Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the official reception marking 28 May – the Republic Day

25 may 2012, 19:20

- Dear ladies and gentlemen.

I heartily congratulate you and all the people of Azerbaijan on the upcoming Republic Day. I wish each one of you good health and happiness.

The formation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was a historic event. It was a historic event for our nation because the people of Azerbaijan gained the independence they had dreamed about for centuries. It was also a historic event for the Islamic world because a democratic republic was created in the Muslim world for the first time.

The people and the state of Azerbaijani have great respect for the memory of the founders of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. In the center of Baku there is a monument to those who signed the Declaration of Independence. The present-day independent Azerbaijan is the successor of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.

Unfortunately, our independence was short-lived then as the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic collapsed two years later.

But a lot was done over those two years. State attributes were adopted. Our state flag was approved. The Azerbaijan national anthem by our brilliant composer Uzeyir Hajibayli was adopted. Positive work was also done in other directions.

Government institutions were created. In short, there were all the attributes of a state.

Unfortunately, however, for certain objective and subjective reasons, that independence was short-lived. At the same time, a very dramatic event for our nation occurred in those two years as ancient Azerbaijani land, Erivan, was transferred to Armenia. After the fall of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic we were part of the Soviet Union for 70 years. That period also has both positive and negative sides. Of course, Azerbaijan lost its independence. We were not free, we were deprived of our liberty. We lived in ideological frames and the Azerbaijani people was not the master of its fate. But along with this, there were many positive aspects. First of all, the fight against illiteracy in Azerbaijan yielded positive results.

Such a big problem as illiteracy was eliminated. An impetus was given to the development of science, the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan was set up, and today our academic elite is composed of the people raised in the Soviet period.

Very much was done in Azerbaijan in the 1970s and early 80s to develop the industrial potential. The Azerbaijani people and Azerbaijan own a major contribution to the victory over fascism.

More than 600,000 citizens of Azerbaijan took part in the war. Half of them were killed. Azerbaijani oil workers made an invaluable contribution to our common victory. If it hadn’t been for Azerbaijani oil, it is not known what the outcome of the war would have been.

In other words, there were many both positive and negative aspects in Soviet years. But this period had its own stages of development. I want to highlight the 1970s. After Heydar Aliyev assumed leadership in Azerbaijan, the republic embarked on fundamental changes. Before that we were a backward republic. But then we began to develop. A great industrial potential was built up as a result of that development and it still serves the independent Azerbaijan.

Starting in the late 1980s our country Azerbaijan was faced with the policy of ethnic cleansing.

Azerbaijan was faced with huge problems. I have repeatedly expressed my opinion about this and want to repeat that if Heydar Aliyev had been in Azerbaijan at that time, in crucial moments for our nation, not an inch of our land would have been under occupation now. Unfortunately, those who were in power in those years failed to adequately perform their duties, leaving Azerbaijan confronted with great difficulties in the run-up to the break-up of the Soviet Union. An undeclared war was started against us. The occupation of our lands began. In the early years of our independence, especially in 1992-1993, as a result of the occupation of Shusha, Lachin and Kalbajar, a geographical link appeared between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, which had a negative impact on the subsequent period of the war.

In short, the first years of independence were very difficult for our country, our independent development was actually in jeopardy. If Heydar Aliyev hadn’t returned to power on people's demand in 1993, this time as President of the independent Azerbaijan, our country could have been faced with great disasters. In 1993 all the negative phenomena in the country were prevented, stability set in and development began. The foundations of our statehood were laid and the overall strategy defined. That strategy encompassed both domestic and foreign policies. It was the great leader’s dream to see Azerbaijan a modern and democratic country. It is thanks to his activities and efforts that Azerbaijan is a truly developing, modern, secular and democratic country now.

In 1993-2003, the foundations of our statehood were established and strengthened. It was in those years that economic reforms began and democracy developed. I want to highlight Heydar Aliyev’s oil strategy. If he hadn’t taken bold and visionary steps then, our economic and political development could be completely different today. The resolute and wise steps taken in those difficult and challenging conditions in the first months after the suspension of the war made the present successful development of Azerbaijan possible. There are sufficient scientific papers, articles and books about Heydar Aliyev’s oil strategy. As someone who took part in that work I can say that those were really crucial steps for the independent Azerbaijan.

In those years Azerbaijan became a member of major international organizations. Our integration into the global community began. We managed to attract major investments to Azerbaijan. In short, strong political, economic and ideological foundations of our statehood were laid.

With regard to the ideological foundations, the policies of Heydar Aliyev were centered on the ideology of Azerbaijanism.

This ideology, this philosophy is still our main ideological pillar. At the same time, the slogan that “the independent Azerbaijan must have independent politics” was relevant then and is still relevant today.

The world is changing. Global developments unfold in different directions. Only the general laws of nature remain unchanged. As an independent country, Azerbaijan is pursuing an independent policy today. This independent policy is based primarily on the will of the Azerbaijani people. In short, our country covered a long and successful path of development in 1993-2003. We have always cherished the memory of the great leader. We are still committed to his political course and stick to his path. I can say that the path towards independence is also associated with Heydar Aliyev’s name. Our tricolor national flag was first declared the national flag in Nakhchivan back in Soviet times. A referendum on the preservation of the Soviet Union was not conducted in Nakhchivan, thus first important steps leading to independence were taken.

We have lived as an independent country for 20 years. Last year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the restoration of our independence. We marked this anniversary with great successes. Twenty years is a short period, it is an instant for history. But our country successfully developed during these 20 years.

The policy of Heydar Aliyev is ongoing. Political reforms are continuing. Our positions in the region have become much stronger. The projects being implemented on our initiative bring great benefit to us and the countries that participate in them alongside us. We attach great importance to democratic development. The process of building a law-governed state is well under way. Major political reforms are ongoing.

The good practices of world countries that have extensive experience in this field are studied and applied to Azerbaijan.

In short, our activities in the public and political sphere are very positive and successful.

There is a stable political situation in the country. There is a unity between the people and the government. There is no disagreement in society on general ways for developing our country. We will continue to strengthen our independence guided by the philosophy of Azerbaijanism, continue economic reforms and create a strong state. Major steps have already been taken to this end.

The main problem facing our country is the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Unfortunately, there are no results in this respect. Armenia has been flagrantly violating international law, flouting international law, ignoring the resolutions of authoritative and leading international organizations for many years. The situation of "neither war nor peace" continues.

The war is not over yet. Only its first stage is. We don’t want a second stage of the war to start. But for that Armenia should abide by international law and withdraw from the occupied lands. As you know, there are four UN Security Council resolutions on this issue. The NATO summit held in Chicago a few days ago passed another very reasonable and fair resolution. It states that the conflict should be resolved within the territorial integrity of countries, territorial integrity is stated as the sole principle. The OSCE, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other organizations have passed a lot of resolutions and decisions on the conflict. So there is no need for any further steps to address the issue from a legal standpoint.

But Armenia’s unconstructive position and attempts to prolong the current situation are preventing a settlement. I have repeatedly expressed my opinion about this. We are approaching a settlement with every day and minute. The factors leading us to this day are associated with political, economic and other spheres. In political terms, Azerbaijan is a regional leader today. We have a fairly strong position. We enjoy great support in the international community. Our election to the UN Security Council shows the world's attitude to us, Azerbaijan is currently chairing the Security Council.

We have strong positions in the region. Regarding the economic sphere I can say that Azerbaijan accounts for 80 per cent of the South Caucasus economy and this figure will only grow in subsequent years because our long-term development strategy will enable us to double our GDP in the next 10 years. Such a goal has been set. There is an incomparable difference.

Of course, we are using all the diplomatic and political means to resolve the problem, while also building up our military strength. Great strides have been made in this direction too. Suffice it to say that Azerbaijan’s military expenses exceed Armenia’s total expenditure by 50 per cent. Of course, the logistics, professionalism and combat readiness of our army are significantly improving. Today the Azerbaijani army is one of the strongest armies in the world. In subsequent years, even more attention will be paid to army building and we will have an even stronger army.

There are other important factors that step up the position of Azerbaijan in the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Our economic future – we know exactly what the future holds because we are creating it ourselves. Armenia sees its future with donations other countries may and may not give it. It is impossible to predict a long-term development under such circumstances. We have worked so much, mobilized all our forces, passed many programs and implemented many projects to achieve sustainable development. So long-term development takes years.

This positive momentum will lead us forward. Therefore I can say with full responsibility what Azerbaijan will look like economically 10 years later. When it comes to Armenia, its economy is completely paralyzed and there are no economic prospects. People are leaving the country en masse, and this, of course, will play a role in resolving the issue – the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

For many years we considered only political, economic, legal and military factors. I can say that now we must also consider the demographic factor because it is in the forefront not only in our region but also in the world. Demographic development, positive in some countries and regressing in others, is a subject of analysis today. The demographic situation in Azerbaijan is also positive. Our population is growing, it now exceeds 9.2 million people. Armenia’s population, on the contrary, is shrinking. I have no doubt that we will restore our sovereignty and territorial integrity by all means and the united Azerbaijan will continue its successful development.

I want to say again that the work done so far is sufficient grounds for such conclusions. Our 20-year history – of course with the exception of the first two years – shows that the Azerbaijani people are very talented. The Azerbaijanis are a hard working people. The Azerbaijani people did not miss this historic opportunity.

Independence was a historic opportunity. For centuries before us, generations of our ancestors lived with the dream of independence. But only our generation was lucky enough to see this independence, strengthen and develop it. It was a historic opportunity and the Azerbaijani people did not miss it and made the best of this independence.

Today, Azerbaijan is a leading country in the world for the pace of economic development. At a time when international credit agencies are lowering the ratings of major countries, Azerbaijan's credit ratings are rising. There is a growing number of competitive companies in Azerbaijan. We can say that the economy has been diversified. The dependence on oil and gas is reducing. The private sector is receiving great support. Currently, the private sector commands 80 per cent of our economy. Add to this our oil and gas fields and the transport infrastructure we have created and we will see that Azerbaijan will only be developing in the future.

I want to repeat that we have specific programs and plans in each area for the coming years. I would like to say a few words about that too – regarding foreign policy. In the future we will traditionally continue pursuing our independent foreign policies.

This policy has brought us great success. Previously, some local and foreign analysts often expressed unrealistic thoughts about Azerbaijan’s foreign policy. But it became clear that our foreign policy is the only correct one. Otherwise, our young state would not have gained the confidence of 155 countries. Our election to the UN Security Council is a clear indication of how correct our foreign policy is.

We will continue to pursue this policy. In particular, we will give preference to bilateral relations. This is a priority for us now. Relations with neighbors are of particular importance, because we live in this region, have lived here for centuries and will continue to live in this neighborhood. Every country, including Azerbaijan, should seek to have good relations with neighbors. But, of course, they should be based on international law, non-interference in each other's affairs, mutual respect and trust. As you know, we recently joined a member of the Non-Aligned Movement. This is also a large organization, an organization that covers many countries. We will step up our activities within this organization. This organization treats Azerbaijan with great sympathy and trust. Taking advantage of this situation, we will make more friends.

The people and the state of Azerbaijan are an integral part of the Islamic world. This is our history, our present, our tradition and national identity. Our national values have taken shape on the basis of Islamic values. We are very committed to our national values, they are above everything to us. I have repeatedly said that I am glad that the younger generation is growing up in the national spirit. We must protect, preserve and promote the rich national and spiritual values and traditions of the Azerbaijani people. Every young person living in Azerbaijan, every Azerbaijani child should grow up in this spirit.

We play an active part and enjoy great support in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The vast majority of Muslim countries clearly support Azerbaijan and our position in international organizations. As you know, we also take specific steps to strengthen Islamic solidarity. The various activities carried out in Baku are clear evidence of that.

Azerbaijan is also a member of European institutions, including the Council of Europe, carries out activities within the organization and, of course, our activities within the organization will be continued. In general, we build equal relations based on mutual respect and trust with all countries. I am very pleased that with the exception of the occupying state of Armenia we have no problems in the bilateral format with any country. Intergovernmental communication is very effective and positive. Again, our election to the UN Security Council has led to the creation of a new view about Azerbaijan in many countries. Our election to this influential organization, the top organization of the world with the support of 155 countries, is of course a remarkable result. As for international organizations, we have assumed certain obligations in the international organizations we are a member of and are fulfilling them in a timely manner. We don’t and can’t have any obligations to the organizations we are not a member of. Simple logic suggests that if you are not a member of an organization, you have no obligations to it.

Our foreign policy, as always, will be open, it will be a policy of good will. But, of course, our independent policy will be even stronger in the future, we will be even more active in regional developments. Our role in global processes is also growing. Now we are discovering new continents from political and diplomatic standpoints. We are forging excellent relations with Latin America. I can say that of the three countries that have recognized the Khojaly tragedy as an act of genocide two are Latin American states. Mexico, Colombia and Pakistan are our brotherly countries. There is a strong interest in Azerbaijan on the African continent. We have been noticing that especially after becoming a member of the UN Security Council. We are also very interested in this continent. So speaking the economic language, we will further diversify our foreign policy. We will thus enhance our role in the world in the future.

We have specific programs and solutions domestically. We are committed to democratic development. Azerbaijan has all the democratic institutions. Great progress has been made in building the rule of law. The development of democracy is our duty. First and foremost, this is necessary for the people of Azerbaijan. We work on this area not to please anyone but to improve the welfare of the Azerbaijani people and provide all the freedoms. We will remain committed to this policy.

I have repeatedly voiced my thoughts regarding the economic sphere through speeches, statements and specific programs. The development observed in Azerbaijan in recent years is unparalleled in the world.

The tripling of the GDP, the five-fold poverty reduction, the establishment of industrial facilities, industrial parks, the development of information and communication technology and other fields… So there are programs on specific economic sectors. The priorities for the coming years first of all include the ICT sector because the overall development of the world is moving in this direction. In the future, knowledge and competence will determine the place of countries in the world to an even greater extent.

Therefore, this area should receive special attention. Science and education should also be given special attention. This area should come to the fore. This is the goal of the programs on the development of science and education for young people adopted in recent years. We want our young people to be literate and educated.

We want science to develop in Azerbaijan. Science means knowledge, talent and development. We are using the scientific values developed in other countries. And this is natural because we are part of the world community. But I think that Azerbaijan has a strong scientific potential now. In the coming years this potential will grow even stronger, especially due to young people. That is, Azerbaijan should have a strong and young academic elite so that 20, 30 and 50 years later it could successfully run the country. Therefore, information and communication technology, science and education should be our priority for the coming years.

It is necessary to develop agriculture because nearly half of our population is engaged in this sector. This sector is also a priority. Each sphere is a priority. Whereas earlier by saying a “priority” we primarily meant the oil and gas sector, it is no longer the case. We have adequately met our tasks in the oil and gas sector. We have a diversified export infrastructure, seven oil and gas pipelines. Our oil and gas are supplied to world markets in all directions. We can say that most of the work in the energy sector is over.

After that, of course, we have new ideas and initiatives. These initiatives are more necessary and important for our partners. We also need them. The coincidence of interests here is a positive development. We can say that the main issues related to the energy sector – oil, gas, power generation – have been resolved.

In the transport sector, we will begin to operate the new Silk Road – the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway – by the end of this year. Thus, we will turn Azerbaijan into a global transit hub. And this will bring our country both political and economic dividends for decades and centuries to come. As you know, we initiated this project.

I want to reiterate that we have further development plans for each area. I simply wanted to take this opportunity to express some thoughts about this. In general, the 20-year history of Azerbaijan shows that a lot can be achieved in 20 years. Today, every visitor coming to Baku with good intentions admires the beauty of Baku. Baku is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I have repeatedly said this and every time I say this I feel very proud. There may come a tome when we can say that Baku is the most beautiful city in the world. Our guests – we have particularly many visitors these days – point to two key things: the unparalleled beauty of Baku and the friendly and kind people of Azerbaijan.

These two factors are interconnected. There was a time when no-one could be seen walking in our seaside boulevard.

Run down alleys, broken lighting poles, rusted metal, etc. Today, tens of thousands of people spend their leisure hours on the Baku boulevard. Seeing this beauty and development, they are rightly proud to be citizens of Azerbaijan.

Our biggest success over the years is that we never deviated from the path of independence. Independence doesn’t only mean state attributes. Independence is determined by whether or not a country can pursue an independent policy. This is especially true for small countries. This is especially true for countries located in areas where the interests of major power centers converge. In this location and in this neighborhood, the resource-rich Azerbaijan is conducting and will conduct an independent policy. Our experience shows that this is possible.

This is possible if your policies are prudent, you have enough courage and a clear strategy for the country and its future.
Today Azerbaijan is developing as an independent country. Our development is, of course, benefiting the citizens of Azerbaijan and our friends. Our 20-year history shows again that we are on the right track.

Azerbaijan's independence will be eternal, Azerbaijan will continue to move along the path of development. We all need to make sure that this path is bright, clear and open.

Thank you.