Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the opening of Balakan regional “ASAN xidmət” center
29 july 2020, 15:30
It is a very remarkable day in the life of Balakan district today. An “ASAN xidmət” center is opening in Balakan. I sincerely congratulate you on this occasion. It is a wonderful center, both the appearance and the interior design are beautiful, which pleases the eye, of course. While visiting Balakan three years ago, I took part in the opening of an “ABAD Center”. And today we are celebrating the opening of an “ASAN xidmət” center built in Balakan on my order. This is another sign of the attention being paid to Balakan.
The development of the district is always in the spotlight. I regularly visit Balakan district, get acquainted with the situation and give appropriate instructions so that things in the district go well at a good pace. In recent years, the socioeconomic development of Balakan district has been going well. Many social facilities have been built. I have personally participated in the opening of all the key social facilities – the central district hospital, the Olympic Center, the Youth Center and the Culture Center. Many schools have been built and overhauled. Today we celebrated the opening of a Children's Art Center. The construction of all these facilities, of course, requires major funds, and we are doing this.
These projects are being implemented within the framework of the state program on the socioeconomic development of the Regions, and additions are made to this program every year. The Balakan “ASAN xidmət” center has also been built in accordance with the additions made to the program. At the previous stage, the construction of an “ASAN xidmət” center was not envisaged here because there are already several centers in the north-western region of Azerbaijan. At the initial stage, each center usually covers the population of four, five or six districts. And this center covers only three districts – Balakan, Zagatala and Gakh. I want to say again that this center has been built on my special instruction. A wonderful center has already been handed over to the people of Balakan.
While reviewing the center, I gave additional instructions. I believe that additional facilities should be created on this territory to correspond to the activities of the center – first of all, a cinema. I enquired and the head of the executive authority said that there was no cinema in Balakan. Therefore, there must be a cinema here. It is necessary to have a place, a training center for young people to spend their leisure time rationally. I am ordering to set up a new center nearby where all the necessary facilities will be available.
As for the number of services provided here, there are 320 now. I was informed today that proposals have been made to add more services to “ASAN xidmət” centers and this issue will also be resolved in the future.
Other important issues related to infrastructure projects are being resolved in Balakan district as well. It is possible to say that gas supply rate is close to 100 percent. The road and transport infrastructure is being updated, both rural roads and the Baku-Balakan road have been actually reconstructed. I was driving here from Baku and was very pleased with the work done along the highway. There are several roads that do not correspond to the overall rate of our development, first of all, in the territory of Ismayilli district. A new bridge will be built and a road built there. Thus, a safer and more comfortable conditions will be created. One road project remains outstanding in this region. True, there is a road but it is not up to the mark. It is the Sheki-Oguz road. Appropriate instructions will be given to rebuild this road. All the instructions given in previous years have been fulfilled. The construction of the Baku-Shamakhi-Gabala-Sheki-Gakh-Zagatala-Balakan road up to the border with Georgia has been ensured.
Among the problems existing in Balakan, the problem of drinking water is a very serious one. Proposals on this issue have already been prepared, appropriate instructions have been given and we should soon start implementing a drinking water and sewage project in Balakan. So far, we have been using artesian wells to address problems of drinking water and irrigation. A total of 24 wells have been drilled in Balakan district and 10 more are to be drilled. But the drinking water and sewage project must and will be implemented. Important steps have been taken recently to provide electricity. There are also plans to open a new center of the Azerishig Open Joint Stock Company today. Hydroelectric power plants were once built in Balakan district and power supply has improved significantly.
In other words, all the necessary measures are being taken to develop the district. Investment is being made through state programs and the private sector is heavily involved in this work. There are good results in the field of agriculture. As you know, specific steps are being taken on my initiative to develop hazelnut growing, which is a traditional agricultural sector in the north-western region. I held a special meeting on hazelnut growing. Several years ago, the area of hazelnut orchards was 32,000 hectares. Over several years, we brought it up to 80,000 hectares. In Balakan district, the area of hazelnut orchards was 5,000 hectares, but now it has reached 10,000 hectares. You are well aware that hazelnut growing is the key source of income for many people living here. By laying out these orchards and helping the farmers, we contribute to the well-being of the population of Balakan and neighboring districts. Today Azerbaijan ranks third among exporters of hazelnuts. This is a very profitable and promising sector. Our climate is suitable for this. From Ismayilli to Balakan, at the same time in the southern region, as well as Khachmaz and Gusar, hazelnut growing has great prospects. Each district should have its own specialization. Hazelnut and tobacco growing have traditionally developed here. A lot of attention is being paid to these areas these days. The key objective is that people should live better and improve their financial situation. The state helps the people who are not yet able to fully provide for themselves. Today 84,000 families in Azerbaijan receive targeted social assistance. This year, paid public jobs will be created for 90,000 people. The establishment of “ABAD” centers is essentially an integral part of the self-employment program. The people of Balakan district are actually first members of the “ABAD” program. Their products are sold in various places of our country and exported.
It is this integrated approach that allows us the opportunity to achieve the rapid development of our country today. Our development is sustainable and prospects are excellent because we are taking our steps in a planned manner and on the basis of proposals coming from the ground. Currently, the biggest problem is irrigation. The drought has been creating great difficulties for us for two years now. A special meeting on this issue was held under my chairmanship. The commission set up three months ago is also involved in putting water management on electronic rails, and this important area has been entrusted to “ASAN xidmət”. I was informed during the presentation today that in a short period of time – the commission was set up on 15 April – the electronic system of water management has already been prepared. How did we achieve this? Precisely due to our intellectual potential. One of the most important factors of “ASAN xidmət” centers is innovation, an intellectual product, a modern process of training and the involvement of young people in this work.
Of course, when we developed the concept of “ASAN xidmət”, my main goal was, first of all, to eliminate corruption, bribery and bureaucracy in the public services sector. In other words, we wanted to create such an institutional intellectual product that would put a barrier to those wishing to engage in unsightly deeds. We have already achieved this. However, in parallel with this, the “ASAN xidmət” system is a very important factor in the field of electronization, digitalization and the production of intellectual products in our country. It is no coincidence that a significant part of the problems associated with drinking water and irrigation, one of the most important issues for us today, is now regulated by “ASAN xidmət”.
As for expanding the geography of “ASAN xidmət” centers, this is also carried out according to plan. This is the 20th center. The construction of seven other centers is ongoing. I believe that by the end of next year at the latest, there will be 27 “ASAN xidmət” centers in Azerbaijan. It is no secret that this initiative has crated revolutionary changes in public services. At the same time, it is about the application of new rules of conduct. In Soviet times, the service sector was always a very problem area. There were violations, lack of attention, people were often treated with disrespect and indifference. People could not receive the documents and certificates they were entitled to for days and weeks, were faced with certain demands and unlawful requirements. Therefore, the reforms carried out in the field of public services by “ASAN xidmət” not only turned this area into an exemplary one, but also had a very positive impact on relations in society.
I would like to specifically note the personnel of “ASAN xidmət” centers. They are all young. They are the face of Azerbaijani youth. Azerbaijani youth should be exactly like that – educated, competent, cultured, respectful of the older generation and attached to their native land. The “ASAN xidmət” army is already quite enough. Thousands of young people have worked and gained experience in “ASAN xidmət”. Their representatives, including volunteers, work in very important positions today. Our volunteer movement essentially began with “ASAN xidmət” centers. Prior to that, there was no volunteer movement in our country. There are already thousands of volunteers in Azerbaijan now. They play a significant role in areas of great importance to our country. Volunteers actively participated in major and prestigious sporting events. For example, they actively participated in the liquidation of the consequences of the earthquake that occurred in Shamakhi district. An earthquake also happened in this region – Balakan, Zagatala and Gakh districts several years ago. I should also note that thousands of houses were built by the state. We did not have volunteers to provide services to citizens at that time. However, immediately after the earthquake in Shamakhi, volunteers were the first to come here and help the citizens. Of course, state support was also provided. Therefore, “ASAN xidmət” has many positive features. The operation of these centers is very important for the image of our country. “ASAN xidmət” has reached the international level and received a UN award. Several countries have adopted this experience from us and similar services are already being provided under the name of “ASAN xidmət” in some countries. This is our intellectual product, a national brand. Azerbaijan today is one of the countries that create and export an intellectual product. Currently, our 20 centers cover practically all the regions of our country. If we add service buses to this, then “ASAN xidmət” is already everywhere. But, of course, new centers are also planned for the coming years.
ASAN xidmət has been operating for several years, but the level of services provided does not decline. Why am I saying this? Because sometimes, when a new enterprise or a new service sector is opened, all issues are initially resolved at a high level, of course. But over time, if there are enough customers, the quality of services sometimes decreases. “ASAN xidmət”, however, maintains a high level. The popular approval rating of the service is 99.4 percent. I don’t know who this 0.6 percent is. Who in the world can dislike “ASAN xidmət”? Probably there are some. But I believe that all of the most advanced technologies are available here, as well as investment made in human capital. After all, it is human capital that determines our development, our strength and the power of our country. Natural resources help us simply as a means, but if we look at the history of any developed country, we can see that countries with developed science and education can successfully resolve their problems.
Of course, I am very delighted today that our young people are competent, educated and patriotic. When preventing an Armenian armed provocation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border recently, Azerbaijani soldiers and officers – the vast majority of them are young people – demonstrated true professionalism and courage and put the enemy in its place. They did not allow the enemy to improve its positions. They didn't allow it to set its foot on our soil.
As you know, Azerbaijan's worthy response to the enemy and, according to the general opinion of international experts, the victory won have caused an even greater uplift in our society. And young people were in the forefront again. Less than a week after I expressed my opinion on this issue at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers held in the middle of this month, more than 50,000 representatives of Azerbaijani youth applied to the State Service for Mobilization and Conscription and registered there as volunteers willing defend the homeland. More than 50,000 people in one week.
I have said that the Azerbaijani army is fully staffed and there is no need for additional manpower today. But if necessary, the more than 50,000 people registered within one week are ready to fight for their homeland, for the land.
You know, these events have once again exposed the fascist essence of Armenia, their cowardly nature, because it wasn’t the first time when an aggressor, after being defeated on the battlefield, proceeds to take action against the civilian population. Our villages were fired at. As a result of the fire opened by these vile people, a 76-year-old elder was killed. This is atrocity. War is waged by armies, soldiers and volunteers. However, our detested neighbor is waging a war against the civilian population, just as it committed the Khojaly genocide and killed innocent people – children, women. In Khojaly, the enemy killed 613 people, more than a thousand people went missing. The only “fault” of these people was that they were Azerbaijanis. For the Armenian nationalists this factor is enough. They were unarmed civilians. Taking advantage of this and the weakness of the then government, Armenian bandit units committed a heinous crime, an act of genocide against our people. They wanted to do the same this time. Otherwise, why would they bombard the civilian population, fire at it from artillery pieces and mortars? I want to say again that, seeing their helplessness on the battlefield, they always resort to the dirtiest of actions. The April 2016 battles followed this very scenario. At that time, our villages were also regularly subjected to shelling from the positions captured by Armenia. Having carried out a counter-offensive operation with high professionalism, the Azerbaijani army returned the captured strategic heights and forced the enemy to flee. The events that took place in Tovuz District are a repetition of that same scenario. We need to know this. We must know the true nature of the neighbor we are face to face with. We must never forget this! We must never forget and will never forget the Khojaly genocide! Having dealt yet another crushing blow to the enemy, we saw again how helpless they are and that they do not even respect themselves. They immediately turned to the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the CSTO, of which they are a member, and asked it for help. I have said this before and I want to say it again: the CSTO does not and cannot have anything to do with this. Because Armenia is an aggressor. Their main goal was precisely this – to provoke a conflict on the state border, then blame Azerbaijan for this and ask for military assistance from the CSTO. This is precisely what their dirty goals were. They tried to involve CSTO members in these dirty games, but it did not work out. The CSTO did not make a statement and only issued a commentary on the issue that consisted of general words. But notice how many countries have supported Azerbaijan. First of all, everyone knows perfectly well, and so do experts, that the conflict was provoked by Armenia. I want to say again: we have no interests in the territory of Armenia. We have no military objectives there and the international community is well aware of this. That is why, among other things, and thanks to the growing authority of Azerbaijan, several international organizations have openly supported us. The Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States consists of five countries. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation includes 57 countries and the Non-Aligned Movement is made up of 120 countries. A number of countries, first of all, brotherly Turkey, unequivocally supported Azerbaijan. The President of Turkey, my dear brother Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has already demonstrated a very open, sharp and principled position several times. This shows once again that Turkey and Azerbaijan, as always, are together – both on joyful and difficult days. We can rely on each other and our strength is in unity. These international organizations and several countries, their officials have made statements in support of Azerbaijan.
As for the CSTO, four out of six members of this organization supported Azerbaijan with statements on this issue adopted in international organizations. Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are members of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are also members of the CSTO. This means that two members of the CSTO support Azerbaijan through this organization. Belarus is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement.
The statement of the Non-Aligned Movement also expresses the position of Belarus. Tajikistan is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has expressed an open position in connection with this border conflict. So four countries already stand by Azerbaijan. But who supported Armenia? I didn't see anyone, I didn't notice. Besides, how can the CSTO members support the current leadership of Armenia?
It is no secret that the current leadership of Armenia consists of people who are under the influence of the Soros Foundation. Just look at their biographies. Many people working in the government, parliament and judiciary, as well as other senior positions in Armenia, were employees of the Soros Foundation and organizations close to it.
It is obvious that the “revolution” that took place in Armenia was yet another provocation of Soros and those close to him. True, the Armenian people hated the previous government and did not hide this. The former government of Armenia deserves contempt. But the group that came to replace it is not very different from the previous government. It is no coincidence that the Soros Foundation recently provided Armenia with financial assistance in the amount of $600,000 in connection with the pandemic. What other country did it help? No post-Soviet country! Azerbaijan? Not! There is no trace of the Soros Foundation in Azerbaijan, as they were engaged in provocations here and were poisoning the minds of young people. They tried to raise young people against their state. Therefore, they were expelled. But in Armenia they have spread their wings and do not hide that this is an open donation. We are aware that the current leadership of Armenia secretly receives money from the Soros Foundation, acts as its agents and fulfills its orders. This is why the Soros Foundation openly donated $600,000 to the Armenian leadership today. Should the CSTO member states think about this? Of course, they should. And Armenia, clinging to the hem of the CSTO in fear, should remember how it discredited it and arrested the organization's secretary general. Subsequently, under pressure, it released him but the criminal case was never closed. For one year, it did not allow the CSTO to appoint a new secretary general.
Besides, what is the name of the party of the current Armenian prime minister? The CSTO is well aware of this. If we translate this name into the Azerbaijani language, we will get an “exit”, because these people came to power under such this slogan. “Exit!” from where? From two organizations – the CSTO and the Eurasian Economic Union. This is their goal and this is their true face!
Of course, they are now trying to prove that they are committed to these organizations by taking various hypocritical actions and making statements. But this is a lie. Everyone knows their true intentions. Soros scum cannot become CSTO allies. This is unequivocal. Therefore, Armenia today is at a loss and taking erroneous steps. I believe that the provocation at the border was a kind of trial attempt on their part to see who would react and how. They saw that all the countries they considered allies either supported us or remained neutral. They were further convinced of how strong the international support of Azerbaijan is. Therefore, this should serve as a lesson for them. The Armenian people must finally understand that if they want to live in a normal country, then the Armenian armed forces must leave our lands. These are our historical and ancestral lands. We will never put up with occupation. The restoration of our territorial integrity is our number one task. On the other hand, Armenia is isolated from all regional projects. We have isolated them. Look at the new energy, new transport and new telecommunications map of our region, there is no Armenia there. All these lines, including the projects implemented on our initiative, bypassed Armenia. They are already completely on the sidelines of regional cooperation. We did it and we are not hiding that. Having mobilized all our possibilities, we will continue to keep them in isolation. They are deprived of these opportunities. And we will return to our lands, we will definitely return. Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity.
I was recently informed that the prime minister of Armenia put forward seven conditions to Azerbaijan. I believe that any sane person can clearly see that none of these conditions are acceptable. One of the conditions is for Azerbaijan to conduct negotiations with the notorious “Nagorno-Karabakh republic”. This is impossible. We have repeatedly stated this because there is no “Nagorno-Karabakh republic”. No-one recognizes such a “republic”. Let Armenia, if it has enough courage, recognize the “Nagorno-Karabakh republic”. I am telling the Armenian authorities – recognize it. Recognize it today. If you don’t recognize it, that means you are afraid. Think about it! There will be no negotiations with the criminal regime. Therefore, they should know in advance that this is completely unacceptable. The other conditions are similar to this. By putting forward unacceptable conditions, Armenia actually undermines the process of negotiations and tries to change the format of talks. Because the negotiations are held between Azerbaijan and Armenia. This is an explicit position of the Minsk Group and its co-chairs. This position has been repeatedly communicated to them both in an official manner and behind closed doors. But look at their stubbornness – they are putting forward the condition that Azerbaijan should negotiate with the “Nagorno-Karabakh republic” again. There is no “Nagorno-Karabakh republic”. Let the Armenian people not deceive themselves. We are rejecting all the other conditions and throwing this paper in the bin. But the Armenian people should think carefully. If they want to continue to live as hostages of criminals, then let them turn a blind eye to the insane and dangerous actions of the current government. In 1998-2018, the Armenian people were held hostage by the criminal regime of Armenia and now they are a hostage of the Soros regime.
They must understand that if the Armenian armed forces do not leave our lands, then there will be no peace, and they themselves will regret that. The Armenian armed forces must leave our lands before it is too late. This is required by international law, four resolutions of the UN Security Council. The Armenian armed forces must immediately and unconditionally withdraw from Azerbaijani lands. This is required by the historical truth because Nagorno-Karabakh is our historical land. The prime minister of Armenia says that “Nagorno-Karabakh is Armenia”. What negotiations can we talk about after this? After all, the main gist of the negotiations is to liberate the occupied lands. We need to negotiate around this. What else? We have never negotiated the granting of independence to the “Nagorno-Karabakh republic”, never! This was never a subject of negotiations. I have never spoken and do not intend to speak about it at all. We are negotiating when and in what sequence the occupied lands must be liberated. If the prime minister of Armenia says that “Nagorno-Karabakh is Armenia”, if he says that “we want to negotiate with the notorious “Nagorno-Karabakh republic”, then he is destroying the negotiations. I put forward one condition against their seven, the one condition that Armenian armed forces must withdraw from all occupied lands, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored, citizens of Azerbaijan must return to the lands of their fathers and grandfathers! This is my condition, and I advise them to accept it.
We will return to our native lands and create “ASAN xidmət” centers in our cities that are under occupation now. Our youth will work in these centers. We will restore our cities, historical and religious sites destroyed by Armenian vandals, and we will live on our lands. We do not claim the lands of other countries, but we will not give our land to anyone either.
We are on the eve of Eid al-Adha. I congratulated the Azerbaijani people on the occasion of Eid al-Adha and want to do it again. I congratulate you, all the residents of Balakan district, all the Azerbaijani people on this wonderful holiday. I wish you and all the Azerbaijani people continued success and happiness. Thank you!