Statement by President Ilham Aliyev
- First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to Mr. President for accepting my invitation to come to Azerbaijan. This morning we opened the 7th ministerial conference of the Istanbul process called the "Heart of Asia".
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the President and the Government of Afghanistan for the great social and economic successes the country has achieved. We have had many meetings with Mr. President. I remember our first meeting. Mr. President’s outlook for the future related to the development of Afghanistan made a deep impression on me. I am glad that his plans are being implemented. I am sure that the reforms, transformation and development he has initiated will yield good results. As a friendly and partner country, Azerbaijan is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan on this development path.
If we look at the history of diplomatic relations between our countries, our cooperation is at the highest level now. We are good partners and friends. As I have already said, we have had regular meetings with Mr. President. This is the third visit of President Ashraf Ghani to Azerbaijan. This in itself is an indicator of the high level of our partnership.
We have excellent political ties. We support each other in international organizations. We are grateful to Afghanistan for its fair position on the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in accordance with the norms of international law. In its turn, Azerbaijan supports Afghanistan in all international organizations. We are participants of the Resolute Support Mission. We provide multimodal transit and use of our airspace. We have decided to increase the number of our military personnel serving in Afghanistan and thereby contribute to stability, peace and development in Afghanistan.
It is quite obvious that stability can be ensured only through economic and social development. Therefore, there are always economic issues among the topics we are discussing. We see great potential here. Today we discussed very important issues related to bilateral economic cooperation. The issues discussed are evidence that our agenda is quite extensive. The agreements signed today will also allow us the opportunity to successfully achieve our goals. We will set up a joint working group to discuss all issues related to economic cooperation and reforms.
We are proud that Afghanistan will become one of the states that we take advantage of our “ASAN xidmət” experience. "ASAN xidmət" has created a true revolution in the area of public services in Azerbaijan. The approval rating of this entity is 98 per cent. So it is close to 100 per cent. This organization has made great changes in the field of public services. We are very happy that we will provide these services to our Afghan brothers. In the years of independence, Azerbaijan has moved from one system to another – from a planned to a market economy. Our country has moved from chaos, destruction, recession and a 1,000-per cent inflation to development, progress and prosperity, a situation where unemployment and poverty are at a low level.
I believe that this experience can be of interest to our Afghan brothers. Among the issues of practical cooperation, we have discussed ways of increasing the volume of our trade. There is great potential there. We have discussed the investment of Azerbaijani state and private capital in Afghanistan. There is also great potential in the development of industry, agriculture, energy, oil and gas, extractive industries.
Of course, we have held discussions on the transport network. Azerbaijan and Afghanistan are involved in large-scale transport projects. During the conference today, both of us touched upon the "Lapis Lazuli" transport project. This is a very important project for all the participating states. At the same time, Azerbaijan, together with neighboring and partner countries, completed the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project, which opens a new path from Asia to Europe and back. It is the shortest route among all active routes.
Therefore, the creation of this transport network not only opens up new opportunities, but also contributes to overall development. We have witnessed this in our country too. Even after the construction of rural roads, we immediately observe growth in production, easy access to markets and revitalization. Therefore, the linking of our countries by Central Asian and European railway networks is indeed a historic achievement.
Azerbaijani companies are ready and willing to work as contractors and investors in Afghanistan. We have relevant experience, and we want to be of use to our brothers in Afghanistan. Considering the fact that Mr. President and his colleagues are implementing giant projects in Afghanistan and there are certain plans, there is great potential for joint business activity.
Today we also held discussions related to loans, contracts, joint ventures, and as I have already mentioned, our agenda in the field of economy, transport and energy is quite broad. So we have reached agreement that relevant state bodies will deal with these issues on a daily basis and regularly report to Presidents. I hope that our intervention will not be required, and the work will be conducted in a timely and proper manner.
In the forthcoming period, we will witness even stronger cooperation between our countries in the economic sphere. Our economic cooperation should be at the same level consistent with political cooperation. This is our goal. Mr. President, let me once again welcome you and express my gratitude to you for being here with us today.