Details added (first version posted on 15:17)
Baku, Azerbaijan, Sept. 20
The Contract of the Century was signed 20 years ago on Sept. 20, 1994 - it was a historic event, as the young and independent Azerbaijan was not so much known in the world, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said.
He made these remarks in Baku on Sept. 20 at a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the "Contract of the Century" and laying the foundation of the Southern Gas Corridor.
The president said Azerbaijan at the time was facing big problems.
"The first years of our independence were very hard. The Armenian occupation, civil war, economic and political crisis - all these factors created big problems, posed major obstacles to our country's development," he said.
The president added that Azerbaijan highly appreciates the work done by the country's National Leader Heydar Aliyev.
"The Contract of the Century was signed thanks to his foresight, determination and wisdom," Aliyev said.
The Azerbaijani president added that in such a way, new opportunities opened up for the country's development.
He said large investments started coming to Azerbaijan and a process of international cooperation was launched in the Caspian region for the first time in the history.
"Azerbaijan got an opportunity to deliver its rich oil resources to the world markets, and the general economic and political development of our country began exactly with the signing of Contract of the Century," Ilham Aliyev said. "The new oil strategy has been implemented for 20 years, and has brought great benefits to Azerbaijan."
President Aliyev said that in recent years Azerbaijan has consistently pursued its energy policy.
"Today's ceremony is the crown of the carried out activities. If in previous periods these issues would not have been settled, then today the Southern Gas Corridor might have been out of the question. Currently, the project is completely ready. The corridor's construction starts today," President Aliyev said.
"Of course, we must strive to carry out all this work in the future together with the partner countries. The coordination must stand at the highest level. This project will bring additional dividends to Azerbaijan. The country's economy will grow even faster, despite the fact that over the past ten years, the country's economy was the fastest growing in the world. This project opens up new opportunities for us," he added.
The president noted that in the last ten years, Azerbaijan's GDP grew by over threefold, while budget expenditures rose by 20 times, adding that the external state debt stands at just eight percent of GDP, unemployment fell to five percent, and the poverty rate is just over five percent.
"According to a recent estimate by the Davos World Economic Forum, Azerbaijan's economy ranks 38th in the world in terms of competitiveness. This is a great achievement for us, and it shows that Azerbaijan's economy is developing thoroughly," the president said.
He went on to say that the oil and gas resources are only an optional opportunity and support for Azerbaijan.
"This gives us the opportunity to invest in these projects. Azerbaijan is a major shareholder in the TANAP project, and the country will undertake the main financial burden," President Aliyev said.
He went on to add that Azerbaijan will finance its shares in the Shah Deniz, TAP and other projects on its own.
"Thus, the profit obtained at the time, is today serving our common interests," President Ilham Aliyev said.