Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the reception on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of membership of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the United Nations

04 may 2012, 09:40

- ladies and gentlemen!

Distinguished guests, dear friends!

I am very grateful to you for accepting our invitation and being here with us tonight. I am very honored to organize such a grand reception and see you all here.

I see people I have known for many years, many friends, including new ones. I am sure we will remember this day for a long time. Today, we are celebrating two important events in the modern history of Azerbaijan. Twenty years ago Azerbaijan became a member of the UN. And last year our country was elected a member of the UN Security Council.

Today we are marking these two remarkable events. Several days ago Azerbaijan took over presidency in the Security Council.

I want to thank everyone who voted for us, showed confidence in us, especially those who supported us at the most important moment in the election. The competition was very tough and fair. Azerbaijan won the most votes. This is an assessment of the efforts we made in the years of independence. It is a symbol of support for our young republic which has changed dramatically in the past 20 years, has set very ambitious goals and is striving to achieve them. Twenty years ago we became an independent country. Our people have a great history, culture, customs and traditions. But we were not independent. Twenty years ago we got the opportunity of building our nation and state, living in peace and friendship with our neighbors and friends.

The changes that have occurred over 20 years have shown that Azerbaijan has made great progress. We have made great changes in the political system, carried out fundamental political reforms. Today, Azerbaijan is a modern, democratic and open country where all political freedoms – the freedom of the press, the freedom of expression, a free Internet, the freedom of religion – are guaranteed.

Azerbaijan is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. We are proud of that. This is the legacy we have inherited from the past. Regardless of the political system, Azerbaijan has always been a place where religions and peoples came together and lived like one family. We are very proud of the fact that over the 20 years we have not only preserved this important legacy of the past, but have also strengthened the spirit of cooperation, brotherhood and partnership.

We also conduct many international events promoting the idea of multiculturalism and coexistence of peoples of different backgrounds and religions, we are building a modern country.

We have implemented major economic projects. This has been a very important part of our agenda, because we had to move from a planned to a market economy. In 20 years the share of the market economy in our GDP has exceeded 80 per cent. Today, we can really feel the results of development and economic reforms. In less than 10 years our GDP has tripled. Industrial production has also increased three times. The poverty level has dropped from about 50 to 7.6 per cent.

The unemployment rate is 5.4 per cent. We have not been affected by the Dutch disease and have diversified our economy in order not to depend on the energy sector.

We will continue our economic reforms because we are seeing their benefits for the population. We are very pleased that international financial institutions support and appreciate the work ongoing in Azerbaijan. Even in the years of the financial recession the key financial institutions such as Standard & Poor's, Fitch and Moody's upgraded our credit rating.

Today our economy is more competitive than in previous years. Our economic diversification is already a reality. We are now developing the ICT sector, creating a space industry. In short, we are building a modern and growing economy. Our goal is to become one of the developed countries of the world. We have set the goal of further doubling the already tripled GDP over the next 10 years and become a high-income country.

We are also working to solve social problems. One of the key social problems is the plight of our refugees and IDPs.

Azerbaijan has been suffering from Armenian aggression and occupation of its lands for 20 years now. A fifth of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territory is still under occupation. The UN Security Council has passed four resolutions on the subject. Unfortunately, they have yet to be executed. Armenia is flouting them. These resolutions demand an unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Armenian forces from our territories. The Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh is a major threat to regional stability. It is a great injustice for the region and a flagrant violation of international law. Twenty years ago Azerbaijan joined the UN as a sovereign country. Nagorno-Karabakh is historical Azerbaijani territory. It has always been a part of Azerbaijan. From a legal standpoint it is an integral part of Azerbaijan. Of course, we want to restore our territorial integrity, we want our refugees and IDPs to return to their homes.

I can talk a lot about the problems and achievements of our country. But the most important thing is that 20 years ago we fully capitalized on the opportunity that presented itself. We have strengthened our independence, transformed the economy, established political institutions and built partnerships with our friends.

Speaking in the beautiful city of New York today, I want to stress that we attach great importance to bilateral relations with the United States. These relations have a long history and cover many areas. We actively cooperate in matters of political development, economy, energy security and security in general, anti-terror operations. Azerbaijan is a reliable partner of the United States. In 20 years these relations have turned into a strategic partnership for both sides. I am confident that the future of our relations will also be very successful. We are currently working on important regional issues. As a leading country of the region, we have a strong economy. Azerbaijan, a member of the Security Council, is ready to play a role in global affairs.

Of course, our regional initiatives in the political, economic, energy and other areas create a new situation. Our energy initiatives are changing the regional energy map and leading to prosperity and predictability in the region. We want to live in peace with our neighbors and strengthen cooperation with our friends. Several months ago, the international community and the UN family supported us greatly by electing Azerbaijan to the Security Council. Today I want to thank all the countries that supported us. To be elected, we passed 16 rounds. The competition was strong. It was strong but fair.

We are proud to have received the support of 155 countries.

I want to express my gratitude to all the countries that voted us again. It is a symbol of friendship and support, an evaluation of the work we have done at home and globally. It also means tremendous responsibility. In the coming two years we will be sharing this responsibility with our partners in the Security Council. I can assure you that Azerbaijan will be an active and constructive member of the Security Council. After our election I made a statement congratulating our people and noting that Azerbaijan would uphold justice and international law in the Security Council. I want to assure our friends again that we are committed to these principles and will do everything possible to contribute to peace and international cooperation, stability and development.

Thank you, dear friends. Thank you for being with us. I send you my best wishes. Thank you.