President Ilham Aliyev: Azerbaijan conducts very active foreign policy (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan, Baku, May 7 / Trend S. Aliyev /
Azerbaijan is one of the very few countries in the world which is member of the Islamic Cooperation Organization, Council of Europe, and with support from 155 countries the country was elected to the UN Security Council as well, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said during the first South Caucasus Forum in Baku today.
The first South Caucasus Forum organized by the State Committee for Work with Diaspora, Nizami Ganjavi International Center and the Club of Madrid has started in Baku today.
"Once again, I would like to express my gratitude to all of you, for coming to Azerbaijan," the President said. "I hope it would be a good opportunity, for those who come here for the first time, to know more about the country and a good opportunity for others to meet old friends and continue cooperation."
President Ilham Aliyev has called holding the first South Caucasus forum in Baku an important event.
He thanked the organizers for electing Baku as a venue where the urgent issues of regional development and cooperation will be discussed.
"Azerbaijan is a relatively young independent country," he said. "It has existed as an independent state for 21 years. Azerbaijan is a country of great history, traditions, culture, and one of the organizers of this forum - Nizami Ganjavi International Center was named after the great Azerbaijani poet."
"Azerbaijan is a new independent country, but we had a short period of statehood in the beginning of 20th century, where, as a result of Russian Empire's collapse, Azerbaijan became independent," he said.
The President further said that the first democratic republic in the Muslim world was created in Azerbaijan.
"Since 1918 to 1920, this democratic republic, though for the short period of time, managed to implement a lot of reforms, which lay down the foundation for development of modern independent Azerbaijan. Among those reforms was the right for women to vote and this also shows the level of development in Azerbaijan."
"After that was a period of Soviet Union, when the country was not independent," he said. "Azerbaijani nation lived within the Soviet Union for 70 years. After the USSR collapsed, we had the second chance to create an independent state, and we couldn't miss that chance."
The President noted that the first years of independence in Azerbaijan, 1991-1993, were marked with violence, economic stagnation, economic collapse.
He added that those years were accompanied by civil war, which was a tragedy of Azerbaijani people.
Speaking about the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan, the President said that though Azerbaijan managed to overcome most of the difficulties of that period, the unresolved conflict between with Armenia is not only the biggest threat for Azerbaijan but the biggest threat for regional development, regional peace and stability as well.
"Azerbaijan wants to find the soonest resolution to the conflict, based on the principles of international law, and we want to restore our territorial integrity, which is recognized by the international community," Ilham Aliyev said said.
"Nagorno-Karabakh is the integral part of Azerbaijan, and an ancient land of cour country. It has been occupied for more than 20 years. And not only Nagorno-Karabakh, but also 7 adjacent regions are occupied by Armenia. This occupation has lasted for more than 2 decades," he underscored.
The Head of Azerbaijani State said that International organizations adopted resolutions and decisions, demanding the withdrawal of occupational forces from Azerbaijan.
"Among them I would particularly underline the four UN Security Council resolutions, demanding unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijani territories. But, unfortunately these resolutions are not being implemented," he said. "Here we come to the very important point of efficiency of international organizations and efficiency of resolutions. More than 20 years passed and unfortunately, Security Council resolutions have not been implemented yet."
President Ilham Aliyev said Azerbaijan will continue to strengthen, implement political and economic reforms, because the stronger the country is, the sooner resolution to the conflict can be found.
"Today, when we are talking about South Caucasus, we have an excellent example of cooperation between Georgia and Azerbaijan, and very negative experience of communication with another Southern Caucasus neighbor," he said. "Therefore, South Caucasus should be more integrated to ensure the sustainable development of the region. This is impossible without the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement, and liberation of internationally recognized Azerbaijani territories."
He further said that using this potential, Azerbaijan's development programs and having a very active foreign policy, the successful development of Azerbaijan will be determined in the coming years.
"Today among our quests we have prominent politicians, statesmen, people who play and continue to play important roles in international affairs," he said. "Azerbaijan conducts a very active foreign policy and it is even more active than it could be anticipated. The result of this activity is the country's important role in international organizations."
The President noted that Azerbaijan's election to the UN Security Council was a very remarkable event, which coincided with 20 years of the country's independence.
"Azerbaijan managed to get support from 155 countries for 20 years, which was the reflection of the country's role at the global arena."
"While coming back to the membership in international organization like Council of Europe and Islamic Cooperation Organization, I'd like to conclude my remarks with this idea, that this is not only the geographical format, not only our foreign policy activity, but this also comes from deep historical roots of our nation," Ilham Aliyev said.
He added that for many centuries Azerbaijan was a land where many religions, ethnic groups have peacefully co-existed.
"Ethinical, cultural and religious diversity is one of the biggest assets of Azerbaijan. We highly value multiculturalism. Azerbaijan's experience shows that multiculturalism has great future. An alternative to multiculturalism is self-isolation, discrimination, racism, and in the 21st century we cannot afford such tendencies to prevail," he said.
Azerbaijani President said that the dialogue of civilizations is not just a good slogan, it is a necessity for mankind to develop, to establish a broad international cooperation, to increase the level of mutual understanding, to increase the level of mutual tolerance.
"I think these are the main prerequisites for peaceful development of mankind," he said.
"Despite of this difficulty, and damage which was caused by Armenian aggression, we were committed to use the chance of independence to build a strong country, and to provide better life for our people," he said. "Therefore, from mid 90's, we concentrated on political and economic reforms. These processes still continue."
Ilham Aliyev said that from the point of view of political development, Azerbaijan is transforming.
"The country never had a political system before it became independent. Now the country has all the political institutions. Azerbaijan is a member of international community, and it implements political reforms. Further democratization of the society is one of the main priorities for us," the President underscored.
He noted that political and economic reforms must be implemented in parallel to achieve long lasting development.
"As far as economic reforms are concerned, Azerbaijan made tremendous progress since the times of independence," Ilham Aliyev said.
The Head of Azerbaijani State further spoke about the progress that the country has made through the years.
"Azerbaijan's GDP increased by three times during the last 10 years, which I think this is the world record. The country managed to reduce the poverty from 50 percent to 6 percent, reduce unemployment for up to 5 percent. More than a million jobs were created in Azerbaijan and we also managed to diversify the country's economy," he said.
Ilham Aliyev said that Azerbaijan's economic achievements were not unnoticed by international financial institutions.
"The assessment of main international financial institutions is very positive. Even during the years of economic and financial crisis, three main rating agencies, like "Fitch", "Moody's" and "Standard & Poor's" upgraded Azerbaijan's credit rating. Davos international forum ranks Azerbaijan 46th in terms of global competitiveness index. This is the reflection of the reforms," he noted.