Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the ceremony on 25th anniversary of the founding of New Azerbaijan Party14 november 2017, 12:45
Dear members of the New Azerbaijan Party,
I want to sincerely congratulate you and all members of the New Azerbaijan Party on the upcoming 25th anniversary of our party. I wish all members of the party good health and continued success.
Twenty-five years ago, the constituent conference of the New Azerbaijan Party was held under the chairmanship of great leader Heydar Aliyev in Nakhchivan. This was a great historic event. About a month earlier, a group of patriotic people, the renowned 91 representatives of the intelligentsia, addressed Heydar Aliyev with an appeal. The great leader responded positively to the appeal and expressed his readiness to lead the new party. It was decided to hold the constituent conference of the party. Naturally, the constituent conference was to be held in Baku. However, the PFPA-Musavat tandem which illegally seized power in Azerbaijan at the time did not allow to do that. Note that the circles and authorities calling themselves democrats did not allow a constituent conference of the New Azerbaijan Party to be held in Baku. Therefore, more than 500 delegates, people representing all regions of the country came to Nakhchivan, and the constituent conference of our party was held under the leadership of the great leader.
This was a truly historic event, a turning point in the history of modern Azerbaijani statehood. At that time, 91 patriots assumed this historic mission and sent a message to Heydar Aliyev. Their work has won a worthy place in the history of Azerbaijan, and the establishment of our party played a special role in preventing further negative processes in the country. The reasons for that appeal are also clear. Thanks to the work done in the 1970s and 1980s, great leader Heydar Aliyev earned great respect, sympathy and support of our people. Azerbaijan, which was one of the most backward republics in Soviet times, turned into the most advanced republic under his leadership. Thanks to his activities in the 1970s and early 1980s, great creative work was done in the republic. Azerbaijan comprehensively developed in the true sense of the word. In the subsequent period, when working in a high post in Moscow, he always treated Azerbaijan with great attention and care.
In the early 1990s, at the most difficult time for our people, Heydar Aliyev once again showed leadership qualities, great courage and patriotism. Right in the center of the Soviet Union, in Moscow, he condemned the events of 20 January. I remember that day very well. I am proud that I was with my father on that day. This resolute speech by Heydar Aliyev, his attachment to his homeland and people once again showed to the entire Azerbaijani people that this is a great leader attached to his nation.
Subsequently, while working in Nakhchivan, he opened the way to independence. When in Nakhchivan, he declared the flag of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic the state flag. His other steps further strengthened people's love for him. At the same time, the PFPA-Musavat tandem which was in power in Azerbaijan at that time had completely lost people's confidence. Their anti-national policies aroused great popular indignation. Due to their incompetence and unprofessionalism, the country was practically in an uncontrollable state. Our country was swept by chaos and anarchy. Illegal formations with guns were walking in the streets, causing people suffering. In those years, our country was engulfed with pervasive bribery. The occupation of our lands, the economic, industrial crisis and military crisis posed a serious great threat to the country's further independence. Under such circumstances, the people, of course, pinned their hopes on Heydar Aliyev. Therefore, the establishment of the New Azerbaijan Party was a historical necessity. After establishment, the party received great support from our entire society.
Today, the New Azerbaijan Party unites in its ranks more than 700,000 people, including 40 per cent young people. In other words, the activities and ideas of our party, the policies it pursues today are attractive to the younger generation, and this is a very positive phenomenon as it shows that Azerbaijan will continue to provide long-term and sustainable development, and the principles advocated by the party are fully supported by the people today. The work done in Azerbaijan these days, the successful development of our country, of course, clearly demonstrate to every patriot that the policy of the current government is the only correct one.
In those years, the future development of our country was not so clear. After all, the New Azerbaijan Party was established in November. After that, the profound crisis in the country became even more acute. In the summer of 1993, the PFPA-Musavat tandem shed fraternal blood in the country and a civil war began, resulting in continued occupation of our lands.
The Azerbaijani people demonstrated their greatness and wisdom once again by inviting Heydar Aliyev to take power, and since 1993 to the present day, Azerbaijan has been on a path of development. The 1993-2003 period will go down in history as years of stability, reform and development. It was in those years that the foundations of our statehood were laid. In those years, our national ideology, the ideology of Azerbaijanism, was introduced to and approved by the Azerbaijani people. At that time, Azerbaijan manage to break through international isolation and inform the world about Nagorno-Karabakh.
By pursuing a proactive policy in the international arena, we were able to do a lot of work to promote Azerbaijan. It was in those years that the foundation of economic reforms was laid. At that time, the attraction of foreign investment for the development of the country's economy was the key condition. Under the leadership of Heydar Aliyev, Azerbaijan achieved this. Foreign investments attracted to Azerbaijan in those years have been one of the crucial factors that preconditioned the economic development of our country in that period and even today.
In short, the great work done in Azerbaijan in 1993-2003 strengthened our country. Azerbaijan managed to pass all difficult tests with dignity. The foundation of the current rapid development was laid in those years.
In the next 14 years, Azerbaijan remained committed to the policy of great leader Heydar Aliyev, and developed successfully and confidently. Azerbaijan has become a strong country today. Azerbaijan has never been as strong as it is now. I do not want to list what has been done in the last 14 years. The work done is obvious. I can only say that Azerbaijan, on the basis of a conceptual approach and programs in all directions, has achieved a historic success. Azerbaijan has gained great authority in the international arena. Suffice it to note the fact of our election to the UN Security Council with the support of 155 countries for the international community to become further convinced of the sympathy and support Azerbaijan enjoys on a global scale.
There was no other country in the world in these 14 years that would develop from the point of view of economic reforms as fast as Azerbaijan. The economy has more than tripled. Poverty has dropped from about 50 to 5 per cent. The external debt accounts for 20 per cent of the gross domestic product and even less than that. Our foreign exchange reserves make up 100 per cent of the gross domestic product, i.e. they are equal to it.
Azerbaijan is also highly regarded by international economic entities. According to the latest calculations of the Davos forum, Azerbaijan is in 35th place globally for its economic competitiveness. So this figure suggests that our economic policy is perfect. This leads to the overall development of the country and improves the well-being of our people. As for the work done in the fields of energy and transport, I can say that a lot of innovations have taken place. In a word, Azerbaijan was able to achieve great success in all areas, including the military and technological sphere. The foundation of these successes was laid in November 1992. At that time, thanks to the establishment of the New Azerbaijan Party, Azerbaijan managed to preserve and strengthen its state independence. Today the whole world can see that Azerbaijan has become a strong secular state which counts on itself, relies on its own resources and is attached to modern traditions.
Today I would like to talk about some of the upcoming tasks. Over the last 25 years, our party has successfully developed and won an overwhelming majority in all elections – both parliamentary and presidential. There is no political force in Azerbaijan that could compete with our party. The New Azerbaijan Party has become a people’s party in the full sense of the word. Our party brings together all strata of our society. Despite this, we should always look ahead and not be content with the successes achieved. One of the reasons for our success is precisely the fact that the successes achieved have always given us an additional incentive. We should continue to work hard to eliminate the shortcomings and further strengthen social justice.
As for the tasks related to domestic policy, stability will continue to be ensured in Azerbaijan. No country can develop without stability. We can see today that when stability is disrupted in various parts of the world, there are no investments and social welfare there. In general, such countries have a bitter fate. In Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani people are the guarantor of stability. It is the unity of the people and the government that preconditions this stability. This unity allows us the opportunity to outline a long-term development strategy. Thanks to this, foreign investments amounting to billions of dollars are made in Azerbaijan today, and the Azerbaijani people live in peace, comfort and security. Therefore, we should continue to work hard so that Azerbaijan constantly develops. I have no doubt that social and political stability will continue to be ensured in Azerbaijan.
All freedoms will continue to be ensured in Azerbaijan. We are building a democratic society. The establishment of the New Azerbaijan Party was a manifestation of democracy. Despite this, the PFPA-Musavat tandem which seized power as a result of the coup d'etat at that time was ready to take the most anti-democratic steps to hamper this party. However, the New Azerbaijan Party made a huge contribution to the creation of a political system in the country. We are on the path of democracy today. All freedoms are fully guaranteed in Azerbaijan – the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the freedom of conscience, the freedom of assembly. However, a group of people calling themselves opposition and trying to take advantage of the freedom of assembly believes that some artificial obstacles are being created against them. This is completely untrue, and they should look for the reasons for their failing rallies in themselves. The people have long said “no” to these elements. They have no place on the political scene of Azerbaijan. Not because we are in their way but because their book, as they say, has long been closed. They are causing even greater aversion of our people by their unconstructive actions and aggressive behavior.
Especially in the current conditions, in the age of the Internet, it is impossible to conceal anything. The Azerbaijani people are well aware that the group calling itself the opposition is controlled from abroad. They are receiving orders from abroad. As a result of these orders, they sometimes switch to action, become more active. But when they see that fewer than a thousand people come to their rallies, they step aside without having got what they wanted. This shows again that the Azerbaijani people will never allow elements controlled from abroad, the fifth column, to occupy certain positions in our country.
And their methodology is quite primitive and simple. People abroad invent lies and a campaign of slander begins. After that, this lie and slander is published in the foreign media. Then, on the basis of this, there is some movement – I would not even call this activity. This movement manifests itself in one or two rallies. As always, the last rally disappoints its organizers and everything ends at that.
So the group, they can’t even be called a force, which is trying to conduct political struggle in this form today, does not learn a lesson from its own failures. Time changes, people change, Azerbaijan changes, the methods of political struggle change, but they are still trying to follow the old thinking and spend their meaningless lives on such things.
As for the freedoms, there are no restrictions in Azerbaijan. The freedom of assembly, the freedom of speech and all other freedoms are and will be fully guaranteed in Azerbaijan. Our attachment to democracy is not meant to please any organization. We are doing it consciously, so that our country could develop comprehensively. Economic reforms should be carried out in parallel with political reforms.
To foreign policy. Our foreign policy has established itself in life, and Azerbaijan today is a country enjoying great authority in the international arena. We will pursue an independent foreign policy in the coming years. We are pursuing this policy today too. It is not easy for small countries to pursue an independent foreign policy, but it is very honorable. Some countries choose a different path, some countries find themselves a place under the wing of larger states. Perhaps this is a more convenient way. But our path is honorable and decent, it is a path of independence. At the same time, it is a path that leads to success, because life and Azerbaijan’s current role on a global scale show that this is the only correct policy. The independent policy will continue to be pursued. Its main principle is to secure national and state interests of the Azerbaijani state and the Azerbaijani people. This is the main condition for us. Where these interests are ensured, we, of course, join these initiatives. But if we see that this contradicts our interests, then, of course, Azerbaijan can’t become a party to such initiatives.
I believe that relations with neighbors are of particular importance to any country. We have managed to establish excellent and businesslike relations with neighboring countries on the basis of mutual respect and trust. On 30 October – 1 November, I had meetings with leaders of four neighboring countries. During these two to three days, very important events took place in the field of commissioning and development of the East-West and North-South transport corridors. If we did not have excellent relations with neighboring countries, then, of course, it would not be worth talking about these projects. Today, Azerbaijan is rightfully going to become one of the transport centers on the Eurasian continent, and we are doing that. In order to obtain the status of a transit country in the transport sector, it is necessary to maintain good relations with the neighbors. Therefore, this is the main priority of our foreign policy, and it is gratifying that we have no problems with neighboring countries.
We will continue to actively engage in international organizations. The Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation are our top priority. We have been an active member of the Council of Europe for more than 15 years. Numerous events have been held under the auspices of this organization. But as a result of the recent activity of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, an artificial crisis has arisen between this organization and Azerbaijan. We did not initiate this crisis. We are simply taking adequate steps related to the hypocritical and unfair policies pursued against us. We have never left the attacks on us unanswered. Therefore, I believe that our adequate response is also an appropriate and timely step. I believe that such a well-known international organization as the Council of Europe should not turn into a victim of the unsuccessful ambitions of an individual. I do hope that the issues related to this organization will also be resolved. We want this. We hope for this. If this crisis deepens further, then, of course, Azerbaijan will be absolutely free in its choice. We voluntarily joined all the organizations we are a member of and we can voluntarily withdraw from them. No-one can keep us in any organization by force.
To the economic sphere. Consistent policies aimed at diversifying the economy will continue to be pursued. This policy is yielding fruit. Today, our dependence on oil is declining. But we also need to know that the oil and gas sector will continue to be the leading force of our economy for many years to come. In the non-oil sector, especially this year, very serious reforms have been carried out. Exports have dramatically increased and the results of nine months are very positive. Agriculture, the non-oil sector and the non-oil industry are growing rapidly. Our foreign exchange reserves are increasing and should continue to increase in the coming years. In the first nine months of this year, they have increased by $4.5 billion. Given the low level of oil prices, this is a major achievement. It also shows that our financial situation is very stable. For many countries, our financial situation is beyond reach. Suffice it to say that our external debt is less than 20 per cent and foreign exchange reserves are equal to the gross domestic product. Therefore, reforms in the economic sphere, in the field of regional development will, of course, deepen in the coming years, which will allow us the opportunity to obtain even higher profits from the non-oil sector.
There will be no change in our principled position on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must be resolved within the territorial integrity of our country. There is no other option. We will never allow the creation of a second Armenian state on our historical lands. The norms of international law must be fully applied, the resolutions of the UN Security Council must be fully implemented, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored. This is a principled position. It is based on history and international law. Nagorno-Karabakh is our historical and ancestral land, the whole world, all countries recognize and respect the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan. There was another event confirming that this year. Again, the illegal referendum held in Nagorno-Karabakh due to Armenia’s stupidity was rejected by the world community. Neighboring countries, co-chair countries of the Minsk Group, the European Union and other organizations did not recognize the results of this referendum. And by not recognizing them, they once again confirmed that Nagorno-Karabakh is an inalienable part of Azerbaijan.
Consistent efforts related to the recognition of the Khojaly genocide will continue to be made in the future. Five years ago, on the 20th anniversary of our party, I noted that three countries had officially recognized the Khojaly genocide. Today there are more than 10 such countries – in just five years. Therefore, a consistent policy will be pursued in this direction as well.
In parallel, we will increase our military power. We have managed to achieve this to a great extent. According to international ratings, the Azerbaijani army is among the strongest armies on a global scale today. Our army will continue to receive as much money and hardware as necessary. There will be no restrictions. Our military power will also play and is already playing a role in the liberation of our lands and the restoration of the territorial integrity of our country. The April battles, the liberation of a part of our lands from the invaders, in particular, parts of Agdara, Fizuli and Jabrayil districts, demonstrated the strength of our army to the whole world.
Armenia is again trying to present a distorted version of the April battles to the world public, but these attempts look ridiculous. Suffice it to say that we currently hold the trenches they once dug in the occupied lands and control a large territory from these trenches. The April battles are our glorious military victory which demonstrated the strength of the Azerbaijani people and our soldiers. They showed that the Azerbaijani state and people will never put up with this occupation and will restore their territorial integrity at any cost.
We have very clear goals in two areas of great importance for our country – in connection with the further development of the energy and transport sectors. In the oil and gas sector, all tasks have been met. The contract on "Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli" has been extended. The Southern Gas Corridor project is being successfully implemented. I am sure that we will celebrate the opening of the TANAP project next year.
The completion of the Southern Gas Corridor as a whole is scheduled for 2020. I do not see any problems here either. We simply have to follow the schedule. The European Union also recognizes Azerbaijan as the leading country in the implementation of this project. Our role in the implementation of this project is indeed irrefutable and leading.
To the transport sector. After the commissioning of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, our main efforts will be related to increasing the volume of cargo. We are currently working on this issue. Along with this, it is necessary to take additional steps to create the North-South transport corridor. We have practically finished all the work on our territory. Now we are ready to provide additional technical and financial resources to complete this project. Thus, these two projects will turn Azerbaijan into an indispensable transport hub. This will play a very important role in securing our political and economic interests.
The development of modern technologies in Azerbaijan is also on the agenda. One of the issues on the agenda is the launch of the third artificial satellite into orbit.
There is a conceptual approach to each sphere for our future work, of course. If I start talking about all our plans today, it will take several hours. I have informed you and the public about my thoughts on the future work regarding the key and important areas. I want to say again that there are all the possibilities for implementing these plans. We have never made empty promises and provided everything we said. This is the main reason for people’s confidence in us. We have talked only about feasible plans, real results and problems. Of course, there are enough problems in society. We are aware of them and will continue our activities and efforts to resolve these problems.
The New Azerbaijan Party and its members have contributed a lot of effort to all our successes. Our party as the leading political force of the country today feels and realized this great responsibility. Members of the party make a huge contribution to the overall development of the country in various fields. The New Azerbaijan Party today is a very large and strong party on a global scale. Our international relations are also expanding. Thus, I am very optimistic about the further development of our party.
I want to once again congratulate all party members on this remarkable anniversary. I wish the New Azerbaijan Party continued success and victories. Thank you.