Speech of the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev at the International Conference on the Restoration of the Historical Silk Road Held in Baku - September 8, 1998

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Distinguished heads of states and delegations, ladies and gentlemen

In the history of human civilization roads, transport ways always played a huge role influencing on all parties of a life - policy, economy, culture. One of the striking examples and symbols of it is the Great Silk Road - the global, unique phenomenon which has embraced thousand-year history of many countries and peoples, ancient culture of China, great geographical discoveries of Europeans, achievements of the medieval Muslim Renaissance and many other things.

Azerbaijan, since ancient times, has been the important part of the Great Silk Road, playing a role of the original bridge between Europe and Asia. The countries of the Caucasus, regions of the Caspian and Black Seas, represented a zone of the advanced trade, mutual cultural enrichment, religious tolerance, and have been one of distinctive components of the Great Silk Road.

As an integral part of human history, the Great Silk Road has gone through the periods of rise and recession. By the beginning of an epoch of wars, ideological, geopolitical oppositions and dividing lines, it has disappeared from our life, having turned to a beautiful legend.

But "cold war" has terminated, the peoples gained independence, universal values, democratic norms, integration processes became dominating in the world politics and a course of history made the idea of the Great Silk Road necessary again.

It is necessary to do justice to the far-sighted decision of the European Commission and under the initiative of this commission the special meeting of the Caucasian and the Central Asian countries was held in May, 1993 in Brussels which was devoted to the discussion of development strategy of national and international transport, trading communications.

The program of a "transport corridor of Europe - Caucasus - Asia (TRACECA)" founded at this meeting, became one of the most dynamic, economically effective projects, implemented on the Eurasian space.

For the last five years, the big work on modernization and construction of communication installations, development of corresponding laws and codes, preparation of the personnel, perfection of customs and tariff policies has been done due to close co-operation of countries-participants of the program and to active support by the European commission.

The important event for development of this program was the agreement signed in May, 1996 in the city of Serakhs, Turkmenistan, on regulation of transit transportations between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to which other states subsequently have joined as well. Due to the agreement, tariffs have been reduced on fifty percent, customs procedures have been simplified and safety and protection of transportations have been provided. As a result of it, for last years, the volume of barter between Europe and Asia by the Trans Caucasus corridor has increased almost ten times.

Successful implementation of the TRACECA program has created a base for raising our co-operation to higher level, i.e. acceptance of the program on restoration of the Great Silk Road and our conference is devoted to that.

"The basic multilateral agreement on the international transport on the development of a corridor of Europe-Caucasus-Asia" prepared by working group of TRACECA, its technical appendices, the Baku declaration have the important economic, political, historical value.

Their acceptance will promote development of trade, use and transportation of natural resources, mutually beneficial economic co-operation in European, Black Sea, Caucasian, Caspian Sea and Asian regions.

Restoration of the Historical Great Silk Road, involvment of the new countries and regions in it will give a strong impulse to the rapprochement and enrichment of our peoples, strengthening independence and sovereignty of newly independent states, successful conduction of democratic, market reforms and will promote providing peace, stability and security for all.

Though the Great Silk Road originates in the past, it is the road to the future. And I believe that if we go on this road together by cooperating, respecting and supporting each other, this road will lead our peoples to well-being and prosperity.

Thank you for the attention.