Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the 6th Congress of New Azerbaijan Party08 February 2018, 09:40
Dear members of the New Azerbaijan Party, dear friends!
A congress of our party is being held today. This congress is a significant event in the public and political life of our country because the New Azerbaijan Party is the leading political force in Azerbaijan our country. The ideas and policies of our party enjoy the support of our people. The ranks of our party are expanding. We now have more than 700,000 members, and it is very gratifying that young people are joining the party. The influx of the young people is one of the key conditions for the further development of the party.
In November last year, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the party. Over these 25 years, our party has covered a successful and glorious road. The New Azerbaijan Party won all the elections it participated in, and these 25 years have been a chronicle of victories. The constituent assembly of our party chaired by great leader Heydar Aliyev in the city of Nakhchivan in 1992 was a historic event, and 25 years on we can clearly see this in the current situation in our country and the success we have achieved. At that time, the establishment of our party was a turning point. If our party had not been created then, the direction of our country's development remains to be guessed. After all, our country was faced with very serious problems at the time. It is possible to say that Azerbaijan and the independence it had just gained were in jeopardy. The PFPA-Musavat tandem, which had illegally seized power in the country in 1992, was leading the country to an abyss. The economic recession, the paralyzed industry, the political, economic and then military crisis in Azerbaijan were actually putting our independence in doubt. Under such circumstances, the Azerbaijani people turned to their leader, and the establishment of the party, of course, played a crucial role. We remember quite well – members of the party and the public will certainly know this too – that the forces, which had illegally seizing power in the country, would not allow our party to hold its congress in Baku. Activists and patriotic people arrived in Nakhchivan, and the creation of our party under the chairmanship of Heydar Aliyev was proclaimed. A few months later, Heydar Aliyev came to power at the request of the people, and our country embarked on the path of development. The civil war instigated by the PFPA-Musavat tandem was stopped, the illegal armed groups were disarmed, order was restored, the basis for civic accord and solidarity was created, and the ideology of Azerbaijanism, currently our main ideological pillar, was proclaimed. The Constitution of the country was adopted, serious reforms in the economy and political sphere were initiated, Azerbaijan managed to break out of international isolation, and the truth about our country was communicated to the world community. In other words, Azerbaijan has been following the path of successful development since 1993. Stability, the main condition for development, has fully set in. There can be no development in the absence of stability. It was in those years, a year after the great leader came to power, that the Contract of the Century was signed. It is a contract of exceptional importance for the country's economy both today and in the years to come. In September last year, the decision was made, in this majestic Heydar Aliyev Center bearing the name of the great leader, to extend the contract until 2050. Look at how important this contract is, because it will serve the Azerbaijani people for more than half a century.
Investments started to be made in Azerbaijan and our country began to develop fast. The policies of Heydar Aliyev continued in Azerbaijan after 2003. In 2003, in the run-up to the presidential election, I stated that if the Azerbaijani people showed their confidence in me, I would continue the policies of Heydar Aliyev. I am glad that Heydar Aliyev's policies in Azerbaijan live on, are continued and enriched, and our country is successfully developing.
I would not like to talk too much about the period from 2003 to the present. I regularly update the Azerbaijani people on the work done and our plans. I simply want to say that this has been a period of rapid development. Azerbaijan has developed at an unprecedented economic pace. All our goals were met, all the pledges we made in 2003 and in subsequent years were fulfilled.
Today, I want to share my thoughts with you and the people of Azerbaijan about our plans, about the future and about what more we need to do to turn Azerbaijan into an even stronger state.
On domestic policy. The policy we have pursued in recent years has fully justified itself. There is full stability in Azerbaijan. As I have already noted, stability is the main condition for any development. We can see that there are very serious and disturbing processes taking place in various parts of the world and in our region in the last five to six years. Bloody clashes, wars, civil wars, flagrant interferences of countries into each other's affairs, military interventions – all this is happening right before our eyes. We can see, all of humanity can clearly see that if stability is disrupted, there can be no talk of development. This brings great misfortunes and tragedies to peoples and countries. The future of countries that are in a state of collapse and have completely lost their internal integration is in serious question. Therefore, life and the panorama of recent history show that stability is the key factor. How should stability be ensured? Only by means of the right policies, the politics centered on people and on citizens of the country. This is the policy we are conducting. I have said this many times and I want to say it again that our policies are centered on the people of Azerbaijan, their problems, concerns and well-being. The unity between the people and the government is the main precondition for stability in Azerbaijan. It exists and is strengthened by the day. Today, Azerbaijan is one of the most stable countries on a global scale, a country where unity between the people and the government underpins its successful development. After all, our policy enjoys popular support because the people see that this policy leads to real and tangible results.
Public order in our country is protected. The crime situation is very positive. Azerbaijan is one of the safest countries in the world. The citizens of Azerbaijan know this well. The many tourists coming to our country can also see that. Security and stability are positive factors that distinguish us.
At the same time, all freedoms in our country are and must be guaranteed. This is also our policy. In the coming years, new steps will be taken related to democratic development. Political reforms will be continued. In recent years, we have achieved excellent results in this direction. This is an ongoing process. We must try to get closer to the standards of the world's most developed countries from a democratic point of view, and we will do that. The situation today is also very good and positive. All freedoms are and will be fully guaranteed – the freedoms of speech, of the press, of assembly. This is our principled policy. I am absolutely convinced that if we want to turn Azerbaijan into a developed country – and we do want that – then political and economic reforms must be conducted in parallel.
The freedom of conscience in Azerbaijan is and will be fully guaranteed. Azerbaijan will continue to develop successfully as a multi-confessional and multiethnic country. Representatives of all peoples and religions in our country will continue to live like one family. This is our great asset. This is one of the key conditions for the successful development of our country, the main condition for civil solidarity and civil accord. There has never been and never will be any confrontation and misunderstanding on national or religious grounds in Azerbaijan. This is a state policy enjoying the full support of the Azerbaijani people. Representatives of all ethnicities and religions living in Azerbaijan are making a great contribution to our common development with their hard work.
I have specifically touched upon this issue. This is a common phenomenon for us. Multiculturalism is a way of life for us. But if we look at the events unfolding around us, the growing factors that contribute to discrimination and xenophobia in Europe, the Middle East and other regions, we will see that our policy in this area is very important not only for our country, but also for the whole world. It is no coincidence that Azerbaijan today is considered an exemplary country in terms of promotion of multicultural ideas on a global scale. It is no coincidence either that it is on our initiative that numerous representative international events on this subject have been held in Azerbaijan. The "Baku process", the 10th anniversary of which we will be celebrating this year, is highly appreciated and supported by the UN. It was initiated by us. Although our desire to bring Europe closer to the Muslim world has not yielded great results, it is at least giving an impetus to positive trends. We will continue our policy in this direction. Let me repeat there is no need to take any additional steps within the country, but we will continue this honorable mission on an international scale.
Our foreign political course has fully justified itself. Azerbaijan is recognized by the international community as a country worthy of great sympathy. The number of our friends is growing and more and more countries support us. It is enough to give just one example to prove this: 155 countries supported our candidacy for membership in the UN Security Council. This is the absolute majority of the international community. We have earned this support with our policies, the policies based on international law and justice. These two important principles have always been important for us. We are committed to these principles. These principles should prevail in international relations in general.
We will continue to play an active role in the international arena. Our relations with all countries are built on the condition of mutual respect and non-interference in each other's affairs. We will strengthen these relations. Our relations with neighboring states will rise to an even higher level. I am sure of that. This is underpinned by economic and other projects we have launched and are implementing now.
Azerbaijan is a country enjoying immense support in the Muslim world. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has repeatedly adopted fair resolutions related to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Although, unfortunately, it is impossible to talk about unity in the Muslim world, we are making efforts and working very hard towards this unity. The holding of the Games of Islamic Solidarity and the announcement of a "Year of Islamic Solidarity" in Azerbaijan were appreciated in the Muslim world. I believe that Azerbaijan today is successfully performing a reconciliatory and coordinating mission in the Muslim world. We should continue to strengthen solidarity so that negative trends fade away.
At the same time, we have close relations with European countries. Last year, negotiations began on a new agreement with the European Union. European Union member-countries are our main trading partners and main investors. Of course, our relations in the political, economic and energy spheres are at a very high level. This cooperation is important for us, because Azerbaijan is on a path towards modernization. We must develop and apply the most advanced standards on the condition that they conform to our national values. We have very strong national roots, and this is the most important thing for us. In parallel, we should always be open to the world and bring the most advanced technologies to our country.
Everyone knows that Azerbaijan has a principled position and conducts an independent policy, a policy that meets the interests of the Azerbaijani people, a policy that creates additional opportunities for many partners.
We will continue our successful work within the framework of international organizations. All influential international organizations support our position in connection with the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement – all of these leading organizations have adopted resolutions supporting our position in connection with the conflict. Thus, the political basis for the conflict settlement has been laid. The legal foundation is already available. The whole world considers Nagorno-Karabakh an integral part of Azerbaijan. No country has recognized and, I am sure, will never recognize this far-fetched entity. The historical foundation also strengthen our position, because Nagorno-Karabakh is our ancestral and historical land. The decisions and resolutions of international organizations strengthen both the legal and political foundations. Our position on the settlement of the conflict prevails, especially in the current conditions. Separatism tendencies are growing in different parts of the world, including Europe. Europe sees how dangerous separatism is. We are also faced with aggressive separatism. Therefore, the approach and processes taking place in connection with conflicts in the world further reinforce our position. It is no coincidence that the resolution adopted by the Eastern Partnership summit of the European Union in November last year unequivocally supported the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Eastern Partnership member-countries. I can say that the resolution has been adopted in this form for the first time. This has been another blow to Armenia, yet another defeat for it and yet another victory for us. In fact, this has been yet another triumph of justice. Therefore, these positive trends will be reinforced. We simply have to continue our policies, and we will. We should and will continue to put pressure on Armenia. We need to communicate our realities to the world community.
The Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must be resolved within the framework of the territorial integrity of our country and on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions. There is no other option. We will never allow a second Armenian state to be created on our lands. The territorial integrity of our country is not and will never be the topic of negotiations. We simply have to step up our efforts, and we are doing that. I am sure that this issue will be fairly resolved on the basis of norms and principles of international law, and the territorial integrity of our country will be restored.
I should also note that we must not forget and are not forgetting our historical lands. This should be a guide for our future activities, just as we are working in this direction today. Our historical lands are the Erivan Khanate, Zangezur and Goycha. The younger generation and the whole world must know this. I am glad that fundamental research papers are being developed, films produced and exhibitions organized in connection with this issue, the history of our ancestral lands. In the coming years, we should be more active in this direction, exhibitions and presentations should be held in different parts of the world because Erivan is our historical land and we, the Azerbaijanis, must return to these historical lands. This is our political and strategic goal, and we must gradually approach it.
As far as Armenia is concerned, everyone can see now that this country has become a hostage, a victim of its own policy of aggression. We have isolated it practically from all international projects. All energy and transport communications bypass it, and this has been done by us. However, this is not a very easy issue. Unfortunately, pro-Armenian forces in the world, the Armenian lobby and some politicians who have sold themselves for Armenian money are always trying to include Armenia in the projects we have initiated. We have always vehemently objected to that, so the projects being implemented on our initiative have completely left Armenia aside. It has been bypassed by the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum projects, the Southern Gas Corridor, and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. Thanks to our policy, the North-South transport corridor will also bypass them. We are not making any secret of that even though some people have tried to accuse us of keeping them in isolation. Yes, we are keeping and will continue to keep them in isolation until our lands are liberated from occupation. This policy is yielding results. No-one is investing in Armenia now. First, because the criminal, corrupt and bloodthirsty regime that has seized power there does not allow investments, and all the previous investments and the money provided in the form of donations has been stolen by this regime. On the other hand, the limited and shrinking market deter serious investors from going there, and export opportunities are very limited. Exports require roads, but even roads do not create all the conditions for attracting investment. Of course, it is largely us who did that, and we will continue this policy. According to their own latest statistics, by more than 40,000 people left the country forever last year. This trend is observed every year, and this will be the case in the future too. Thus, they are experiencing is a demographic crisis. As a result of our efforts, Armenia has turned into a political, economic, energy and transport deadlock, and the further development of this country is very bleak, of course. We, for our part, will continue our policy. We have to use every opportunity, our growing strength, economic potential, political capabilities and military might to resolve the issue in order to secure the territorial integrity of our country.
Of course, the policy we are conducting in the military sphere has fully justified itself. We have been pursuing this policy for many years now. In connection with this issue, we are sometimes faced with claims – why is Azerbaijan arming, why does allocates funds for military construction and army building? In contrast to Armenia, do are doing this within our capabilities and at our own expense. Life shows that we are conducting the right policy. I should also note that leading countries of the world are constantly arming themselves too, and this process is inherent in many countries. We have created a powerful army in recent years. All international ratings reflect the strength of our army now. This power allows us to solve any problem. The April fights of 2016 visually demonstrated to the enemy and the whole world what the Azerbaijani army is capable of doing. Our glorious and historic victory on the battlefield, of course, creates and will continue to create new opportunities for a fair solution of the issue. Everything necessary will continue to be done in the coming years to strengthen the military potential of our army. We have broad economic opportunities. Our growing financial resources will, first of all, be channeled into the solution of the main tasks on the country's agenda, and army building is a priority in this matter.
We will continue to pursue a successful policy towards improving the plight of the internally displaced persons and providing them with apartments and houses. To date, about 270,000 IDPs have been provided with housing. This year, we will provide homes to about 20,000 other IDPs, perhaps even more. This policy will be continued. After our lands are liberated from occupation, we will restore all the cities and villages destroyed by Armenian vandals. Using the example of the village of Jojug Marjanli, the whole world sees that we are capable of doing this. We can do it in a short time. The whole world can clearly see that the Azerbaijani people, the IDPs live with the goal, the dream of returning to their native lands as soon as possible. This dream is shared even by children and young people who were born in IDP families and never saw their lands. Today, some of them have already been settled in Jojug Marjanli, on the lands of their ancestors. This once again demonstrates to the whole world the unyielding spirit of the Azerbaijani people.
To implement all our plans, we must strengthen the economy. Additional steps will be taken in this direction in the coming years. I can say that profound economic reforms have been carried out in the last two years. They had been conducted in previous years too, but the last two years have seen more active and effective reforms. They allowed us the opportunity to get out of the difficult situation caused by the sharp decline in the oil price, and we came out of this situation. Today, the country's economy is increasing its pace. Reforms will definitely be continued in the coming years. Some questions are being voiced these days, even international experts are wondering whether the reforms we are conducting will be affected by the fact that the oil price has slightly increased now and perhaps we will not pursue the reforms so actively. This is absolutely not the case. I want to say again that the rise of the oil price will simply increase our foreign exchange reserves. All government bodies should work as if we do not have the oil factor. After all, we see our further economic development in the development of the non-oil sector. The oil sector will simply create additional financial resources for us, which, in turn, strengthens our political resources as well. And this is natural. The sustainable development of the country's economy will be determined only by the following factors: the non-oil sector, entrepreneurship, and reforms that are and will be conducted in the area of governance. Therefore, the main factors for us will be the diversification of the economy, the attraction of advanced international experience to Azerbaijan, and the use of the most advanced technologies in financial and fiscal policies. I can say that this policy has already yielded results. The economic indicators for 2017 have demonstrated and proved that we are on the right track. The non-oil sector of the economy grew by 2.7 per cent, the non-oil sector in industry by 3.7 per cent, agriculture by 4.1 per cent, and foreign exchange reserves by 4.5 billion dollars. I have also been informed about the results for January this year. I want to say a few words about that as well. This shows – as I said in the previous months – that 2018 will be a year of rapid development. Thus, the gross domestic product in January increased by 2 per cent, our non-oil economy by about 4 per cent, industrial production by 1.5 per cent, and industrial production in the non-oil sector by 8.7 per cent. Inflation in the first month of the year was 5.5 per cent, and population incomes grew by 11 per cent. So population incomes are twice as high as inflation. In January this year, our foreign exchange reserves increased by 2 billion dollars and are currently at the level of 44 billion dollars. This is only the beginning of the year. I am sure that 2018 will be a year of rapid development. It will give a powerful impetus to all subsequent years. Soon, within a year or two, the projects being implemented in agriculture and industry today will bear fruit.
At present, we are implementing giant energy projects. This is also one of the main tasks on our agenda. We have to commission the Southern Gas Corridor in a timely manner, and we will do that. All financial resources have been provided – by Azerbaijan and international banks. There have been certain delays, but they have been eliminated. The Southern Gas Corridor is a project of strategic importance for us and for Europe. Azerbaijan is successfully performing its leadership mission. We will successfully implement this historic project – a 3,500-km gas pipeline linking seven countries, continents, passing along the seabed and through mountains. In the near future, early gas will be produced under the Shah Deniz-2 project. I also have to say that the Southern Gas Corridor, i.e. the gas pipeline, is already supplied with gas. This is a historic project, which forms the main resource base for the successful and sustainable development of our country.
As I have already noted, a historic decision has been made to extend the contract for the Azeri-Chirag field. Therefore, Azerbaijan will continue to develop its oil and gas sector successfully. But let me say again that this should not make us feel complacent in the future. We should work hard. As I said, it is just an additional financial and political resource for us.
Today we speak our word on all issues on the international arena. Why? Of course, thanks to a strong political will, a bold policy, but also thanks to the financial opportunities. If we did not have such opportunities, if we, like certain countries, depended on foreign donors and begged others for aid like the impoverished Armenia, then, of course, we would not have the opportunity to pursue an independent policy, or these opportunities would be limited. Therefore, economic power and financial resources also strengthen our political independence.
Having implemented these important and historic transport projects in the years to come, Azerbaijan, a country that does not have access to the open seas, will become one of the transport centers of Eurasia. Thanks to our policy, determination and correct foreign political course, we will do this too, because foreign policy, first of all, is aimed at solving domestic problems. Foreign policy is a continuation of the domestic policy. We are conducting a successful foreign policy not only to win sympathy around the world. It translates into real results. A successful foreign policy makes it possible to implement such international projects, because in order to become a transit country, one has to work with neighbors. No country can become a transit hub without its neighbors. All these issues are interrelated. We have very clear ideas and programs related to our further development. In fact, we have programs for all areas – the field of public services, fighting corruption and bribery, administration of justice – in all directions. It is simply impossible to talk about all directions in detail in one speech. However, I am sure that Azerbaijan will not only maintain, but also increase the pace of successful and dynamic development in the coming years.
The most valuable thing for us, our biggest asset is independence. We live as an independent country. The founder of our independence is great leader Heydar Aliyev. It was after his ascent to power that Azerbaijan embarked on a path of independence in the true sense of the word.
Until 1993, our independence was conditional and half-hearted. Foreign countries and their representatives in Azerbaijan were giving instructions to local authorities. Of course, this was probably one of the most disgraceful pages in our history. In that difficult situation, it was the boldness and wisdom of Heydar Aliyev – we did not have an army, economy or money at the time – his intransigent will and people's love for him that put Azerbaijan on the path of independence. And we are going and we will continue to follow this path of independence.
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