Speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the I Congress of the World Azerbaijanis - Baku, Respublican palace, 10 November, 2001

Dear fellow countrymen!

Distinguished delegates, guests!

Ladies and gentlemen!

I heartily congratulate you on the occasion of the I Congress of the World Azerbaijanis and wish success to its work.

The I Congress of the World Azerbaijanis is an historical event in the life of independent Azerbaijan, in the life of Azerbaijanis of the whole world. Representatives of the Azerbaijanis, Azerbaijani communities of the world have assembled for the first time in Azerbaijan, its capital Baku holding their first congress. I express my gratitude to all the delegates, guests, Azerbaijani communities from different countries for supporting our decision to hold the I Congress of the World Azerbaijanis and arrived in Azerbaijan, in Baku to take part at this Congress.

We, the Azerbaijanis living in Azerbaijan have never forgotten our fellow countrymen. Being a part of such a super state as the Soviet Union we, not being able to maintain contacts with our foreign compatriots, have always been interested in how the Azerbaijanis live in different countries, what are they occupied with, and using our limited possibilities tried to establish contacts with them.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 15 republics gained independence, the Azerbaijani people realized its aspiration for the national freedom, declared its independence and restored their independence lost in 1920. The sovereignty allowed us to widen our contacts with the Azerbaijanis living in different countries and declare our solidarity with them. As early as the first months of our independence, on December 31, 1991, we made a decision to mark the Day of the world Azerbaijanis. Since we have been celebrating this day as a holiday and since then our links with the Azerbaijanis living all over the world started to develop gradually. It is the result of independence and national freedom of the Azerbaijani people.

The Azerbaijani people have a great ancient history. During this centuries our people overcame many difficulties, made a valuable contribution to the world civilization, enriched it. However, at different stages of history the Azerbaijanis suffered certain hardships. Therefore, the unity, solidarity of the Azerbaijanis living in different corners of the planet has a special meaning both for us - the independent Azerbaijani state and for the Azerbaijanis living in different countries of the world.

After the declaration of its independence, Azerbaijan has passed a glorious and at the same time difficult way. Recently we solemnly celebrated the 10th anniversary of declaration of independence of Azerbaijan. We analyzed once more the way we passed within these 10 years and spoke about the achieved progress, as well as determined our forthcoming objectives. Having analyzed many unresolved problems we started to take necessary measures towards their solution.

The independence of Azerbaijan and its development as an independent state during these 10 years is the most considerable and most important and valuable event in our centuries-old history. This 10-year period was not easy for us, for independent Azerbaijan. We started to construct a new life in Azerbaijan. We declared that Azerbaijan is following the way of democracy. We proceeded to the construction of legal, democratic and secural state in Azerbaijan. We started the process of integration into the world economy, to the economy of the developed countries and make a transition to the market economy. But all this happened when Azerbaijan lived in very hard and difficult conditions.

It is known, when Azerbaijan declared its independence, it was exposed to the military aggression by Armenia. The Armenian- Azerbaijani, Nagorno-Garabagh conflict lasted four years. Nagorno-Garabagh, an inseparable part of Azerbaijan, was occupied by the Armenian armed forces which started aggression against adjacent to it settlements as well. In such historical circumstances Azerbaijan declared its independence. Construction of an independent state in such circumstances was, naturally, a very hard and difficult process. At the same time, very complicated processes took place in the life of Azerbaijan both on the eve of the declaration of its independence and after it became an independent state. Raising territorial claims, the Armenian armed troops launched military operations, and all the Armenians joined around that idea, unfortunately, nothing of the kind was observed in Azerbaijan.

Because in those years instead of mobilizing all the people, protecting our lands and for giving a praiseworthy repulse to the armed forces of Armenia, struggle for power was going on in Azerbaijan, internal discords took place and armed groups belonging to separate political forces defied the society. And this, naturally, undermined the unity of Azerbaijan, people, and finally in 1993 Azerbaijan faced the threat of a civil war. The existence of Azerbaijan was in danger and the split of the country had already started. Therefore after gaining the independence, state construction in Azerbaijan was going very slowly. The damaged socio-political stability in the country, worsened the situation. The most harmful result for us was that the Armenian armed forces making use of this opportunity occupied several adjoining to the Nagorno-Garabagh administrative districts of Azerbaijan and banished the Azerbaijanis living in those lands from their homes. Thus, 20 per cent of the Azerbaijani lands were occupied by the Armenian armed forces and more than a million Azerbaijanis were driven away both from the territory of Armenia and the occupied lands and they live in hard conditions in tents until now. Hence, Azerbaijan lived in such a situation in the first years of its independence. Therefore, our task was to stop the negative processes, mobilize all the forces for the protection of the Azerbaijani lands so that Azerbaijan could live and develop as an independent state.

The following period in Azerbaijan became the period of establishing socio-political stability. After that, in October 1994 and March 1995 we faced with the attempts of armed overthrow power. They were suppressed, but nevertheless they caused damage to Azerbaijan.

Dealing closely with the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani, Nagorno-Garabagh conflict we came to a cease-fire agreement. There has been no war and blood has not been shed for 7 years. But along with it, a part of the Azerbaijani territory is still under the occupation of the Armenian armed forces, the refugees and displaced people banished from those lands still live in hard conditions.

The next stage of independence was characterized by stabilization of internal socio-political situation in the country and strengthening positions of Azerbaijan at the international arena. Azerbaijan lived and developed as a self-dependent state. Removing the difficulties we achieved it within the following ten years. Today the independent Azerbaijan, which is ten years old, exists in the world. It has its national flag, national anthem and national ensign. Azerbaijan occupies worthy place in the world community. The national flag of Azerbaijan waves in front of the residences of all the international organizations, and will always wave above the independent Azerbaijan, the flag raised so high will never fall down.

I think our guests, the Azerbaijanis living in foreign countries are interested in the life of Azerbaijan, follow the processes ongoing in Azerbaijan and are informed about the progress attained by us. At the same time, today, at the I Congress, I want to state once again that Azerbaijan is implementing into life the process of state construction as an independent state.

A democratic, legal and secural state has been built in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has adopted its national Constitution for the first time in its history, elected its parliament through free elections. Reforms in all the areas are being conducted in Azerbaijan.

As it is known, Azerbaijan was a part of such a large state as the USSR for 70 years and lived in that politico-economic system which was quite different from other existing systems in other countries. Today it should be emphasized that although we were deprived of independence in those years, Azerbaijan, having brought into action its internal potential, our nation, has achieved great progress, and while declaring its independence, it had large economic potentials. An independent state in Azerbaijan was built due to its economic and intellectual potentials. But today we follow the way of quite a different politico-economic system. It is a difficult process to change what we had in the past, to refuse from it, to set up work in a new system and implement into life. It is our transition period which has many problems.

First of all, great changes should take place in the minds of people. Second, a new economic policy should be conducted. For that, successful transition from the old economic system to a new one is necessary. This is the reason why we carry out our reforms. We have implemented into life many reforms in political, economic, social and humanitarian spheres and achieved positive results. In spite of all the difficulties, we achieved success in the implementation of the new economic policy. We realized and realize the program of privatization. We have carried out land reform nearly extremely important for Azerbaijan.

As it is known, nearly half of the population of Azerbaijan lives in rurals and is engaged in agriculture. Destruction of the system of collective and state farms dominating for 70 years, transfer of the land to its owners - peasants, providing them with conditions for efficient use of land - all this is a very hard and complicated process. But we could overcome it. Market economy is developing in Azerbaijan. Thereby, in 1995-1996, Azerbaijan could overpass economic recession lasting since 1990 and the subsequent period became a period of development in the life of Azerbaijan.

We are developing. All the spheres of economy are successfully developing in Azerbaijan. It is not only our opinion, it is also the opinion of the international financial and economic centers, i.e. the centers supervising the given processes. However, we still have a great deal of problems and difficulties. We could not yet raised the welfare of population to a due level.

A part of large industrial enterprises established in Azerbaijan during the Soviet Union does not function today, and another part functions but not at full capacity. As a result, we have a big army of unemployed. It is one of the basic challenges of Azerbaijan. As I have already mentioned, over a million refugees and the internally displaced are deprived of necessary life conditions, they are not provided with work and live on the aid of state and international organizations. It is also a great problem for us. But we successively solve these problems, shortcomings and deficits. We openly say about them to the citizens of Azerbaijan and the entire world. And only in this way we will be able to solve the problems facing Azerbaijan and provide its constant development.

The oil strategy of Azerbaijan is of special importance among the accomplished in this field. In1993-1994, we began to develop and materialize this strategy, provided the exploitation of reach recourses of Azerbaijan - oil and gas fields jointly with big oil companies of the world which possess up date equipment and technology. This work is being implemented today, 21 contracts have been signed on joint development of the Azerbaijan deposits in the Caspian Sea and in on-shore oil and gas fields in the territory of Azerbaijan on the whole. 32 large foreign companies are shareholders of the given contracts. We already have real outcomes of the accomplished work, of the oil strategy. We already produce oil at new deposits and deliver it to the world markets together with foreign companies. For that, we construct extremely important oil and gas pipelines. The Azerbaijani oil is exported via two pipelines - one in direction of Baku-Novorossiysk, and the other in the direction of Baku-Supsa.

In the recent years, we worked on a rather big project and we have already proceeded to the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline for the export of a big quantity of oil produced in Azerbaijan. We have also signed relevant contracts to transport the gas to be produced in "Shahdeniz" to Turkey and we are proceeding to the construction of a gas pipeline. Our oil strategy has created favourable conditions in Azerbaijan not only for the companies dealing directly with oil, but also for many other companies, and hereby, for the inflow of large foreign investments in the country. It is the new panorama of Azerbaijan. And it could happen only in conditions of independence.

As you know, the Azerbaijani oil is well-known all over the world. As early as 150 years ago, commercial oil was produced in Azerbaijan for the first time in the world. In the following years, oil production increased, but it did not belong to the Azerbaijani people. Reach oil and gas resources produced by us flew into the common economy of the Soviet Union for 70 years. We could not enjoy sufficient profit from that. But the independence, our national freedom, the opportunity to rule our own fate created these opportunities for us and we efficiently use them.

Azerbaijan is situated on an extremely important geographic location. It has both economic and political significance. In this sense, we carry out joint work with the European Union and other international institutions. At the same time, Azerbaijan has done much in the implementation of TRACEKA program of the European Union, restoration of the Great Silk Road, and now we receive the positive results of this work. However, in future, this program will yield even more positive results.

In 1998, the first international conference devoted to the restoration of Great Silk Road and implementation of TRACEKA program was held in Azerbaijan jointly with the European Union. Representatives of 32 countries took part at that conference - from Japan in the East to Spain in the West; 14 international organizations and we became the witnesses of the signature of the first agreement on the restoration of the Silk Road and implementation of TRACEKA program. I repeat once more that the work accomplished in this area will yield great results in future.

These are the global projects implemented in Azerbaijan, and I think that in the period of your stay here you will witness it yourselves in the introduced to you materials and other means, get acquainted with this.

Holding the I Congress of the World Azerbaijanis is of extreme importance both for Azerbaijan and the world Azerbaijanis. As a result of migration process going on in the world, the Azerbaijanis reside in different countries of the world. It is a natural process which cannot be prevented and it is not necessary as, on the whole, it has a positive character. To say the truth, today, when we became an independent state, some opposition circles criticize us that a considerable part of the Azerbaijani population - some say 1 million, others - 2 millions - lives outside the republic. But I can not interpret it as a negative fact, since no nation, no people can live only within the borders of one land, in the circumstances of the national limitation. I want to mention once again that the process of migration in the world has touched all the countries, peoples. If as a result of this process the Azerbaijanis started to live in many countries of the world, it proves how extensive the diffusion geography of Azerbaijanis in the world is.

We think that each Azerbaijani living in abroad has regulated his life at his own discretion. He is a citizen of a country, obeys the laws and rules of it.

But at the same time, today, when the Azerbaijanis have an independent state, establishment of closer contacts with each other by the Azerbaijanis living in different countries of the world, declaration of their solidarity and establishment of contacts with Azerbaijan have become the most important objective at the given stage of history. Our objective, the objective of Azerbaijan is to show maximum care and attention towards the Azerbaijanis living in all the countries of the world, to get interested in their life and achieve further development of links with our state and the Azerbaijani communities in different countries. But the Azerbaijanis living outside Azerbaijan should maintain closer contacts with independent Azerbaijan. All this is the most important condition for providing unity and solidarity of the Azerbaijanis of the whole world.

Today we can note with a feeling of deep satisfaction that the Azerbaijani communities have already been created in many countries of the world - in Europe and Northern America. Within the latest years these communities have become more organized, they enlarge and provide unity and solidarity of the Azerbaijanis in those countries where they live. I think the existence of independent Azerbaijan underlies development of this solidarity.

We want the Azerbaijanis living in different countries live as they think it necessary, and along with it, not to forget their national roots, national belonging. We, the Azerbaijanis, are united by our nationality, historical roots, national-spiritual values, our national culture - literature, art, music, poetry, songs, customs and traditions.

A human being, wherever he lives, should keep his national originality. At the same time, the assimilation process is going on in the world. People - I mean the Azerbaijanis - should, I repeat once again, having adapted to the conditions of a country where they live, take a high position there. Along with it, they should always keep allegiance to their national-spiritual values, national roots. Just these factors unite all of us. Azerbaijanity, the idea of azerbaijanity unites all of us. After Azerbaijan gained its independence, the Azerbaijanity, as a leading idea, has become the primary idea for the Azerbaijanis living both in Azerbaijan and abroad. We should unite around this idea. The Azerbaijanity means maintenance of national belonging, maintenance of the national-spiritual values, and at the same time, their enrichment with synthesis, integration into common to all mankind values, as well as provision of development of each personality.

This is the objective of the given Congress. I think the delegates of the Congress, our fellow countrymen having arrived in Azerbaijan, in their Motherland from distant lands will maintain closer contacts with each other during the days of the Congress, try to understand each other, participate more actively in forming communities in different countries as a united Diaspora and strengthen links among Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijanis living all over the world, in other countries. I think the Congress is an extremely important historical event in this regard for the realization of ideas of the Azerbaijanity, enlargement and development of solidarity of the Azerbaijanis in the world.

I hope today`s Congress will play a great role in the realization of tasks facing us and contribute to this cause.

Azerbaijan, as an independent state, follows an independent foreign policy meeting its national interests. Carrying out an independent foreign policy means further strengthening of independence. Although we face great difficulties both in foreign relations and within Azerbaijan itself, we, protecting our own independence pursue an independent policy in the world.

Azerbaijan is a peaceful state. We have established and we are establishing economic, political, social, scientific and humanitarian contacts with all the countries of the world at a due level, and we develop and will develop these contracts. Azerbaijan will never repudiate its independent foreign policy. Its independent foreign policy is a basic symbol, a primary proof of independence of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan is a member of all international institutions of the world. As you know, at the beginning of this year, Azerbaijan was elected a full member of the Council of Europe. All this is a logical result of Azerbaijan`s foreign policy, as well as of democratic transformations conducted in life of Azerbaijan and implemented life through reforms.

Azerbaijan is a secular state, and it occupies its place in the world as a secular state. It is our strategic way. A legal, democratic and secular state - this is our key principle in the state construction. These are the basic principles of our life. We follow and we will follow this way.

I can tell you that we have solved many hard and complicated problems and we clearly see forthcoming horizons. Rich natural resources, favourable geo-strategic position, powerful economic and intellectual potential of Azerbaijan and a high cultural level of the Azerbaijanis will provide our independent country with happy and successful future. You can be sure that this way, upcoming horizons and prospects are quite real. In few years, Azerbaijan, owing to its economic policy, will become one of the richest countries of the world. The welfare of the Azerbaijani people will significantly improve. Each person will live in Azerbaijan freely. Democratic creation, all the freedoms - freedom of speech, freedom of personality, freedom of consciousness and freedom of press are provided and will be henceforth provided in Azerbaijan. I.e., each citizen of Azerbaijan, irrespective of political world outlook, will live in peace and happily in his Motherland.

However the most difficult, the most alarming problem for us is the Armenian-Azerbaijani, Nagorno-Garabagh conflict, liberation of the occupied lands and restoration of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. We have done much in this line. We have raised these issues in all the international institutions and necessary decisions have been passed. In 1993, the Security Council of the United Nations Organization adopted four resolutions on an unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian troops from the occupied territories. The chairman of the Security Council made six statements. But Armenia ignores them.

An extremely important document was adopted in the December of 1996, at the Lisbon Summit of OSCE, on the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, 53 out of 54 member-states of OSCE voted for that document, and only Armenia voted against. Unfortunately, Armenia does not accept the decision of this authoritative organization.

We constantly strive for the peaceful settlement of the issue. As you know, as early as 1993, the OSCE Minsk Group was created for the solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Since the beginning of 1997, the Minsk Group has been chaired by three big states - Russia, the United States of America and France. Within the passed years, we have accomplished huge work together with this organization, the Minsk Group and its co-chairs. A few days ago, the co-chairs - representatives of Russia, the United States of America and France visited the region again, met and held talks with us. At the same time, they visited Armenia. We stated once more that we are for the peaceful settlement of the issue and it can be done through definite compromises from both sides. But along with it, the issue should be solved in conformity with international law, and the principles accepted by the world: the principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of borders of the countries. We will continue this work. I want to express confidence that we will achieve the settlement of this conflict. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan will be restored, the occupied lands will be liberated and the refugees will return to their lands. Naturally, along with the international bodies, we need very much the work of the Azerbaijani lobby in this field. I want to mention with satisfaction that the Azerbaijani Diaspora has become more organized within the recent years and the Azerbaijani communities and Diaspora displays what they are worth in their countries and in the international community on the whole. However, it is only the first stage of the formation of our Diaspora. Everyone, we are to do more for the creation of a powerful Azerbaijani Diaspora, so that the Azerbaijanis living in different countries would become stronger. They should become economically stronger to be able to take active part in the socio-political life of their countries; to be able to influence the life of those countries; to be able to propagate the independence of Azerbaijan in different countries, its foreign policy, to assist the solution of problems of Azerbaijan. I think the Azerbaijanis of the world should follow this way as there are still many unused opportunities on this way. This is the goal pursued by the Congress which started its work today.

I stress once more that we want each of the Azerbaijanis living in different countries of the world to live well in his country, make his positions stronger and improve his welfare. We want each Azerbaijani to participate actively in the socio-political life of his country, take a worthy place and possess the ability of certain influence. This is what we wish.

To contribute to this matter, we will also pass a decision on creation of a special body for work with the Azerbaijani Diaspora within the structure of our state. I consider that this centralized body, i.e. the body constantly maintaining contacts with the Azerbaijani communities will serve both the formation of communities and Azerbaijani Diaspora on the whole, as well as greater development of our contacts.

Dear fellow countrymen!

I want to repeat the words coming from the bottom of my heart: nationality of each person is a source of his pride. I have been always proud and I am proud toady of being an Azerbaijani.

The supreme idea of independent Azerbaijan is the Azerbaijanity. Each Azerbaijani should be proud of his nationality. We must develop the Azerbaijanity - language, culture, national and spiritual values, the traditions of Azerbaijan. The decision adopted by us on the development of the Azerbaijani language pursues just this goal. We have passed a decision on transition to the Latin alphabet. Today, all the people in Azerbaijan, all the state bodies use only the Latin alphabet. This is an extremely important factor proving our national originality, the Azerbaijanity. We will henceforth continue our efforts for the development of the Azerbaijani language.

You know, the language of every nation is very dear to it. The Azerbaijani language, our native language is very dear to us though it did not take the place ample enough in our life for many years. But despite it, every Azerbaijani has contributed more or less to the preservation of the Azerbaijani language. In particular, our writers, poets have done much for the development of the Azerbaijani language in those difficult periods.

Today I want to say with a feeling of pride that in the XX century the Azerbaijani language passed a great way of development. Pay attention what a rich, what a nice and melodious language we have and what a rich vocabulary it has for disclosing our thoughts.

We will provide the domination of our language in Azerbaijan and its gradual development. Along with it, we want each Azerbaijani, irrespective of a continent or a county he lives, to learn the language of that country, make use of its traditions and customs, adapt to those conditions, but simultaneously develop the Azerbaijani language.

No other factor unites peoples as language, national-spiritual traditions and values. We must always make use of this factor, in particular the Azerbaijanis living in other countries. Therefore, I would like each Azerbaijani in the Azerbaijani community of any country to be solidarity, hang together, help each other, care for each other and adhere together to our national traditions, national values, celebrate our national holidays. And not only the Independence Day, Novruz, but also all other holidays. We want them to create certain conditions for training the future generations, children in Azerbaijani language. We will do our utmost to get the future generations, your children, our children to raise higher the idea of Azerbaijanity, to develop constantly the Azerbaijani language, our national-spiritual values.

Dear friends!

You can be sure that Azerbaijan, as an independent state, has been standing fast on its feet for already ten years. In the expired period, we developed the independence of Azerbaijan, and I state today that the independence of Azerbaijan is eternal, irreversible and constant.

Dear friends, independent Azerbaijan will always be a support for you, and we, in Azerbaijan, consider you our envoys, we cherish great hopes on you, count on you and consider you our support.

The solidarity of Azerbaijan, unity of the Azerbaijanis of the world and the Azerbaijani communities in different countries are young just as the independent Azerbaijan. However, today we have embarked on a new stage. We are being formed, our independence is growing stronger, the organization of the Azerbaijanis living in foreign countries runs much faster and we will develop the ideas of the Azerbaijanity together, we will make this process constant and eternal.

Dear friends!

I wish you all happiness and good health. I ask the delegates and guests, who arrived from foreign countries, to convey greetings and love of the Azerbaijani people, its state and President to all the Azerbaijani communities and each Azerbaijani.

I wish each of you success at work, in business you run in your counties. I wish each family, each Azerbaijani, regardless of their residence, happy life and happy future. Let our rivers not dry up! Let our trees not be felled! Let our light not go out!

Long live the Azerbaijani people!

Long live independent Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan!