Extraordinary Summit of Turkic Council held through videoconferencing on initiative of President Ilham Aliyev (PHOTO/VIDEO)

Extraordinary Summit of Turkic Council held through videoconferencing on initiative of President Ilham Aliyev (PHOTO/VIDEO)

BAKU, Azerbaijan, April 10

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On the initiative of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, chairman of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States Ilham Aliyev, an extraordinary Summit of the Turkic Council has today been held through videoconferencing.

The Summit focused on the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

President Ilham Aliyev made a speech at the Summit.

Speech by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev

- Dear heads of state and government,

Dear Director-General of the World Health Organization,

Dear friends!

My warm greetings to all of you. I thank you for supporting the initiative of holding an emergency Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States, which was put forward by Azerbaijan as the chairing country. The organization of the Summit just a few days after the launch of this initiative indicates that the Turkic Council is built on the basis of friendship and fraternity.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Director-General of the World Health Organization Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for joining the Summit.

The Summit agenda has been shared. If there are no proposals on the agenda, then we can get down to work.

Dear colleagues, as you know, the 7th Summit of the Cooperation Council of the Turkic-Speaking States was held in Baku in October last year. During that summit, Azerbaijan took over chairmanship and immediately began to act as the chairing country. During the chairmanship, we have been making efforts to further enhance the authority of the organization in the world and strengthen cooperation among our countries.

Coronavirus, defying all borders, has spread throughout the world and led to tragic consequences. I wish the repose of the souls of those who died from the pandemic in our country and in the world. Let me express my condolences to their families and wish those infected a speedy recovery.

The Turkic Council is the first international organization on a global scale to hold a summit on the COVID-19 pandemic at the level of heads of state. This is further clear evidence of our high-level solidarity. The common roots that unite us, our history, culture and national values are an important basis for mutually beneficial activities.

The coronavirus pandemic requires a global response because it is a global threat. Since the first days of the pandemic, we have witnessed some countries and international organizations being confused by the coronavirus and choosing the path of self-closure. In the current circumstances of the global pandemic, the world needs solidarity and cooperation.

Azerbaijan has taken prompt and proactive steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Restrictive measures were taken in accordance with the prevailing conditions. At the beginning of this year, the Task Force was set up under the Cabinet of Ministers on my executive order. Starting from 3 March, teaching in all educational institutions of the country was suspended until 20 April. All public events planned in the country were postponed or canceled. A special regime which envisaged a series of social isolation measures was introduced on 14 March and a special quarantine regime on 24 March. The activities of shopping and entertainment centers were suspended, people were not allowed to enter parks and public places of recreation. The operation of intercity transport and the Baku underground was completely suspended. Since 5 April, a restriction on movement was introduced in the country. With the exception of persons involved in the activities of a number of public and private institutions, all other citizens are allowed to leave their places of residence in specific cases and within a certain time interval using an SMS-based permit system.

Since early days of the fight against the pandemic, Azerbaijan has fruitfully cooperated with the World Health Organization. We invited the organization's specialists to Azerbaijan in early March. Our invitation was accepted in a short time. Thus, on 9-13 March, a delegation of leading specialists of the organization visited our country. They were familiarized with the situation in our country and praised the work done. The recommendations contained in the report prepared by the expert mission are taken into account by relevant government agencies.

In his letter sent to me on 23 March, Director General of the World Health Organization Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the work done in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is considered as an exemplary country for the measures taken against the pandemic.

Azerbaijan plays an active role in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic both domestically and globally. Azerbaijan has demonstrated global solidarity and provided voluntary financial assistance to the World Health Organization in the fight against coronavirus. On 13 March, Azerbaijan signed a donor agreement to provide voluntary financial assistance to the COVID-19 Appeal Fund within the framework of the World Health Organization's Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan. We appreciate the important role the World Health Organization has been playing in the global fight against the pandemic.

Comprehensive work has been done in the healthcare system of Azerbaijan over the course of 16 years, the professional level of doctors has increased, more than 750 healthcare institutions have been built or fully renovated. More than 5 million people in Azerbaijan undergo medical examination at the expense of the state every year.

Patients infected with coronavirus are being treated in more than 20 public hospitals. The most modern hospital of our country for 575 beds, called the “Yeni klinika", was recently made available to these patients. In March this year, three new hospitals with a total of 500 beds were commissioned in three cities of our country. These hospitals are also available to patients infected with coronavirus. There are plans to build and commission 10 modern modular-type hospitals with 200 beds each shortly, six of which will be built by the state and four by private entrepreneurs.

We appreciate the achievements of our doctors and medical workers in the fight against coronavirus. The salaries of doctors serving coronavirus-infected people have been increased three, four and five times. This is a manifestation of the government’s care for doctors.

More than 15,000 Azerbaijani citizens have been evacuated from various countries, including charter flights organized at the expense of the state. All citizens returned to the country are placed at state expense in four- and five-star hotels, in special quarantine zones. Quarantined individuals are also housed in the Athletes Village, which was opened during the first European Games.

In the conditions of mutual understanding and coordination with neighboring states, land and air transport communications have been temporarily suspended, except for international trade transportation. International air transportation of passengers has also been suspended with other countries.

So far, about 60,000 tests for coronavirus have been carried out in Azerbaijan. The number of tests per million people exceeds 5,200. For the number of tests, we are in the 30th place and for the number of tests conducted per million people in the 40th place in the world. There are 18 testing laboratories in Azerbaijan, five of which have been set up recently.

Currently, the acquisition of medical equipment and supplies has become problematic in the world. Countries have limited the sale of equipment and supplies. Therefore, there was a need for domestic production. To meet the domestic demand, an enterprise for the production of medical masks was quickly launched in our country in early April.

A Fund to Fight Against Coronavirus was established in Azerbaijan on my initiative. Currently, the amount of donations transferred into the Fund exceeds 110 million manats, or $65 million. Along with state funds, voluntary donations into the Fund from individuals, entrepreneurs and organizations are of great symbolic importance. This is an example of solidarity in Azerbaijani society.

It is no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has hit the economies of the world. 2.5 billion manats, or about $1.5 billion, were allocated to maintain economic stability in Azerbaijan, solve the problems associated with unemployment and maintain the stability of the macroeconomic and financial situation. In order to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on the country's economy, on macroeconomic stability, employment issues and businesses, the Cabinet of Ministers has prepared and approved an Action Plan. If we take into account the sectors and individual entrepreneurs affected by coronavirus, we can see that about 600,000 people are worst affected by this situation. Entrepreneurs have been urged not to lay off workers. The state will pay a significant part of the salaries of more than 300,000 people working in 44,000 business entities. In addition, more than 290,000 representatives of micro and private entrepreneurship will also benefit from state support. These programs cover a total of about 600,000 people. Employment and preservation of wages of more than 900,000 workers in the public sector and 690,000 workers in the private sector have been ensured. A total of 50,000 paid public jobs will be created for the social protection of the unemployed. One-off payments to registered unemployed persons have begun. A state guarantee will be provided for 60 percent of loans in the amount of 500 million manats, or about $300 million, recently issued to entrepreneurs. Half of the interest rate on guaranteed loans will be subsidized from the state budget. The state will also subsidize 10 percent of the interest rate on existing bank loans in the amount of 1 billion manats, or about $600 million that do not have state guarantees. To do this, 50 million manats, or about $30 million, have been allocated from the state budget. The main objective of this measure is to assist entrepreneurs who are experiencing difficulties in paying interest due to the pandemic. As a result of the measures of social isolation, the consumption of electricity by the population has increased. With this in mind, concessions have been made for utility bills. These programs are only part of state support. Work is currently under way on other mechanisms of state support.

Dear friends, I believe that the main goal of today's extraordinary summit is to exchange experience in the actions we are taking at national level, support each other at the right time and strengthen solidarity among our peoples. In the current conditions of the global pandemic, member states of the Turkic Council did not withdraw into themselves. The Turkic Council as an organization is ready to cooperate with other international organizations. Azerbaijan also provides support to individual countries.

Of great importance to our economies, trade relations and import-export operations is transportation. Azerbaijan, responsibly treating its role as a transit and logistical center between Turkey and Central Asia, has taken additional measures to transport transit goods. In the conditions of mutual understanding and coordination among our countries, international cargo transportation is carried out continuously. Despite the negative impact of the pandemic, in the first three months of 2020, more than 180,000 tons of goods were transported from Turkic-speaking countries through Azerbaijan, which is 40,000 tons more than in the same period of last year.

There are good opportunities for our cooperation in the field of health services, including the exchange of experience by medical specialists, and the creation of joint medical commissions. In addition, it is important to provide support and assistance to each other's citizens finding themselves in our countries due to the temporary cessation of passenger transport. The measures we have taken are aimed at protecting the health of our countries and alleviating the socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic and ensuring the sustainable development of our economies. I do hope that our countries and peoples overcome this difficult situation with dignity and make a significant contribution to the global fight against the pandemic. Thank you for your attention.

X X X

Speakers at the event included Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbai Jeenbekov, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban, and Secretary General of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States Baghdad Amreyev.

X X X

Speaking at the end of the Summit, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said:

- Thank you, Mr. Secretary General.

I believe that the secretariat should record all the proposals made in the speeches and, summarizing them, submit them to all countries for approval. I am sure that these valuable proposals will be taken into consideration. Thus, by successfully continuing the next stage of our cooperation and showing unity in the fight against coronavirus, we will defeat this misfortune.

I would like to ask my dear brothers if there are any problems, questions or suggestions.

If there are not, then allow me to make a closing statement, after which the adoption of a Declaration is envisaged.

- Dear friends!

I want to once again express my deep appreciation to my dear brothers for accepting our initiative and participating in the Summit. I am sure that the valuable thoughts and suggestions made in the speeches today will strengthen our joint fight against coronavirus. At the same time, we need to further intensify the efforts after the pandemic to cooperate in the fields of economy, trade, transport and other areas to eliminate the negative impact of this disease.

Our solidarity and unity are exemplary. This suggests that we stand by each other not only in joy but also on difficult days. Solidarity and cooperation among countries and international organizations in the context of a global pandemic are of great importance. We are ready to cooperate with other international organizations. I believe that the Final Declaration of the Summit is a significant contribution to this cooperation.

Dear colleagues, I do hope that we will win the fight against coronavirus and get out of this difficult situation with small losses. And now the adoption of the Declaration is on the agenda. The text of the Declaration has been agreed and thus adopted.

Dear friends, thank you very much again for your active participation in the Summit and I declare the Summit closed. Thank you!

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