BAKU, Azerbaijan, January 30
On 30 January, “Rossiya 24” TV channel broadcast a “Formula of Power” program by Mikhail Gusman, First Deputy Director General of TASS news agency, dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the restoration of Azerbaijan's state independence and the 60th birthday of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. Trend presents the program.
From the author: Azerbaijan is located in the East of the South Caucasus, on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The country covers an area of 86,600 square kilometers. It is bordered by the Russian Federation to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, Turkey to the southwest, and Iran to the south. The length of land borders is 2,647 kilometers and of sea borders 816 kilometers. The population is 10,383, 704 people. Baku is the capital. A few months ago, Azerbaijan celebrated the 30th anniversary of the restoration of its state independence.
Mikhail Gusman: We have met with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev many times in the “Formula of Power” program. However, every meeting is very interesting, meaningful and deep. Today I would like to start our program with an episode of a conversation that took place 10 years ago: “Ilham Heydar oglu, whether you want it or not, you are almost 50 now. A lot of work has been done. What tasks do you personally set for yourself for the next half century?
President Ilham Aliyev: Frankly speaking, I do not set any tasks for myself. However, as President, I can't afford to do that, because if we don't think about the future, it will be very difficult to solve today's problems. I am looking forward to this half a century, as you said. In the field of energy, this period is 100 years. In other words, Azerbaijan is becoming an irreplaceable and very important actor in the international energy market for at least a hundred years. We are creating an infrastructure in the field of transport that will work for the welfare of our country for centuries. Education – it should also be planned for several decades ahead.
Mikhail Gusman: These are investments in the future.
President Ilham Aliyev: Of course, training of personnel, information technologies. The world is moving forward, and we must not fall behind. If you have the desire, political will and good initiative, you can do a lot.
Mikhail Gusman: Ten years have passed since then. A few months ago, Azerbaijan celebrated the 30th anniversary of the restoration of its state independence, and a month ago, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev celebrated his 60th anniversary. The country is maturing, gaining experience, occupying a more important place in the world, and this is stated from the UN General Assembly.
President Ilham Aliyev: The implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is of special importance for Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is one of the 12 countries to have submitted the third Voluntary National Report on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the first such state in its region.
From the author: In recent decades, Azerbaijan's economy has more than tripled. Azerbaijan is in the group of countries with above-average incomes. There is a steady demographic growth in the country. Oil production is increasing. Today, Azerbaijan is one of the leaders in energy security in the world. On 14 September 2017, a new agreement was signed in Baku on the joint development of the Azeri, Chirag and Gunashli fields. More than $36 billion has been invested in this project. 500 million tons of oil has been produced. On 29 May 2018, the Trans-Anatolian
Gas Pipeline (TANAP), an important part of the Southern Gas Corridor, was officially inaugurated. Azerbaijan has proven gas reserves of 2.6 trillion cubic meters and projected reserves of about 3 trillion cubic meters.
Mikhail Gusman: Azerbaijan is a historically oil-producing country, but at the same time, you have been saying for many years that Azerbaijan must get rid of its dependence on oil.
President Ilham Aliyev: You are absolutely right. I have raised and continue to raise this issue very actively. Certain steps are being taken in this direction. Therefore, the focus on the non-oil sector has been and remains a key priority.
From the author: Azerbaijan is implementing additional regional projects. Thanks to the East-West, North-South and North-West transport corridors, the country has become one of the main transport and logistical centers in Eurasia. The Azerbaijani part of the North-South Transport Corridor has reached the final stage. This corridor will connect India, Pakistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia and Northern European countries.
President Ilham Aliyev: All transport and communication projects in Azerbaijan have been practically completed. The establishment of the transport and logistical infrastructure has been completed. Today, we are working with our partners and neighbors to increase transportation and expand Azerbaijan's transit capacity.
From the author: The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway was put into operation on 30 October 2017, enabling a connection of Trans-European and Trans-Asian railway networks. In essence, the Ancient Silk Road has been restored. On 14 May 2018, the Baku International Trade Seaport Complex was officially opened in Alat settlement of Garadagh district of Baku. The carrying capacity of this complex is 15 million tons. This volume can be increased to 25 million tons. According to the order of President Ilham Aliyev, the free trade zone created in Alat settlement will serve a regional market of 130 million people. Azerbaijan is carrying out banking reform to attract large investments to various sectors of the economy.
President Ilham Aliyev: The groundwork in the information and communication technologies sector is not too bad either. Azerbaijan, which already has three satellites, is a member of a club of space-faring nations. The ICT sector is developing very fast and there is significant growth in this area. As for other areas, of course, I would, first of all, mention agriculture. There is a lot of potential there, a lot of investment has been made and there is a significant increase. We have been paying great attention to tourism, a modern tourism infrastructure has been created. Of course, the pandemic has hit this sector quite hard. We are currently thinking of ways of stimulating domestic tourism.
Mikhail Gusman: The coronavirus pandemic, having tragically engulfed the entire world, could not but affect life in Azerbaijan, of course. The Azerbaijani government has done everything possible to prevent the penetration of the coronavirus into the country and its extensive spread. It should be noted that the activities of the Azerbaijani government have been praised by the World Health Organization.
From the author: January 2021. The start of the vaccination campaign in Azerbaijan. The number of vaccines used for every hundred people exceeds 80 percent. A socioeconomic support package worth $2.7 billion has been presented to support the population and businesses. The financial assistance Baku has volunteered to provide to the World Health Organization's programs amounted to $10 million. Humanitarian and financial assistance was provided to more than 30 countries. A total of 150,000 doses of vaccine were sent to four countries free of charge.
President Ilham Aliyev: As a matter of fact, the work we have organized and implemented has also been acknowledged by the World Health Organization. In a letter addressed to me by the Director General of this organization, he praised the activities of the Azerbaijani government and even described Azerbaijan as an exemplary country, i.e. a country that sets an example in combating this scourge.
From the author: May 2020. A summit of the Non-Aligned Movement Contact Group was held in Baku on the initiative of President Ilham Aliyev. This meeting was dedicated to the fight against COVID-19. In 2021, the anniversary year for the Non-Aligned Movement, chairmanship of Azerbaijan was extended until 2023 by a decision of 120 members of the organization.
President Ilham Aliyev: Azerbaijan was unanimously elected to chair the Movement, which is a very significant factor. As you may know, 120 countries are involved in the Movement and the relations between some of them are rather strained, to put it mildly. However, the respect and confidence shown to us shows that Azerbaijan has gained a great reputation in the international arena.
From the author: December 2020. At the initiative of the President of Azerbaijan, a special session of the UN General Assembly was held at the level of heads of state and government and dedicated to the fight against coronavirus. In his speech at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, Ilham Aliyev put forward a new initiative.
President Ilham Aliyev: We propose to establish a high-level UN panel on general recovery after COVID-19. It will develop recommendations for global action in the post-pandemic period.
Mikhail Gusman: Azerbaijan is a confident and active participant in most international organizations. It was also a permanent member of the Security Council. Azerbaijan is active in the Commonwealth of Independent States, the OSCE and other bodies.
President Ilham Aliyev: As for Azerbaijan, we participate in all the organizations we are a member of in order to strengthen that organization and to meet our national interests to the maximum extent within these organizations. Each international organization is made up of powerful countries, intermediate ones and countries that still need to grow. Therefore, it is important to take into account the interests of all countries. For this reason, I consider mutual respect within international organizations as one of the important priorities. Azerbaijan always gives preference to the rule of law and the rule of international law.
Mikhail Gusman: Representatives of various religious and ethnic groups, different peoples have lived in Azerbaijan in peace and good neighborliness since ancient times. I am not saying this because I've heard it from others. I can say with full confidence that multiculturalism is in the blood of Azerbaijanis.
From the author: On 2 May 2018, the 5th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue was held in Baku. The UN considers this Forum as an important global platform for promoting intercultural dialogue.
President Ilham Aliyev: Of course, addressing the younger generation, I would like to say that they should learn to live selflessly, be highly patriotic, following the example of their ancestors, and show heroism while defending their homeland.
Mikhail Gusman: Ten years ago, during a conversation with the President of Azerbaijan, we discussed a very painful issue – the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh. Of course, the political problems that have become extremely difficult need to be resolved. Do you think it is possible to untie this knot by pulling at the threads one after the other or is it a Gordian knot that can only be cut?
President Ilham Aliyev: There are resolutions of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, resolutions of the OSCE, resolutions of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other organizations. All these documents have the same demand – to restore the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. This is our sovereign right.
From the author: September 2020. A new stage of the military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Forty-four days later, on the night of 10 November, a trilateral ceasefire agreement was signed with the mediation of Russia and with the personal participation of President Putin. A decision was made to deploy a Russian peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh.
President Vladimir Putin: Thanks to Russia's decisive contribution, the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has been stopped. Russian peacekeepers provide reliable guarantees of peace and security in the region.
President Ilham Aliyev: Azerbaijan has resolved the 30-year-old conflict militarily and politically, restored its territorial integrity and historical justice. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is now a thing of the past.
From the author: By a decision of President Aliyev, Karabakh has been declared a “green energy” zone. A new 240-megawatt solar power plant will be built there in the next four years. There are plans to implement 10 such projects across the country by 2030.
2016. Azerbaijan ratifies the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It undertakes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent by 2030. Today, the share of renewable energy in total energy production in the country is 17 percent. The immediate goal is to double that number in 10 years.
Mikhail Gusman: In recent years, Azerbaijan has hosted a number of major sporting, cultural, political, economic events and various forums. How do you see the world in the post-pandemic period? We will all have to live in that world.
President Ilham Aliyev: The world has changed, we are gradually getting used to a new format of work, a new format of life, a regime of self-isolation. Of course, we do feel a lack of communication. As for international forums, you have rightly noted that Azerbaijan has already become an important venue of humanitarian cooperation. The Baku International Humanitarian Forum, the Forum of Intercultural Dialogue under the auspices of the Presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan, in which you, Mikhail Solomonovich, have played a very important role, are also raising some questions: how will we hold them? However, in my opinion, the key thing is to maintain cooperation, including international, and positive experience in this area.
Mikhail Gusman: 25 years ago, in 1997, Russia and Azerbaijan signed the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Security. In 2008, this agreement was strengthened by the Declaration of Friendship and Strategic Partnership. There is no doubt that the bilateral relations between our countries rest on the principles of equality of rights and good neighborliness. In fact, these principles are a continuation of centuries-old traditions of friendship and mutual respect between the peoples of Russia and Azerbaijan.
I would like to touch upon your relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. I know that you have a fairly close friendship, as they say, some “personal chemistry”, personal relations. You have visited Russia and President Putin has visited Azerbaijan.
President Ilham Aliyev: As you mentioned, we meet with the President of the Russian Federation quite often, both in Russia and in Azerbaijan. Therefore, our communication and meetings are giving a very positive impetus to the development of our interaction. Our political activity is at a very high level.
Mikhail Gusman: On 24 December last year, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev celebrated his 60th birthday. Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin sincerely congratulated Ilham Aliyev on this anniversary.
President Vladimir Putin: First of all, I wish his country peace and prosperity. I have known him for many years. Like any honorable person holding a high position, the main purpose of his life is to serve his country, his people, the people of Azerbaijan. First of all, I wish him every success in the realization of his life goals and intentions. Of course, I wish him prosperity and good health. I may get this wrong, but I think there is a proverb in Azerbaijan: “A true friend is a friend even after a hundred years”. He should know that he has friends, including in Russia. We do hope that he feels the same way about us and Russia. I wish him all the best and congratulate him on his birthday.
From the author: The action plan for the main areas of Russian-Azerbaijani cooperation until 2024 is reflected in five road maps. These envisage overcoming barriers to trade; development of the transport infrastructure; creation of science-based joint ventures; and increase of mutual tourist exchanges.
President Ilham Aliyev: Of course, humanitarian cooperation must be specifically noted. We always do that with the President of Russia. In my opinion, this is an example of cooperation between neighbors. The existence of more than 330 Russian-language schools in Azerbaijan, branches of leading Russian universities and a rich cultural program is highly valued in Russia. We are always in touch, working as close friends and partners.
Mikhail Gusman: Azerbaijan is focused on the future today. Economic reforms are developing successfully, agriculture and industry are showing high efficiency. Great conditions have been created for businesses. The people of Azerbaijan are engaged in construction. Of course, a lot has been done, but President Aliyev has set ambitious goals and large-scale tasks for the further prosperity of the country.
Azerbaijani citizens: Azerbaijan is my homeland, my honor and dignity, my conscience. For centuries, we have won the right to call this land our homeland at the cost of people's lives.
- My relatives and friends, my job is here.
- Azerbaijan has its own position and voice in the world.
- Azerbaijan is everything for me – my homeland, my land, my motherland. I was born here, I grew up here and I live happily here.
- This land has a unique nature that knows no borders, from the steppes to the high mountains.
- It is the duty of every citizen to serve his homeland.
- I do and will do everything for the prosperity of my homeland.
- Azerbaijan has many tasks ahead of it. We are ready to sacrifice our lives for our homeland.