Leyla Aliyeva's speech was added (the first version posted at 14:56)
Russia, Astrakhan, Sept. 12 / Trend M.Aliyev /
The Azerbaijan-Russia Bridge of Friendship was inaugurated in Astrakhan, Russia, on Wednesday, Trend special correspondent reports.
Prior to the ceremony, event participants laid flowers at the monument to national leader Heydar Aliyev in the center of Astrakhan.
The Heydar Aliyev Foundation Vice-President, head of the Azerbaijani Youth Organization of Russia (AYOR), Leyla Aliyeva, attended the ceremony.
Attending the ceremony were the state officials of Azerbaijan and Administration of Astrakhan region, Azerbaijani MPs, representatives of the Azerbaijani community of Astrakhan and the city residents.
Aliyeva delivered a speech at the bridge's inauguration. She thanked the event organizers for warm reception in the land of Astrakhan.
"I am delighted to be here today for the first time and have the opportunity to see the projects that the Heydar Aliyev Foundation is implementing in the Russian Federation. I would like to thank the leadership of Astrakhan for the kind words spoken by you, and for your contribution to the development of relations between Azerbaijan and Russia," Aliyeva said.
She said the relations between Azerbaijan and Russia are based on mutual respect, trust and openness.
"Azerbaijan has always showed great respect for the rich Russian culture and the great Russian language. Our country has fully preserved the Russian language teaching at schools, and there are the Baku Slavic University, the Russian Drama Theatre, the Russian Cultural Centre, a branch of the Lomonosov Moscow State University in Azerbaijan. I am sure that relations between our countries will develop and strengthen in the future," Leyla Aliyeva said.
Azerbaijan has always been a country where different cultures and civilizations exist, she said.
"Representatives of different nationalities and religions live in peace and harmony. Today a Muslim mosque, a Catholic church, an Orthodox church, a Jewish synagogue can be seen in Baku, and all people live like one big family. And I think this is the most valuable thing. Azerbaijan is rapidly developing, new roads, buildings, bridges are being built, and all the historical monuments and museums are being restored," Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation noted.
She said today Azerbaijan accounts for more than 70 percent of the South Caucasus economy.
"All major projects are implemented with the participation of our country. Despite the fact that 20 percent of Azerbaijani land is under occupation and the country has about one million refugees and internally displaced people who are unable to return to their homes, to their native land, our country pays great attention to the development of science, culture, technology, education, health and sports," Leyla Aliyeva said.
She said the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, which was established in 2004 in honor of national leader Heydar Aliyev, is involved in all of these major projects and covers virtually all areas of life.
"During its existence the Heydar Aliyev Foundation has won the support and trust of all segments of the population in Azerbaijan, and pays special attention to education," Leyla Aliyeva said.
She said the Foundation has built and rehabilitated 400 schools in Azerbaijan, with each school having a computer room and being equipped with the latest technologies.
"The Foundation is also involved in charity in Azerbaijan, it helps sick children, children suffering from diabetes. The Foundation built in Azerbaijan one of the largest centers of thalassemia in the region. The Foundation is building orphanages and boarding schools. Of course, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation pays special attention to the promotion of rich Azerbaijani culture and ancient Azerbaijani history outside Azerbaijan. Last year, the Foundation carried out activities dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the restoration of Azerbaijan's independence in many countries. Cultural evenings, conferences, concerts and exhibitions are regularly held," the Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation said.
She said that one of the last activities of the Foundation was holding of "Fly to Baku: Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan" Exhibition jointly with the "Baku" magazine. This exhibition was successfully held in London and Paris. It is planned to hold exhibitions in Berlin, Rome, New York, and, of course, in Moscow, she noted.
"The Heydar Aliyev Foundation also shows great respect to the world culture and history. The Foundation restored monuments, historic buildings and museums worldwide. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation built schools in Pakistan after the earthquake, as well as in Russia, Georgia, Holland, Romania and Egypt," Leyla Aliyeva said.
She said one of the important activities of the Foundation is the environmental protection. Therefore, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation a year ago created a new international movement - IDEA.
"The main objective of IDEA is to protect our planet and inform young people about environmental problems. Over a year, we can say that IDEA implemented a lot of interesting successful projects, such as planting trees, building nests for birds, holding conferences, photo exhibitions and seminars. For me personally protection of animals that are threatened by extinction is very important. That's why IDEA in Azerbaijan has set its big "five" of these animals - these are eagle, bear, wolf, Caucasian leopard and gazelle. As far as I know, in Astrakhan small swan is also under threat of extinction. Therefore from October 2012, IDEA will organize contests in schools of Astrakhan on the protection of this bird. Winner of this contest will have an opportunity to visit Azerbaijan and get acquainted with our country," Leyla Aliyeva said.
"Dear friends, as you can see, we have a lot of interesting plans, projects and ideas. Today we are here to open the Azerbaijan-Russia Bridge of Friendship built with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. I want to thank you for this opportunity and I am confident that this is only the beginning. I am sure that we will have many great projects, and our relations will only develop and strengthen. Again, I thank all of you for your presence, for your attention and I wish you all good health, happiness and all the best," Aliyeva said.
Astrakhan Region Governor Alexander Zhilkin noted in his speech that the declared strategic interests of Azerbaijan and Russia are being implemented. He said that today, with the support of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, friendship between peoples that have been historically living on the shores of the Caspian Sea is strengthening.
"We have to appreciate this, and I think the next generation will also appreciate, and there will always be peace and harmony on the shores of the Caspian Sea - in Azerbaijan, Russia, and in the Astrakhan region," Zhilkin said.
He thanked the Azerbaijani President and his administration for the reverent attitude to the Astrakhan region and for the consistent strategic relations with Russia.
The decision to build the bridge was made in 2010, during Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's visit to Astrakhan. Then, a monument to national leader Heydar Aliyev was inaugurated with the participation of Azerbaijani President.
In May 2011, as part of the First Russian-Azerbaijani inter-regional forum "Russia-Azerbaijan: towards new horizons of interregional cooperation" laying of the foundation stone of the Friendship Bridge was held.
The bridge embodying good-neighborly relations between the two countries was constructed with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.
A pedestrian Bridge of Friendship connects the Heydar Aliyev Park with the boulevard, where a monument to Peter I stands. Symbols of Baku and Astrakhan, the Maiden Tower and the Astrakhan Kremlin, are in ornaments of railing.
The bridge is 50 meters in length and 6 meters in width. The bridge will greatly facilitate the passage of residents from one coast to another. Previously, residents had to go through this long way. The bridge has become a real gift to residents of Astrakhan.
Then the event participants attended the opening of the "Dream" children's entertainment playground, which was built in the Heydar Aliyev Park.
The total area of the playground, which was also built with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, is about 1,200 square meters.
The playground has seven large and several small rides and provides necessary conditions for children's safety. A children's cafe is under building here.