Azerbaijan, Baku, Oct.16 / Trend, S. Aliyev /
Azerbaijan, as the chairman of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), will do its utmost for further development of the organization, work on specific projects and further development of friendly and brotherly relations among the organization's member countries, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said in his statement at the opening of the ECO Summit in Baku.
Azerbaijan undertook the ECO chairmanship from Turkey on Tuesday.
"Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank Turkey, which chaired the organization for the last two years, and its leadership for successful activities. Our summit is being held on the eve of the historic date. In November 1993, seven new members, including Azerbaijan joined the ECO. One can say that a new stage has started in the organization since then," President Aliyev said.
Aliyev said, Azerbaijan, on its part, has always attached great importance to the ECO's activities.
"We believe that all ECO members are interested in organization's successful activity, because we share a common history, economic and political interests," he said. "Our peoples lived together, created together and always supported each other for centuries."
According to Aliyev, the establishment of ECO on this historical heritage is a very significant occurrence.
"Our traditions, the sacred religion of Islam unites us, and we try to make every effort to promote Islamic culture," Aliyev noted.
In 2009, Baku was declared the capital of Islamic culture, and this honorable mission was appropriately fulfilled, he said.
"In 2018, another ancient city of Azerbaijan - Nakhchivan will be the capital of Islamic culture. It is a sign of the Islamic world's trust and respect for us, and for our part, we are working hard to strengthen Islamic solidarity in the world," President Aliyev noted.
He said Azerbaijan is very concerned over the growing trend of Islamophobia in some countries.
"Insulting Islamic values enrages us, and in turn, we should present Islam as a religion of peace, brotherhood and charity even more widely in the world," Aliyev said.
The Azerbaijani President said it should be one of the directions of the ECO's activity.
"Political relations between the member-countries are at high level. We support each other at influential organizations. Last year, Azerbaijan was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council with active participation and support of the organization's member-countries. Taking this opportunity, I thank all the fraternal states that supported us. For its part, Azerbaijan strongly advocates national interests of the member-states in the international arena, and mutual support and understanding, of course, will further strengthen our organization," Aliyev said.
Azerbaijan appreciates the ECO member-states' position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which, according to the Head of Azerbaijani State, is the most painful and the biggest problem of the country, and this position is reflected in the documents which will be discussed at the summit.
"As you know, for many years Azerbaijan's internationally recognized territorial integrity has been violated. Armenia committed military aggression against Azerbaijan, as a result the Armenians occupied 20 percent of our territory and more than one million Azerbaijanis became refugees and IDPs in their homeland. Ethnic cleansing policy was pursued against us. In 1992, Armenians committed Khojaly genocide, killing hundreds of innocent people, including women, elderly people and children," President Aliyev said.
He said three world countries have already recognized the Khojaly tragedy as genocide.
"One of them is a brotherly country to us, the ECO member - Pakistan. And taking this opportunity, I would like to thank the people and leadership of Pakistan for fair position. Azerbaijan's territorial integrity has not been and cannot be a subject of discussion," he said.
According to President Aliyev, the UN Security Council has adopted four resolutions on the resolution of the conflict, and these resolutions call for unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian troops from the occupied territories. "Unfortunately, these resolutions are not being fulfilled. But we are sure that Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity, sovereignty, and all our people affected by the occupation, will return to their ancestral land, land of their fathers and grandfathers," Aliyev noted.
President Aliyev once again thanked the organization's member-countries for their support to Azerbaijan's fair position.
"Of course, the occupation and injustice inflicted a major blow to our economy. But despite this, in recent years, Azerbaijan's economy is on the rise. Over the last 8-9 years, the gross domestic product has tripled, and industrial production increased by about three times, i.e. 300 percent, commercial production has also increased. Great success has been made in the fight against poverty," President Aliyev said.
He said over the past years, the poverty rate fell from 49 percent to 7 percent, the unemployment rate is 5.3 percent and the external debt is only 7 percent of GDP.
"The leading international rating agencies upgraded Azerbaijan's credit rating, despite the fact that the financial and economic crisis still continues in Europe. In terms of competitiveness Azerbaijan holds a solid spot in the world, and economic reforms enable us to diversify our economy to ensure that all sectors of the economy develop and the people live better," Aliyev underlined.
He said Azerbaijan's trade turnover with the ECO member-countries is increasing, which is a very positive factor.
"In 2011 trade turnover increased by 38 percent, while over 9 months of 2012 - by 20 percent. It indicates that we have very efficient economic relations with the organization's member-countries. This is natural, because our political relations are at a very high level, and economic sector, of course, should match this level," Aliyev said.
He expressed confidence that the results and decisions of the summit will give a greater impetus to the growth of trade turnover and, therefore, the ECO member-countries will more economically support each other.
"During the ECO summit, held two years ago in Istanbul, Azerbaijan has made commitments that it will become a shareholder and member of the ECO bank. With a sense of satisfaction I can say that today it is a reality. Azerbaijan is a shareholder of the ECO bank, and for its part, intends to take an active part in necessary infrastructure and economic projects implemented in the ECO member-countries," the president noted.
Aliyev said in addition, Azerbaijan implements a number of infrastructure projects important for the region, including, of course, projects to create energy infrastructure.
"A diversified network of oil and gas pipelines was created upon our initiative in recent years, and today our energy resources are supplied to the world markets in different directions. I am very glad that these initiatives were of interest and were supported by regional states. Our activities in the energy sphere, of course, ensures our national interests, at the same time strengthen energy security and opens up new opportunities in this sphere," Aliyev said.
He said Azerbaijan's initiatives and activities in transport sector serve common interests. Azerbaijan is making progressive and practical measures for successful implementation of the North-South and East-West transport corridor projects.
"Azerbaijan can become a regional center not only for its geographical location, but also in the transport sector. Our investments, new ports, railways, and highways under establishment, as well as air transport improvement projects provide excellent opportunities to turn Baku into a transportation center. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, construction of which will be completed soon, will serve all ECO countries. This railway links not only Azerbaijan and Turkey, but the continents, too. If to look on a map of the ECO member- states, we can see that this railway will be very effective and important for all of us. This is a strategic project, which will improve geopolitical and geo-economic situation to greater extent. I am very pleased that this project will soon be implemented," Aliyev said.
He stressed that the organization's activity has been very successful thus far. It was able to take its worthy place in the world.
According to President Aliyev, great economic potential of the member-countries further increases confidence that work on specific projects will further strengthen the organization, and the ECO's initiatives in the political-economic and cultural spheres will serve to strengthening mutual trust.
"I sincerely welcome all of you in Azerbaijan once again. I am sure the ECO summit in Baku will be successful and the summit results will further strengthen the organization," Aliyev said.
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