Details added (first version posted at 15:57 on Nov.15)
BAKU, Azerbaijan, Nov. 15
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has received a delegation of a group of Muslim religious figures of the North Caucasus republics of the Russian Federation.
Welcoming members of the delegation, President Ilham Aliyev said:
- Once again, “Welcome!” I am glad to see you again.
I am very glad that religious leaders of the republics of the North Caucasus are frequent guests in Azerbaijan. For many years, we have been meeting and discussing important issues related to interreligious dialogue, educational issues and issues of interaction between religious leaders of the Caucasus. I believe that our meetings and exchanges are very important for strengthening peace, security and cooperation in the Caucasus. Of course, our meetings and close cooperation are also an important factor in Russian-Azerbaijani relations, which are developing very successfully and have long reached the level of strategic partnership.
My numerous meetings with President of Russia Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin play a very important role in further strengthening our friendly and good-neighborly ties. Last month, at the invitation of the President of Russia, I participated in the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi and also had a meeting with the President of Russia as part of the visit. We reviewed the broad agenda of our relations again and saw the progressive development of our ties in all areas.
Of course, issues of interaction in the Caucasus, issues of cooperation and inter-religious dialogue are important for both Russia and Azerbaijan. Everyone knows that the centuries-old history of friendship, cooperation and brotherhood connects the Azerbaijani people with the peoples of the North Caucasus. We simply continue the traditions of our fathers and grandfathers, strengthen our relations, thereby making a major contribution to the strengthening of security, stability and development in the Caucasus. The Caucasus, as we have said many times, is a single organism, a place where indigenous peoples have lived and created architectural monuments for centuries, and look confidently into the future. Of course, Russian-Azerbaijani relations, I believe, play the key role in further strengthening security and the development of cooperation in the Caucasus. I am pleased that you are taking part in the summit. The summit is also a global event. I believe that such events and with such level of representation are unique in the world. Of course, the participation of His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, as well as his very wise words spoken yesterday impart special significance to this event. But I should also note that Russia has the biggest delegation among 70 countries. Of course, it was a pleasure to see our brothers, religious leaders of the North Caucasus, people who have great authority in their republics, in the Caucasus as a whole and in Azerbaijan at the summit table yesterday. You are well known and respected people, and we thank you for your hard work. Your word receives a response in the hearts of representatives of your peoples as you call for development, stability, peace and security. We all highly appreciate this in Azerbaijan.
Of course, your relationship with our esteemed Sheikh Allahshukur Pashazade is the most important factor in our cooperation. Yesterday, we saw, in a festive atmosphere, the respected sheikh being presented with high awards of many countries, the highest order of Azerbaijan, the Order of Heydar Aliyev, and orders of other states. This underlines his authority not only in our region but also in the world. Our respected Sheikh is our great asset. He is a world-class religious leader. Every time we communicate, including yesterday, we talk about you and your relations. It is good that such a format of relations has developed. Of course, I would like to fulfill a very important mission on such an auspicious day. By my decree, several months ago, Ismail Aliyevich Berdiyev was awarded the High Order of Azerbaijan, the Order of Friendship, which is presented to foreign representatives contributing to the strengthening of friendship between our peoples through their activities. Therefore, I would like to begin our meeting today with presenting this great award to you.
President Ilham Aliyev presented the Order of Friendship to the chairman of the Coordination Center of Muftis of the North Caucasus, the Mufti of Karachay-Cherkessia of the Russian Federation, Ismail Berdiyev.
Mufti Ismail Berdiyev said:
- Thank you very much, Ilham Heydarovich. We feel very much at home here. All this is thanks to you and to Sheikh ul-Islam. This reward is not for me personally, it is for all of us. We all understand this very well. But what we are doing and trying to do is also thanks to Sheikhulislam. He is our elder and teacher. He always tells us what to do and how to do it. Although we are 65 years old, which is a lot, he still teaches us. This is all thanks to the wisdom he has.
We are seeing the fruition of what your father did here in Azerbaijan in you. Thank you very much. Every time we come here, we see what changes are taking place in Azerbaijan, the beauty is everywhere. There is no such beauty abroad. This is all thanks to you. I saw Baku both in Soviet times and during the time of Elchibey. This is a completely different matter. What you are doing is for the people of Azerbaijan. Thank you so much.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you!
Mufti Ismail Berdiyev: I will never forget this. They told me that when we were standing in front of the Kaaba, in front of the Black Stone, your father told you: “It's only bad that your mother is not here”. Why did he say that? When a person feels good at soul, when it is bright, he wants his family to be together. This is why he said that. Inshallah, he will be in paradise for what he has done for Azerbaijan. We were all proud of him. In Soviet times, there was a Muslim in the Politburo of the USSR, and we were proud of him. You continue his journey. May Allah grant you strength and health to continue this.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much for your kind words. You are quite right that today's Azerbaijan is a product of Heydar Aliyev’s heroic work. He always made great effort for the development of Azerbaijan. In Soviet times, when he headed Azerbaijan in 1969, he was a young man. He was 46 years old. He turned Azerbaijan from the most backward republic of the USSR in terms of development into the most advanced one. Then there were only two republics besides the Russian Federation, and the Russian Federation was purely a republic only conditionally, as it was the forming state and the republic, so there were only two republics, Azerbaijan and Belarus, that gave more to the Union treasury than they received. All the rest were in subsidies. In the years of Heydar Aliyev’s leadership, Azerbaijan reached the highest places in all respects: in industry, in agriculture, in electronics, in infrastructure, in the development of regions. It is no coincidence that when our people were faced with great difficulties, a tragedy, the first person they turned to was Heydar Aliyev. By inviting him to lead Azerbaijan in 1993, our people and Heydar Aliyev essentially saved us from disaster. I said today, yesterday and at our earlier events that his friendship with the respected Sheikh is not only their personal relationship. They knew each other for a long time, back since when the respected Sheikh headed the Caucasus Muslims Office also at a young age. And we maintain very close friendship. I think that this is the key to our successful development.
Of course, we all remember the dark period of our history when random people came to leadership here through a military coup. In fact, it is even difficult to call it a coup. Because to make a coup, one must have courage and some kind of brain. It was just a period of anarchy, when authorities were completely demoralized and people from the street took up power.
Mufti Ismail Berdiyev: It was a seizure of power.
President Ilham Aliyev: Indeed, it was a seizure. The most junky layer of Azerbaijani society was concentrated in the Popular Front. Every society has its garbage – and this was ours. They seized power. In essence, they destroyed the centuries-old traditions of the Azerbaijani people. They sowed enmity and hatred, incited sectarian strife. They were engaged in theft, cut tram lines because they were made up copper and sold it to neighboring countries. Just imagine that an illiterate demagogue was the minister of defense. The prime minister was someone who was known for his small retail business. The country was led by a man who had no management experience – none at all. He had not even run a collective farm. Not to mention the fact that the parliament was headed by a man who had been a junior researcher for 11 years and never managed to defend his thesis over the years. They were ordinary ignoramuses. A former Komsomol activist, careerist and coward whose cowardice all the Azerbaijani people saw again recently became the secretary of state. A physics teacher who does not speak a single foreign language and actually has a poor command of Azerbaijani was the minister of foreign affairs. This was the case – neither English nor Russian. He had no clue at all what diplomacy means. This is what happened then. Sheikh remembers that well. They caused a tragedy, the occupation of our lands by Armenians, civil war. Territories fell under occupation, but they, in order to strengthen their power, gave the order to bomb Ganja. There is video footage of them bombing the Ganja airport and houses. People were killed. They unleashed civil war. They are criminals. But when people put up gallows to hang them, out of fear they turned to Heydar Aliyev who then headed the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, begging him to come and save their skin. They did not think about the people, they thought about themselves. They persuaded him for a long time and sent a plane for him three times. He did come, although he was already 70 years old. He came in order to save the people from disaster – and he did. This is what we went through. Therefore, we all remember and appreciate this. The younger generation must know this. They do not know because then they were small or not born at the time. Therefore, the respected sheikh and we are trying to make sure that this truth is known to all and that those who remember this don’t forgot it. After all, people get used to good things very quickly. Therefore, we all remember and value what we have and value our independence, our dignity, our own path, which is the path of development, cooperation and progress.
I think that today's meeting is very important, of course. We all demonstrate the unity of the Caucasus, a commitment to brotherhood and cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan, and we will also go forward, Inshallah.
Mufti Ismail Berdiyev: Inshallah. Your authority in Russia is very big. We see the respect with which our President Vladimir Putin treats you. Because he knows your father. They worked together and such people don’t miss anything, they know everything. Therefore, your friendship is very valuable to us. Therefore, Russia has now become a great power, like the Soviet Union, in the world. They wanted to destroy, crush and trample us but Putin did not allow this to happen. He did it. The fact that we are together is our strength.
President Ilham Aliyev: You are absolutely right! I have a close and trusting relationship with the President of Russia. It is very important. We clearly understand that our close interaction and strategic partnership is important for us, for our peoples. In addition, there is also a personal relationship. It is this level of mutual trust acquired through many years of cooperation, sincere and truthful, this level of trust allows us the opportunity to discuss any issues and address them. I also have great respect for the President of Russia. I have known him since the time when Heydar Aliyev was the President of Azerbaijan. Vladimir Vladimirovich then paid a visit to Azerbaijan. Before that, for 10 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the President of Russia did not come to Azerbaijan. Although we are neighbors, there is a lot in common between us. And as soon as Vladimir Vladimirovich became President, he accepted the invitation of my father, came to Azerbaijan and showed respect for us. In essence, together with Heydar Aliyev, they laid the foundation for our relations, and they are continuing today. Therefore, I follow this path and my many meetings with the President of Russia are filled with content and sincere attitude to each other. Our peoples know and see this. This is a great asset.