Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the event marking the 30th anniversary of establishing the New Azerbaijan Party
21 November 2022, 12:00
Dear members of the New Azerbaijan Party.
Dear guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Today we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the New Azerbaijan Party. I sincerely congratulate all members of the New Azerbaijan Party on this occasion.
The establishment of our party was a truly historic event. At that time, the young Republic of Azerbaijan was going through a difficult period. Our independence was only one-year-old, the first year of our independence was challenging, and in some cases, our people were faced with great tragedies. Under such circumstances, prominent representatives of Azerbaijan, patriotic people, and people who were thinking about the country's future saw that our country's salvation was in Heydar Aliyev's hands. That was why they appealed to the Great Leader. The famous "group of 91" who signed this appeal fulfilled their historical mission with dignity. Because it was based on that request, it was in response to that request that the constituent conference of the New Azerbaijan Party was held in Nakhchivan. More than 500 representatives from all regions of our country participated in the constituent conference, and their historic decisions led to opening a new page in our country's history.
The first constituent conference of the New Azerbaijan Party was held in Nakhchivan, and it was a truly historic event. After that conference, chaired by the National Leader, a new political force emerged in our country. When the New Azerbaijan Party was created, it was created as an opposition party, and taking on a significant part of the burden of the challenging problems of the state was a step that required tremendous responsibility. The processes developing in the country then were disturbing, which was precisely why prominent representatives of Azerbaijan turned to Heydar Aliyev. Because the country was already in an ungovernable state, the foundations of statehood had not been laid in one year, and democratic development was slow.
In fact, the country was moving backward. If we recall the introduction of censorship, that alone would be enough to suggest that there could be no talk of a democratic environment at the time. The fact that the constituent conference of the New Azerbaijan Party was held in Nakhchivan was associated precisely with that. At that time, permission to hold this conference in Baku was not granted. In other words, although democratic values were being proclaimed, the people of Azerbaijan saw the exact opposite in life. There was no media freedom, the economy was in a dire situation, people's social condition was getting worse daily, poverty had reached about 90 percent, and industrial production was utterly paralyzed. The oil and gas industry, the leading branch of our industry, was also in remarkable decline. There was an electricity crisis in the country. The regular army was not created, and inflation went from two to three digits. So that was the situation in our country in November 1992.
Of course, the occupation of our lands made our situation even worse. The occupation of Shusha and Lachin in May 1992 was a colossal tragedy both morally and from a military-strategic point of view, because it led to a geographical connection between the territory called the "Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region" and Armenia. Everyone could see that if things were allowed to continue like that, the occupation of Kalbajar would be inevitable. Unfortunately, that was what happened. In other words, in April 1993, Kalbajar was also occupied; thus, most of our territory was no longer under our control.
Confidence in Heydar Aliyev was very high within the society. That confidence stemmed from his previous tenure in Azerbaijan. He had always served the people. He had always taken care of people's concerns, and he had always been with the people. Under his leadership, Azerbaijan turned from the most backward republic of the Soviet Union into one of the most advanced ones in the early 1970s and 1980s. All statistical indicators confirm this. At the same time, the standard of living of people residing in Azerbaijan improved by the year. In particular, those engaged in agriculture were able to rebuild their lives. The confidence of our people in Heydar Aliyev was unparalleled. The tragedy faced by our people in the 1980s showed that they only wanted to see Heydar Aliyev as their leader. Because during his time in office – neither when he was First Secretary of Azerbaijan in 1969-82 nor when he was a member of the Political Bureau in Moscow in 1982-1987 – separatist forces did not raise their heads in Karabakh even once.
However, there were such tendencies. There were ones in previous times as well. Less than two weeks after Heydar Aliyev resigned from all positions, Armenian separatists raised the issue of seceding Karabakh from Azerbaijan and annexing it to Armenia. In other words, all these factors show that the National Leader was with the people even when he was in retirement and on the most tragic days for our people. The day after the 20 January tragedy, he went to the permanent representative office of Azerbaijan in Moscow and blamed the Soviet government, the Communist Party – the party he had served for many years – and condemned that horrific crime. All this and, at the same time, the steps taken towards independence during the time he worked in Nakhchivan, including the establishment of the state flag of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic as the official flag in Nakhchivan and other steps, as well as the protection of Nakhchivan from the Armenian occupation, enhanced people's confidence in him. Thanks to all these factors and the wisdom of our people, he was able to save Azerbaijan from enormous troubles in the future.
Seven months after the constituent conference of YAP, Heydar Aliyev was invited to Baku at the request of the people. He was elected speaker of parliament, and after 11 months, in October, he was elected President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. That put an end to the black page in our history.
The country was faced with severe and significant problems. Heydar Aliyev's courage, intelligence, experience, the people's confidence in him, and of course, the activity of the members of the New Azerbaijan Party, of social activists, allowed us to come out of the difficult situation with dignity. It was on the initiative of Heydar Aliyev that critical steps were taken to lay out the country's strategic development course. First of all, the Constitution was adopted. Just imagine that Azerbaijan was already an independent state before Heydar Aliyev came to power, but we did not have a Constitution. The adoption of the Constitution was a historic milestone. The foundations of statehood were laid, and public institutions were appropriately established. We altered an unjustified position against us in the international community. We did not eliminate it because serious forces were operating against us internationally. But we could at least break through the international isolation, including the information blockade, and communicate the truth about Azerbaijan to the world.
We launched profound economic reforms under the leadership of the Great Leader. The establishment of an economy based on the principles of a market economy was accomplished in those years. The future development of Azerbaijan as a secular state was determined in those years. In those years, our foreign policy and our work on national interests were explained to the people and received widespread support. The steps taken in many other areas, including the field of army building, allowed us to create a powerful regular army in a few years. Today, all Azerbaijani people are proud of our army. In other words, those historic steps covered the long-term strategic development of our country. Of course, we had to have substantial financial resources to implement all our plans. We understood perfectly well that it was impossible to achieve this without foreign investments. To attract foreign investments to the country, there had to be stability, and this stability was created.
In 1991-1993, the Azerbaijani people did not know what stability was. There were illegal armed units, people with sub-machine guns were commanding the streets of Baku and other cities, and there was a mood of mass disobedience. Under such circumstances, stability could only be created thanks to Heydar Aliyev's influence, his courage and the people's confidence in him. And foreign investments started flowing in immediately after him. The famous Contract of the Century and subsequent work in the oil and gas sector created a solid financial foundation. The steps taken and the decisions made then allowed us to pursue an independent economic policy and assert ourselves as an independent country at the international level.
So a solid foundation of our statehood was laid in 1993-2003. Those years can be described as years of stability and development. The critical matter is that this policy had to be continued. In 2003, the people of Azerbaijan showed wisdom again by expressing their respect for the Great Leader's personality and voting for Heydar Aliyev's policy. I promised the people in 2003 that I would not turn from this path. The events of the last 19 years show that it has been the case. All the tasks and recommendations of the Great Leader have been fulfilled. He said in his political testament that many things had been done, but his followers would do the things he could not do, and this is precisely what happened. By continuing and expanding on his political course, we have built a strong state of Azerbaijan in the true sense of the word. Every Azerbaijani is proud of this state, of our native state. We have deepened the economic reforms, and the work done in this field in the last 19 years is unmistakable. Suffice it to say that our economy has grown more than three times since 2003. This year, our economy will reach a record high. The forecast by the end of the year says that our economy will reach 130 billion manats. It is a record indicator.
As a result of our successful economic and financial policies, we have been able to reduce our foreign debt significantly. It is a great advantage both for today and for future generations. Today, because our credit rating is improving. For future generations, because this burden will not fall on future generations. As a result of the reforms carried out by my order a few years ago, we will reduce the share of our foreign debt in the gross domestic product to 10 percent by the end of this year. If we look at our foreign exchange reserves, the volume of our foreign exchange reserves is eight times higher than our foreign debt. So only a handful of countries can boast of these indicators.
Of course, there is still much work to be done. The transparency of our economy, the fight against unpleasant situations, the significant reduction of the shadow economy, the improvement of the business environment, and the staunch fight against monopolies are all issues on the agenda. It includes applying corporate management to state companies, one of today's realities. The economic reforms carried out today, the reforms carried out in line with our strategic line, will give us additional opportunities soon. In particular, we will need a solid economy to rebuild Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur at our own expense and to achieve all these goals because this is essential. Countries economically dependent on other countries or international financial institutions face difficulties conducting independent policies. We have always wanted our policy to reflect the will of our people. We don't want any outside force to influence our will. We don't want to create such possibilities for anyone. Therefore, economic power and independence form the basis of our activity in all other areas. Following the Great Leader's path, we are paying close attention to the changes in the world today and applying the most progressive experience in Azerbaijan. I am sure we will achieve what we want in the coming years.
We have been able to reduce poverty significantly. Even though poverty did increase a little during the pandemic, as a result of the work done during the post-pandemic period and the regular increase of the minimum wage and minimum pension, we are keeping it around 5 percent. It is an excellent indicator worldwide. Here, transparency in both state policy and the economic and financial sector, as well as improvement of the business environment, and the attraction of local and foreign investments to the non-oil sector, will be one of the critical factors.
The state of Azerbaijan has been built and is developing on national and moral values according to the testament of the Great Leader. Azerbaijani values are above everything else for us. We are all witnesses to that. The young generation is also growing up in the national spirit. The young generation is loyal to our national traditions and the ideas of Azerbaijanism. All nations in Azerbaijan live like one family, and this was the policy of the Great Leader. By successfully continuing and enriching this policy, we have created a rare and unmatched environment in Azerbaijan and, indeed, on a global scale. The Second Karabakh War showed this again. Representatives of all nationalities living in Azerbaijan were ready to die. They were going to die, but they raised our flag in liberated lands. It is our great advantage. In this direction, Azerbaijan is showing exemplary conduct both within and at the international level. The critical issue is that this policy enjoys the support of all Azerbaijani people and all ethnic groups living in Azerbaijan. It amplifies our strength. And this is precisely how future generations should live, and I am sure they will.
Our oil and gas projects, initiated by the Great Leader in the mid-1990s, have gained momentum. Even the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline the great leader authored has played a crucial role. The subsequent projects also significantly expanded our capabilities. Today, Azerbaijan has become an indispensable partner for many countries. The current processes unfolding in the world show that energy security is one of the key contributors to security. Without it, no country can consider itself safe. Our advantage, of course, is that we have natural resources. But there are so many countries with much bigger natural resources than ours. However – I don't want to compare ourselves to anyone – do all countries use those resources effectively? Of course not!
Therefore, the work carried out in Azerbaijan in this field has strengthened the country's economy. At the same time, our income was distributed fairly in society. First, the most vulnerable groups, including former IDPs, have benefited from these opportunities. They were provided with more than 300,000 houses and apartments built at the expense of the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan. At the same time, our oil and gas projects have invigorated our international standing because Azerbaijan's infrastructure, transport and energy are of vital importance to many countries, especially in the current conditions. Of course, as our geopolitical opportunities increase, the country's interests are addressed more fully, and the number of our friends on different continents increases.
We have built a strong army. It was the Great Leader's testament to us. Today, the Azerbaijani Army has already asserted itself, expelled the enemy from our historical lands in a matter of 44 days, restored historical justice and the dignity of our people, and is the guarantor of the security of the Azerbaijani state. We have always paid tremendous attention to army building. Some work was disclosed to the public, and other efforts were confidential, i.e., classified, which is understandable. But as a result, we showed the heroism and professionalism that it is an example for many today.
Our international positions have significantly strengthened. One could talk about this for a long time, but I will only mention a few points. We became the first country in the CIS to be elected a member of the UN Security Council with the support of 155 countries. In 2019, we were elected chair of the Non-Aligned Movement by a unanimous decision of 120 countries. Due to our successful chairmanship, our term was extended for another year until the end of 2023. We successfully operate within the framework of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Organization of Turkic States and many other organizations. Even in organizations, we are not a member of, we have many friends, and the events of recent years and months show this again. For example, the Collective Security Treaty Organization. We are not a member of this organization. Armenia is a member of it, and through this organization, it intended to raise an unfounded claim against Azerbaijan. It wanted the countries that are members of this organization to confront Azerbaijan. It is an enormous provocation and a crime.
However, other members of this organization did not succumb to this provocation. Some disgraced Armenia so badly in their speeches that Armenia cannot recover to this day. So what does this mean? The number of our friends in this organization is higher than Armenia's. Why? Because of our policy and because we are a reliable partner. Why is the attitude towards Armenia negative? Because they lie everywhere. There is hardly any door left for them not to turn to solve their problems. All this is obvious. Everyone sees and knows it.
An ugly provocation was recently planned against Azerbaijan within the framework of Francophonie, an organization we are not a member of, but for some reason, Armenia is. The author of this provocation was France, and France is now patronizing Armenia. They refer to each other as sisters, and I could see that some friends noted this particularly. Not to mention that they could call each other brothers, but for some reason, they say they are sisters.
The initial version of the resolution they had prepared was based purely on anti-Azerbaijani theses and was wide of the mark. As a result of the efforts of our friends in the Francophonie organization – we know them well, and they are our friends in the true sense of the word – all anti-Azerbaijani theses were removed from there. The French-Armenian tandem failed to use this opportunity. In other words, this shows that our reputation in international organizations and the policy we are conducting at the international level are welcomed. We treat every job with responsibility. Our words concur with our signature and hold equal value. We prioritize the principles of cooperation and friendship in our foreign policy and assist countries in need whenever possible, just as we provided humanitarian and financial assistance to more than 80 countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. So this is a big issue. Of course, the fact that we conduct ourselves with dignity in the international arena has earned us further respect.
It is beyond doubt that while celebrating the anniversary of the New Azerbaijan Party today, each of us expresses respect for the memory of the Great Leader again. Because as years pass and the world changes, each of us knows very well that if the people of Azerbaijan had not turned to Heydar Aliyev and invited him to power, our country could have been faced with even greater disasters.
The life and activity of the Great Leader was an example of selflessness. He always set an example to us, even in the most challenging times for himself, in the last years when his health was frail and not as robust as before. Each of us, including myself, tries to act according to his criteria during his life and in his absence. And that is what drives us today – the utmost respect for his memory and respect for his legacy. Today, independent Azerbaijan is his legacy.
Heydar Aliyev said something more in his political testament. I have already said this many times. The people of Azerbaijan also know this – our successors will finish the work we could not. I think the first of them was the resolution to the Karabakh problem. We, his followers, put this problem at the center of all our efforts. In other words, every step, every initiative, every investment, and every international contact was aimed at bringing us closer to our sacred goal! Therefore, the essence of all our work was precisely this – to liberate Karabakh and to restore historical justice. We were moving towards this goal. It took us a long time. But we had to cover this road and finish it in a way that would be permanent. We could never go on an adventure. We could not take a wrong or untimely step. We had to weigh everything and choose the best time considering our strengths and other factors. We had to be in the best position at the right time. Our people rallied around our army. That is why we all say that this is a national victory. Because the people and the government united like a fist, we achieved what we wanted in a matter of 44 days.
We restored historical justice and drove the enemy from our lands. 8 November 2020 will forever remain in our memory, including mine. At that time, I visited the Great Leader's grave and then our martyrs' graves. I shared the good news of Shusha with the people of Azerbaijan while in the Alley of Martyrs. In front of the Great Leader's grave, I told myself that his last testament had been fulfilled.
Now we are rebuilding and reviving Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur. It is an entirely new era in our life and the life of our country. Each of us participates in this construction work with great enthusiasm. We have one goal – to quickly return the former IDPs to their ancestral lands, restore the destroyed cities and villages, and show the whole world again that we are a great nation. Today, not only the citizens of Azerbaijan but also the Azerbaijanis of the whole world are holding their heads high. Our dignity has now been restored. We are a victorious people, a victorious state, and this will be the case forever!