Non-Aligned Movement plays an important role in stability, security and peace in the world, said Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, addressing the Mid-Term Ministerial Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), titled “Promoting international peace and security for sustainable development” in Baku April 5.
The president went on to add that the Non-Aligned Movement is strongly committed to international law norms, principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of all its members.
"Azerbaijan is a relatively new member of NAM. We've been adopted into this family in 2011, and immediately started to feel support from our organization, from the member states," he said.
"The reflection of that support was demonstrated during the procedure of the election of Azerbaijan as the non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. It was also in 2011, right after the adoption, that we felt strong support from our partners. It wasn't easy, because we had strong rivals. The rivals were not members of our organization," said the president.
"It took us sixteen rounds to finally get elected, with the support of 155 countries. And the support of NAM, and also the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was crucial for us to be elected to the leading international body," President Aliyev said.
It once again demonstrates our strength, it shows that when we are united, we can achieve a lot, and shows solidarity between the member states and capability of our organization, said the president.
"Being elected to the UN Security Council, Azerbaijan, for two years, represented all the member states. We declared that we will defend justice and international law, which is violated in many cases for so many years," he said.
"Azerbaijan witnessed and experienced the violation of international law and justice. For more than 25 years, our country's territories are under Armenian occupation. Nagorno-Karabakh, which is a historical part of Azerbaijan, and seven historical regions of the country, are under Armenian occupation," said Ilham Aliyev.
"Twenty percent of internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan was occupied by Armenia. As a result of the occupation, more than a million of Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons. Our people were subjected to ethnic cleansing policy carried out by Armenia. Armenia committed Khojaly genocide against Azerbaijanis, which is now recognized by more than 10 countries in the world. We also count on the support of the NAM member states to address this issue and express their position on this crime against humanity," he said.
The president reminded that as a result of the Khojaly genocide, 613 innocent people, among them 106 women, 63 children, were brutally tortured and killed, while thousands went missing.
"Unfortunately, occupation continues," he said.
"Once again, I'd like to express gratitude to NAM, for adopting resolution on the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, supporting the resolution of the conflict, based on Azerbaijan's territorial integrity," said Ilham Aliyev.
"Other international organizations adopted similar resolutions. The UN Security Council adopted 4 resolutions, demanding immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from the territories of Azerbaijan, but they are not implemented. There's no mechanism of implementation of these resolutions. Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, OSCE and other leading international organizations adopted resolutions and decisions, demanding restoration of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan," said the president.
"Unfortunately, despite brutal violation of international law, despite genocide the Armenians committed against Azerbaijanis, this country wasn't sanctioned. If Armenia was sanctioned in the beginning of the conflict, I think the conflict would've been resolved long time ago," Ilham Aliyev noted.
He went on to say that on the occupied territories everything has been destroyed.
"The OSCE sent missions there twice, to collect facts. And the reports have shown that all our historical monuments, mosques, cemeteries, museums, have been destroyed by Armenian vandals. This is genocide against our culture. The occupation of Azerbaijani territory must be stopped, and only after that peace will come to the region," said the president.
"Armenia cultivates xenophobia. It's a monoethnic country, no other nations live there. All the Azerbaijanis and representatives of other ethnic groups have been ethnically cleansed from this country," Ilham Aliyev noted.
"Unlike Armenia, Azerbaijan today is one of the world's recognized centers of intercultural dialogue, dialogue of civilizations, interreligious dialogue, and also one of the centers of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is a state policy in Azerbaijan," he said.
The president went on to remind that 2016 was announced the year of multiculturalism in the country.
"We organized numerous international events, promoting the values of multiculturalism, interreligious peace and cooperation. Among them - UN Alliance of Civilizations Forum, World Religious Leaders forum, regularly held in Baku - Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, and other international events, which contribute to the cause of multiculturalism," Ilham Aliyev said.
"We initiated the beginning of the Baku Process, that was our initiative to invite government officials of the member states of the Islamic Cooperation Organization and the Council of Europe. Azerbaijan is one of the few countries that is the member of both organizations. We invited them to Baku, to address issues of intercultural dialogue, reduce tensions, based on ethnic and religious ground, to establish a platform for dialogue, mutual understanding, and to seriously address the issue of xenophobia in the world," he said.
The president went on to say that this initiative was supported by the UN, and this year the Baku Process will celebrate its 10th anniversary.
"It is a unique international platform, which unites countries of the Muslim world and Europe, and which is open to all the countries and the goal is to create better understanding between different countries, representatives of different religions and ethnic groups," Ilham Aliyev said.
He went on to add that Azerbaijan is proud of its history.
"For centuries, representatives of different religions lived in Azerbaijan in peace and dignity, and today our historical monuments reflect this cultural diversity. Our strength is in cultural diversity, and there is no alternative to multiculturalism. The opposite is discrimination, xenophobia, Islamophobia. Therefore, I think we need to address these issues, and Azerbaijan will continue to play its important role of promotion of these values," he said.
"Our country is a relatively new independent country. We've been independent for only 26 years. We restored our independence in 1991, and this year, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, which was the first democratic republic in the Muslim world. It was the reflection of the will of Azerbaijani people to freedom, to democracy," he said.
The president went on to say that some 100 years ago, the republic announced a decree, providing women with a right to vote.
"That was a very important step, demonstrating the level of freedom, at the time. As an independent country, we exist for only 26 years, and it was not so easy, especially in the beginning. We had problems, Armenian occupation, internal difficulties, political crisis, decline of economy. But we managed to overcome the difficulties and now demonstrate very rapid economic development," he said.
President Aliyev went on to say that economic development is the foundation for Azerbaijan's independence.
"We clearly understand that we must be economically strong, not dependent on other countries, or financial centers. Only in this case, we can conduct independent policy, which Azerbaijan is proud of. Therefore we concentrated on our economic agenda, and created strong economy," he said.
"Our economic performance in the last 15 years was very rapid, the GDP in the last 15 years grew 3.2 times. I think this is a world record. At the same time, we invested a lot in human capital. The level of literacy in Azerbaijan is close to 100 percent. During the last 15 years, we built and reconstructed more than 3,100 schools, more than 600 hospitals, more than 5 million of our population, half of it, every year gets free medical check-up in our hospitals. And the life expectancy in the country grows," he said.
"Social protection of our people is one of the main directions of our policy. For many times I've said that in the center of our policy are the citizens of Azerbaijan, their wellbeing, health, security," he noted.
"We do everything in order to provide better conditions for our people. But for that we need stronger economy, diversified economy," Ilham Aliyev said.
He further noted that one of the achievements of Azerbaijan during the last 15 years was the rapid reduction of poverty and unemployment.
"The level of poverty dropped from 49 to 5.4 percent, and unemployment is at the level of 5 percent. We also have to take into account the population of Azerbaijan, which grew 1.5 million people. Therefore, creation of new jobs for us is a permanent process, and of course we need to have financial resources for that, good investment climate," President Aliyev noted.
He went on to say that Azerbaijan managed to attract more than $230 billion in direct investments to the country in the last 15 years.
"Our economic results are reflected in the reports of the leading financial and economic institutions. The Davos World Economic Forum ranks Azerbaijan 35th in its Global Competitiveness Report, and 3rd among developing countries in the annual Inclusive Development Index," Ilham Aliyev said.
"So, everything that has been achieved, it was due to people of Azerbaijan, due to our policy. We didn't receive any support from anyone. We concentrated on issues of national interest and strategic importance. And we've demonstrated that in 26 years, if you're committed to development, if you're truly independent, a lot can be achieved," he said.
He went on to add that Azerbaijan plays an important role in the regional development, not only from humanitarian and cultural point of view.
"The country plays an important role in bringing together continents, creating platform for mutually beneficial cooperation," he said.
The president further noted Azerbaijan's efforts with respect to creation of railroad transportation between the continents.
"Today, the East-West railroad corridor is already functioning due to efforts of our country and our neighbors. We do this together with our neighbors, because in connectivity we need to have good relations with the neighbors and with the countries of the region. Therefore, the East-West corridor is a reality. Last October, it was inaugurated in Baku, and this corridor saves at least two weeks of time in order to transport goods from Asia to Europe and from Europe to Asia. This was only part of our efforts," President Aliyev said.
"Another important project is the South-North corridor, which also was due to result of efforts of regional countries. It also becomes a reality. Azerbaijan invests largely into creation of these corridors, and is an active participant of East-West and South-North corridors. Having no access to international markets, being a land-locked country, we managed to transform Azerbaijan into a Eurasian transportation hub," Ilham Aliyev said.
"Now we are working on another project - the South-West corridor, which will allow countries from Asia to bring goods to southern and central Europe," he said.
President Aliyev went on to add that Azerbaijan organized many important international events.
"Two events I would like to mention, especially because they have very deep meaning for the reasons for I was talking about - the intercultural dialogue, cooperation and mutual understanding between representatives of different nationalities, countries and religions. In 2015, Azerbaijan held the First inaugural European Games, which were held at the level of Summer Olympic Games. In 2017 we organized Fourth Islamic Solidarity Games. So in two years, in one city we organized the games of European and Islamic nations. That was contribution to intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding between all the people in the world," said the president.
The president also reminded that Azerbaijan is the only member of the Non-Aligned Movement which is bidding for the Expo 2025.
"The bidding itself demonstrates that we think we are capable of organizing such an important, global event. For the country that is only 26 years old, I think it will be a good opportunity to demonstrate what we've achieved and what can be achieved if we are truly independent.
The president went on to add that Azerbaijan counts on the support of the NAM member states to support the country's candidacy, which would be another demonstration of solidarity.
"We need to support each other. We have, more or less, similar challenges and problems in front of us. We all want to live our own life, be independent. We all don't want someone to tell us what to do, to interfere in our affairs, to dictate us. To achieve this, we must be strong. And we can only be strong together," he said.
He then wished the conference success.