Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the 10th Global Baku Forum

09 March 2023, 10:00
Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the 10th Global Baku Forum

- Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.


Dear guests.

I welcome you all in Baku. Thank you for participating in the 10th Global Baku Forum. First of all, I would like to congratulate the members of the Board of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center for their achievements. Especially, I want to express gratitude to the co-chairs of NGIC, Madame Vike-Freiberga and Mr. Serageldin, for their leadership and contribution to the development of NGIC and outstanding achievements with respect to the transformation of the Global Baku Forum into one of the leading international forums globally. This year, I participated in Davos World Economic Forum in January, Munich Security Conference in February, and now here in March at the Global Baku Forum.

And just I can say that the level of participants and the intellectual potential of the Global Baku Forum is in line with the leading international conferences. And, of course, this is a reflection of the very thoughtful and productive activity of the co-chairs and the whole Board. We have more than 350 participants from more than 60 countries, including 50 acting and former presidents and prime ministers. So, the level of discussions will be very high. And, of course, the most important recommendations about the new approaches to international affairs will be most valuable. I looked at the program of the forum. As usual, it is very comprehensive. It covers issues related to the regions of the Middle East, Africa, and Western Balkans. At the same time, issues today are on top of the international agenda and the subject of discussions.

I also want to express gratitude to the Nizami Ganjavi International Center for the great respect for the memory and legacy of the great Azerbaijani poet Nizami Ganjavi, whose name the center carries. Nizami Ganjavi was born, lived, died and was buried in his native city of Ganja, one of the ancient cities of Azerbaijan. His wisdom and talent symbolize the wisdom and talent of the people of Azerbaijan.

I want to share my views and some information regarding some of the topics of the discussions you will have. I was very happy to see one panel on multilateralism, especially considering that Azerbaijan completes its chairmanship in the Non-Aligned Movement this year, which started in 2019 and was extended by a unanimous decision of 120 member states for one more year until the end of 2023. We tried to, if I may use this word, revitalize the Non-Aligned Movement, which had great traditions, but, unfortunately, it was a little bit passive during some period. And for that, we organized international events and three summits. We initiated a Special Session of the UN General Assembly on COVID. We worked hard and created a database for the fight against the pandemic, which the World Health Organization later used. We dedicated one of the summits to the fight against the pandemic. We were very vocal against vaccine nationalism and the unequal distribution of vaccines in the first months of the pandemic. We address the issue of post-COVID development. In the meantime, we provided financial and humanitarian assistance to more than 80 countries, most of them members of the Non-Aligned Movement. We provided 10 million US dollars in direct donations to the World Health Organization to help them to fight the coronavirus.

At the same time, we tried to develop the Non-Aligned Movement institutionally. For that purpose, the Parliamentary Network was created based on our initiative for the first time ever - in more than 60 years of the history of the Non-Aligned Movement. An inaugural meeting took place in Baku, and Youth Network was created. The Secretariat for Youth Network also is based in Baku. We will continue our efforts even after our chairmanship comes to an end by the end of this year because we see that there is a significant need for such a Movement in today's world, in today's divided world. We witness perhaps the most serious confrontation between the East and West since the end of the Cold War. The Non-Aligned Movement can play and should play an important role in building bridges, in creating new approaches to the resolution of conflicts and, of course, the basic principles of the Non-Aligned Movement – the Bandung Principles. They advocate for peace, cooperation, respect for territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of borders.

With respect to conflict resolution, of course, it will be broadly discussed based on the program of the Forum. I can share our experience. Conflict resolutions have two ways - peaceful and not peaceful. We were trying hard to resolve the conflict with Armenia peacefully, despite the Armenian occupation creating a humanitarian crisis in Azerbaijan. As a result of the Armenian occupation, more than 1 million Azerbaijanis became homeless and refugees and IDPs.

Armenia conducted a policy of ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijanis and expelled them from Karabakh, and created sufferings for a million of Azerbaijanis. Despite our attempts to resolve it peacefully and to persuade Armenia to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions, which demanded the immediate, complete, unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijani territories, Armenia just ignored the UN Security Council resolutions. It demonstrated disrespect to international law and the international community. In 1992, after the conflict started, the OSCE created the Minsk Group. But, unfortunately, for 28 years, Minsk Group did not produce any results. And it seemed to us at the end of the negotiation process that they just wanted to freeze the situation. They wanted to make this conflict frozen forever. But, we did not agree with that. We did what we considered proper to do, using our right to self-defense, the UN Charter, particularly Article 51. We liberated our territories by force. This was our legitimate right.

So, we tried to do it peacefully, and we failed because there was no constructive approach from the Armenian side. And we did it by force, and we liberated our territory. And now, for almost two and a half years, we are rebuilding the vast territory of 10,000 square kilometers, which is totally devastated. And by the way, the representatives of NGIC visited Shusha and had a panel discussion in Shusha. They have seen the destruction in Fuzuli, in Shusha, and it is really a sign of barbarism; it is urbicide, culturicide, and ecocide. And that was done by our neighbors. The people of Azerbaijan have a moral right to demand revenge, and I can understand it. But my message is that we took revenge on the battlefield.

We did not commit any war crimes, unlike Armenians. We did not commit genocide, unlike the Armenians. They did that against us, and we took revenge on the battlefield. So, now it is time for peace. Therefore, right after the war ended in November 2020, we launched an initiative to start peace negotiations and presented the known five principles, which could be a basis for a peace agreement with Armenia. We hope that international actors who try to facilitate will persuade Armenia not to miss this chance. They lost the chance to become an independent country. They become totally dependent, kind of a colony of another country, and maybe some other countries. So, they lost their chance to become truly independent and to build their future because of aggression against us.

Now it is a chance for them to start behaving as a neighbor to their neighbors. We want peace, and we do not want another war. And we think that peace is achievable. And what was agreed between Azerbaijan and Armenia last October, particularly concerning each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, demonstrates that there are no obstacles to achieving peace.

With respect to the Armenian minority in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan is a multi-confessional, multi-ethnic country. Our constitution protects the rights of minorities in Azerbaijan. And anyone who knows the actual situation in Azerbaijan can say that Azerbaijan is a country with a high level of religious and ethnic tolerance, where representatives of different ethnic groups and different confessions live in peace and dignity. So, I am sure that the lives of Armenians living in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan will be much better than during the occupation. Every conflict has its history, dynamics, and end, but it is important that disputes between countries are resolved on the basis of international law; territorial integrity and sovereignty cannot be changed by force. This is a position of Azerbaijan. This position applies not only to our case but to all conflicts worldwide. We publicly articulate this position.

One of the panels is devoted to energy, transportation corridors, and energy transition. I just want to inform our guests that since we met last time. Last June, there have been many events taking place. First, Azerbaijan and the European Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Strategic Partnership in the Field of Energy, signed in Baku by Madame Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and myself. This Memorandum is now being implemented. Azerbaijan substantially increased its natural gas supply to Europe and the total natural gas export. We exported 19 billion cubic meters in 2021, in total. This year it will be more than 24 billion cubic meters, and half of that, at least half of that, will go to Europe.

And that definitely helped and will continue to help European consumers get access to natural gas, considering the current geopolitical situation. We increased our investments in our gas fields. And now, we are even seeing, we're not only seeing, but we are also working on expanding the export pipelines. The Southern Gas Corridor was commissioned. The final segment of the pipeline was commissioned on 31 December 2020. But now, a little more than two years have passed, and we need to expand the system - TANAP from 16 to 32 billion cubic meters and TAP from 10 to 20 billion cubic meters. And that is only because of the growing demand in Europe. Otherwise, we wouldn't have invested. Since the Russia-Ukraine War started, we got requests from more than 10 European countries with respect to gas supplies or to increase the gas supply, and we're working on that. And it's not by chance that the European Commission calls Azerbaijan a reliable partner. This is the case. We’ve always been a reliable partner.

We export oil, oil products, natural gas, electricity, and petrochemicals to international markets, including European markets. Last December, a remarkable event took place in Bucharest when Azerbaijan, Georgia, Hungary and Romania signed an Agreement on green energy and transmission, which the President of the European Commission witnessed. And based on that, we will build a transmission line from offshore wind farms in Azerbaijan to Europe. Part of this transmission line will go under the Black Sea. And now, we are in the process of a feasibility study.

The first Steering Committee of this project took place in Baku this February, and it will be a massive change in the European energy map. We have already changed the European energy map by building oil pipelines, gas pipelines, and now electric lines, which will deliver green energy. I just want to inform you that since we had the last - 9th Global Baku Forum, Azerbaijan signed contracts and MOUs with several leading energy companies worldwide, which will create 25 gigawatts of green energy in Azerbaijan, solar and wind. So, this is a remarkable achievement, transforming Azerbaijan into a very important supplier and player in the international green energy market. We are planning to export green hydrogen. The IFC already approved the final assessment of our offshore wind potential in the Caspian Sea, which is 157 gigawatts, not to mention about 40 onshore.

So, this is the future for world energy; this is the future for Azerbaijan. The energy transition here is developing very rapidly. As I said, we have done what I said since we met last in June. And also there'll be discussions on transportation corridors.

I just want to inform you that last year transits through Azerbaijan grew by more than 75%. Our modern transportation infrastructure is needed more than ever - with the railroad connections, highway connections, the most extensive Caspian shipping fleet, and the region's biggest air cargo fleet. We really contributed a lot to transportation security because many countries now need transportation security. They are looking for new routes, and one of these routes is through Azerbaijan. I'm sure there'll be very interesting discussions around this and other topics, which are in the program and as usual, valuable ideas and recommendations of our guests will help to plan our future, will be good recommendations to the governments, to world leaders.

Thus, I think we will try to make our world safer and more secure. I wish you exciting discussions. Thank you for your attention.