today, work in this direction continues. Specific steps are being taken to reduce the dependence of the economy on the oil and gas factor. Over the past 15 years, the economy has tripled and an excellent business environment has been created. According to World Bank estimates, we are in 25th place globally for this indicator. In other words, reforms have been carried out and the problems facing the country began to be addressed. If we add to this the technological development, we can say that today Azerbaijan has three satellites and is a member of the club of space-faring nations. This is also a great historic achievement. Notice how much has been done in the area of energy security. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, the foundation of which Heydar Aliyev laid with his own hands, has been in operation for 13 years, bringing revenues to our country. These revenues are spent on improving the well-being of our people and the implementation of infrastructure projects. Today we are implementing an even larger energy project, and I am sure that we will successfully complete it. Having no access to the world ocean, we have turned Azerbaijan into a transport hub. The investments made in this area are investments in the future, because from now on Azerbaijan will be increasing its budget using these transit opportunities for decades, for centuries. The funds coming to Azerbaijan will depend simply on geographic location and transit opportunities.

Of course, we could talk about the results achieved for a long time. But our main goal is to look ahead the future. How and in what ways should we develop? I can say one thing for sure: we should not be content with the progress achieved. We should always look ahead. The world is changing, the region is changing, new challenges are emerging in the region, the situation today is not what it was like 15-20 years ago. The geopolitical landscape of the region and the world is completely different, and we must be prepared for this. Therefore, we should implement and are implementing very operational and flexible activities on each issue. We should protect the interests of the country. We should continue protecting Azerbaijan from possible risks, as we have done until now. This is not easy – we all know only too well that tensions in the world are increasing, the norms of international law are violated and ignored, and tensions between countries run high. Therefore, our main goal is to leverage a successful foreign policy in order to reduce the existing and possible future risks for our country. We are working hard in this direction. But I can say that this is not an easy question.

Stability has been ensured in Azerbaijan for many years. The Azerbaijani people are the guarantor of this stability. Popular support for our policy gives us strength and at the same time allows us the opportunity to deepen reforms and ensure successful and sustainable development of Azerbaijan.

Stability is of particular importance for any country. Look at the world, look at the international panorama. In places where stability is undermined, countries lag behind, find themselves in an uncontrolled state and are exposed to negative processes, external influences grow, internal strife begins, and countries lose their future. Look at today's plight of the countries where stability was disrupted in recent years. What do we see? Wars, fraternal bloodshed, destroyed cities, damaged infrastructure, paralyzed industry, millions of refugees and displaced persons, tent camps, IDP settlements we got rid of in 2007. At that time, I made a pre-election pledge that there would not be a single tent camp left in five years. We did it in four years. So this is what violation of stability leads to. Everyone should know that stability is a great asset. We have achieved this by showing great dedication.

Let's recall the early 1990s. What was happening? Azerbaijan was in an uncontrollable state and was unable to pursue an independent policy. Various clashes and confusion completely paralyzed our country. Taking advantage of this, Armenia seized our lands. If there had been stability in Azerbaijan and a person such as Heydar Aliyev had been in charge of Azerbaijan at that time, our lands would have never been occupied. Therefore, we must know that stability is the happy future of Azerbaijan, of the younger generation. I want to say once again: stability is safely protected in Azerbaijan. True, certain attempts are being made. Certain groups that suffered a total collapse which brought Azerbaijan to a disastrous state in the 1990s are trying to achieve something again. Now the methods of their struggle include lies, slander and speculation. They have no other method of struggle and use various media tools to denigrate our country. They are trying to portray an ugly picture both at home and abroad. The people of Azerbaijan know them well. They brought Azerbaijan to a deplorable state, they destroyed our country, they started a civil war, shed their fraternal blood. Azerbaijani people will never allow these anti-national and treacherous elements to achieve anything in Azerbaijan. The people of Azerbaijan are a wise people – they know everything perfectly well.

We will continue to follow the path of reforms. I want to say once again that the results we have achieved should remain in history. We need to know where we started and what we achieved. But this is history and we must look to the future. The reforms carried out in the economic sphere today are appreciated by all influential international financial structures. The World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank, the European Investment Bank and our partners are providing major loans to Azerbaijan. Why? Because they trust us. First of all, they see the effectiveness of reforms. On the other hand, they believe in the successful future of Azerbaijan. Otherwise, would they provide loans worth billions of dollars to Azerbaijan? Of course not!

The reforms carried out in the economic sphere should be and are reflected in the lives of all our people. How do we increase salaries, pensions and benefits? By working even more efficiently and due to the fact that our budget revenues are growing and will continue to grow. We are still at the beginning of yet another stage of reforms, and the results of the first four months of this year suggest that great results have been achieved. This allows us the opportunity to pay more attention to the social sphere, both in terms of material support and in terms of reforms. Yesterday, on the eve of the great leader’s birthday, the first DOST Center was established. This is also a kind of a social security revolution – just as “ASAN xidmət” created a revolution in public services at one time. Over 6 million people have already used the services of “ASAN xidmət”. This is the brand of Azerbaijan. Today we export this brand to other countries as an intellectual product. Therefore, reforms must be continued – there is no other option.

A decree has recently been signed to deepen reforms in the judicial system. Specific work is currently under way so that the execution of the decree can start. This will also be a major reform. Compulsory medical insurance has been implemented in Azerbaijan as a pilot project, and the results are very positive. Perhaps we did not even expect the results to be so positive. This is highly appreciated by the population, doctors and in all other areas. We have to look forward. The world is changing. I want to say again that we should and will be in the forefront because the horizons are open, our policy is completely clear and there is every reason to be optimistic of the future.

Today we also celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. The Foundation was established 15 years ago and has done tremendous work in many areas over these years – in the field of culture, art, education, etc. As for education, I can say that the “New School for s Renewing Azerbaijan” program initiated by the Foundation has gained momentum across the country, after which more than 3,200 schools were built and renovated by the state. The Foundation is doing a great job in the field of healthcare. In many cases, this work is not even reported on. In other words, the public may not even know how much work is being done, how many people receive assistance, how many people – children and patients – have returned to normal life thanks to the treatment arranged by the Foundation. The multifaceted activities of the Foundation popularizes Azerbaijan in the world. It is highly respected worldwide. The Foundation does huge work to communicate Azerbaijani realities to the world – promotion of our music, carpets, the art of mugham and other pearls of our culture. Books are printed, disks are recorded, exhibitions, scientific conferences and symposia are held. Congratulations to the Foundation’s employees on the progress achieved. I also want to note that the Foundation is doing a great job of promoting the political heritage of the great leader.

We are celebrating the birthday of the great leader with good results and ambitious plans. I am sure that all our plans will be implemented. Just as they have been implemented to date, they will be implemented further. We have sufficient determination and power to do that, and the people support our policy. We will continue to follow the path of success and victories. Thank you!