The opening of the Plenary Session of the 23rd Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly entitled “Helsinki +40: Towards Human Security for All” has taken place in Baku.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attended the event.
The head of state first viewed photos reflecting the activities of the OSCE in 2011-2014. The photos particularly highlighted Azerbaijan`s activities in the organization.
Then the opening of the Plenary Session of the 23rd Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly took place.
President of the OSCE PA Ranko Krivokapic declared the Plenary Session open. He thanked Azerbaijan and President Ilham Aliyev for high-level organization of this important event.
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev addressed the Plenary Session.
Speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
- Mr. President of the Parliamentary Assembly,
Mr. President of Switzerland,
Dear friends and guests,
First of all I`d like to welcome you to Azerbaijan. I hope you will enjoy your stay in our country. We are very honored to have an opportunity to host this important event.
The Session of the Parliamentary Assembly for the first time is being held in Azerbaijan. I`m grateful to all of those who made it possible for us to organize this event and to present our country, present our achievements and also talk about challenges and our plans.
I know that most of our guests are visiting Azerbaijan for the first time. Therefore it will be a good opportunity to know our country better, see some historic sites, historic monuments.
Some of them are protected by UNESCO as monuments of world cultural heritage. Azerbaijan is an ancient land, a country with great history, culture, but young as an independent state. It`s only less than 23 years that we live as an independent country. And, of course, these years were critical for our statehood, our development, our future. We had to build an independent state, lay down the foundation of our statehood, at the same time, create new political system.
Actually, before we did not have any political system. Therefore the creation of democratic institutions, implementation of political reforms were the basis of our successful development.
And implementing political and economic reforms at the same time allowed us to avoid major complications, create a stable country, and achieve sustainable development. With respect to political dimension, I`d like to say that Azerbaijan is a country with the functioning democratic institutions. We put a lot of efforts to develop democracy, rule of law, provide fundamental freedoms. And I think we achieved great success. All fundamental freedoms are provided in Azerbaijan – freedom of assembly, association, freedom of expression, media freedom. We have thousands of media outlets in Azerbaijan. We have free internet. And more 70% of our population are internet users.
This is the main prerequisite for successful development because implementing only economic reforms will not allow us to achieve our goal, which is modernization. We`ve built modern, self-sufficient county in a very short period of time. And we have a lot of plans for the future.
Political reforms will be one of the top priorities on our agenda for the coming years. We need to do more, to implement more reforms. And I`m sure that our commitment and cooperation with international institutions such as the OSCE and others will allow us to implement everything that we planned.
Political reforms, of course, create a very positive atmosphere in our society. Political situation is stable, predictable. And this allows us to plan our future in a way that we can achieve modernization and transform Azerbaijan into developed country of the world.
Of course, our international contacts play an important role from the point of view of international interaction. At the same time, it allows us to defend, more successfully, our national interests. Therefore Azerbaijan is a country with a very active foreign policy and with very straightforward foreign policy priorities. Our words never differ from our actions.
Therefore Azerbaijan is now recognized as a reliable partner, which our friendly countries, partners can trust. This is very important because trust is something, which you have to build every day. And only one mistake, wrong step can ruin this trust. Therefore active bilateral relations with most of the members of the international community, particularly European countries, are one of our priorities. This is also applied to our relations with countries of other continents.
Azerbaijan is a member of numerous important international institutions. And we consider this membership as an opportunity to establish better connections in the world. We are members of Non-Alignment Movement, the Council of Europe, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and many other international institutions.
One of our biggest foreign policy achievements happened two and a half years ago when Azerbaijan with great support of 155 countries was elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. This was the highest possible diplomatic and political achievement on the international arena. And we are proud that despite being young and not yet very well-known globally, we managed to present our case, and our friends showed great trust in what we were doing. And for two years Azerbaijan had been an active member of the UN Security Council, advocated for peace, security, stability, justice and implementation of international law norms. Actually, this is one of our priorities now as the chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. We assumed this chairmanship relatively recently. And just recently I was in Strasbourg addressing the Assembly and identifying our priorities. I don’t want to concentrate on all of them, but one of them was elaboration of the mechanisms that will allow international law norms to be established globally. And this is the mechanism of implementation of international organizations` decisions and resolutions. Unfortunately, we have faced selective approach. And this is the issue which is of great concern of the Azerbaijani people. We see that some resolutions of the United Nations Security Council are implemented within hours, while some resolutions remain on paper for 20 years as in the case with Azerbaijan. Therefore elaboration of unified criteria and mechanisms of implementation of international organizations` decisions is one of the main priorities for us as the chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and, I think, for the international community. Otherwise, the decisions of these important organizations will remain on paper and the credibility of these organizations will suffer.
Azerbaijan is suffering from this situation because for more than 20 years we have been suffering from Armenian aggression and occupation. Nagorno-Karabakh is a historic part of Azerbaijan, an ancient Azerbaijani land, which is occupied by Armenia for more than 20 years. Twenty percent of our internationally recognized territories is under occupation, one million Azerbaijanis became refugees and IDPs on their own land. We were subjected to ethnic cleansing. Armenians committed genocide against Azerbaijanis in the city of Khojaly, genocide which is recognized already by ten countries of the world. International law norms are violated.
The UN Security Council adopted four resolutions demanding immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian forces from the occupied territories. These resolutions remain unimplemented, remain on paper. OSCE decisions, particularly decisions of Lisbon Summit, which clearly identify what steps should be taken in order to resolve this conflict, also remain on paper. The European Parliament, Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Non-Alignment Movement and other organizations adopted decisions and resolutions. But Armenia simply ignores them. They do not want to liberate the territory, which does not belong to them. They want to keep everything unchanged. They ignore even statements of presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group`s co-chair countries. The presidents of the US, Russia and France made it very clear that the status-quo is not acceptable, and this means that the status-quo must be changed. In order to change the status-quo Armenia should start withdrawing its troops from our lands, but Armenia ignores these statements. Therefore implementation of resolutions of international organizations, restoration of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and resolution of the conflict based on the principles of territorial integrity of countries is the main prerequisite for successful resolution of the conflict.
As far as the principle of self-determination is concerned, if we look carefully at the Helsinki final Act, we will see that self-determination should not undermine territorial integrity of countries, and, plus, Armenians already have their independent state. They already self-determined themselves and there are no reasons why they should have another Armenian state on historic Azerbaijani territories taking into account that the existing Armenian state was created on Azerbaijani lands.
The OSCE sent two missions to occupied territories: a fact finding mission and a field assessment mission. Both of them reported total devastation on the occupied territories. It is a dead zone. Our cities were levelled to ground, our historic buildings, our mosques and cemeteries were destroyed by Armenia. This is the evidence of the fact finding and field assessment missions. We are grateful to the OSCE for these initiatives, but unfortunately these reports again play no role in the resolution of the conflict. We need resolution of the conflict.
That is what our country, our people, our refugees and the region needs. The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict is the major source of threat to the region. And the best way to reduce tensions and build confidence-building mechanisms and strengthen confidence-building measures will be the beginning of withdrawal of Armenian troops from the territories of Azerbaijan.
Despite the conflict Azerbaijan has demonstrated rapid economic growth. We have been the fastest growing economy in the world in the last 10 years and the socio-economic reforms have led to prosperity, reduction of unemployment and poverty. I think this is one of the biggest achievements of our government that the rapid economic growth was supported by strong social policy. Our economy grew more than three times during the last 10 years. This is the fastest growth rate in the world. At the same time poverty dropped almost 10 times. Now it is at the level of 5 percent. We basically resolved the issue of unemployment. It is also around 5 percent. We have very stable financial system. Our foreign debt is only 8 percent of GDP, which is one of the best parameters in the world, and our currency reserves are more than 70% of GDP, which allows us to invest and borrow on international markets. Our credit ratings have been upgraded by major rating agencies like S&P, Moody`s and Fitch. Azerbaijan has a very good reputation as a country, which protects investments properly. During last 10 years 170 billion dollars were invested in Azerbaijan. Last year it was 28 billion, of which 70% were local and 30 % were foreign investments. Economic prospects for the future are very positive. We are working actively on the issues related to the diversification of our economy.
Azerbaijan today is a country with space industry, with a satellite, with developed ICT system.
One of our priorities as the chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe is education. We invest largely in education because we need educated people, we need good specialists. At the same time educated people will never be subject of manipulation, any kind of external influence or interference. Education is the main guarantee against extremism, radicalism, nationalism, xenophobia. These issues also will be addressed during the work of the Assembly.
I can tell you that Azerbaijan`s experience can be examined because in our society multiculturalism is one of the elements of our success. We are multinational, multireligious country and this is one of the biggest assets of Azerbaijan that all the citizens of our country regardless of their religion or ethnic origin enjoy the same rights and privileges. We live like one family, representatives of different religions celebrate holidays together. This is really a unique experience, which is highly appreciated globally. In today`s world we sometimes see very dangerous trends of alienation, selectiveness whether it is in Europe or in Asia or in Middle East, in our neighbourhood. We need to address these issues, and raise them. We need to talk about that and see positive signs of success. Otherwise, if we just pretend that these issues do not exist or we would not raise them on international forums, I think situation can only aggravate because the tendencies unfortunately move not in the right direction.
National security of countries today cannot be separated from the energy security. The OSCE is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Azerbaijan contributes to security and cooperation and through energy diplomacy we already established regional cooperation and we are expanding it. Today our plans go beyond our region and along with traditional partners and allies in energy policy we invite our European partners to be part of our initiatives.
Azerbaijan is the first country in the world, which connected Caspian, Black and Mediterranean seas with the diversified network of pipelines, and that allowed us to diversify our supply routes. So, we do not depend on any supply route and that is important for us as producers.
And also we help our partners to diversify and get traditional energy resources from our structures, from our oil and gas fields, which contributes to the energy security of Europe.
EU-Azerbaijan relations also partly are based on energy cooperation. In a memorandum, which was signed between the President of the European Commission and myself three years ago, Azerbaijan was identified as one of the main supporters and enablers of the Southern Gas Corridor. The Southern Gas Corridor is a historic project initiated by Azerbaijan. We have taken the biggest financial burden, the biggest responsibility and we are implementing this project.
Today the Southern Gas Corridor consists of three important elements: production from one of the biggest gas fields in the world, Shah Deniz, its transportation and diversification.
Transportation of gas will be realized through three pipelines, which, actually, when construction is completed, will make one big pipeline from Baku to Europe, particularly to Italy.
This is Trans Anatolian pipeline, South Caucasus pipeline and Trans Adriatic pipeline. This is the biggest infrastructure project of Europe implemented now.
Azerbaijan took leadership in delivering this project, historic one, which will change the energy map of the region and Europe, and which will be to the benefit of us – producers, transitors and consumers. In energy policy, energy security and energy diplomacy, the balance of interests between these three components is the main prerequisite of success. I am glad that we achieved this and in the coming years together with our partners we will implement this historic project.
As you can imagine I can talk a lot about our country and cover many other important aspects of our life. But, I think, for us, one of big advantages today is that we have so many guests here in Baku. So, for several days you will be able to know more about Azerbaijan, see the country, meet people, have your own judgment, your own impression. And I am sure that many of you will come back in the future to continue our partnership and dialogue. Once again I am very grateful to all of you for being together with us today, grateful to the President of the Assembly and hope that we will have successful meetings during these days.
Thank you very much. /AzerTAc/