Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 5
Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev addressed the "Education" session held as part of the "Supporting Syria and the Region Conference" in London Feb. 4.
"We have a very profound sympathy for the Syrian refugees," President Aliyev said at the event.
He noted that Azerbaijan itself suffered from a humanitarian disaster and crisis in the beginning of its independence, in the beginning of the 1990s when Azerbaijan's neighbor Armenia launched an aggression against the country.
"As a result of that aggression almost 20 percent of our internationally recognized territory became occupied," said the president, adding Azerbaijanis were subjected to ethnic cleansing, and more than a million Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons.
"That was a real humanitarian catastrophe. At that time, our country was very young and very poor. Million people out of the then eight million population, one of the highest per capita number of refugees, became homeless, jobless and without any means for living," he added.
"We are grateful to international humanitarian organizations, particularly UNHCR, which supported us in a difficult moment of our history," noted the president.
He further said that today, Azerbaijan is a donor itself.
"We are providing financial assistance, including to the Syrian refugees. In 1994, the ceasefire was established between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, since that time, there has been no significant progress on the negotiations table," said the president.
He went on to add that though the United Nations Security Council adopted four resolutions, demanding immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian forces from the territories of Azerbaijan, those resolutions have been ignored by Armenia for more than twenty years.
"But having ceasefire achieved in 1994 gave us an opportunity to develop. Since that time Azerbaijan's development has been very rapid, we have managed to provide decent housing conditions for almost 250,000 refugees," he added.
"We have hundred percent literacy, including among refugees. Ten years ago about 70 percent of refugees lived in poverty, now the rate of the poverty among refugees is only 12 percent, while total poverty is five percent, unemployment is five percent," he said. "I am bringing these figures for your attention because only in the condition of stability, peace a country can develop, can overcome enormous difficulties."
"Today, we heard a lot of speeches and pledges," added the president. "Azerbaijan is among those countries, which already contributed and will contribute to humanitarian development in Syria, but the most important is peace."
"Ceasefire, peace, finding political solutions - only after that, jobs will be created, education will be on the proper level and people will start to believe in their future," he went on to say. "We as a country, which suffered from these enormous economic and social difficulties, know how to do it. We can share our experience in job creation."
President Aliyev added that during the last decade 1.5 million jobs were created in Azerbaijan.
"We can share our experience in education, more than 3,000 schools were built in our country and, as I said, now literacy is hundred percent. We can share our experience in managing humanitarian crisis and we will do it," he noted.
"But the most important is peace," he further said. "Therefore finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis as soon as possible is a number one issue on our agenda."
"And I am sure that discussions, which we held today, will play an important role in finding that political solution," added the president. "Azerbaijan as a country with a substantial financial and economic potential managed to achieve that only in the time of not peace, but ceasefire."
"And, of course, we will continue to support our brothers and sisters in Syria. We are grateful to those countries who take this enormous burden to accommodate the Syrian refugees. Once again I would like to note that we came here for peace, we came here to promote these values, and Azerbaijan will play its important role in this respect," President Aliyev said in conclusion.