Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the first session of the Azerbaijani Parliament’s fifth convocation
24 november 2015, 12:05
Dear MPs, ladies and gentlemen!
The Milli Majlis of the fifth convocation starts its work today. I cordially congratulate all of you on this occasion. I am sure that members of parliament will make a valuable contribution to the overall development of our country, that the work of the Milli Majlis will be very effective and the successful development of Azerbaijan will be continued.
The election held on 1 November fully reflected the will of the Azerbaijani people. The election was transparent and fair, and it was held in a highly competitive environment. This was confirmed by international and local observers. More than 500 international and tens of thousands of local observers monitored the election process and conducted observation on voting day. The general opinion is that this election meets the highest international standards and the Azerbaijani people freely expressed their will in this election. I want to particularly highlight the opinion of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the CIS and, of course, other international organizations. Election results are also confirmed by opinion polls conducted by international organizations.
In short, by this election Azerbaijan took yet another successful step on the path of democracy and once again proved its commitment to democracy. All democratic institutions successfully operate in Azerbaijan. The country has provided for all the freedoms – the freedom of speech, the freedom of political activity, the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, the freedom of conscience and religion. All freedoms are guaranteed. In this election, all these freedoms, of course, manifested themselves again.
At the same time, I should also note that the creative process ongoing in the country in recent years has also had a positive impact on election results. In recent years, Azerbaijan has successfully, rapidly and comprehensively developed. Of course, given these realities, the citizens of Azerbaijan showed an active stance in the election and voted in favor of the country's political course again.
Azerbaijan's achievements of recent years are widely approved not only in the country but also abroad. The country’s international authority is enhancing. Azerbaijan is recognized as a reliable partner. A growing number of countries want to be our friends and to cooperate with us. Of course, our election to the UN Security Council with extensive international support, the support of 155 countries, a few years ago clearly reflects the international authority of our country.
In recent years, Azerbaijan has been the fastest growing economy on a global scale. Of course, we take it as a huge success. Today, all influential international financial and economic institutions confirm these realities and refer to Azerbaijan as an example for some countries. This is our huge success indeed - and not only because we are asserting ourselves in the world as a rapidly developing country, but primarily because the rapid economic development is having a positive impact on people’s real lives. Our successful economic reforms are complemented by a strong social policy. It is precisely because of this that our country has made great strides in reducing poverty and unemployment in recent years. Today, poverty and unemployment in Azerbaijan are at a level of 5 per cent, which is one of the best indicators in the world.
Stability in our country is provided and strengthened. Stability is essential for any country. When stability is disrupted, the country cannot develop, of course. It can’t attract investments and may lose confidence. Stability in Azerbaijan is provided by the people. The popular support for our policies has created a wonderful atmosphere in our country and society. From the point of view of stability, Azerbaijan is one of a handful of countries in the world today, especially in the current environment. We can see that in different places and regions, in our region, in the Middle East, in Europe and the CIS, stability is violated and very negative processes occur. Azerbaijan conducts sound policies and strengthens stability. Of course, this is still the main condition for our successful development and our future.
Our country addresses issues of interethnic and interreligious relations at the highest level. It is no secret that all international institutions and influential organizations cite Azerbaijan as an example in this area. This is a reality. This is the truth. It is a manifestation of our policy. At the same time, it is an indicator of the situation in our society, where government policies and public support constitute a unity. I am convinced that inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations in Azerbaijan will continue to be regulated at the highest level. Azerbaijan will continue to show itself as a model country. Representatives of all religions and nationalities will live in Azerbaijan like one family in a fraternity. This makes us stronger. This is the main condition for the successful development of any country. In particular, the picture observed in Europe in recent months confirms my words again. Wherever this area remained out of the spotlight or was dominated by other political tendencies, there are huge problems today.
In short, the factors I have mentioned have had a positive impact on election results. The Milli Majlis of the fifth convocation, which is about to start work today, faces very serious issues. I am confident that the Milli Majlis will effectively serve the comprehensive development of our country. All our plans and initiatives will be supported by the Milli Majlis. Thus, the successful development of our country will be ensured. At the same time, the initiatives and draft laws put forward by MPs will serve the comprehensive development of our country.
Today I want to express my thoughts on some of the challenges ahead. Although great progress has been made in recent years, there are still outstanding and pending issues. We need to work towards a solution of these problems. Top of the list is the unresolved Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Of course, there has been no progress in this area in recent years, because the Armenian side does not want peace and does not want to resolve the conflict. It is trying to delay talks, to evade negotiations under various pretexts and to cite as an excuse the provocations it is committing on the contact line and Azerbaijan's adequate response to these provocations.
This is a reality. We live in a real world. The rules and principles of international law, of course, support our position. Of course, historical justice is also on our side. Nagorno-Karabakh is historically Azerbaijani land. The Azerbaijani people lived and worked on these lands for centuries. The Armenians were moved to Nagorno-Karabakh in the 19th century. We all know the story and the whole world needs to know it too. Thanks to the policies we have pursued in recent years, including the work carried out by MPs, the wider international community already knows that this is our historical land. In fact, not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also the territory of the present-day Armenia is historically Azerbaijani land. There are sufficient arguments and historical evidence to confirm this. We simply have to communicate these facts to the world community, and we will.
The present-day Armenia is an artificial state created on historically Azerbaijani lands. I want to say again that this truth should be known to the world, because historical fundamentals, of course, also play an important role in resolving the conflict. The Armenian propaganda machine has tried for many years to prove that Nagorno-Karabakh is their historical land. Through lobbying groups they were able, to some extent, to mislead public opinion. But Azerbaijan's diplomatic efforts in recent years, the activities of non-governmental organizations, public policies, of course, and will be adjusted to bring the real picture to the world's attention.
Four UN Security Council resolutions on the settlement of the conflict play a major role. These resolutions unequivocally state that Armenian armed forces should unconditionally and immediately withdraw from our occupied lands. These resolutions must be implemented. There can be no other document on resolution of the conflict, because the UN Security Council is the most influential international organization.
Other international organizations, as you know, including those through the efforts of MPs, have adopted similar decisions and resolutions. Among them I want to highlight the decisions of the OSCE and the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation also support Azerbaijan’s fair position.
The conflict can be resolved on this basis. The Azerbaijani people and the state will never allow a second so-called "Armenian state" to be created on the territory of Azerbaijan. All our efforts today serve this purpose. We are discussing this issue in all international organizations. It sounds and should be sounded from all high tribunes. This issue should be raised in my speeches, the speeches of MPs and all other public figures to foreign audiences.
Along with this, of course, diplomatic and political efforts will be continued. The activities of the Minsk Group, unfortunately, have not yielded any results yet. Despite this, we must raise and are raising this issue in all international organizations. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had recently made very important decisions. This activity should be continued in other organizations too.
The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs are leading countries of the world and permanent members of the UN Security Council. They, of course, should be the first to respect their own decisions. It was them who adopted UN Security Council resolutions demanding a withdrawal of Armenian forces from our lands. They should first of all respect their decisions. We expect them to do so. There can be no talk of a balanced approach, because one shouldn’t treat an occupier and a victim of occupation in the same manner.
Of course, we are faced with double standards, as is the case in other spheres. Double standards are a reality now. I want to reiterate that we live in a real world and must take these realities into account. At the same time, we will always express our principled position. I want to reiterate that the solution to the conflict is possible only within the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. To achieve this goal, Azerbaijan must become even stronger.
Unfortunately, international law in the world has moved into the background. The power factor matters more today. Might is right. We must become even stronger. We are building up the power of our country. We have been conducting economic reforms for many years. Other factors also play a role here. We are also strengthening our military capabilities. We must become even stronger. Our political, economic and military power should grow.
Of course, if Armenia did not have its strong benefactors, the issue would have been resolved long ago. Armenia could not confront us alone, without foreign aid. Of course, Azerbaijan today is several times stronger than Armenia. We are ahead of it. But it is also true that the Armenian lobby and Armenian organizations working in different countries play a role. These organizations influence the governments of these countries. This factor today is the biggest obstacle to the settlement of the conflict, because Armenia alone would not be rude to violate international law so flagrantly.
Let me repeat that Azerbaijan will go its own way. No country recognizes and will ever recognize the self-styled "Nagorno-Karabakh entity." We will never allow this to happen and will step up our diplomatic and political efforts.
At the same time, our priority is to enhance our military capacity. We have achieved great success in this field in recent years. The combat capability of our army is growing. The most sophisticated equipment, weaponry and ammunition are being purchased. The Azerbaijani army today is among the strongest armies on a global scale. This process continues despite the fact that our budget revenues have declined, of course. However, military spending is a priority issue, because, let me reiterate, it is necessary for the settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and for the security of our country as a whole.
Regarding domestic policies, in the present circumstances, of course, we need to first address issues of security at a high level. We are certainly concerned about the processes occurring in the world today. Security issues are in the foreground for any country. Azerbaijan has accumulated extensive experience in this field too. Over the years, the Azerbaijani people have lived in security and peace. Of course, this area will continue to receive proper attention.
At the same time, the successful development of our country requires a more vigorous fight against negative phenomena. We have also achieved great success in this area, in particular, in the fight against corruption and bribery. Penalties, administrative measures, measures of a systemic nature are being taken, and reforms are carried out. These reforms should be deepened further. I am sure that the new laws to be adopted by the Milli Majlis will create an even better basis for achieving this goal.
On economic policy: in the coming years, we will certainly continue the reforms carried out in previous years. At the same time, of course, more attention will be paid to the non-oil sector. Today, the non-oil sector accounts for about 70 per cent of the gross domestic product in Azerbaijan. It should become even bigger, which, of course, will provide for long-term development of our country. Diversification, development of the non-oil sector, improved business environment, attraction of foreign investment, removal of artificial obstacles and the fight against monopolies – all these factors will ensure our economic development.
At the same time, we should continue the implementation of infrastructure projects in the regions. Of course, today we can’t invest as much as we did in previous years in this sector. However, as a result of the work done, the key infrastructure projects in the regions have either been completed or are in their final stages. In particular, I am referring to projects related to electricity and gas supply. Currently, the top priority is drinking water projects, rural roads, and there is still a lot to be done in this area. In the coming years, we need to implement all infrastructure projects, including the social infrastructure ones. The state budget for next year also envisages the construction and renovation of health facilities, schools and kindergartens.
The social sphere: I must note that all social programs will be implemented. There can be no reductions, because our policy is centered on the citizens of Azerbaijan. It is a strong social policy that has allowed us the opportunity to come out of the crisis of recent years with minimum losses, because in a number of cases fundamental economic reforms have led to social problems. Azerbaijan has always paid great attention to this area. It is still at a high level today. Following recent decisions, the government played a role on the pharmaceuticals market. This market is now regulated by the state, and the prices of hundreds and thousands of medicines have sharply reduced – in some cases, two- or even threefold. This, of course, is also a manifestation of our social policy.
The focus should always be on the solution of household problems of the internally displaced persons and refugees. To achieve this goal, major funds are also envisaged for next year. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of displaced people moved into new homes and apartments. This should always be a priority for our future.
In the energy sector: Azerbaijan is making a valuable contribution to the energy security not only of the region but also of the European continent. Our role is increasing. As our role grows, of course, the capabilities of our country expand. Our international credibility and influence grow. Of course, we know this and should take advantage of this, because the energy security of some countries depends on Azerbaijan. We will gradually expand the geography of our partners, as we have done already. The signed contracts have led to a new situation. By showing leadership, Azerbaijan is redrawing the energy map of Europe. I should note first of all that our country put forward these initiatives and showed leadership. Today, a broad framework of international cooperation has taken shape on the initiative of our country. The implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor will further enhance our capabilities and significantly expand our economic and political opportunities. This will increase the strength of our country and of course, our opportunities to influence the processes taking place in the region and on the continent. The Southern Gas Corridor project is a strategic project for us. Azerbaijan has made and is making an indispensable contribution to this project.
In the transport sector: we are working together with partner-countries on very important projects. We have been working for several years. We have taken specific steps to turn Azerbaijan into a transport hub not only in the region but also globally. Today, the East-West and North-South transport corridors are being realized today. Azerbaijan plays a very important role in both projects. Our country has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the East-West transport corridor. We have mobilized financial resources for the implementation of the North-South transport corridor, and are now working very seriously on this project together with partner-countries. Upon completion, these projects will bring our country huge revenues. At the same time, Azerbaijan will play an indispensable role in the transport sector. Such opportunities are provided by our geographical location. But we add infrastructure projects to the geographical location and invest a lot. The transport infrastructure is an area that requires the greatest investment in Azerbaijan today. It is very necessary for our country and we must do it.
I am sure that the successful development of Azerbaijan will be continued, because we are conducting sound policies based on the interests of the Azerbaijani people. Citizens of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani interests are at the heart of these policies. These interests are paramount. We always defend our interests in the international arena. This is probably why we come under unreasonable criticism and sometimes even provocations. But this can’t affect our policy because we have our own way. A strong economy, stability and unity of the people and the government in Azerbaijan have created such conditions that no outside force can affect our policy. Such attempts have been made and are likely to be repeated. Those making such effort also have to understand that these efforts are all in vain. But we must be ready for that, and the best answer to the campaigns waged against our country is the Azerbaijani realities. The Anti-Azerbaijani forces, some hypocritical foreign politicians controlled by the Armenian lobby see Azerbaijani realities and, of course, feel upset. We have our own way and have established equal relations with all countries. We don’t and can’t have any obligations to any country. In international bilateral and multilateral relations, we always express our position. Some foreign circles may not be impressed with that. Maybe someone expects Azerbaijan to remain silent or not express its position. No! We will speak our word where justice is broken, where there are double standards not only against us, but in general.
Azerbaijan is one of a handful of countries expressing it position on the ongoing migratory crisis. Some people prefer to remain silent, but we speak our word because it is impossible to tolerate injustice. Today it is described as a migration crisis, but for migrants this crisis is a humanitarian disaster. They have been suffering from this disaster for years. Their countries have been destroyed and houses razed to the ground. They lose friends and relatives, are subjected to torture and degrading treatment. These people go to Europe to find salvation and get rid of all these troubles. But look at how they are met – insults, torture and humiliation. Now there are attempts to portray them as culprits. They are not guilty of anything. If their countries were not destroyed, they would have carried on living there. But look at what is happening today. How can we be silent when we see this? Therefore, we are expressing our position. I believe that if other countries followed our suit and raise their voices, it might be possible to adjust this policy.
Both MPs and the public are well aware that Azerbaijan is often confronted with unfounded allegations that democracy and human rights are allegedly violated in Azerbaijan, that Azerbaijan does not comply with some criteria – but who set them we do not know. But the current crisis with migrants is a test for countries that promote values. Show your criteria and commitment to the values you proclaim. We do not see that. It turns out that these values are only there for others. Are they only there to harass and abuse others and to impose your will on them? Where are these values – compassion, human rights and dignity? We do not see them.
Therefore, these events and situations once again show how right we were to have chosen our own way and not to depend on anyone. This is not necessary. We live at our own expense and express our position on international issues.
Azerbaijan will continue to participate actively in international organizations it is a member of. Our MPs also have to take an active part. We don’t and can’t have obligations to the international organizations we are not a member of. But our work in the organizations we are a member of is commendable. We comply with all our obligations and defend the interests of our country.
I am confident that we will successfully fulfill the tasks ahead. The situation in the world is changing, and so is the balance of power. Unfortunately, there is no reason for optimism – the situation can get even worse. So we have to be ready for that. First comes security. As I said, security is provided in Azerbaijan. There are no domestic sources of threat in our country. We have managed to protect ourselves from external interference. We are defending our choice and do not interfere in anyone’s affairs, but we will not allow anyone to interfere in our affairs either or cause us damage, because this is exactly what those who want to interfere in our affairs seek to achieve. Sometimes expressions are used that someone wishes to help Azerbaijan. During meetings with our partners I always say that we do not need any help. If need be, we will ask for it. No-one helps us in the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict although it is clear who is guilty and who the victim of the occupation is. Therefore, we will provide for domestic security. Azerbaijan can’t be influenced by any outside force. The public should and does know this. If such attempts are made in the future, a serious and adequate response will be given, of course.
We must further accelerate economic development. The falling oil prices have, of course, had a negative impact on our income. But on the other hand, I believe that this is some kind of a stress for our economy and government officials, as it shows what we can do even in such conditions.
The economic and social indicators for this year suggest that even in the years of crisis Azerbaijan's economy can grow rapidly and successfully. Security, proactive foreign policies, economic reforms, the fight against negative phenomena, a powerful military capability and our commitment to core values – this is the path leading us into the future. Azerbaijan is a modern state, but a state built on deep national and spiritual values. National values, the Azerbaijani values are above everything for us. Azerbaijan is going and will continue to go along the path of independence. We are defending and will continue to defend our independence. Thank you.