Ilham Aliyev attended the official opening ceremony of the Crans Montana Forum

29 june 2012, 12:16

The official opening ceremony of the Crans Montana Forum has been held at the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku.

The ceremony was joined by President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva.

This year’s 23rd Crans Montana Forum is attended by the Presidents of Georgia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, public figures from foreign countries, MPs, intellectuals and business people.

The key objective of the event is to encourage the world forum on inter-cultural dialogue due in 2013 and the Baku process on inter-cultural dialogue and to promote Azerbaijan as a center of this dialogue.

The Crans Montana Forum is an international organization established with the support of Swiss officials in 1986. This organization enjoys tremendous international authority and closely cooperates with the UN, the European Union, the Council of Europe, as well as UNESCO, ISESCO and other international organizations.

The founder and president of the Forum is Ambassador Jean-Paul Carteron. Azerbaijan takes an active part in the organization created to support international cooperation and dialogue. The activities of our country, located at a crossroads of civilizations and contributing to intercultural dialogue, are receiving good assessments on an international level, including the Crans Montana Forum. A graphic example of that is the fact that President Ilham Aliyev received the highest award of the organization, Prix De La Fondation, while Azerbaijan’s First Lady and President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded the Gold Medal at the Crans Montana Forum in Brussels in 2011. The decision to hold the Crans Montana Forum in Baku this year is evidence of Azerbaijan’s growing international reputation and its transformation into a center of intercultural dialogue and international events.

President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva met with the forum participants and senior officials from various countries.

In opening remarks, the founder and president of the Forum, Ambassador Jean-Paul Carteron, welcomed the participants of the 23rd annual meeting in Baku. Expressing his gratitude to President Ilham Aliyev for the wonderful conditions put in place, Jean-Paul Carteron said prominent representatives from various countries around the world were gathered in Azerbaijan. Speaking about Azerbaijan’s development which started under the leadership of Heydar Aliyev in 1993 and was successfully ongoing now, he said:

- I personally believe and am very pleased to note that the extensive development of your country began in 1993, when President Heydar Aliyev assumed power in Azerbaijan. At that time I also saw that he was a very wise and far-sighted person. I am very glad, Mr. President, to have this opportunity. We will hold such an authoritative, important and representative meeting at this new building, the Heydar Aliyev Center, and have discussions in the next two days.

Mr. President, dear First Lady, I am well aware of your activities.

These are high-level activities. During your visit to Brussels I told you and the First Lady that the work you are doing is producing truly wonderful results. We can see the developments unfolding in Azerbaijan today. We know that your country is turning into a significant player. You are opening up more and more to the world in social, cultural and humanitarian respects. I am honored and proud to welcome the First Lady here. Leading the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, she does work which in many respects exceeds the work undertaken by the government and removes all the difficulties. Naturally, the aim is solely in doing good deeds. It is important that there is a will and consent here. We know that the Heydar Aliyev Foundation is doing a lot, including the spheres of education and culture.

We know that Azerbaijan is one of the energy suppliers to the European Union. We witness history being made, the economic importance is growing, there is a torch in our hands. This torch, this flame is growing stronger. Mr. President, it is with these feelings that I declare that these activities are carried out thanks to your work. Thank you for that.

Today, we will also present an award to Azerbaijan’s First Lady, Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva. I think it is very important. I want to emphasize that we treat your activities with great respect and sympathy. At the same time, we note the presence of the other people here. We know that the road to success, to the achievement of humanitarian goals is not easy. By achieving incredible results, Azerbaijan is on the right track. Mr. President, this concludes my speech.

Then President of Azerbaijan delivered a speech.

Remarks by President Ilham Aliyev

- Dear ladies and gentlemen!

Your Excellencies!

I would like to welcome you all to our country. I would like to thank the Crans Montana Forum and its chairman, Mr. Carteron, for coming to Azerbaijan and Baku today to participate in this forum.

I know that many of you have come to Azerbaijan for the first time, that this is your first such forum in Azerbaijan. I am sure you will feel this spirit of development in our society and see clearly what work is carried out in Baku and Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan and Baku have become a venue of political and economic dialogue. Azerbaijan and Baku have become a venue for a prestigious international forums. And we are very excited about that.

Baku hosts discussions, debates and forums on a variety of interesting political topics. All this is the result of our policy and, at the same time, the historical heritage of our country. Because historically, over the centuries, Azerbaijan has been a place where representatives of different cultures and nations live in peace. Therefore, the organization of such events, meetings and joint work of representatives of different nations and cultures in our country, such discussions and debates have become a natural phenomenon for us. We always give preference to developing multiculturalism, the factor of multiculturalism through our work, we seek to reinforce it because in today's globalizing world there is no alternative to it. So I want to reiterate that the co-existence of people of different ethnic backgrounds and cultures here has been a natural phenomenon for Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is a country with a long history. I am sure our guests will have the opportunity to visit our historical sites, see and feel Azerbaijan’s historical monuments.

We have been an independent country for only 20 years. Last year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our independence. For us and our people independence is the biggest happiness, the greatest value. Our people lived with the dream of freedom and achieved this independence. Now Azerbaijan has been a member of the international community for 20 years and is developing successfully. These 20 years have seen major political and economic changes. Previously, Azerbaijan was not independent and free because we lived in a totalitarian state.

Therefore, after gaining independence, we experienced changes and political transformation. State building was very important and created great opportunities for us. But there were also many difficulties. But despite that, after becoming independent we managed to create a strong state and significantly transform the economic and political spheres. We are developing and strengthening the democratic process now. We attach great importance to the rule of law and human rights. All political structures and parties continue to operate successfully in Azerbaijan.

At the same time, we certainly have attached great importance to economic transformation. Because without economic development and a strong economy, political reform is impossible. Therefore, we carried out these reforms in the political and economic planes in parallel. Political and economic reforms have complemented each other and today Azerbaijan shows that we have chosen the right path and done the right thing.

Over the last 10 years Azerbaijan’s economic development has been the fastest in the world. Our economy has grown three-fold. Industrial production has tripled. At the same time, we have attached great importance to social issues.

Because painful economic reforms have caused popular discontent in some countries. This did not happen in Azerbaijan. Our poverty rate has dropped five times over the past eight years – to 7 per cent. We have also demonstrated that the development towards a market economy does not have to occur at the expense of social issues.

Azerbaijan is a stable economy. Our unemployment rate is 5.4 per cent. The external debt amounts to only 7 per cent of the GDP. Our exports are several times higher than imports. Economic transformation and changes have enabled us to conduct further reforms and create a totally new situation. Azerbaijan is a country that lives and develops at its own expense.

At the same time, Azerbaijan is developing its very important foreign policy. In my opinion, this is a very important issue for any country, especially for a country that was not independent for a long time, over centuries. So issues of regional cooperation are very important to us. We have started several projects to strengthen regional cooperation that will benefit our people and our neighbors. We believe that regional cooperation is impossible without regional security. So our growing influence in the region is a stabilizing factor that has laid this foundation.

One of the main problems after the restoration of independence was the occupation of our lands by Armenia. This dealt a severe blow to us. This dealt a severe blow to the security and cooperation in the entire region. Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized historical territory of Azerbaijan which Armenia has occupied. Armenia has conducted a policy of ethnic cleansing on these Azerbaijani lands. In general, 20 per cent of our land is currently under Armenian occupation. There are UN resolutions, the Helsinki Charter. The UN Security Council has adopted four resolutions demanding that Armenia withdraw its troops from Azerbaijani territories. But it has yet to comply with the resolutions.

Similar resolutions have been passed by the Council of Europe, the OSCE and other international organizations. They also remain unfulfilled. The non-fulfillment of these resolutions for many years calls into question the value of international organizations’ work in this field.

Nagorno-Karabakh is located practically at the heart of Azerbaijan. All the resolutions pertaining to the settlement require an end to the occupation and a return of forced migrants to their homes. OSCE fact-finding missions have revealed that all historical and cultural monuments on our lands in Nagorno-Karabakh have been destroyed. But I am sure that Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity. Because Azerbaijan's territorial integrity is recognized by the UN. Nagorno-Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan recognized as such by all international organizations. Nagorno-Karabakh is not recognized by any state as an independent country.

We are making great diplomatic effort in this area. We are strengthening our economy. I am sure that all of these factors will enable us to restore our sovereignty and territorial integrity. The conflict must be resolved only on the basis of norms and principles of international law, on the basis of the Helsinki Final Act. This act states that the principle of territorial integrity and the principle of self-determination should not be in conflict, while the right of peoples to self-determination should be resolved within the framework of the principle of territorial integrity.

All these issues are our top priorities. We have a completely clear foreign policy. This is how we build our activities in the field of international cooperation from political and economic standpoints.

As you know, Azerbaijan has recently been elected a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council. Now Azerbaijan has a say in matters of global security. Last month Azerbaijan presided over a Security Council meeting, the world’s top international organization.

I would like to thank all the countries that supported our candidacy. This suggests that over the past 20 years our country has earned recognition as a reliable partner. We have received the votes of 155 countries to become a nonpermanent member of the Security Council. We will justify the confidence of the countries that have supported and believed in Azerbaijan. After the election I said in a speech that Azerbaijan adheres to the principles of justice and international law. I also noted that in most cases international law and justice are violated. We don’t want this to be true. Azerbaijan will not allow it. Because all these violations pose problems to the international community. If resolutions and documents adopted to resolve conflicts do not work, if the decisions of international organizations are not executed by some countries, we must think about what we can do to make these international institutions and their decisions effective.

There are cases where the decisions of international organizations, such as the Security Council, are carried out in a matter of hours. Unfortunately, this did not happen in our case.

One of the key challenges on the global agenda is today is ensure peace, security and cooperation. As a member of the Security Council Azerbaijan understands that we must be very active in this matter. In general, our main goal is to expand cooperation. We can achieve our goal through cooperation and mutual support. This policy of ours applies to international and energy issues. You know that Azerbaijan has ample reserves of oil and gas. Our policy on energy security is clear and precise. I am sure that the discussion on energy security will be very interesting. I think that everything that prevents energy security should be discussed.

Azerbaijan is in favor of effective relationships with investors, with parties making investment, with companies on the basis of mutual interest, and we are doing so. In addition, we support the opening of new areas of energy policy. By implementing this policy, Azerbaijan has set itself the principles and objectives of achieving economic prosperity and mutual support.

Energy factors should never be used for political purposes or any other ends. Our country uses energy resources very responsibly. All the projects on our agenda have been successfully implemented since the 1990s. We have implemented several oil and gas pipeline projects. Today they enable the transit of our energy in different directions.

Azerbaijan’s energy constitutes 25-30 per cent of the total energy balance of some European countries, and this figure is growing. Azerbaijan used to be known primarily as an oil country.

Thus, oil was first discovered in Azerbaijan. First oil was first extracted onshore also in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is now known in matters of global energy security as a country with large reserves of gas.

Clear evidence of this is the agreement on the construction of the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline recently signed between Turkey and Azerbaijan. With the realization of this project we will open a corridor between the Caspian, Black and Mediterranean seas. This is an energy project for us and our neighbors.

This corridor has already been used as transport infrastructure. Historically, it was a corridor that was used to create links between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. At the same time, it will contribute to the revival of the Silk Road. All these projects will also benefit Azerbaijan’s neighbors. We will thus change the energy map of the region and the continent as a whole. Of course, given the energy projects on our agenda, we know our potential, the potential of supplies and the growing demand of European consumers. Besides, the demand for natural gas will keep increasing, especially after the closure of nuclear facilities. After 2020, it will be particularly important. As a country with great energy resources,

Azerbaijan will be playing a huge role in European energy security. We are currently working on these issues. We know how important diversification is. It is important for all countries – both producers and consumers. Proper relations among producers, consumers and transit countries are crucial to success. I am sure that our new project will be a success because we have a strong will. We know this. Also, we have the necessary financial strength. Technically we are also capable of much. We have excellent relations with our traditional neighbors in the region, with our allies. So far, not a single project we have started has failed. So we will just keep on working.

I know we will have interesting discussions today and tomorrow. The forum agenda is broad and covers important issues. I am sure your thoughts will generate new ideas and approaches during the discussion. We will work together on these ideas for the future. Once again: welcome to Azerbaijan! I wish you every success. Thank you.

Х Х Х

Addressing the forum, President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili said he was proud to be in Baku again. Linking the international forum in Baku, being held at the beautiful building of the Heydar Aliyev Center, with Azerbaijan’s rapid economic development and its international authority, he said:

- I first came to Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. The country was living a chaotic and irregular life. There were many poor people. It was also a war time and the burden of the war was heavy. The country seemed to have no hope. There was no hope of development.

Azerbaijan had natural resources back in the Soviet years too. But the country wasn’t rich, it was poor. So it is wrong to link everything to natural resources alone. For example, there are countries that have natural resources. We don’t see proper distribution of natural resources in these countries. Although these countries are rich in natural resources, we do not see progress there. These countries don’t cooperate with regional neighbors in this area, they are not successful in this field. Through proper distribution of energy resources, Azerbaijan has made great strides the economic sphere.

In addition, great development of the social sphere, culture and education has been achieved. New schools have been built and commissioned. This is an example for the entire region because these issues are resolved even in the outermost villages in Azerbaijan. Besides, Azerbaijan is very well represented internationally, in the international arena.

Mikheil Saakashvili recalled the humanism displayed by President Ilham Aliyev when Georgia faced a difficult situation due to a lack of energy and fuel, and thanked the President of Azerbaijan again. The Georgian President touched upon issues of globalization and his country's socioeconomic reforms. “Regional cooperation reflects regional security,” Mikheil Saakashvili said. In this context, he mentioned the projects being implemented and noted the international importance of the ongoing construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. The President of Georgia described the high level of organization of the Eurovision song contest as yet another success of Azerbaijan.

Х Х Х

Expressing his gratitude to President Ilham Aliyev for the high level of organization of the Crans Montana Forum, President of Montenegro Filip Vujanovic said:

- Azerbaijan’s achievements have made a great impression on me. I learned a lot about Azerbaijan during my official visits. I had many meetings with the government of Azerbaijan and saw how close Azerbaijan is to international principles. I saw that Azerbaijan respects its history, protects the newly-found independence and is a very stable economy. The country has many achievements. Azerbaijan has a very clear vision for the future.

Azerbaijan cooperates well with other countries. Also, I very much support and respect your decisions to develop relations with the European Union. I welcome the fact that, if necessary, you support regional countries so much.

As a representative of Montenegro, I would like to express my gratitude to the leadership of Azerbaijan. In particular, I appreciate the efforts of President Ilham Aliyev. I would like to thank you for the excellent relations and cooperation with our country. To establish such a wonderful cooperation between countries that are not so close to each other geographically is very difficult. I would like to thank you for that.

Stressing that the primary goal of any government is to improve the well-being of its people through economic development, the President of Montenegro described his country’s experience in expanding cooperation between public and private sectors. Referring to the responsibility of the state in protecting social justice and preservation of the environmental balance, Filip Vujanovic stressed the importance of cooperation of all countries in these matters. He said the elimination of unemployment, the development of culture and education were important in the new economic model of the 21st century. To form a developing society Montenegro keeps all these issues in the spotlight.

Х Х Х

The President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Georgi Ivanov, said that globalization was changing the world, which affects all areas. He touched upon the problems of migration in the world and noted the importance of caring about the welfare of the people against the backdrop of poverty and conflict. Georgi Ivanov also described the stages of his country’s development, spoke about priorities regarding membership in NATO and relations with the European Union. Emphasizing that Macedonia attaches great importance to the energy cooperation with Azerbaijan, the President of Macedonia said:

- We know that Azerbaijan is a country with ample reserves of oil and gas. And we are very glad to cooperate with Azerbaijan in this field. As you know, Macedonia, just like Azerbaijan, is an important state of its region and plays the part of an important energy corridor. Therefore, we, like Azerbaijan, attach great importance to the diversification of energy routes.

Х Х Х

Then the floor was given to the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Fujairah of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi. He said:

- Your Excellency, Mr. President Ilham Aliyev, dear friends!

First of all, let me thank President Ilham Aliyev for the effort to organize this important event.

The issue of energy security is an important factor in ensuring human security.

I would like to sincerely thank Mr. Ilham Aliyev for the hospitality. I am very happy to meet you in this beautiful city and country. I am very pleased to represent the United Arab Emirates at this wonderful forum.

“There is a great potential for development in the 21st century,” the representative of the United Arab Emirates said, adding that “energy security in the modern world is a true human value and we must maintain and develop it.”

Х Х Х

The Deputy Prime Minister on Economic Affairs of Iraq, Ruz Nuri Shaways, expressed his confidence that this representative forum in Baku would contribute to the expansion of cooperation among countries of the world. He also spoke about his country’s oil reserves, the procedure for handling the oil revenue and the attention being paid to the non-oil sector. Expressing his gratitude to President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, Ruz Nuri Shaways said:

- I would like to thank His Excellency President Ilham Aliyev. I would also like to thank Azerbaijan for supporting the democratic process in Iraq. Azerbaijan has been active in this field since 2003. Thank you very much again for your hospitality. In general, I am very pleased to be among friends in the beautiful city of Baku. I would like to thank Jean-Paul Carteron for the efforts to organize the forum. I am very proud to be at the Heydar Aliyev Center. The architect of this building is an Iraqi woman. I would like to emphasize that.

Х Х Х

The Estonian Parliament Speaker, Ene Ergma, spoke about the economic development processes in many countries after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Expressing her admiration with the changes ongoing in Azerbaijan, she said:

- This is my first time in Baku. I have also seen Soviet times. I apologize for these words, but we didn’t want to come to Baku then. We thought it was an oil city and there is nothing interesting here. But we see today that if people have a responsible approach to life, they can change anything. We can see what can be achieved if the wealth bestowed upon you by the Almighty is used rationally. President Aliyev said that energy cannot be used to exert political pressure, for political ends. It is very true because we have to use energy for economic growth. If countries improve their economies, we can reduce poverty. These are interrelated issues. I completely agree with everything you said. Europe needs energy not from one but from many sources. You mentioned that you have created a variety of corridors, implemented projects on various energy corridors. I really appreciate it.

E. Ergma noted the importance of the Crans Montana Forum, saying that this event in Baku was a good platform for discussing different aspects of globalization.

Х Х Х

Then discussions began. Describing the progress made by Georgia in the past years, President Mikheil Saakashvili said his country had established a successful cooperation with Azerbaijan. He said Azerbaijan and its capital Baku were rapidly developing:

- Look at Azerbaijan now. Who could have imagined such a development? The speaker from Estonia has also noted this. Yes, in Soviet times no-one thought of coming to Baku often. Everyone thought it was an oil city, etc. Even five years ago Baku was different. Three years ago Baku had a different appearance. Baku is a city changing by the hour. It is no longer a matter of months and years. As you know, we complement each other. This synergy, this unity, this cooperation between us, between Georgia and Azerbaijan, support us very much.

Х Х Х

A broad exchange of views was held on the relations between Estonia and the European Union.

A question was then asked of President Ilham Aliyev.

- How does the President of Azerbaijan see the economic structure of the country for the next 15 years?

President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. In fact, this is one of the issues in our focus. You know that our rapid economic development began with the energy sector. As you know, over $100 billion dollars was invested in the Azerbaijani economy and favorable conditions created for investment. We have used the revenue from energy projects very efficiently. We didn’t allow our country to be exposed to the Dutch disease. Some analysts had been saying that Azerbaijan too would be affected by the Dutch disease. But that did not happen. We have established the State Oil Fund which accumulates this revenue. Our assets are also accumulated there. We can manage our assets and liabilities, the Oil Fund is managed on the basis of parliamentary debate. That is, MPs decide how much should be taken out and what it should be spent on. Besides, we spend this money mostly on development projects. We spend it on improving the livelihoods of people in the districts, in the countryside. One of the most important programs was adopted in 2004 – the state program on the development of districts. It has enabled us to create over a million jobs in a country of 9 million people. As I noted earlier, eight years ago our poverty rate was 49 per cent, now it is 7. So we have a clear vision for the coming decades. What do we see Azerbaijan like in 2020-2030? Our main goal is to double the GDP which has already tripled in the last eight years. In particular, we have set this goal in the non-oil and gas sector. Another goal is to develop the ICT and modern industries. We want to transform Azerbaijan into a country with high income per capita. Even when the price of oil fell from $140 to 40 a few years ago, our economy was strong because we had a policy of diversification.

Besides, three reputable rating agencies – Standard & Poor's, Fitch and Moody's – have raised Azerbaijan rating. This means that international financial institutions also have confidence in our future. We plan to develop the ICT sector, industrial parks, space industry. We want to make sure that our civil servants set about work in the future without first thinking what the price of oil is.

Х Х Х

The President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Georgi Ivanov, said his country was optimistic of the cooperation with the European Union.

ISESCO Director General Abdulaziz bin Othman Al-Twaijri, asking President Ilham Aliyev about the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, said:

- His Excellency Mr. President has rightly said that the UN Security Council has passed many resolutions requiring occupiers to vacate Azerbaijani lands. His Excellency Mr. President is thinking about ways of putting an end to this occupation.

Because the occupation of 20 per cent of Azerbaijani lands runs counter to international law. Because it causes a major impact on regional stability, prevents the return of many Azerbaijanis to their native lands. Of course, it deals a blow to people’s dignity, causes poverty. Why do you think international organizations do not execute these resolutions? What else needs to be done to end this occupation? As noted, there are four Security Council resolutions. Why don’t we all raise our voice? Why don’t we demand that these resolutions be implemented and occupied lands liberated? After all, it is international hypocrisy to adopt resolutions in the highest international circles and then not fulfill them.

So I would like to see this forum end its work by adopting a declaration. This declaration should support Azerbaijan’s cause. Your Excellency, I would appreciate it if you could express your thoughts on how we can find solutions to this dilemma.

President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much for your question, Mr. Al-Twaijri.

Indeed, this is a very serious and big problem not only for Azerbaijan, but for the whole region. It poses a major threat, it is an obstacle for South Caucasus countries that prevents joint development. Also, the occupation of Azerbaijani territories and the presence of hundreds of thousands of refugees and IDPs is a very big problem. Of course, despite this, Azerbaijan has achieved a lot in recent years. We are very proud of this. I think the implementation of these resolutions should be in the interests of Armenia. I am convinced that Armenia will not benefit from this occupation. First, it is an injustice from a historical standpoint. We know from history that the Armenians were settled in Nagorno-Karabakh from neighboring territories in the early 19th century. The word “Karabakh” is of Azerbaijani origin. The Nagorno-Karabakh administrative unit was established as part of Azerbaijan after the revolution, in Soviet years. It had no administrative borders with Armenia. This area is located right in the heart of Azerbaijan. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, separatists in Armenia and Karabakh unleashed a war against Azerbaijan, expelled all the Azerbaijanis from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding districts and are still holding both Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent districts under occupation. At the same time, they have conducted ethnic cleansing, I have already mentioned that.

Armenia should start implementing the resolutions of the UN Security Council and other international organizations. This is in its own interests. We will never tolerate a second Armenian state on Azerbaijani territory. That is how the resolutions should be executed. It is clear why the problem remains unresolved. The international community, the countries that have adopted the resolutions in the Security Council have not put enough pressure on the occupier. Of course, there should be pressure. The occupation is obvious, no-one denies it, everyone knows about it. The occupation must end.

Recently we heard a number of positive judgments in this regard, in particular from the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.

They stated that the status quo is no longer unacceptable. This is a positive judgment.

How can we change the status quo and who should change it? Armenia should start vacating the occupied territories.

After that, a link can be created, our refugees can start being resettled there and practical measures taken. But Armenia does not do that. The opinions on the unacceptability of the status quo are a positive signal. Another positive sign is that the mediators have noted the possibility of resolving the conflict only in peace. We agree with that. But Armenia views the “peaceful way” as a chance to delay the negotiations and keep our lands under occupation as much as they want. They think that the negotiations can go on for another 20 years.

As you know, the OSCE Minsk Group was created and has operated for many years. I regret that this unusual situation has emerged. If you recall, the resolution on Libya was executed in several hours. The resolutions on Azerbaijan, on Nagorno-Karabakh remain unfulfilled for 20 years. What does this mean? This is double standards. Why, what's the reason? I can talk about the reasons for a long time. One reason is double standards, another is the Armenian lobby.

This lobby strongly supports Armenia’s aggressive policy against Azerbaijan. As for other reasons, they also play a role, but the main reasons are the ones I mentioned. I think the solution to this issue in line with international law is in favor of Armenia because it does not benefit from this occupation. Everything is destroyed, there is no life, emptiness there.

Furthermore, according to statistics, thousands of Armenians left the country in the first five months of this year. So Armenia’s population is shrinking. One reason for this is the aggressive policy against the neighboring country, attacks and international propaganda against Azerbaijan. I would not like to talk about other aspects of Armenian policy towards its neighbors but I would say that it is an unfriendly policy. This country should use its independence to normalize ties and relations with neighbors. The imbalance of power between Armenia and Azerbaijan is enormous. After 5-10 years it will further increase. This difference will be enormous, incomparable.

This is an issue of national interests. This is not an issue of Armenian leaders who come and go. This is an issue that should meet the national interests of the Armenian people. We will do everything possible to restore our territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Х Х Х

A representative of Tunisia participating in the forum enquired about the measures carried out in Azerbaijan in the field of education and job creation:

- I have a question for President Ilham Aliyev. Mr. President, thank you for your hospitality. I would like to congratulate you on the work you are doing in this beautiful country. My question is related to the creation of jobs and education. I am from Tunisia. I would like to say that we lived with the “Arab spring” philosophy for a long time. It seems to me that one of the main reasons for our revolution was the failure of our education system, our graduates could not find a job. What is your strategy for the creation of jobs for university graduates?

President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you. This is an important issue for Azerbaijan. We have a strategy in the field of education.

Education is a priority for us because all the successes we achieved in the years of independence, in recent years are the successes of our people. Of course, oil and gas are not enough. I identify with the feelings of our colleagues, especially those who do not have oil and gas. Usually, however, some countries rich in oil and gas do not develop, the gap between the rich and the poor is growing. Azerbaijan is not such a country. In general, Azerbaijan is not one of the world’s biggest oil and gas producers. Therefore, we attach great importance to the non-oil sector. I have always said that young people with no education can create big problems for the country. We are sure that it is important for the country to have qualified professionals, people who belong. We have educated people. Education is available to all our population. Also, according to a presidential decree, our young people can receive education in European universities.

This is supported by the Oil Fund. Thousands of Azerbaijani students study abroad. This is how the education system is organized in Azerbaijan. In the future we will have even better conditions so that our citizens don’t need to go abroad to study. I think such forums also contribute to education. Because they are attended by our intellectuals, our young people engaged in political science. I think many of our youngsters are interested in what is happening in this building, they also want to participate in this forum.

I think this does not have a direct impact on the political situation or unemployment. Perhaps it did in Tunisia but I think the reason for the revolution there was more to do with issues of social justice than jobs. I think young people wanted to have a bigger share in the national wealth. There was a revolution because they could not get this share.

In the early years of independence we were a very poor country. We were one of the poorest republics of the former Soviet Union. People armed with Kalashnikovs walked through the streets, there was chaos. It was about 20 years ago.

So social justice and equitable distribution of wealth can prevent any revolution and negative processes. As president, I can say that these issues are more important even than the increase of the GDP three times because thanks to these issues we get closer to the people. Therefore, education, social justice, fight against corruption, economic development and equal opportunities for all are very important. These principles have led to the development of the country. This is the main direction and the main guiding principle for the future.

Thank you very much.

Speaking about specific development facts and the path traversed by Montenegro in the past few years, President Filip Vujanovic said his country had established close cooperation with Azerbaijan. He said:

- Montenegro is ready to become a country that has good economic relations with Azerbaijan. Our Azerbaijani friends, companies and businessmen from Azerbaijan will see that Montenegro is a country where investors enjoy favorable conditions and make profit. Therefore, our support for these relationships, our common history, our efforts, etc. have led SOCAR to invest in Montenegro. I think this is a good basis for future projects between Azerbaijan and Montenegro. I assure you that this investment will take a worthy place in our Boka bay. As you know, this is one of the most advanced places in Montenegro.

There are wonderful facilities there. I think this is a good example for other companies from Azerbaijan to invest in Montenegro. I think this is a good basis for a future development of our economic relations. I am sure that the high-level political relations between Azerbaijan and Montenegro will play a major role in the development of economic relations between our countries.

Х Х Х

Then a broad exchange of views was held on ways of using the oil revenue generated in Arab countries, the work being done and planned to develop Pakistan and Iraq.

Х Х Х

After the official ceremony, President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva hosted a dinner reception for the forum participants.

Х Х Х

Then a picture was taken.