President Ilham Aliyev, first lady Mehriban Aliyeva attend ceremony to mark 90th anniversary of Khoshbakht Yusifzade (PHOTO/VIDEO) (UPDATE)

Details added (first version posted at 21:52 on Jan.14)

BAKU, Azerbaijan, Jan.14

Trend:

A ceremony to mark the 90th anniversary of renowned oil scientist and geologist, academician Khoshbakht Yusifzade has been held.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and first lady Mehriban Aliyeva attended the ceremony.

The head of state made a speech at the event.

Speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev

- Dear Khoshbakht muallim, I sincerely congratulate you on your anniversary and wish you good health and continued success.

Although you have turned 90, you, as always, are young, continue working, are in good health and always optimistic. Your optimism is wonderfully communicated to those who work with you. I think everyone will agree with me that you are a living symbol of Azerbaijan’s oil and gas industry. It is no coincidence that your birthday is celebrated at state level. Some time ago, I signed the order in connection with this jubilee and here we are celebrating it today.

Both in Soviet times and in the years of independence, you did a lot for the benefit of the Azerbaijani people, for the development of Azerbaijan, you have made a great contribution to this cause. You have played a major role in the development of the oil and gas industry of Azerbaijan both in the Soviet period and in the years of independence. You were directly involved in the discovery of more than 20 oil and gas fields and in many cases led the exploration in person. A special place among these fields is held by Azeri, Chirag and Gunashli. The discovery of this field in the Soviet time was a huge event because it is the largest field in the Caspian. However, the development of Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli during the years of independence is a historic event in itself because the development of modern Azerbaijan is impossible to imagine without Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli. The development of this field and the oil produced there ensure the development of Azerbaijan and determine its economic independence. Economic independence strengthens our political independence. So the exploration and development of the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli field is a truly historic event. We have recently extended the development life for this field and it will be in operation at least until 2050.

You also remember quite well that when the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli contract was being signed, foreign partners estimated the reserves at the level of 511 million tons. We even wondered how it was possible to calculate them with such accuracy. But you also said with absolute certainty at that time that this field has even more oil. At present, according to the estimates of foreign partners, the field has oil reserves of at least 1 billion tons. However, I believe that more oil will certainly be produced from this field in the coming years, especially using new technologies.

Speaking about Azerbaijan’s successes today, we, of course, should specifically note the achievements in the oil and gas industry, the work of our oil workers. Thanks to their heroism and dedication, independent Azerbaijan is successfully developing today. The fair management of oil revenues, their transfer to the people, to the solution of key problems facing the country became possible thanks to the hard work of the political leadership and as a result of sound policies, of course. Azerbaijan is one of the countries that have experienced progress, happiness and development from oil and gas fields. In many oil-rich countries, oil doesn’t bring benefits, but causes harm, problems and bloody clashes. We know from history that the struggle for oil often leads to great difficulties and tragedies. Azerbaijan, for its part, having successfully implemented the oil strategy initiated by great leader Heydar Aliyev, has channeled its oil revenues into the overall development of our country. This is why we are in first place in the CIS in terms of foreign exchange reserves per capita today. The poverty rate in Azerbaijan is approximately at 4.8 percent. This shows that oil revenues are distributed fairly in society and the progress our country has experienced in recent years is based on this factor. Infrastructure projects have been implemented, 16,000 kilometers of roads have been built. We are among leading countries in terms of the road infrastructure today. We used to experience difficulties with electricity and import it from abroad. Today we export it, our generating capacity exceeds a thousand megawatts. How did we achieve this? With the hard work done in the oil and gas sector.

The solution of social problems of our citizens is also directly related to the work carried out in the oil and gas industry – the increased salaries, pensions, benefits and creation of the social infrastructure. So a lot has been done – more than 3,300 schools and over 700 medical institutions have been built. The main source of all this is the oil revenues and their proper use.

Therefore, you have contributed a lot to the Azerbaijani people. Your knowledge, experience and the work done with foreign partners during the exploration and development of oil and gas fields ensure the successful development of the present-day Azerbaijan.

Of course, we are paying more attention to the non-oil sector today and are trying to develop it. But no-one should forget that the basis of the Azerbaijani economy, its backbone is the oil and gas sector. The oil and gas sector will be the leading sector in Azerbaijan for decades. Of course, we will try and, I am sure, will make sure that the non-oil sector also develops. Last year's figures clearly confirm this. But everyone should know that the oil and gas sector is the leading one. And this is natural, because Azerbaijan is the birthplace of oil. It was Azerbaijani oil workers who first produced oil offshore. At the present stage, Azerbaijan has fully utilized its oil and gas potential based on new technologies. Gigantic oil and gas pipelines have been built, and large transport projects have been implemented thanks to oil revenues. Today, Azerbaijan is approaching developed countries in all respects. I am sure that the day will come when Azerbaijan will take its place among these countries.

Khoshbakht muallim, I know that you have gravitated to knowledge since childhood. The question may arise: how do I know this? Let me tell you one story. Last year, when Mehriban Aliyeva visited the Pirhasan Shrine, members of one family approached her and invited to Kurdakhani. They also said that there were many problems in Kurdakhani settlements, roads and school were in poor condition, and invited Mehriban to visit them. She accepted the invitation and visited Kurdakhani, after which many problems there were resolved. A new park was established in Kurdakhani, all roads were repaired and a new school was built. After some time, you said in a conversation that you went to school in Kurdakhani as a child. I was surprised because I knew that you were born in Pirshagi. I asked why you went to Kurdakhani if there was a school in Pirshagi? I remember you saying this as if it happened yesterday: because there were good teachers in Kurdakhani. Right? These were neighboring settlements and the roads were in terrible condition at that time. I was surprised how difficult it must have been for a child. I do not know if there was any transport. Did you go by bus?

Khoshbakht Yusifzade: I walked.

President Ilham Aliyev: You walked? Just imagine – he walked from Pirshagi to Kurdakhani every day to get knowledge. So it was already clear that great future was in store for you. Then you shared your knowledge with young people. You are also a great scientist, are very active as a full member of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences. You have done a lot of scientific research based on your experience. These are not just versions and theories. Your experience is obvious – both from the Soviet period and in the years of independence. That is why you were awarded the highest orders both in Soviet times and in the years of independence. The first order was presented to you in 1963 – the Order of the Red Banner of Labor. The second order was in 1971 – the Badge of Honor. And the third order was in 1976 – the second order of the Red Banner of Labor. Right?

Khoshbakht Yusifzade: Right. I have forgotten this.

President Ilham Aliyev: I remember everything. I know a lot more and will gradually say it all. Then, in the years of independence, in 2000, great leader Heydar Aliyev awarded the highest order, the Istiglal Order, to you. Then it was my turn, and you were awarded the Order of Shohrat in 2004, the Order of Sharaf in 2009, the Honorary Diploma of the President of Azerbaijan in 2015, and last year you were awarded the Heydar Aliyev Prize. Yesterday, by my Order, you were awarded the highest order of Azerbaijan – the Order of Heydar Aliyev.

You know, I have known Khoshbakht muallim for 25 years. We have always had very close and sincere relations. We traveled together and took part in the last negotiations for the preparation of the Contract of the Century in the summer of 1994. We stayed in the American city of Houston for more than a month. The negotiations were very tense, there were many problems. Both sides wanted to achieve the most acceptable conditions for themselves. In the end, it seems to me, having reached a very acceptable compromise, we achieved the best conditions for Azerbaijan. These conditions are reflected in our today's share. Today, 75-80 percent of the profit oil goes to Azerbaijan even though Azerbaijan did not invest in the development of the field. We included a provision in the contract then stating that over time at least 90 percent of people on the contract should be citizens of Azerbaijan, and we have achieved this. And this means personnel training. Today, well-trained personnel work in various countries and here. So the unforgettable Houston stage was very important, of course, because the contract was signed less than a month after we returned, opening a new page in our development. At that time, we were like one family. If you remember, we stayed at the “Apart” hotel and there was a kitchen there. To put it mildly, we are a little tired of the hotel food. Therefore, we asked Mehriban and she cooked and treated us. Those are unforgettable days we will always remember. I should also note that we were neighbors with Khoshbakht muallim at the State Oil Company. Our doors were next to each other. We shared a reception area and met every day. I learned a lot from Khoshbakht muallim. Even then, while working for the Oil Company, and afterwards I was often convinced of how deep Khoshbakht muallim’s knowledge was. I also knew that great leader Heydar Aliyev had great confidence in Khoshbakht muallim and his words. In other words, his words were considered to be the absolute truth, and in many cases this was confirmed. I remember that after the contract for the Absheron field was signed in 1997, seismic work was carried out and the location of the exploration well was determined. Khoshbakht muallim then told foreign partners that the well location they had chosen was wrong and that there would be no reserves there. They said - well, he is an old man, we have seismic facilities, specialists, thousands of workers, turnover of billions of dollars and capitalization of tens of billions. Some geologist may say anything after all. They did not attach importance to his words and regretted. Because they did not listen to Khoshbakht muallim and the well came out dry. So the agreement was terminated and they had to leave Azerbaijan, this field. However, a few years later another company showed interest in the Absheron field. The contract was signed again, the location of the exploration well was chosen correctly, and large reserves were discovered.

Back then, in the 1990s, Khoshbakht muallim said that gas reserves in the Absheron field were at least 300 billion cubic meters. I can’t say how he knew this, but life has proven him right. A foreign company has come to the same conclusion, and at the end of this year or next year we will receive first gas in the amount of 1.5 billion cubic meters from Absheron. This is an indicator in itself. In the words of Khoshbakht muallim himself, he knows the Caspian Sea like the back of his hand. Khoshbakht muallim has contributed a lot to the determination of the legal status of the Caspian Sea because he participated in all the summits and his words were perceived at these events as the absolute truth. Two years ago, the legal status of the Caspian was determined and agreement was reached. But before that, there were numerous disputes and Khoshbakht muallim’s presence in our delegation always strengthened our position.

I want to touch upon another issue, which is forgotten over time. This is due to the development of the Shah Deniz field. In 1996, a contract was to be signed and all negotiations had been completed. However, one representative of the government objected to the signing. He had no reason and had no idea about the oil and gas industry. He was simply filling his pockets, selling oil and oil products produced and refined by oil workers. Without any grounds whatsoever, he expressed a strong protest. At that time, Heydar Aliyev invited the entire leadership of the State Oil Company and gave everyone the floor. All speakers, including Khoshbakht muallim, said that the contract had to be signed and the conditions were most acceptable to us. I remember the great leader listening very carefully to Khoshbakht muallim. His opinion, as well as the general opinion was that the contract had to be signed. Just imagine now: if the Shah Deniz contract had not been signed in 1996, there would have been no Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum, no TANAP, no Southern Gas Corridor now. What would be the state of Azerbaijan’s gas supply in this case? If there were no Shah Deniz gas, we would not be able to meet our needs. So much investment was made in this and Azerbaijan has become a gas exporting country on a global scale, in Eurasia today.

There are many such events and I will disclose them over time. I want to say again that Khoshbakht muallim is a wonderful person, an excellent scientist and a remarkable specialist. The highest award to be presented to him today once again indicates that the Azerbaijani state and people appreciate Khoshbakht muallim’s activities.

On the way here, I found out that of all the Azerbaijani orders, Khoshbakht muallim does not have only the order “For Service to the Fatherland”. I am leaving it for your 95th birthday.

Khoshbakht Yusifzade: I have to live on then.

President Ilham Aliyev: Both live and work. There is a lot to do. I must also say that I am always in touch with Khoshbakht muallim. Every time a new exploration well is drilled or if there is a good flow rate from a well, Khoshbakht muallim is the first person to inform me about it. So when he calls me, I always know that I will hear good news.

X X X

The Order by President of Azerbaijan on awarding Khoshbakht Yusifzade with "Heydar Aliyev" Order was then read out.

President Ilham Aliyev then presented the "Heydar Aliyev" Order to Khoshbakht Yusifzade.

X X X

President Ilham Aliyev: I am instructing the Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company to name the new vessel of the company Khoshbakht Yusifzade.

X X X

The ceremony continued with a concert program.

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